Luther on Celibacy & Marriage

Luther, Martin (1483-1546)

Das siebe(n)d Capitel S. Pauli zu den Chorinthern Ausgelegt.

Wittenberg: [Cranach and Döring], 1523


Quarto: 19.8 x 14.7 cm. [38] pp. A-K4 (lacks final blank)


A very nice copy in modern boards. With an attractive woodcut title border by Lucas or Hans Cranach.

But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with desire.”-1 Corinthians 7:9

First edition of Luther’s important sermon on the problem of celibacy. Luther argued that sexual desire was inescapable for all but a handful, so it should be channeled into marriage. Vows of celibacy should be rendered void, and monasteries and convents should be closed or much reduced in size.

“Luther’s argument that marriage was superior to celibacy was stated forcefully in his exposition of 1 Corinthians 7, published in 1523. Instead of using this chapter as a text to support the superiority of celibacy as it long had been, Luther instead reads it as asserting that marriage and celibacy are both gifts from God and that marriage is, in fact, ‘the most religious state of all’ because marriage ‘where the Spirit rules . . . drives and helps along toward the Spirit and faith.’ As Scott Hendrix has noted, ‘Luther’s reinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 7 was revolutionary and should be set alongside his argument for the priesthood of all believers in his ‘Address to the German Nobility’. Just as the concept of universal priesthood elevated lay Christians to the spiritual status that had been reserved for clergy, the designation of marriage as the truly religious order elevates it to the spiritual status that had been reserved for the celibate members of the priesthood and monastic orders.’”(Wiesner-Hanks)

Benzing 1674; Title page border: Luther, TE 58. Zimmerman attributes the border to Lucas Cranach, Dodgson to Hans Cranach.