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date: 20 August 2017

Martin Luther on Marriage and the Family

Summary and Keywords

Marriage was at the heart of Martin Luther’s break with Rome and the Reformation that followed. He preached sermons praising marriage beginning in 1519 and several years later wrote his first formal treatise attacking the value of vows of celibacy and arguing that marriage was the best Christian life. In 1525 he followed his words by deeds and married a nun who had fled her convent, Katharina von Bora. What started as a marriage of principle and mutual esteem became one of affection and deep emotional bonds. Luther continued to attack the celibate life of Catholic clergy and nuns and to celebrate marriage as a godly estate throughout his career, in sermons, formal treatises, lectures, advice manuals, letters, comments on legal cases, and casual conversation. In all of these, he both praised marriage and family life and commented on its burdensome side, moving from theoretical speculations while he was a celibate monk to reflecting on his own experiences as he became a family man, though his basic theology of marriage did not change much after the early 1520s. His words were direct and blunt, even in formal treatises. Sexual desire was inescapable for all but a handful, he argued, so should be channeled into marriage. Vows of celibacy should be rendered void, and monasteries and convents should be closed or much reduced in size. He agreed with St. Augustine on the three purposes of marriage, in the same order of importance: the procreation of children, the avoidance of sin, and mutual help and companionship. He praised spousal love but asserted that the ideal of reciprocal love in marriage was not an ideal of equality. Proper marital households were hierarchical, for the wife was and had to be the husband’s helpmeet and subordinate. Bearing children was the “precious and godly task” for which women were created, he wrote, and death in childbirth and even the deaths of children were part of God’s plan, though he himself was devastated when his twelve-year-old daughter died.

As cities and territories in Germany and then beyond became Protestant, they passed marriage ordinances and established institutions to regulate marriage, turning to Luther for advice on such issues as divorce, desertion, secret engagements, and parental consent. In making their decisions, judges slowly applied the new Protestant ideas about marriage, which people also learned about through sermons, artwork, and pamphlets. In general, however, other than clerical marriage, actual Protestant marriage patterns were not that different from Catholic ones. They fit with secular values as well, for rural and urban residents of all religious persuasions regarded appropriate marriages and stable families as essential to the social order. Recent scholarship has generally rejected earlier views that the Protestant Reformation by itself brought about dramatic change—for good or ill—in marriage and instead noted ways in which the reformers, including Luther, built on ideas and practices that were already there, especially in the middle-class urban milieus in which most of them grew up.

Keywords: Martin Luther, family, Katharina von Bora, sexuality, celibacy, marriage, divorce

Marriage in Christian Thought and Practice before Luther

Many factors shaped Christian ideas about marriage before the sixteenth century, and from the beginning these ideas were often contradictory. In scripture, Jesus describes marriage as ordained by God (Matthew 19:4–5) yet also appears to approve of those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:12) and characterizes those who remained unmarried as “equal to angels . . . and sons of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:36) Jesus opposes adultery and divorce, and seems to have condemned sexual misconduct (Matthew 19:9; the word in Greek is porneia), though he also commented that repentant prostitutes would get into heaven easier than many priests. (Matt. 21:31–32) For Paul, sex was one of those earthly concerns that should not be important to believers as they waited for Jesus’s imminent return, but if people could not “exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (1 Cor. 7:9). Paul warned against those who prohibited marriage and emphasized the importance of spousal love and respect, but he also opposed divorce and remarriage after a spouse had died. Ephesians—a book the majority of modern commentators view as deutero-Pauline—equates human marriage with the union between Christ and the church; husbands are admonished to love their wives as Christ loved the church and wives to be subject to their husbands as the church is subject to Christ. (Ephesians 5:21–33).

The early church fathers had a range of opinions. Many agreed with Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–c. 200), who accepted marriage—including its sexual activities—as appropriate for Christians and taught that husbands and wives should feel affection toward one another. Others were more ambivalent. Tertullian (c. 150–c. 240) married and was careful to say that marriages were not prohibited to Christians, but he regarded virginity as preferable because marriage involved “the commixture of the flesh,” which is “the essence of fornication.” In the fourth century the most prominent church fathers became stronger proponents of asceticism and virginity. St. Jerome (c. 347–419/20) embraced ideals of sexual renunciation, commenting that marriage fills the earth, while virginity fills paradise.

St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430), whose influence in the development of Western Christian thought is second only to Paul’s, was part of this trend toward asceticism. Augustine was deeply suspicious of sexual desire as the one human craving that could overcome both reason and will; only God’s grace, he thought, could allow one to overcome desire. Original sin, in his view, was transmitted to all humans through semen emitted in sexual acts motivated by desire and was inescapable. Sex within marriage was thus sinful, and the celibate life was preferable, but Augustine also set out what became known as the “three goods” of marriage that counterbalanced (though did not outweigh) this sin: marriage was good because it produced children, promoted sexual fidelity between spouses so that they avoided worse sins, and provided for mutual help and companionship through a permanent union between two individuals and their families. Divorce was therefore unthinkable, for marriage symbolized Christ’s union with the church.

For Augustine and most Christian commentators after him, sex within marriage was acceptable as long as the couple desired children and the spouses respected one another, but any coital position or sexual activity that would lessen the chances of procreation was sinful. The only permissible position for marital intercourse was the woman on the bottom facing up and the man on the top (which later came to be called the “missionary position”), because this was regarded as the most likely to lead to pregnancy. This position was also a demonstration of male superiority and female subordination, which Augustine saw as intrinsic in God’s original creation, for only men were fully created in the image of God. The church fathers and medieval commentators disagreed about whether a partner seeking sex within marriage for procreation nevertheless sinned, but most agreed that the partner agreeing to sex did not; that partner was simply fulfilling the “conjugal debt,” an obligation to have sex when one’s spouse wanted it.

Church councils attempted to turn some of these ideas into policy, but any policies that represented a radical change from Roman or Germanic practices were slow in being promulgated or enforced. Divorce and remarriage after divorce were discouraged, but they happened regularly throughout the classical and early medieval period. Celibacy was suggested as the most appropriate life for clergy, but it was not required; many priests married or lived with concubines, and their families lived with them. Christian ideals about marriage were communicated to lay Christians through preaching and private penance, but it is difficult to assess how much of an impact these ideals had on actual behavior.

