Friday, August 11, 2017

Jokes in Luther?

In his biography of Martin Luther, Peter Stanford explains that at a literary festival historian Prof Peter Hennessy delighted the audience by challenging Stanford to find a single joke that Luther ever told (p4).

Now, this tells us something about the popular image of Luther, maybe, but it is surely very wide of the mark. For Calvin, perhaps it would be more understandable, but surely not for Luther. He could be beer-swilling, gregarious and crowd-pleasing.

Luther was a professor and a pastor not a stand up comedian.

And even an acknowledged 16th Century wit may not have left many one-liners to history.

But much of Luther's extraordinarily voluminous output was popular. And his Table Talk records a version of his conversation.

How laugh out loud funny you find Luther will depend on how amused you are by poo.

Much of Luther's prose is larger than life. Erasmus called him doctor hyperbolicus, the doctor of overstatement (Alec Ryrie, Protestants, p21). His writing is often satirical and funny, sometimes no doubt intentionally so.

I shall from now on be on the look out for the best gags in Luther. It is shame that Stanford has not so far listed any.

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