“Just another guy with a blog.  No big whoop.”

September 28, 2010

Did Martin Luther believe in the Immaculate Conception of Mary?

Here's a recent tidbit from Taylor Marshall's blog that will likely raise a few eyebrows, pique a few sensitivities, and elicit a few comments around Christian blogdom, from both sides of the Tiber.

 Marshall says:

It seems that Martin Luther, that once Augustinian priest turned Revolutionary, upheld belief in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (even before it was declared a dogmatic doctrine in 1854 by Pope Pius IX). The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception holds that Mary was preserved from original sin at her conception and from all sin during her life — that she was conceived, lived, and died without any taint of sin.

The eminent Lutheran scholar Arthur Carl Piepkorn (1907-73) has also confirmed that Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception even as a Protestant. Here is Martin Luther in his own words:
"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" 
- Martin Luther's Sermon "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527.
"She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin—something exceedingly great. For God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. 
- Martin Luther's Little Prayer Book, 1522.
Both quotations derive from Luther's writings after his break from Rome.
Far be it from me to approve of Luther. I only list these quotes to show how far Protestantism has come from it's quasi-Catholic origin. If only Lutherans would return to this single doctrine of their founder; how quickly our Lady would turn them into true Catholics! (continue reading . . .)


  1. I think I knew this.....and I'm glad to see it being pointed out. Isn't it intriguing??? I think so. I hope he gets more than just the sound of crickets. Old sensibilities are hard to break through.

  2. I was involved in a blog comment fest once over an entry titled "Unfaithful Mary" posted by my former pastor (when I was Presbyterian). One of the Catholics who were defending Mary in the comments made the statement that Martin Luther believed in the immaculate conception of Our Lady, to which the anti-Catholic theological patriarch of the discussion replied "Luther did not believe that!" The quote from Luther's sermon that is given above was promptly posted to the comment thread. A wonderful moment of stunned silence followed, then they got mad about something else. ;-)

  3. This post by Taylor Marshall is proof that Protestantism is a degenerate religion. When they first started out they added the grace alone fallacy and threw out most of the sacraments. Ever since that time, they have continued to throw out everything else they had left over from the Catholic church. As a result, most Prot churches today are like the Anglican Churches, totally stripped of anything Christian.Those that have some similitude to the original Protestant churches have shrunk and split so many times over personality clashes or doctrinal disputes they have no real influence on the culture at large. Why should Joe Average trst his soul to a religion that can't make p its mind on what to believe in?

  4. @juscot: isn't that a little bit harsh? Don't get me wrong I am a Catholic truly grateful for the Church, but calling Protestantism "degenerate" is hardly in the spirit of Ecumenism called for in Vatican II. If we truly wish to draw Protestants back into the fold, it is best to do so by emphasizing what we have in common, rather than hurling insults.

  5. Carl, the spirit of ecmenism called for by VII was 'can't all of us just get along while staying in or separate churches etc'. True, classic ecumenism demands that we insist that our religion is the true one, that all men must board the bark of Peter if they wish to be saved, and all other religions are false. As for me being "harsh", read what Christ said in John 10 and Matthew 23. If we wish to draw Protestants back into the fold, we have to tell them the truths of the Catholic faith, not what we have "in common". Only by bringing them into the Church will we have anything "in common".

  6. Hi Pat,

    This is nothing all that new. I wrote about it over seven years ago, and have very extensive research on it online, and also in my book about Luther:



  7. Hi, Dave. Who said it was anything new?

    "Marian Studies" produced an extensive examination of Luther's attitudes toward Mary and Marian doctrines over forty years ago (vol. XXI, January, 1970). I've had that in my research library for years.

    Nothing new here.

  8. Okay. The first paragraph just struck me as if it was saying this is some startling new discovery that was gonna ruffle some feathers. I think it is important that we thoroughly document source material for such things, because of how controversial they are. The 1527 and 1522 quotes have been floating around the Internet for years.

