|Klibish was first to suggest that the paintings were created within the context of the contemporary debate regarding the baptism of children. In her opinion the paintings expressed Luther's rejection of the Anabaptists. In contrast to the Wittenberg reformer they decidedly disapproved of the baptism of infants, because the under age child cannot consciously commit himself. |
This reading is repeated in the literature to the present day, but it is also frequently contradicted. Already in the catalogue of the Luther exhibition in Nuremberg (1983) Seebaß pointed out that by the end of the 1530s, when the first paintings emerged from the Cranach workshop, the heyday of the baptist movement had long since passed. In his opinion the subject should be interpreted as a baptism image, because in the pre-reformation church the biblical performance of blessing children was already routinely read within this context. In addition Seebaß views the motif as a reformation confessional image, as according to Luther only childlike faith can lead the sinner to salvation. The meaning of the motif runs parallel to that of depictions by Cranach of the infant St John in adoration of the infant Christ. According to Koepplin this also illustrated the childlike belief in God demanded by Luther. At the same time the motif of Luther's rejection of justification through good deeds was addressed: the children are accepted by Christ without having done a good deed, simply because of their faith. The repeated representation of mothers on versions of this subject may visualize Luther's attempt to equate the child's receipt of motherly love with mankinds receipt of faith.
The reformist idea of faith as an essential requirement for the justification of mankind that emerges in this summarized interpretation might explain why the subject was frequently shown on epitaphs.
 Exhib. Cat. Nuremberg 1983, 360 f.
[Benjamin D. Spira, in Exhib. Cat. Gotha, Kassel 2015, 202]