Episode 36 – Defending the Harsh Book

After the princes had brutally put down the peasants revolt of 1525, Luther was subjected to increasing pressure to explain his position of support for the princes.

In his book, “Against the murderous hordes”, Luther made some memorable comments that encouraged the killing of the peasantry. How could Luther possibly defend himself?

Several months after the end of the revolt, Luther answered his critics. Although his answer won’t satisfy everyone, it is an important and necessary clarification to his previous writing.


The Peasants War of 1525 was unbelievably brutal. To put down the rebellion, the princes killed an unbelievable number of people. The total number of dead was about 1 out of every 80 people. This included many who had nothing to do with the rebellion, including women and children. Of course, the princes didn’t do the killing directly. They hired mercenaries who were professional soldiers.

While the mercenaries were engaged in their bloodlust, there were reports that they would quote Luther from his book, “Against the Robbing and Murderous Hordes of Peasants”:

“A prince can win heaven with bloodshed better than other men with prayer.”

“It is plain that these peasants have deserved death many times over.”

“anyone who is killed fighting on the side of the rulers may be a true martyr”

These quotes were almost always taken out of context. Luther was terrified that the peasants would win, ushering in an era where only “might makes right”. As he pointed out in his writings, the leaders of the peasants, especially Thomas Müntzer, were twisting scripture to support a radical reordering of society. If the peasants were successful, he was concerned that scripture would continue to be used to justify one revolution after another. Still, Luther’s typically harsh language, which had served him so well against the pope, backfired in his writings on the peasants war.

In this episode we discuss Luther’s response to his critics and attempt to place the Peasants’ War into the context of the 15th century. Many of our listeners will be happy to hear that this is our last episode discussing the Peasants’ War.

Beer break

BOSS TWEED from Old Nation Brewing Co. Double New England IPA

We have been introducing different breweries for every show, but once in a while a brewery is good enough to visit a few times. (Also this beer was donated by Kirk Siefker, one of our listeners.)

We already talked about Old Nation when we had their M43 beer. (Great beer!) Now we’re going to try this seasonal beer which was released back in the spring. Guessing it’s a summer beer that got pushed out of production by the demand for the M43. Glad to have one here at the end of the summer.

Did a little bit of research on beer. It’s Boss Tweed is part of a family of variations on the M43 style. In addition to M43 and Boss Tweed, they’ve also made one called Boxer and one called Green Stone. (We’ll have to move on from Old Nation, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for those other two for my non-podcast drinking.)

Several folks on line think Boss Tweed is better than M43.

Thanks to Kirk for the beer!

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