Luther the Reformer

Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and His Career, Second Edition

James M. Kittelson
Hans H. Wiersma
Copyright Date: 2016
Edition: 2
DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps
Pages: 350
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  • Book Info
    Luther the Reformer
    Book Description:

    For nearly thirty years, Luther the Reformer has been the standard Luther biography. Fair, insightful, and detailed without being overwhelming, Kittelson was able to negotiate a “middle way" that presented a more complete chronological picture of Luther than many had yet portrayed. For this revised edition, Hans H. Wiersma has made an outstanding text even better. The research is updated, and the text is revised throughout, with an entirely new map and image program, updated bibliographies, and improved timelines to enhance the experience. It’s a great volume, greatly improved.

    eISBN: 978-1-5064-1686-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.1
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.2
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.3
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Jim Kittelson
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.4
  5. Preface to Second Edition
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Hans Wiersma
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.5
  6. Chronological Table
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.6
    • [1] The Son of a Peasant
      (pp. 3-14)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.7

      When Martin Luther died, the news was reported throughout Latin Christendom. Soon the story was circulating in Rome that those present at his bedside had seen devils flying out of his body. A far more kindly disposed person declared that with him went Elijah and the chariots of Israel.

      By contrast, Luther’s birth was a matter of such insignificance that he and his friends later debated the exact year. Moreover, he came from peasant stock and sometimes referred to himself as a peasant, even when he was an adult. No one expected great deeds from peasants. In the late fifteenth...

    • [2] A Man of Sorrows
      (pp. 15-28)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.8

      Not long after New Year’s Day 1505, Martin Luther became Master Martin. It was an experience he never forgot: “How marvelous it was when the masters were promoted and the tapers were presented to them! I contend that there is no temporal or worldly joy to compare with it!”¹

      Being advanced to master of arts was an immense achievement for this son of a one-time peasant. Hans Luder was enormously proud of his son and regarded the M.A. degree as just the beginning. Master Martin (as even his father now referred to him) was to become a lawyer.

      It does...

    • [3] A Student of Theology
      (pp. 29-42)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.9

      Only occasional shafts of light penetrate the mists that shroud Luther’s life from 1505 until his exile to the monastic house in Wittenberg in 1511. Most of even these glimpses are possible solely because years after the fact Luther himself commented on his life as a monk. Many of these remarks focused on his dark nights of the soul and his deep and painful spiritual struggles. These are the stuff of high drama. But Luther was certainly not the only monk or nun who suffered them. What set Luther apart, however, was his special combination of zeal and intellect, which...

    • [4] The Maturing Professor
      (pp. 45-62)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.10

      “But it will be the death of me!” This is how Luther responded when his superior, Staupitz (who was by then also his closest confidant), told him that it was time he became a professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg and preacher at the Castle Church. The conversation took place as the two men were sitting under the pear tree in the monastery’s courtyard. Staupitz replied, “Are you not aware that our Lord God has much important business to conduct? For these things he needs wise and learned counselors up there too.”¹ Luther was to stop taking himself...

    • [5] The Explosion
      (pp. 63-76)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.11

      The preaching, selling, and buying of indulgences were familiar features of late medieval religious practice. Indulgences also had a legitimate standing in the doctrine of the church. Theologians agreed that Baptism washed away the penalties for original sin, but not the state of sinfulness. Christians still had “to do what was in them” in order to be saved. But for most, not everything got done. And not every sin was confessed. The stain of sins committed in this life that remained on a sinner’s soul required removal before entering heaven. Therefore, death brought most believers to a place where the...

    • [6] The Lines Drawn
      (pp. 77-92)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.12

      Wittenberg’s theology faculty again drew attention in summer 1518, with the publication of a work by Luther’s colleague, Andreas Carlstadt. Carlstadt presented a collection of 380 theses covering a variety of subjects, including the subject of authority. Carlstadt asserted that only the Scriptures—not the church fathers, not the papal canons, and not the decretals—were authoritative in matters of faith. By contrast, in theExplanations concerning the 95 ThesesLuther pictured himself as the very model of loyalty to the genuine traditions of the church. However, this was likely because he’d begun work on theExplanationsas early as...

    • [7] The Public Disputant
      (pp. 93-104)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.13

      During the last weeks of 1518 Luther could live only from day to day. Typically, he plunged ahead as if time had no end. Knowing how delicate the situation was, Spalatin had ordered him to publish nothing while the elector deliberated. Luther could not comply with this request, explaining that he had sent a book to the printer earlier that very day. In this new publication, Luther offered his account of what had transpired at Augsburg. He was aware that public sentiment was weighing in his favor and he wanted everyone to know that his opponents had refused to debate....

    • [8] Excommunication
      (pp. 107-122)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.14

      Just as with the interview with Cajetan in Augsburg, the debate with Eck in Leipzig represented another key turning point for Luther. As a result of the Leipzig debate, Luther had made more enemies for himself. He also lost some friends. One famous jurist wrote the group of humanists in Basel, “Tell Luther that I dissent most powerfully when he denies the words, ‘You are Peter.’”¹ In Nuremberg, Scheurl agreed. For his part, Eck soon traveled to Rome to assist in preparing a definitive case against Luther.

      But Luther had also acquired more friends. Leipzig had made him as well...

