I have heard and read it several times: when Luther was tempted by the devil, he would look at the words written in chalk on his desk: “baptizatus sum” (Latin for “I am baptized”). In connection with my upcoming catechism sermon on Lord’s Day 26, I decided to look into this a little more. I have been unable to find an exact reference for the words being written in chalk on his desk. However, I did find several other references which I find rather interesting.
In his biography, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, Heiko Oberman quotes Luther: “The only way to drive away the Devil is through faith in Christ, by saying: ‘I have been baptized, I am a Christian.” The endnote refers to the source of this as WAT 6. no.6830; 217, 26f.
A blog entitled Liber locorum communium provides a few relevant quotes from Luther, including this one: “I am a child of God, I am baptized, I believe in Jesus Christ crucified for me” (translation mine). The source is given as TR 5658a, WA TR 5, p. 295, ll. 27-30.
Finally, there is Because of Christ, the memoirs of the Lutheran theologian Carl Braaten. In a footnote, he says that the full quote from Luther is: “Behold, I am baptized, and I believe in Christ crucifed” (translation mine). Unfortunately, he does not provide the source.
The intriguing thing about each of these quotes is that baptism does not stand alone — it is joined to faith. Was Luther always consistent in maintaining the appropriate connection between baptism and faith? Patrick Ramsey says no.
The medieval period is sometimes stereotyped as having an unhealthy fear of witchcraft — a phobia which would carry over into the New World and the famous Salem witch trials. Chapter 9 of Heiko Oberman’s Masters of the Reformation outlines some of the late medieval discussions about witchcraft and one of the saner voices. Oberman focusses on Martin Plantsch (died 1533), the preacher of the Tübingen Collegiate Church. Plantsch was apparently regarded as the best preacher of his time. He was that rare blend of clergy who combine in abundant measures superb preaching, theological scholarship, and effective personal pastoring. One of Plantsch’s scholarly interests happened to be witchcraft. In fact, in 1507, he published a treatise on the subject, developed out of a series of sermons.
According to Oberman, Plantsch’s main goal was “to shatter scientifically the spell of witchcraft” (163). His method involved uniting “the contributions of theology and the natural sciences,” as well as appealing to “church, Scripture, and the fathers” (165).
What I find most interesting about Plantsch’s work (as described by Oberman) is his discussion of whether witches and demons could engage in sexual relations and produce offspring. Popular opinion held that they could. In fact, the children of witches were usually suspected (if not condemned) by the very fact that they were the children of witches. Oberman begins his chapter with the story of Anna Spülerin of Ringingen. She had been suspected of being a witch because her mother was suspected of being a witch. She went through horrible suffering, but lived to tell the tale.
Now here is the paragraph where Oberman lays out Plantsch’s argument against demons being able to procreate with humans:
Plantsch’s goal of rational enlightenment became even more conspicuous where he denied that offspring could issue from a supposed sexual union between a woman and the devil. He insisted that witchcraft could not be inherited to the sense in which inheritance is normally understood. For a witch could not really have sexual intercourse with a demon or with the devil himself since neither spirit has a body capable of producing sperm. No, the ‘best’ the devil could do would be malevolently collect and preserve semen from a man and artificially inseminate a ‘witch.’ But the offspring of this ‘union’ would still be a completely human child like every other baby. (171-172)
Seems to make sense. It also seems to make sense, then, to apply the same reasoning to that thorny passage of Genesis 6:1-4, where the “sons of God” get married to “the daughters of man.” If demons can’t impregnate humans, and if demons are of exact like-nature with angels (apart from being fallen), then no angels can impregnate humans. “Sons of God” must mean something different in that passage. I’ve worked that out in my sermon on that passage. Plantsch’s view was not widely accepted and I wonder if that had anything to do with Genesis 6. Hmm….