    They originally came (exact wording and even sequence) from a paper of mine called "The Witness of the Church Fathers With Regard to Catholic Distinctives," uploaded on 7 June 2001. Here is the URL for the original website paper, preserved at Internet Archive:


    The source material is in the footnotes:

    238. Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of Mary the Mother of God" (Dec. 8?, 1527). From Grisar, Hartmann, Luther, tr. E.M. Lamond, ed. Luigi Cappadelta, 6 volumes, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1917, vol. 4, 238 . . .

    239. Cole, ibid., 185 / Little Prayer Book (1522).

    So the 1527 quote comes from the English translation of a German biography of Luther written by Hartmann Grisar, written in 1917. I had obtained photocopies of that from the library at the University of Detroit in 1991, shortly after my conversion. The whole six volumes are now available online to read, at Internet Archive (which is a great convenience indeed!).

    The 1522 quote came from the source you mention (that I listed in an earlier footnote):

    234. From Cole, William J., "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?", Marian Studies, vol. 21, 1970, 94-202.

    I obtained a photocopy of that in the early 90s from Sacred Heart Seminary library in Detroit (hence my initial knowledge of both sources).

    I'm not implying at all that there is plagiarism here (don't get me wrong). Taylor is a friend (and you are, too). They weren't my words in the first place. I merely cited them in my own 2001 paper.

    What I'm saying is that with quotes like this that get thrown around on the Internet (sometimes with primary and/or secondary attribution, sometimes not), we should be careful to properly document them.

    When we don't, enemies of the Church can and will jump in and point out how shoddy they think our research is. Believe me, I know, having been hounded by one such person for many years. In fact, this same person has already publicly gone after Taylor (implying shoddy, insufficient research: "perhaps he's a guy interested in history and truth and will revise his blog entry," etc.) and mentioned you, too, in his post. That was how I originally became aware of this post.

    In this case, I happened to be the one who introduced these particular citations online (far as I know), in 2001, and I provided the fuller documentation at that time. Since the presentation is being attacked, I think that is relevant, to get back to the online source of it.

    It's no big deal. I'm just sayin' that that was where these particular quotes came from: the "online history," and that the source documentation ought to be preserved with the quotations.

    We should all be careful to document source material for stuff as much as we can. I've been guilty of not doing this carefully enough, too, at times, but I try to be aware of the responsibility we all have (esp. we apologists) when we put something out for public consumption.

  9. Dave, this is one of the problems with some of today's aspiring apologists, Protestant and Catholic. Google is simply no substitute for real scholarship, and while many fine resources can be obtained online, assuming one knows where to look, I personally prefer to do my research the old fashioned way: using real books, either from my own theological library or at the library of a local theological seminary, such as the excellent collection at the Pontifical College Josephinum here in Columbus.

    I'm not suggesting that you are merely a "Google Researcher," though unfortunately more than a few of today's Protestant and Catholic "pop apologists" surely are, and it shows in their work. Some years ago, I commented to one Catholic whose online postings exemplified this problem that, "just because you know how to Google something doesn't mean you are engaging in actual research or scholarship."

    Anyway, you don't need to prove that you are familiar with this material or that you were the 'first' to post some of it on the Internet — the latter point not really being important in the bigger picture. As I mentioned earlier, the documentation of Luther's comments about Mary and Marian doctrines during his Protestant phase have been available for a long time in libraries and in journals. The fact that some of it is now floating around on the Internet is rather beside the point, in my view.

  10. By the way, Dave, I had meant to point out something that seems to have escaped your notice. Aside from the opening sentence I wrote, my entire post was simply a verbatim quote of Taylor's comments. If you feel he did you a disservice in the way he quoted the material (I don't), then perhaps you should mention that to him. Personally, I think he does fine work.

  11. I've got just one question. Who cares? Martin Luther may have been the instigator of the Reformation, but he ws just a man. The issue of the Immaculate Conception (I believe there was an immaculate conception, an the child was born in Bethlehem) is the issue. The question is whether the Bible is true or not. Since we are speaking of things theological, the only source of validity or authority is the Word of God. I am not sure about the Catholic Bible, but the Protestant (66 books) speaks of "there are none righteous, no not one" and "all have sinned and fallen short of the Kingdom of God".

  12. Tom, Noah was credited as righteous by God, which is why he was saved from the flood. There are other occurences in the Bible where God calls certain people "righteous" as well. So the verses contradict themselves.