Martin Luther’s Controversial View of Women

On the One Hand . . .

Martin Luther’s view of women is an interesting topic, first of all because of his marriage to Katharina von Bora—it’s a fascinating story. You could make a movie out of the way they got together. She proposed to him instead of the other way around. He got stuck with her—he had gotten rid of the other ten nuns, but he couldn’t find the right guy for her. Yet we find from his writings that he respects her, and she admonishes him.

Luther also respected women generally, particularly when it concerned education. There was a reformation of education in those days, and women were increasingly treated as equals in terms of theological understanding. The increased valuation of marriage was also very important for women.

But on the Other . . .

On the other hand, Luther said things about women you can laugh about, but that were in fact sad. He’d say that the Creator made women to have broad hips so that they could sit down in the home.

In our family, we’ve read the Table Talks, and our kids have enjoyed that. But in them, Luther asks why girls mature more quickly than boys. He comments that the answer is simple—weeds grow faster than roses. I have four daughters. Needless to say, they don’t like hearing from Luther so much anymore.

Martin Luther

Herman Selderhuis

This biography follows Martin Luther on his spiritual journey, revealing his dynamic personality, deep struggles, and durable faith—presenting him first and foremost as a man searching for God.

On the surface Luther’s comments may be lighthearted, but it also gives a certain view of women that is unbiblical. The way Martin Luther spoke about women is controversial and complicated: in some ways he valued them and in some ways he did not.

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