The broad-ranging reform movement that would later be called the “Gregorian reform” after one of its most vocal proponents, Pope Gregory VII (pontificate 1073–1085) brought a number of dramatic changes in both clerical and lay marriage. Gregory decided that clerical marriage was heresy and that priests’ wives were what he termed “harlots” and their children “bastards.” A series of church councils forbade priests to marry, and reform-minded officials began a campaign against clerical families, driving women and children from their homes. Church courts increasingly claimed jurisdiction over almost anything related to marriage, and canon lawyers came to regard the essence of marriage as the freely given consent of the spouses. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) declared marriage a sacrament and thus indissoluble and passed a number of other rules about marriage, as did subsequent councils. Church courts enforced these rules through fines and exclusion from church rituals but also regularly granted dispensations for a fee for those who wanted to break these rules. Many people came to regard the church’s rules on marriage primarily as a moneymaking scheme.

Marriage and family continued to be central to learned and popular religious thinking and practice in the High and Late Middle Ages. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) classified sexual sins from the least sinful (intercourse between a husband and wife desiring children) to the most, which included every sexual act from which generation could not follow; thus rape was less sinful than oral sex between husband and wife or a wife’s attempting contraception. The best marriages, according to Aquinas, were those that reinforced the proper gender hierarchy in which women were “naturally subject to man.” Sermons preached by Dominican and Franciscan friars communicated these ideas, denouncing adulterous and domineering wives and weak-willed husbands, and condemning a range of sexual sins. Some sermons, especially those preached at weddings, also glorified affection between husband and wife, however, praising it as a model of the love between God and humanity and a force promoting stable communities. Male and female mystics used sensual and marital imagery in portraying their union with the divine, describing themselves as kissing God, uniting with Christ as a bride did with her bridegroom, or even as nursing from Jesus’s body. Devotion to Mary among mystics and ordinary people focused on her virginity and role as an intercessor but also on her motherhood. The mystic St. Bridget of Sweden (1303–1373), for example, described a vision of Mary, explaining “the way I was standing when I gave birth to my son—my knees were bent and I was alone in the stable, praying.”1 As protection, women in labor often wrapped around their own bodies a sash or girdle that had been wrapped around a statue of Mary and, after a successful delivery, gave candles or clothing to local churches in her honor.

Church and secular courts in the Late Middle Ages handled actual marriages with a combination of principle and pragmatism. Church councils continued to set stringent punishments for fornication and clerical concubinage, but local church authorities generally enforced these punishments only in cases that involved public scandal, such as rape or abduction. Church courts rarely allowed divorce with remarriage, but they permitted separations for reasons not specified in canon law, including cruelty, mistreatment, drunkenness, and financial irresponsibility. Secular courts run by cities, kings, and nobles became more active in handling marriage issues, especially if they involved property or a crime, and, along with other secular institutions such as guilds, they were sometimes more rigorous than church authorities in trying to make people’s marital lives follow a prescribed pattern. For example, while canonical authorities generally recommended that all children born to married women be considered legitimate no matter when the marriage had occurred, craft guilds in many cities denied membership to those born too soon after their parents’ wedding. The humanists who advised many rulers and staffed secular courts generally favored measures that enhanced marriage formation and continuation, as they regarded marital households where husband and wife felt mutual affection, proper family hierarchy was maintained, and children were taught how to live an upright life as central to public order. The championing of marriage was a central theme in the Protestant Reformation, but it was not a new idea.

Luther’s Ideas about Celibacy and Marriage

Luther wrote and spoke about marriage and the family throughout his life as a reformer, and his thoughts emerge in every type of writing and in the casual conversation recorded by his followers in the Table Talk. There was some change of emphasis as the situation changed and his own ideas developed, but in general his theology of marriage was set by the early 1520s.

Luther was an Augustinian, and in his thinking about marriage, as about so much else, he followed Augustine to a great degree. He generally cited the same three purposes of marriage and in the same order of importance that Augustine did: the procreation of children, the avoidance of sin, and mutual help and companionship, or what in a 1531 wedding sermon he termed “children, loyalty, and love.”2 In a 1519 sermon on marriage, his first recorded consideration of the issue, he still regarded marriage as a sacrament, but a year later, in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, he rejected its sacramental character, as it involved no divine promise or sign of the forgiveness of sins. In this wide-ranging and central work of the early Reformation, he briefly discussed other issues regarding marriage, such as divorce and impediments to marriage established by canon law, and he asserted what would be the primary break with Catholic teachings: that the compulsory celibacy of the clergy should be abolished.

In his first treatise specifically on marriage, The Estate of Marriage, published in 1522, Luther returns to these points at length. He was faithful to Augustine’s idea of the link between original sin and sexual desire but, instead of using this as a reason to advocate celibacy, saw desire as so powerful that the truly chaste life was impossible for all but a handful of individuals. Thus the best Christian life was one in which sexual activity was channeled into marriage. Vows of celibacy for monks, nuns, and priests should be rendered void, and monasteries and convents should be closed or much reduced in size. A few reformers, such as Andreas von Karlstadt, argued that the clergy should be compelled to marry, though Luther never went this far.

Luther attacked Catholic vows on two grounds, both biblical. First, God had ordained marriage as his first estate when he created Eve out of Adam’s rib and brought her to him; this presentation constituted the first wedding, blessed by God. Second, God charged Adam and Eve to be fruitful and fill the earth; in order to ensure this fruitfulness, he implanted in them and in their progeny down through the ages an irresistible sexual desire that found no other release than through sexual acts. Luther describes this command—made before the Fall—as “a divine ordinance . . . more necessary than sleeping and waking, eating and drinking, emptying the bowels and bladder,” and returns to it again and again in other works.3 “‘Be fruitful and multiply,’” he quotes in a 1527 sermon on Genesis. “This utterance is a clap of thunder against the pope’s law and liberates all priests, monks, and nuns to get married. For just as the sun must shine and cannot restrain itself . . . so it is also implanted in the nature of human beings, whether they are boys or girls, to be fruitful.”4 Like everything else about the human condition, however, this command was horribly marred by the Fall, and Luther ends The Estate of Marriage with this comment: “With all this extolling of married life, however, I have not meant to ascribe to nature a state of sinlessness. On the contrary, I say that flesh and blood, corrupted through Adam is conceived and born in sin, as Psalm 51 says. Intercourse is never without sin; but God excuses it by His grace because the estate of marriage is His work.”5

