Kayla Clasen

In 1525, Martin Luther, a former monk married Katharina von Bora a former nun. They would go on to have six children by 1534, though only four survived to adulthood. The marriage of Luther became a model for subsequent Lutheran pastors. Luther advocated that the ‘religiously dedicated’ should marry.[1] He did feel that if the monks who remained celibate led holy lives, then there would be nothing wrong with not marrying. They lived in the Black Cloister

The Black Cloister where Martin Luther lived with his family from 1524 until his death in 1546. Today it is a museum called Lutherhaus. source.

in Wittenberg, and upon their marriage, Luther was given a salary of 200 gulden a year, though not very high, this was the largest salary that was paid to professors in Wittenberg. Later, his salary was raised to 300 gulden.[2] The subsequent paragraphs with be talking about how Martin Luther’s home life affected the Reformation, and also how the Reformation affected his home life.

Their lives were anything but private. They always had people coming and going from their house. The Luthers’ would board students to make some money and they also had house guests come and stay with them. “Some diners took notes and assembled book-length collections of what they called Luther’s Table Talk, which was sometimes pithy and often provocative comment on informal and personal matters.”[3] When one thinks of this time period, one thinks of a very formal time, and with this collection of notes, one would not think about informal times happening at home, playing games and the like. The family played games with guests frequently, and Luther was a good chess player.[4]

Am 29.1.99, dem 500. Geburtstag von
Martin Luther and family painted by Gustav Adolph Spangenberg 1828-1891. This image emphasizes togetherness as a family in playing music as a family, just as my paper talks about Luther and the vocation of family.  source.

Luther loved his children, when discipline more than affection was the norm of the time. “Although Luther was a very strict father, the family found much enjoyment together.[5] The family would sing together after their evening meal, and Luther would play the lute. “He also composed the Christmas song “From Heaven Above” for his children.”[6] Today, Luther has been credited with contributing to thirty-six hymns in some fashion or form, be it writing the hymns or composing the tunes for the hymns.

Martin Luther wrote many hymns, including his most famous “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” which was influenced by Psalm 46, and published in 1531. source.

“Luther saw a relationship between music and theology, for he believed that music had both a theological and pastoral function.”[7] Music and Theology are both ways in which to praise God and too see Him for all of his magnificence. Music was an important part of Luther’s reformation, his hymns are sung across many denominations, including the Catholic church. Praising God does not have to just be through the word, but can be through music and songs as well. “Music gave Luther a chance to demonstrate another element of living the Christian life, whether at home or in formal worship.”[8] For centuries, music had been sung in Latin by clerics, but with Luther’s reformation, came music in the vernacular, namely German, and the ability of the everyday people to be able to sing along and understand the words. Also, music was a way to impart doctrine to the laymen. Music was also a way to teach his family about God and His word. With songs being sung in German, the family life changed for the better. Luther’s family was able to sing together and worship God together through music.

Luther considered marriage to be a vocation, a calling from God. “Luther inherited an old ethic of holiness in which God looked with special favor on those who prayed constantly and abased themselves.”[9] This changed when he left the Catholic church and started changing his views on the Bible and church teaching. “His new teaching challenged this ethic.”[10] It is still an honorable vocation to devote one’s life to God, but also to marry and devote one’s life to one’s spouse and to God within that relationship. “He made his point by using imagery that shocked: The mother suckling the baby and washing diapers, the farmer at work, the couple having sex were as likely to engage in God-pleasing activities as was any nun engaged in prayer.”[11] This is one way to get a point across, that there is more than one kind of God pleasing vocation in life. The making of life the right way and taking care of that life is very much a God pleasing thing to do. Luther and his family were examples of that God pleasing vocation. “His strong endorsement of a healthy sexuality extended to women and men, loudly condemning earlier views that ‘marriages fill the earth, virginity fills heaven.’“[12] Live life, God gives spouses the ability to give and take pleasure with their spouse, as God would want it. “Luther was distancing himself from the Augustinian vision that saw sexual congress to be necessary for childbearing but intrinsically lustful.”[13] Sex is not a necessary evil for the process of having children, it is a wonderful thing that God has blessed His creations with. This reform is seen with in the Lutheran church as taught by Luther, and drives away the stigma that sex is evil but a necessary evil to populated the earth. Luther was not shy when expressing his feeling on sex and his wife’s naked body, not exactly something talked about back in his day. “As much as he honored wives, he still did little to counter inherited understanding that a woman was subordinate to the man and even continued to hold that opinion himself.”[14] This was in context with that time, and would have been found in the Bible. God took a rib from Adam and made Eve, and she would be his partner but also not be his equal. In Martin Luther’s A Sermon on the Estate of Marriage, “A woman is created to be a companionable helper to the man in everything, particularly to bear children.”[15] Luther was a product of his time, he felt that women had their place in the home raising children, but he also thought that the fathers had a part in raising the children as well.

