In 1518 Luther published a set of sermons on the Ten Commandments, within which he illustrated transgressions of the First Commandment by lengthy, detailed descriptions of popular superstitions, magic, and witchcraft. This early work offers the strongest evidence of Luther's acceptance of the fifteenth-century conception of diabolical witchcraft, although Luther expressed doubts about both night flight and the sabbat. This paper argues that the work must be seen in its proper light as a sermon to his congregation, following a medieval tradition of catechetical works on the Decalogue. Within this tradition the sermons take a providentialist line, based on nominalist theology, according to which all suffering comes through the will of God alone. Yet Luther's sermons departed from nominalist soteriology; superstition and magic are thus for him indications of our inescapable failure to trust in God's wisdom and mercy.


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pp. 194-226
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