The post-lapsarian sinful nature of lust was thus not a reason to attempt to avoid marriage but was all the more reason to enter into it. Not only should vows of celibacy be done away with, argues Luther in The Estate of Marriage, but other restrictions on marriage that had developed in the Middle Ages also should be lifted, such as rules prohibiting distant relatives, relatives through marriage, “spiritual kin” (those related through godparentage or adoption), or people who had been engaged to someone else to marry one another. “This is nothing but pure farce and foolishness concocted for the sake of money and to befuddle consciences . . . It is a dirty rotten business that a bishop should forbid me a wife.”6 Marriages should be allowed to blind and deaf people, as should those to non-Christians, because these marriages were clearly approved in the Bible. The only canonical impediment Luther maintained was that prohibiting impotent persons from marrying, because marriages in which sexual desire could never be satisfied were not truly marriages. Marriage was thus not a sacrament, but it was a holy institution and the ideal state for almost everyone. Along with government and the church, it was one of the three orders established by God.

The denial of the sacramental nature of marriage led Luther to consider divorce in this treatise, which he accepted in the case of impotence, adultery, desertion, or the refusal of a spouse to have sex. Reconciliation was preferable both for social stability and because Christians should be willing to forgive, but if this could not be effected, the innocent party should be granted a divorce with the right to remarry. The guilty party in adultery should be put to death as enjoined in the Bible, Luther notes, but “if the government is negligent and lax and fails to inflict the death penalty, the adulterer may betake himself to a far country and there remarry if he is unable to remain continent.”7 Christians who could not get along with their spouse for reasons other than the conjugal duty or whose spouse became ill were just to put up with it and trust that God “will surely grant you grace, that you will not have to bear more than you are able. He is far too faithful to deprive you of your wife through illness without at the same time subduing your carnal desire, if you will faithfully serve your invalid wife.”8

Real cases sometimes led Luther to advocate something other than forbearance for marital difficulties. Bigamy, perhaps, which he—reluctantly and secretly—approved for the Protestant Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who had had a series of affairs while fathering ten children by his wife but then claimed to be morally opposed to adultery. Luther’s acceptance of Philip’s bigamy grew out of his harsh condemnation of all sex outside of marriage, including prostitution, an issue on which he explicitly broke with Augustine, who, like most church fathers and later medieval commentators, saw the sale of sex as a necessary evil that should be permitted to keep “honorable” women and girls safe from male lust. Luther strongly recommended closing the official public brothels that were common in most European cities in the early sixteenth century, and he condemned the “scabby, scratchy, stinking, nasty, and syphilitic whores” who “destroy our poor young men,” the students of Wittenberg. His solution for the “young fools”? “Ask God who has created you to give you a pious child [to marry].”9

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.”10 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.”11

In his second major treatise on marital issues, On Marriage Matters (1530), Luther builds on his earlier work and also discusses issues that had emerged as Catholic Church courts were disbanded and courts established by Protestant authorities took over their business, often turning to Luther for advice. Vows of celibacy were no longer the central issue, replaced by Luther’s attempt to lay out how authorities should regulate such issues as divorce, desertion, secret engagements, and parental consent in a world where “no one has looked upon marriage as work or estate which God had commanded.”12 Marital matters belong to the temporal kingdom, he insists, and authorities must be firm in promoting order but should be guided by Christ’s teachings rather than acting, as he comments in a 1532 sermon, “wickedly and capriciously, contrary to God’s commandment.”13 Luther’s own advice on specific cases was fairly capricious and inconsistent, however, as he balanced theological principles and beliefs with a pastoral understanding of human frailties, the practical needs of a society in which families were essential economic units, and his own personal friendships and enmities.

Luther on the Marital Household

Along with opinions about how and why marriages should be established and regulated, Luther had plenty to say about how marital households should operate or, as he put it in The Estate of Marriage, “how to live a Christian and godly life in that estate.” Wives and husbands should recognize that God had established marriage “for the soul’s salvation” and share its joys and burdens. Luther was adamant that Christian men’s proper activities included both the public arena and the household, even its lowliest tasks: “When a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child . . . God, with all His angels and creatures is smiling.” This oft-quoted statement from The Estate of Marriage generally ends there, but Luther’s real point is in the rest of the sentence: “. . . not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in the Christian faith.”14 The important role of fathers was stressed by Luther’s followers as well, who put pen to paper in a flood of literature directed toward the male head of household, what has been termed “housefather literature” (Hausväterliteratur).

Despite diaper-washing fathers and ideals of companionship, proper marital households were hierarchical, for the wife was and had to be the husband’s helpmeet and subordinate. The ideal of mutuality and reciprocal love in marriage was not an ideal of equality. Though a husband could delegate some domestic administration to his wife as his “coregent,” he was as much in charge of the household as he was of the workshop: “The wife has not been created out of the head, so that she shall not rule over her husband, but be subject and obedient to him . . . Men should govern their wives not with great cudgels, flails, or drawn knives, but rather with friendly words and gestures . . . with reason and not unreason, and honor the feminine sex as the weakest vessel and also as coheirs of the grace of life . . . [and] wives should let themselves be guided and taught by their husbands, so that great and coarse blows and strokes are not used.”15 The husband was to go out to engage in whatever activities enabled him to earn his and his dependents’ livelihood, and the wife was to concentrate on the domestic sphere, frugally disposing of whatever he brought in. Marriage and motherhood were a woman’s vocation, her highest calling. A man’s vocation might include marriage and fatherhood, but it was not limited to this.