    • [9] The Exile
      (pp. 123-138)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.15

      Luther’s dramatic appearance at the Diet of Worms in April 1521 was not, as one might have expected, the end of his dealings with those assembled there. His declaration that he could not and would not recant was followed by several days of meetings and negotiations. Many of Germany’s most powerful politicians had assembled in Worms and many now hoped to avoid the consequences of the confrontation. Some were frightened by the sudden appearance all over Worms of placards bearing the sign of theBundschuh(a peasant’s boot), the dreaded symbol of peasant revolution.

      For the next six days a...

    • [10] Return to the Fray
      (pp. 139-152)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.16

      Events at Wittenberg soon took a turn directly contrary to Luther’s pastoral intentions. Even before he had left for Worms, the professors, pastors, and monks were beginning to divide over the practical issues of Evangelical religion. Then on Christmas Day 1521, Carlstadt celebrated the Mass without wearing the traditional robes, delivered the sacred liturgy in German, and distributed both the bread and the wine to the throng of Christmas worshipers. Later that night mobs disturbed the services held in the traditional manner at each of the churches. Carlstadt and the popular movement that followed him were forcing the issues.


    • [11] False Brethren, True Love
      (pp. 155-170)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.17

      The reformers had their disagreements. The most enduring disagreement was the controversy about the Lord’s Supper. It proved to be one of Luther’s most painful tests. The issue was both simple and complex: What did Jesus intend when, on the night before his crucifixion, he said, “This ismy body,” and “This cup is the new covenant in my blood”? Were these words to be understood literally or figuratively?

      Such questions may seem trivial to modern minds. In the sixteenth century, however, the answer given to these questions had significant practical consequences for the conduct of Christian life. On the one...

    • [12] Pastor, Teacher, Apologist
      (pp. 171-184)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.18

      At this point in his career, Luther had clarified his teachings and many of their practical implications. A powerful movement had begun to establish itself as a historical force.

      As 1527 drew to a close, the heroic, controversial moments that came to be associated with Luther’s life were behind him. The Indulgence Controversy, the Heidelberg Disputation, the confrontation with Cajetan, the Leipzig debate, Worms, the Wartburg, the translation of the Bible, Wittenberg and the radicals, the Peasants’ War, the break with Erasmus, marriage, the Lord’s Supper Controversy—all had come rushing in on him in ten short years. Luther had...

    • [13] Answering to the Emperor
      (pp. 185-196)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.19

      The backbiting, name-calling, and angry accusations between Luther and his opponents in the Lord’s Supper Controversy did stop, at least for the time being. But the problem of a political alliance to defend the Evangelical movement against its enemies persisted. Perhaps the Swiss and south Germans could not be included in such an alliance. But could Luther be counted on to cooperate in any politically prudent alliance?

      Luther had become even more of a public figure than before. He was no longer simply a celebrity and the leader of a loose band of pastors and professors. There were now widening...

    • [14] To Build the Church
      (pp. 197-208)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.20

      During the 1530s, Luther became more than an immensely influential public figure. To many, he became something of an oracle, a repository of divine wisdom whose every comment, no matter what the occasion, had to be preserved. In 1523 he suddenly declared in the midst of a sermon, “For the sake of Christ I beg all who are down there committing my sermons to paper or memory not to print them until they have my own draft, or until I have myself had them printed here in Wittenberg.”¹ By 1531, Luther could not even eat without hearing the scratch of...

    • [15] Toward a General Council
      (pp. 211-226)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.21

      Luther’s role in the wider affairs of the reform movement repeatedly distracted him from his activities as a preacher and teacher to future pastors. The Evangelical movement became a new church in a piecemeal fashion, through the conversion of one person and then another, the training of one pastor and then another, the establishment of one church and then another. The reform of the church had become an international movement that forced all manner of people to take notice. They, in turn, forced Luther to act out his convictions on this larger stage.

      In the early 1530s, negotiations between the...

    • [16] The Elder Luther
      (pp. 227-244)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.22

      On November 10, 1538, Luther turned fifty-five. Luther was not getting any younger. His health challenges mounted. In this final period he suffered episodes of irritable bowel, hemorrhoids, skin sores, ringing in his ears, headaches, dizziness, depression, dysentery, more kidney stones, gout, and, apparently, symptoms related to heart disease. Yet, issues of immense importance for the present and the future constantly poured in on him. To them were added the day-to-day burdens of lecturing, preaching, conducting the affairs of the church, and his home life. Yet during the remaining seven years of his life he was, for the most part,...

    • [17] “We Are Beggars”
      (pp. 245-254)
      DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.23

      Rage, ability, intellect, drive, commitment to truth, sense of vocation, passion for the evangelical message, the demands of superiors, the expectations of students, and the support and love of his wife, family, and friends—these things kept Luther productive to the very end. Despite his many health challenges—or perhaps the fact that he continued to survive them—there was a sense that Luther was invincible.

      The fact that he had survived more than twenty years after the Edict of Worms had placed him under a virtual death sentence added to the aura of invincibility. Among Protestants, Luther was viewed...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 255-256)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.24
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-268)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.25
  14. Index of Names
    (pp. 269-272)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.26
  15. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 273-276)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.27
  16. Image Gallery
    (pp. 277-293)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.28
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 294-294)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1b3t7ps.29