His enjoyment of his children and family can be seen in the letters he wrote to his son Hans during his stay in the castle of Coburg. In [the letter] he described the pleasures of heaven in terms of a garden full of playthings that would delight a child’s imagination.”[16] He was trying to help Hans make sense of Heaven in ways a child might understand. “[Luther] saw infants and very young children as relative innocents who could well be molded to lead good lives if adults would be gentle and attentive.”[17] Babies and infants are relative innocents, not total innocents, with the fall of Adam and Eve and with original sin, and no one is innocent, regardless of how old they are. Being gentle and attentive in raising children is a good thing, but sometimes they need to be punished, but with love in the parents’ hearts and trust in God that everything comes out fine. “Luther advocated that adults use play and games to lure their children into voluntary patterns of learning and obedience.”[18] Spending time with one’s children and playing games with them would help them to learn obedience through role models, so that they know what to do and what not to do.

Martin Luther also considered child bearing and raising that child to be a vocation. “Having valued sexual expression as part of marital love, he honored it more because it helped couples fulfill the divine command to have children and to realize God’s blessings that came with them.”[19] Some feel called to serve in that vocation, to help a child to grown in the faith of Christ Jesus. Some do not feel as though they feel called to have children and to rear them, but would help other children to walk in the ways of God. Luther’s life and family show what how he felt with this vocation, and this is shown within the Lutheran Church today.

The reformation in Martin Luther’s life was also seen in his private life, which was never really private. Luther reformed music through the vernacular and writing hymns that everyone could sing in church. He also considered marriage, childbearing and rearing a vocation, where as before the reformation, the only true vocations were known to be in the church, with the clergy. Luther considered sex between married couples a part of marital love and as a blessing from God. The devotion shown between Martin Luther and his wife is evidence of this, throughout their lives together.


Lull, Timothy F., and Derek R. Nelson. “Being Martin Luther 1532-1539.” In Resilient Reformer, 303-31. Augsburg Fortress. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13wwwdk.14.

Luther, Martin. A Sermon on the Estate of Marriage. Edited by Timothy F. Lull and William R. Russell. In Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 387-91. Third ed. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012.

Marty, Martin. Martin Luther. New York, NY: The Penguin Group, 2004.

Roper, Lyndal . “Martin Luther’s Body: The “Stout Doctor” and His Biographers.” The American Historical Review 115, no. 2 (April 2010):351-384. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23302574.

Schwarz, Hans. “Luther and Music.” In True Faith in the True God, 265-278. Augsburg Fortress, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13wwwc2.18.

Schwarz, Hans. “Luther’s Life and Work.” In True Faith in the True God, 7-48. Augsburg Fortress, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13wwwc2.5.


[1] Martin Marty, Martin Luther (New York: The Penguin Group, 2008), 102.

[2] Hans Schwarz, “Luther’s Life and Work,” in True Faith in the True God, (Augsburg Fortress, 2015), 40.

[3] Martin Marty, Martin Luther (New York: The Penguin Group, 2008), 110.

[4] Hans Schwarz, “Luther’s Life and Work,” in True Faith in the True God, (Augsburg Fortress, 2015), 40

[5] Hans Schwarz, “Luther’s Life and Work,” in True Faith in the True God, (Augsburg Fortress, 2015), 40.

3 Hans Schwarz, “Luther’s Life and Work,” in True Faith in the True God, (Augsburg Fortress, 2015), 40.

[7] Hans Schwarz, “Luther and Music,” in True Faith in the True God, (Augsburg Fortress, 2015), 275.

[8] Martin Marty, Martin Luther (New York: The Penguin Group, 2008), 114

[9] Martin Marty, Martin Luther (New York: The Penguin Group, 2008), 104.

[10] Martin Marty, Martin Luther (New York: The Penguin Group, 2008), 104.

[11] Martin Marty, Martin Luther (New York: The Penguin Group, 2008), 104.

[12] Timothy F. Lull and Derek R. Nelson, “Being Martin Luther 1532-1539,” in Resilient Reformer, (Augsburg Fortress, 2015), 328.

[13] Martin Marty, Martin Luther (New York: The Penguin Group, 2008), 107.

[14] Martin Marty, Martin Luther (New York: The Penguin Group, 2008), 108.

[15] Martin Luther, “A Sermon on the Estate of Marriage”. In Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 2012, ed.  Timothy F. Lull and William R. Russell (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012), 387-91.

[16] Martin Marty, Martin Luther (New York: The Penguin Group, 2008), 111.

[17] Martin Marty, Martin Luther (New York: The Penguin Group, 2008), 120.

[18] Martin Marty, Martin Luther (New York: The Penguin Group, 2008), 121.

[19] Martin Marty, Martin Luther (New York: The Penguin Group, 2008), 109.