Marriage was not simply a matter of household economy for Luther, however, but was also meant to be an intimate, emotion-laden, rewarding bond. Nothing, he wrote, was as sweet as “bridal love,” the intense feeling husband and wife were to bear exclusively for each other, expressed through words and actions, including sexual relations. Marital sex was not without sin, but it was also a positive good, increasing affection between spouses and promoting harmony in domestic life. Luther recognized that on this he broke with Augustine; while he praised him as the only church father who had anything good to say about marriage, he also noted that Augustine could not bring himself to say that sex in marriage should be forgiven because God had established marriage “as His institution.” “The good Father could not say, ‘For the sake of faith in the word,’” he comments in a Table Talk.16 Luther had no difficulty saying this. Within a marriage, sex should not be governed by the church calendar: “Although Christian married folk should not permit themselves to be governed by their bodies in the passion of lust . . . neither should [they] pay attention to holy days or work days, or other physical considerations.”17 This bridal love provided a foundation that could sustain a married couple through the tribulations that ineluctably came, whether from illness, children’s crying and mischief, or poverty. Throughout such trials, husband and wife “cleaved to” and comforted one another. “Nothing is more delightful than the fellowship of a good spouse,” says Luther in one of the Table Talk.18

Marital sex led to bearing children, which Luther saw as a “precious and godly task.” “The greatest good in married life, that which makes all suffering and labor worth while, is that God grants offspring and commands that they be brought up to worship and serve him.”19 His understanding that God called women to “bear fruit” led to his apparent callousness in giving advice to women in labor. “Bring that child forth, and do it with all your might!” he says in a 1522 sermon on marriage. “If you die in the process, so pass on over, good for you! For you actually die in a noble work and in obedience to God.”20 He repeats that dying in childbirth is “the purpose for which they [women] exist” in The Estate of Marriage, again presenting this as consolation to women in childbed, an assurance that God had ordained their afflictions and that in accepting them they pleased him.21 Toward the end of his life, Luther provided guidance that was likely more comforting than these harsh words, writing A Consolation to Those Women Who Have Had Difficulties in Bearing Children (1542) specifically for mothers “who with heartfelt pain have had to suffer because their giving birth has gone wrong and improperly, such that the child has died while being born or has come forth dead.” “We should not think that God is angry with the mothers,” he writes, but urge them to trust God and pray. The mother should make every effort to have the child baptized, but if this is impossible, “one ought not to regard such infants as damned” for whom devout women yearned and prayed, for “God will do everything much better than you can grasp or desire.” 22 Luther still much preferred the assurance of baptism, so in his provisions for the churches set up under his guidance he allowed the midwife, women attending the birth, and even the mother herself to baptize an infant they thought would die. If the infant then lived, he advised a public validation by pastors in a church that the baptism had been done correctly.

Luther wrote his consolation to mothers in the same year that his beloved twelve-old-daughter, Magdalena, died in his arms, the second of his six children to predecease him. His advice on childbirth was not the only aspect of his ideas about family life that moved from theoretical to practical. He developed his marital theology while he was an unmarried monk (and then ex-monk), but in June 1525 he married Katharina von Bora, and, like most couples of the time, they had children quickly. Thus after 1525 he spoke and wrote not as an outsider to and observer of family life but as a husband and father in a large and busy household in the Augustinian monastery where he had been a monk, a household that also included a constantly shifting number of students, relatives, associates, and frequent guests. He married, as wrote his friends, not out of passion but to please his father (who wanted grandsons), bear witness to his faith, and thwart the devil. He was actually somewhat late to marriage, compared with other reformers, for by 1525 most of his close colleagues in Wittenberg and many priests, monks, and nuns elsewhere had already married. Katharina initially wanted to marry someone else, but the young man’s father blocked the marriage, as marriage to an ex-nun in the shifting religious landscape of the early 1520s would not enhance the family’s stature, and she had no dowry to make up for this.

What started as a marriage of principle and mutual esteem became one of affection and deep emotional bonds. Luther mentioned his wife in letters, adding her greetings to his in those to friends, and included stories about his own family life in his sermons when making broader points about marriage. He talked about Katharina with his students and colleagues while at the table, generally in terms of teasing affection, though he also criticized her for talking too much or trying to dominate him. Sometimes she was there, serving food from the properties that she managed or beer she had brewed and occasionally participating in the conversation. He wrote to her on his frequent travels, addressing her as “my dear Käthe,” “my beloved housewife,” and, toward the end of his life, as “My friendly, dear housewife Catharina of Luther, von Bora, preacher, brewer, gardener, and whatever else she can be.”23 She wrote back, though none of her letters to him has survived. Because their marriage was on public display, it became a model of the proper Protestant clerical marriage; double marriage portraits of the two, painted by Lucas Cranach and his workshop, ultimately hung in more than sixty churches and wealthy homes across northern Europe. Although the Luther marriage was probably not as perfect as later pious Lutherans made it out to be, there is little reason to doubt that there was affection, love, and appreciation between the spouses. Luther recognized, and said so publicly, that his work as a reformer, writer, preacher, and teacher would not have been possible without Katharina’s unstinting, efficient labor in the household, garden, and orchards.

Close relations and strong feelings extended to Luther’s children. Luther was devastated when Magdalena died and shared his feelings with friends in letters: “I and my wife should joyfully give thanks for such a felicitous departure and blessed end . . . yet the force of our natural love is so great that we are unable to do this without crying and grieving in our hearts, or even without experiencing death ourselves . . . even the death of Christ . . . is unable to take this away as it should.”24 Historians used to think that parents in earlier times, when the deaths of children were a common occurrence, were cold and unfeeling toward their children as a defense against grief; Luther’s words are good evidence that they were not. Like other aspects of marriage, children were both a joy and a burden.

Protestant Institutions

Luther’s ideas about marriage were expressed not only in his writings and sermons and his own family life but also in the institutions that were established to regulate marriage in Protestant lands. Luther complained bitterly that people came to him constantly about marriage cases and that “these matters secretly steal away the time for studying, reading, preaching, writing, and praying,” but he could not avoid them.25 His very early writings emphasize throwing off the shackles of canon law (and it is at this point that he burned law books), but by 1525 it was clear to him and other reformers that simply preaching the Gospel was not going to get people to change their ways or create a godly society. They advocated the establishment of courts that would regulate marriage and morals, wrote ordinances regulating marriage and other matters of sexual conduct, and worked closely with the secular authorities, whether city councils or princes. In order to make sure the ordinances were being followed and determine what other measures were necessary, church and state officials often conducted joint investigations, termed visitations, in which they questioned pastors, teachers, and lay people about their religious and moral life. These institutions and activities reflected the values and aims of religious and political elites, who both regarded marriage and moral order (Zucht) as essential to a stable society.

