Although Luther did not at all believe that children are born as a tabula rasa, they were still a sermon for him: he pointed in his table talks to their dependence, happiness, valour, carefreeness, innocence, integrity and faith. He supposed of the child, a childlike faith (fides infantium) and he saw therefore an important help in the faith of those who baptized the child. They have the task of teaching the child further.
Luther himself had six children:
- Johannes (7 June 1526 – 27 October 1575). To his eldest son Luther wrote his famous letter from the Coburg about a paradise garden for children who are obedient and who pray. Letters from his early adulthood show a certain tension in the relationship with his father, but together with his younger brothers Martin and Paul he was present when Luther, in 1546, made his last journey (at the time of his death he was just visiting family nearby). When he was 26 years old, his mother, Katharina von Bora, died. Johannes worked as jurist.
- Elisabeth (10 December 1527 – 3 August 1528). During Katie’s second pregnancy the plague hit Wittenberg. Luther was very worried about the health of mother and daughter. When Elisabeth died before her first birthday, he was deeply distressed. Her gravestone can still be seen in the Stadtkirche in Wittenberg.
- Magdalena (4 May 1529 – 20 September 1542). Relatively soon after the death of Elisabeth, Katharina became pregnant with a second daughter. She was experienced by Luther as a ‘comfort child’. How Luther dealt with her illness and early death is described in the Table Talks.
- Martin (9 November 1531 – 4 March 1565) died at the age of 33; married but childless, poor and as theologian without tenure.
- Paul (28 January 1533 – 8 March 1593) was named after the Apostle Paul, and he lived the longest of Luther’s children and he made the most of his career. From 1558 he was professor of medicine in Jena and personal physician at several courts.
- Margarethe (17 December 1535 – 1570).
At the moment there are still ca. 200 descendants of Luther, of which some actively do their best for the estate of their forefather; among other places, on the website www.lutheriden.de.