Essay on Martin Luther and The German Peasant Revolt of 1525

1949 Words 8 Pages
“Under the outward appearance of the gospel, they honor and serve the devil, thus deserving death in body and soul ten times over.” Luther’s brutal words against the rebelling peasants of Germany in 1525 reveal the complex reality of the Reformation. Suppression of the rebellion by the German aristocracy was swift and violent, leaving over 70,000 German peasants dead. The rebellion targeted the social and political oppression of the peasantry in the early 16th century. The peasants found new justification for revolt in the promising words of Martin Luther. Luther proclaimed a new kind of freedom for the Christian soul and the peasants applied his idea to their own circumstances. However a dichotomy emerged between spiritual freedom …show more content…
He stressed how salvation by faith freed the soul but not the flesh. Instead, temporal power was separate from spiritual power: “This is not to say every Christian is placed over all things to have and control them by physical power…such power belongs to kings, princes and other men on earth.” Even early on, Luther made a clear definition of Christian freedom and its limits. While The Freedom of a Christian focused on the spiritual tenets of Lutheranism, in 1523 Luther clarified the role of temporal power in Concerning Governmental Authority wherein temporal power and spiritual power existed together, explaining that “Both must be permitted to remain; the one to produce righteousness, the other to bring external peace and prevent evil deeds.” Again Luther emphasized the separate spheres of the temporal and spiritual power. One of his many criticisms of the Catholic Church had been its attempt to control both spheres. These two works illustrate Luther had a conservative idea of social and political order. Then, leading up to the 1525 revolt, there were political and economic stresses affecting the peasantry. The 16th century was a dynamic period for Europe as the population increased by 50% from 1480 to 1548. This rapid increase in population had a twofold effect. As a larger population strained resources inflation went up

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