Protestant marriage ordinances often used phrases drawn directly from Luther’s published writings or letters he had sent in response to questions, and later ordinances then repeated earlier ones. They generally begin with justifications about the dire need for such an ordinance, “so that young people learn to respect marriage and keep it as a godly work and commandment and not so insultingly and foolishly laugh, mock, and treat it with similar foolishness,” as Luther put it in his 1529 Book of Advice and Consolation for the Simple Pastor.26 The ordinances stress that weddings were to be celebrated solemnly and reverently, without wild drinking or jokes and rituals that celebrated and satirized the sexual aspects of marriage. Wedding sermons should emphasize the duties of the spouses toward one another and toward God. Though Luther himself blessed several wedding beds, this practice was generally discouraged by Protestants, as were “superstitious” practices involving fertility, such as throwing grain or untying knots. (Tying knots was a common magical practice thought to create impotence in men.) Joint prayer should replace toasting and singing as the final activity of the spouses before entering the marriage bed for the first time. After the wedding, stress the ordinances, the couple were to settle into quiet domesticity, with the husband the clear household head, exercising authority over his wife, children, and servants. Like Luther, the ordinances discuss children, for “fertility is God’s blessing and children are God’s gifts.” Mothers, wrote a Prussian church ordinance from 1568, are “the workshop and tool of our lord God since the first creation of the world.”

The first Protestant court was the marriage court (Ehegericht) in Zurich, established by Ulrich Zwingli in 1525, which served as a model for similar courts in many other Swiss and German cities and territories. The judges were generally a mixture of clergy and lay officials, sometimes including professional lawyers. Most cases were brought by private parties, with the judges gathering evidence and examining witnesses and then arriving at a decision by majority vote in which they slowly applied the new Protestant ideas about marriage.

Ordinances and courts were the main institutions of social discipline and the regulation of marriage in Protestant Europe during this period, but less formal institutions also shaped people’s attitudes and behavior. People listened to sermons, looked at paintings and woodcuts, and read books and pamphlets of sermons, commentary, and stories by Luther and other authors printed in vernacular languages. These communicated the evils of celibacy and the importance of marriage with easy-to-understand examples and visual illustrations. Instead of stories about heroic virgins and ascetic saints—staples of Catholic devotional literature—there were lascivious nuns who had scores of children and then killed them or priests who seduced their parishioners. Protestant works also portrayed positive ideals: sons and daughters who accepted their parents’ choice of a husband and pious families praying at dinner, with the mother and girls on one side of the table and the father and boys on the other. In the “housefather” books, male heads of household were encouraged to read the Bible and other devotional literature out loud to their wives, children, and servants, so that even those who could not read could get religious and moral teachings through printed books. Children also heard the message at Protestant primary schools, where the curriculum was based on the catechism. In the words of a school ordinance from Luther’s Wittenberg in 1533, the aim of girls’ education was to “habituate girls to the catechism, to the psalms, to honorable behavior and Christian virtue, and especially to prayer, so that they may grow up to be Christian and praiseworthy matrons and housekeepers.”27 Thus, from a very young age—at home from their fathers and at school from their teachers—Protestant children and young people were taught ideals of marriage.

The Impact of Luther’s Ideas

It is much harder to assess what people learned than what they were taught, but certain Protestant ideas about marriage had an immediate impact. The most dramatic was clerical marriage, which was almost universal among Protestant clergy. Once they married, male clergy no longer had a special status but shared that of the lay men around them. They were no longer simply “fathers” in a spiritual sense but actual fathers, and they had to create a new ideal of clerical masculinity that included being sexually active and in charge of a household; they also had to face the practical problems this created. Protestant pastors preached and wrote defenses of their new married state to convince their congregations (and perhaps themselves) that it was respectable and godly. Visitation teams and other officials investigated any charges of impropriety in clerical families, because maintaining an orderly household was just as important a mark of being a proper Protestant pastor as teaching and preaching correct doctrine.

Their wives had an even more difficult task, convincing people that they were not “priests’ whores” and creating a respectable role for themselves, a task made even more difficult by the fact that many were former nuns. They did this largely by being models of wifely obedience and Christian charity, living demonstrations of their husbands’ convictions. Katharine von Bora was not alone in this, and Katharina Zell, the wife of one of Strasbourg’s reformers and a tireless worker for the Reformation, even published a defense of clerical marriage. Within a generation or so these efforts by pastors and their wives were quite successful. Whereas priests’ concubines had generally been from a lower social class, by the second generation Protestant pastors had little difficulty finding wives from among the same social class as they themselves, a trend that further aided the acceptance of clerical marriage.

The Protestant rejection of celibacy led to a new role for some women—pastor’s wife—but also did away with some very old roles—cloistered nun, lay sister, and other types of religious life. Areas becoming Protestant closed their convents and monasteries, either confiscating the buildings and land immediately or forbidding new novices and allowing the current residents to live out their lives on a portion of the convent’s old income. Monks and priests could become pastors, and many did, but there was no independent role for women in the new Protestant churches. Nuns in many convents became vocal and resolute opponents of the Reformation. The Protestant championing of marriage and family life, which some nuns accepted with great enthusiasm as a message of liberation from the convent, was viewed by others as a negation of the value of the life they had been living; they thus did all in their power to continue in their chosen path. In some territories of Germany, the nuns’ firmness combined with other religious and political factors to allow many convents to survive for centuries as Catholic establishments within Protestant territories. Their families, even Protestant ones, often supported nuns in this, as they recognized the marriage possibilities for most ex-nuns were slim.

In terms of other effects, wedding services were now in the vernacular, although the wedding liturgy was largely translated from the Catholic one, so there was a great deal of continuity. The canonical impediments to marriage were no longer applied, but Protestant jurisdictions added various other requirements to the consent of the spouses for a marriage to be valid. Following Luther’s idea that secret engagements were wrong, they passed laws requiring a public ceremony with a pastor and prohibiting “dark-corner marriages” (Winckelehen) that involved private promises. Weddings were increasingly held inside the church rather than in front of it. In his 1530 treatise on marriage, Luther held that parental consent to a marriage was important, but if a father “puffs up his belly like a crude peasant” and refuses to find a spouse for his child because “he can use her at home instead of a maid,” the child could turn to “good friends, the pastor, or the authorities” to approve the marriage instead.28 The authorities themselves generally did not agree, however. The 1562 and 1563 marriage ordinances of the (Lutheran) Palatinate in Germany declared any marriage of a minor without parental approval as “void, invalid and nonbinding” and condemned the man involved as “a marriage-thief [who] has dishonestly stolen her, contrary to God and His Word”; those who assisted such couples were to be considered kidnappers and “immediately imprisoned and, according to the nature of their offense, punished without mercy by imprisonment, fine, or banishment.”29 Similar measures were passed in other Lutheran states. Even children who were no longer minors were occasionally punished for marrying or entering into an engagement without the approval of their fathers, although courts also very occasionally punished fathers for forcing or attempting to force their children into unwanted marriages.

