Luther & the Plague

Martin Luther 1533 Title: Martin Luther: Whether one may flee from a deadly plague

Author: Johan Velema

Date: October 2013

In August 1527 an epidemic of the plague comes to Wittenberg and Luther – against the order given to evacuate – decides to stay together with his family in order to serve the population. After the epidemic has receded, Luther wrote an article to present the arguments for his decision. In it he says that the decision to stay depends mainly on the strength of one’s faith and the responsibilities one is entrusted with. There are biblical examples of people who fled from danger; there is also a biblical basis to care for the sick and fight off the threat. Luther’s discussion brings to attention a number of interesting details regarding the hygienic situation in his day and then existing ideas of how disease is spread. Luther gives practical advice for pastoral care during the emergency. Some of the areas where his ideas would find application include 1) the pressure on missionaries to evacuate when warfare is imminent; 2) stigmatisation of persons affected by Leprosy
or HIV/AIDS; 3) our views of preventive measures
such as vaccination.

PDF: Luther & the Plague


Reference: Velema JP. Martin Luther: Whether one may flee from a deadly plague. Apeldoorn, October 2013.


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