A Martin Luther quote is not from Luther

(Martin Luther, Wikimedia)

By Spencer D Gear

This quote has been widely attributed to have come from Martin Luther:

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however, boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point”.

I picked it up while reading John MacArthur’s article, ‘Truth in the Crosshairs‘ (Accessed 22 December 2011). MacArthur introduces the quote with, ‘Let me start with a quote from Martin Luther’. I found this quote attributed to Luther at these sites that I Googled:

I went searching for the exact location in Luther’s writings of this quote. Nowhere on the Internet could I find this quote with a footnote reference to Luther’s works, so pursued in a wider circle and came across this article by Dr. Carl Wieland of Creation Ministries International, 4 February 2010, ‘Where the battle rages – a case of misattribution‘ (Accessed 22 December 2011).

Dr. Wieland’s research indicates that this is a quote from a fictional character and ‘it comes from a 19th Century novel by Elizabeth Rundle Charles, called The Chronicles of the Schoenberg Cotta Family (Thomas Nelson, 1864)’.

The view that this quote is not from Luther also is in Bob Caldwell’s article in a Lutheran journal, ‘”If I profess:” A Spurious, if Consistent Luther Quote”, Concordia Journal 35(4):356–359, 2009 (Accessed 22 December 2011).

I find that it is always wise to require a primary source reference for any quote. Perhaps it is my academic study that has encouraged me to always reference material. It was this desire for a primary source that caused me to search and find that a popular quote that is attributed to Martin Luther is not from Luther at all.


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 15 October 2015.