In The Estate of Marriage, Luther asserted that marriages with nonbelievers were acceptable, but Protestant authorities had difficulty with this idea as well. They generally agreed that converting did not give one the right to leave one’s spouse but also that people should not be allowed to marry across religious lines. Spouses were to be “one in body and spirit” and a religiously mixed marriage would create “one body and two minds” and “cause arguments, quarrels, blasphemous wild conduct, and often half-hearted belief.” Authorities ordered sermons to be preached against mixed marriage, warning of the dangers to the soul “seduced by the infamous sweet poison of heretical teaching.”30 Despite these prohibitions, however, mixed marriages continued to occur, particularly in areas where Catholics and various types of Protestants lived in close proximity to one another. Authorities continued to grumble, but they usually agreed to recognize the marriage ceremonies of other denominations.

In terms of family life, Protestant pastors, courts, and other authorities generally did not intervene in any disputes between spouses unless these created public scandal or repeatedly disturbed the neighbors, and they attempted reconciliation first for serious cases, including horrendous domestic violence. Accusations of adultery were taken far more seriously, because adultery directly challenged the central link between marriage and procreation as well as impugning male honor. Many legal codes, including the criminal code of the Holy Roman Empire of 1532, called the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina, defined adultery as a capital offense; in a few cases individuals were indeed executed for adultery, though generally punishments involved fines, prison sentences, corporal punishment, or banishment. Other sexual behavior that the reformers opposed but that did not upset marriage—such as sexual relations between engaged persons—was only rarely brought to court. Brothels were closed, but prostitution continued.

Divorce remained extremely rare, as the social and economic consequences of breaking up a family unit could be disastrous. Judges were on the lookout for collusion between the spouses in divorce cases—that is, claiming adultery, desertion, or impotence—and called for extensive proof and long waiting periods. As they had before the Reformation, people used other, less formal avenues to escape an unwanted marriage, simply disappearing or moving apart, although this was prohibited and neither spouse could remarry. In contrast to contemporary family courts, where most cases involving marriage are brought by people seeking to end theirs, the majority of marriage cases in most early Protestant courts were brought by people—almost always women—seeking to form a marriage or asserting that they already had, what today we term “breach of promise.” Such cases lay behind Protestant ordinances requiring weddings to be public, and as these were instituted, successful breach of promise cases became rarer.

In general, however, other than clerical marriage, Protestant marriage patterns were not that different from Catholic ones. They fit with secular values as well, for rural and urban residents of all religious persuasions regarded appropriate marriages and stable families as essential to the social order. As in other aspects of life, church and state authorities generally cooperated and supported one another in regulating marriage, which comes as no surprise, for Protestant churches throughout Europe were to a large degree state churches.

Discussion of the Literature

In what is still the best-selling biography of Luther available in English, Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, published in 1950, the author comments, “The Luther who got married in order to testify to his faith actually founded a home and did more than any other person to determine the tone of German domestic relations for the next four centuries.”31 That tone, according to Bainton and other studies of Protestant ideas about marriage and the family published at about the same time, was pleasant and progressive, the beginning of “modern” companionate marriage with an emphasis on love and affection. In this line of thinking, which dates back centuries, the Protestant Reformation rescued marriage (and by extension married women) from the depths of dishonor created by the Catholic championing of virginity and the misogyny of late medieval monastic culture. This positive evaluation of the effects of Luther’s ideas on marriage and on women has continued in the work of some historians and in many studies of Luther written for a general audience, especially those with a clear confessional viewpoint.32 They emphasize the honor accorded the role of wife and mother in Luther’s thinking and, because the vast majority of women in early modern Europe were wives and mothers, conclude that this respect worked to improve women’s status and enhance their social role.

Most biographies of Luther since Bainton’s, including the weighty multivolume tomes that marked the 1983 quincentenary of Luther’s birth, and surveys of the Reformation written for general readers or for students have included some discussion of Luther’s own marriage, seeing it, as Bainton did, as an event through which Luther demonstrated his opinion that marriage was superior to celibacy.33 They also use it as a way humanize their subject, with stories about Luther’s interactions with Katharina von Bora and with his children that show him as a loving husband and father. Few of the major biographies or books on the Reformation have integrated their discussion of Luther’s ideas about marriage and the family (or about women or gender) into their analysis of his theology concerning other issues, however. It has largely been a sidelight, although this is beginning to change.

Along with studies that saw Luther’s impact on marriage and family life as positive, other scholarship that began to emerge about the time of the quincentenary took a more critical view.34 These works did not dispute the Protestant championing of marriage but noted that it did not lead to improvements in life for all and might, in fact, have contributed to growing suspicion of and restrictions on the 10–15 percent of the population who never married, especially the women among them. Throughout the sixteenth century laws were passed prohibiting unmarried women to move into cities or live on their own and ordering unmarried female servants to take positions only in households headed by men, where their “sloth and laziness” could be controlled. In some cases grown, unmarried daughters were ordered to leave the household of their widowed mothers to find a position in a male-headed household.35 How much of this can be attributed to the direct influence of Luther is hard to gauge, but Protestant authors and officials did describe unmarried women as deviant and dangerous more often than did Catholics, who, of course, could not make such categorical statements because unmarried women included nuns.

Scholars who view the impact of the Protestant Reformation on domestic life more negatively also note that Luther and the other reformers limited women’s proper sphere of influence to the household, and even there the husband’s word was paramount. Thus marriage was a good thing, but it was a marriage of unequals, not a marriage that looked forward to the more modern idea of marriage as companionate partnership. They note that in Luther’s opinion women’s faith and spiritual equality were not to have social or political consequences and that biblical examples of women’s preaching or teaching were not to be taken as authorizing such actions among later women. Though Luther denounced the ideas of Aristotle on many things, he accepted the Greek philosopher’s idea that women’s weaker nature was inherent in their very being; this inferiority was deepened by Eve’s actions and God’s words in the Garden of Eden, but it was there from creation.

