Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Religious Studies

First Advisor

Mattox, Mickey L.

Second Advisor

Dempsey, Deirdre A.

Third Advisor

Ulrich, Lehner


This dissertation represents research into the writings of Martin Luther [1483-1546] reflecting his understanding of the human body in his theology. Chapter one reviews the history of the body in the theology of the western Christian church, 300- 1500. Chapters two through five examine Luther's thinking about various <“>body topics,<”> such as the body as the good creation of God; sexuality and procreation; and the body in illness, death, and resurrection. Chapter six presents conclusions.

Luther's thinking is examined on the basis of consultation of the Weimarer Ausgabe and the <“>American Edition<”> of Luther's works. Special attention is given to Luther's interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, to his writings on marriage and celibacy, and his sermons and letters. Various entries in the Tischreden pertinent to the subject are also examined.

In contrast to the kinds of <“>body topics<”> currently debated and discussed, Luther's concern was with the body that dies and yet will be raised again. In addressing issues concerning the body this research shows that, in general, Luther remained a medieval Catholic thinker about the body. However, he was distinct from many medieval voices in the way he affirmed the goodness of human sexuality as a created capacity and purpose of the male and female body. While he was sharp in his critique of sexual sins, this examination of Luther does not discover in him a <“>grim negativity<”> about sexuality that some have suggested. Luther viewed sexuality-after-the-fall as he did every other aspect of human activity: infected by sin, but redeemed in Christ.

Luther's thinking was informed by Scripture, but directed often by experience. Thus this research also traces the impact of his many illnesses, his marriage to Katherina von Bora, and the experience of the deaths of his parents and daughter on his theologizing.