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Document Details :
Title: 'Ich bin dein und du bist meyn, das ist die ehe'
Subtitle: Martins Luthers Eheauffassung und ihre ethischen und rechtlichen Nachwirkungen
Author(s): MAGER, Inge
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 12 Issue: 1 Date: Autumn 2006
“I am yours and you are mine, this is marriage”: Martin Luther’s Understanding of Marriage and its Ethical and Legal Implications
The reformers’ criticism of celibacy and religious vows, which manifested itself in the marriage of priests, monks, and nuns, was one of the most evident changes resulting from the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Drawing on his biblically-founded theological perspective and his experience of the severity of canon law in the confessional, Martin Luther – himself an Augustinian monk until 1525 – developed a teaching on marriage that contributed largely to a re-evaluation of marriage (esp. the canonical impediments, the grounds for divorce, and the possibility of remarriage) and to a modified marriage rite and an evangelical marriage law in the churches of the Reforma- tion springing from Wittenberg. For Luther, marriage is no longer to be seen as a sacrament but as a “bodily thing” (leyplich Ding) forged by the consent of the partners and backed by their parents’ support. Nevertheless it gives people the best possibility to realize their destiny as human creatures, to practice a loving partnership, and to grow spiritually through the experience of blessing and ordeals. In the end, Luther accepted as impediments to marriage only close blood relationships, impotence, and the higher calling to an exceptional celibate life. Though he argued for the indissolubility of marriage, he allowed impotence, marital denial, and – in extreme circumstances – also irreversible disruption as grounds for divorce. Those separated through no fault of their own can be remarried. Childlessness goes against the highest good of marriage. Luther did not acknowledge any reason for remaining single beyond those already cited. The reformed understanding strengthened marriage as an institution, got adopted in reformed evangelical marriage law, and last but not least became one of the building blocks of modern civil marriage.