Scholarship arguing for the positive and negative effects of the Reformation on marriage and on women continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s. As evident in this article, there is plenty of ammunition in Luther’s words for both sides of this debate, often expressed in the strong language that he favored. Some scholars began to wonder, however, if the question of whether Protestantism was good or bad was ultimately not very useful, because the answer is always “it depends.” Good or bad for whom? Where? When? Married people or single? Old or young? Urban or rural? Mothers or the childless? And how do all these categories intersect? Although some historians have continued to make sweeping statements about Luther’s ideas and their impact, more have begun to stress diversity and to investigate certain aspects of these categories more closely. Bainton’s statement that Luther did more than any other person to change actual German home life over many centuries was an assertion not backed by much evidence, and some scholars have begun the difficult task of trying to test this claim, looking at real marriages and actual familial relationships, along with ideas and ideals.36

Along with emphasizing diversity according to many different categories of difference, scholars increasingly put Reformation ideas within a broader context rather than seeing them in isolation. Nowhere did the Protestant Reformation alone bring about change, and some historians have reversed the line of causation proposed by both those who view the Reformation as positive and those who see it as negative. Changes in family life began in Europe much earlier than the sixteenth century, they note, when in the High Middle Ages the marital pair, rather than the extended family or the landed estate, became the basic production-and-consumption unit. Thus Reformation ideas about the centrality of married life did not create the “modern” companionate family but instead resulted from it. Similarly, humanists and city officials regarded stable marital households as essential to public order, and craft and journeymen’s guilds viewed ideal women as obedient “helpmeets” well before the Reformation. Thus the reformers, including Luther, built on ideas and practices that were already present, especially in the middle-class urban milieus in which most of them grew up.37

Since 2000, scholarship on Luther and marriage has gone in a number of different directions. Building on scholarship on women and gender, historians are beginning to examine reformers’ ideas about men as men more systematically and also to study the way men responded to—or ignored—those ideas as they created new patterns of masculinity.38 Along with social historians studying actual families, intellectual historians are examining many issues involving women, sexuality, marriage, and the family, tracing continuities as well as change across the “great divide” of 1517.39 Studies of Luther, both scholarly and popular, are devoting increasing space to his ideas about marriage, sexuality, and the household, relating them not only to his own family life but also to his ideas about Christian freedom, the authority of scripture, divine grace, and salvation.40 There is room for much more research on all of these topics in the future.

Further Reading

Bast, Robert J.Honor Your Fathers: Catechisms and the Emergence of a Patriarchal Ideology in Germany, 1400–1600. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1997.Find this resource:

Crowther, Kathleen M.Adam and Eve in the Protestant Reformation. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Forster, Marc R., and Benjamin J. Kaplan, eds. Piety and Family in Early Modern Europe. Basingstoke, U.K.: Ashgate, 2005.Find this resource:

Fudge, Thomas A. “Incest and Lust in Luther’s Marriage Theology and Morality in Reformation Polemics.” Sixteenth Century Journal 34.2 (Summer 2003): 321–328.Find this resource:

Harrington, Joel F.Reordering Marriage and Society in Reformation Germany. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995.Find this resource:

Hendrix, Scott. “Luther on Marriage.” Lutheran Quarterly 14.3 (2000): 335–350.Find this resource:

Hendrix, Scott H., and Susan C. Karant-Nunn, eds. Masculinity in the Reformation Era. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Karant-Nunn, Susan C.The Reformation of Ritual: An Interpretation of Early Modern Germany. London: Routledge, 1997.Find this resource:

Karant-Nunn, Susan C. “The Emergence of the Pastoral Family in the German Reformation: The Parsonage as a Site of Socio-Religious Change.” In The Protestant Clergy in Early Modern Europe. Edited by C. Scott Dixon and Luise Schorn-Schütte, 79–99. Basingstoke. U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.Find this resource:

Karant-Nunn, Susan C., and Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, eds. and trans. Luther on Women: A Sourcebook. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Kreitzer, Beth. Reforming Mary: Lutheran Preaching on the Virgin Mary in the Sixteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Luebke, David M., and Mary Lindemann, eds. Mixed Matches: Transgressive Unions in Germany from the Reformation to the Enlightenment. New York: Berghahn, 2014.Find this resource:

Mattox, Mickey L. “Luther on Eve, Women and the Church.” Lutheran Quarterly 17.4 (2003): 456–474.Find this resource:

Mattox, Mickey L.Defender of the Most Holy Matriarchs: Martin Luther’s Interpretation of the Women of Genesis in the Enarrationes in Genesin, 1535–1545. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004.Find this resource:

Plummer, Marjorie Elizabeth. From Priest’s Whore to Pastor’s Wife: Clerical Marriage and the Process of Reform in the Early German Reformation. Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate, 2012.Find this resource:

Roper, Lyndal, Heide Wunder, Susanna Peyronel Rambaldi, and Luisa Accati. “Focal Point: Gender and the Reformation.” Archive for Reformation History 92 (2001): 264–320.Find this resource:

Wiesner-Hanks, Merry. Christianity and Sexuality in the Early Modern World: Regulating Desire, Reforming Practice. 2d ed. London: Routledge, 2010.Find this resource:


(1.) Bridget of Sweden, Revelationes 7.22, translated and quoted in Katharina M. Wilson, Medieval Women Writers (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1984), 345.

(2.) Eine Hochzeitpredigt uber den Spruch Hebreern am Dreyzehenden Capital, in WA 34:52; my translation.

(3.) The Estate of Marriage (1522), in LW 45:18.

(4.) Sermons on Genesis, Chapter One (1527), in Luther on Women: A Sourcebook, ed. and trans. Susan C. Karant-Nunn and Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 96 (WA 24:53).

(5.) The Estate of Marriage, 49.

(6.) Ibid., 24, 30.

(7.) Ibid., 32.

(8.) Ibid., 35.

(9.) Table Talk in Luther on Women, 157 (WA TR 4:553, no. 4857).

(10.) 1 Cor. 7 (1523), LW 28:17, 19.

(11.) Scott Hendrix, “Luther on Marriage,” Lutheran Quarterly 14 (Autumn 2000): 338.

(12.) On Marriage Matters (1530), LW 46:268.

(13.) Sermon on the Mount (1532), LW 21:93.

(14.) The Estate of Marriage, 40.

(15.) A Sermon on Marriage (1525), in Luther on Women, 95 (WA 27/I:24).

(16.) Table Talk, in Luther on Women, 127 (WA TR 3:41, no. 2867b).

(17.) The Estate of Marriage, 36.

(18.) Table Talk in Luther on Women, 123 (WA TR 1:105, no. 250).

(19.) The Estate of Marriage, 46.

(20.) Sermon on Married Life (1522), in Luther on Women, 172–173 (WA 10/II:296).

(21.) The Estate of Marriage, 46.

(22.) A Consolation to Those Women Who Have Had Difficulties in Bearing Children (1542), in Luther on Women, 180, 181 (WA 53:206, 208).

(23.) Letter from Zeitz, 28 July 1545, in Luther on Women, 193 (WA BR 11:149, no. 4139).

(24.) Letter to Justas Jonas, 23 September 1542, LW 50:238.

(25.) Table Talk, in Luther on Women, 132 (WA TR 4:459, no. 4736).

(26.) Book of Advice and Consolation for the Simple Pastor (1529), in Luther on Women, 116 (WA 30/III:75).

(27.) 1533 ordinance of a girls’ school in Wittenberg, translated and quoted in Gerald Strauss, Luther’s House of Learning: Indoctrination of the Young in Luther’s Germany (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 197.

(28.) On Marriage Matters, 309.

(29.) 1562 Eheordnung and 1563 Ehegerichtsordnung, quoted and translated in Joel F. Harrington, Reordering Marriage and Society in Reformation Germany (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 188, 189.

(30.) German church ordinances, quoted in Dagmar Freist, “One Body, Two Confessions: Mixed Marriages in Germany,” in Gender in Early Modern German History, ed. Ulinka Rublack (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 282, 287.

(31.) Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York: New American Library, 1950), 233.

(32.) See, for example, Steven Ozment, When Fathers Ruled: Family Life in Reformation Europe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), especially 3–25, or the older Siegmund Baranowski, Luthers Lehre von der Ehe (Münster, Germany: Heinrich Schöningh, 1913).

(33.) See the nine pages on Luther’s marriage and home life in Martin Brecht, Martin Luther, 3 vols., trans James L. Schaaf (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990–1993), vol. 2, pp. 195–204, or the mention of Luther’s marriage in the four pages on women in Euan Cameron’s magisterial textbook The European Reformation (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991), pp. 402–405.

(34.) For example, see Lyndal Roper, The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989); Susan C. Karant-Nunn, “Continuity and Change: Some Effects of the Reformation on the Women of Zwickau,” Sixteenth Century Journal 13.2 (1982): 17–42, and idem., “The Transmission of Luther’s Teachings on Women and Matrimony: The Case of Zwickau,” Archive for Reformation History 77 (December 1986): 31–46; and Robert James Bast, Honor Your Fathers: Catechisms and the Emergence of a Patriarchal Ideology in Germany 1400–1600 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1997).

(35.) Merry Wiesner-Hanks, “Having Her Own Smoke: Employment and Independence for Unmarried Women in Germany, 1400–1700,” in Singlewomen in the European Past, 1250–1800, ed. Judith Bennett and Amy Froide (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 192–216; and Renate Dürr, Mägde in der Stadt: Das Beispiel Schwäbisch-Hall in der Frühen Neuzeit (Frankfurt: Campus, 1995).

(36.) Joel F. Harrington, Reordering Marriage and Society in Reformation; Susan C. Karant-Nunn, The Reformation of Ritual: An Interpretation of Early Modern Germany (London: Routledge, 1997); and idem., “The Emergence of the Pastoral Family in the German Reformation: The Parsonage as a Site of Socio-Religious Change,” in The Protestant Clergy in Early Modern Europe, ed. C. Scott Dixon and Luise Schorn-Schütte (Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 79–99; Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Christianity and Sexuality in the Early Modern World: Regulating Desire, Reforming Practice, 2d ed. (London: Routledge, 2010); Marjorie Elizabeth Plummer, From Priest’s Whore to Pastor’s Wife: Clerical Marriage and the Process of Reform in the Early German Reformation (Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate, 2012); and David M. Luebke and Mary Lindemann, eds., Mixed Matches: Transgressive Unions in Germany from the Reformation to the Enlightenment (New York: Berghahn, 2014).

(37.) Heide Wunder, “Er ist die Sonn’, sie ist der Mond”: Frauen in der Frühen Neuzeit (Munich, Germany: Beck, 1992), and English edition, He Is the Sun, She Is the Moon: Women in Early Modern Germany, trans. Thomas Dunlap (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998); Merry Wiesner-Hanks, “The Religious Dimensions of Guild Notions of Honor in Reformation Germany,” in Ehrkonzepte in der Frühen Neuzeit: Identitäten und Abgrenzungen, ed. Sibylle Backmann, Hans-Jörg Künast, Sabine Ullman, and B. Ann Tlusty, Colloquia Augustana 8 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag,1998), 223–233.

(38.) Scott H. Hendrix and Susan C. Karant-Nunn, eds., Masculinity in the Reformation Era (Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2008). For an analysis of Martin Luther’s ideas about his own male body, see Lyndal Roper, “Martin Luther’s Body: The ‘Stout Doctor’ and His Biographers,” American Historical Review 111 (April 2010): 350–384.

(39.) Thomas A. Fudge, “Incest and Lust in Luther’s Marriage Theology and Morality in Reformation Polemics,” Sixteenth Century Journal 34.2 (Summer 2003): 321–328; and Kathleen M. Crowther, Adam and Eve in the Protestant Reformation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

(40.) Mickey Mattox, Defender of the Most Holy Matriarchs: Martin Luther’s Interpretation of the Women of Genesis in the Enarrationes in Genesin, 1535–1545 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004); and Beth Kreitzer, Reforming Mary: Lutheran Preaching on the Virgin Mary in the Sixteenth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). For a popular biography that integrates marriage, see Scott H. Hendrix, Martin Luther: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).