ABSTRACT Much ink has been spilled in the last 500 years on Luther’s life and work and the Reformation period. Biographies of one of history’s most influential churchmen abound, and Luther’s rigorous publishing regime means assessments of his thought, and its development through his ministry, are possible on his own terms. We will argue that while a sharp contrast may be drawn between Luther’s earliest works, and his last, this contrast is the result of a life lived with a particular aim, and the evolution in Luther’s writing tracks alongside the progress of his reforms. In this sense, while Luther the man grows, and his writings change to reflect his circumstances, the change is not necessarily disjointed, and he exhibits continuity in his theological and methodological convictions. Biographies and interpretations of Luther are notoriously the product of the priorities of the biographer, we will, as much as possible, paint a picture using Luther’s own words, also drawing from Melanchthon’s biographic eulogy, Smith’s Life and Letters of Martin Luther, and Bainton’s Here I Stand.

Luther’s life can be divided into epochs on the basis of delineated periods in his spiritual journey, his political situation, and the progress of the Reformation. Luther looks different in each of these epochs,1 as each represents a different stage of his life and of the Reformation.2 As a result, biographies of Luther often paint the Luther the author wishes to paint.3 Perhaps the most pivotal transitions in Luther’s life occurred in the busy year of 1525, when he married, published On the Bondage of the Will, began formulating the German liturgy, and he was caught in the middle of the Peasant uprising. Each transition in Luther’s life represents a further departure from his preconversion trajectory and education. While his intellectual and practical convictions changed as he grew further apart from the Catholic Church, and as his opposition movement became more entrenched, his theological convictions, formed as he reflected on Scripture and the practices of the church, matured. His thought continued to develop in the light of ongoing opposition.4 Luther learned from experience, so his ministry praxis changed with time. It was Luther’s ability to own, embody, and propagate his theological revolution with the masses that entrenched the Reformation as a defining moment in Christian history.5

                                                                                                                1  Quite  literally  if  one  compares  the  portraits  Cranach  created  of  Luther  at   different  stages,    see  Appendix.   2  In  this  we  follow  the  divisions  suggested  by  H.  Junghans,  ‘Interpreting  the  Old   Luther  (1526-­‐1546),’  Currents  in  Theology  and  Mission,  9.5  (1982),  271-­‐281,  272-­‐ 274,  who  divides  Luther’s  life  into  three,  the  formative  years,  the  call  for   reformation,  and  the  realisation  of  reformation.     3  C.  Lindberg,  ‘Theology  and  Politics:  Luther  the  Radical  and  Muntzer  the   Reactionary,’  Encounter,  356-­‐371,  357,  cites  Boehmer,  “There  are  as  many   Luther’s  as  books  about  Luther.“   4  H.  Junghans,  ‘Interpreting  the  Old  Luther,’  274,  suggests  “unfolding”  is   preferable  to  “developing”   5  P. Melancthon, The history of the life and acts of Luther, Trans. T Frazel, (1548), retrieved online 31 May, 2012,

As Luther’s ideas gained traction, and the reformation movement quickened, Luther found himself enmeshed in an increasingly complex set of relationships – his relationships with the Catholic Church, the political establishment, his political supporters, the masses, and other protestant theologians – all required different treatment at different times. And Luther moved from his initial position as the spokesman for a radical realignment of the theological and political scene, to his final position as the elder statesman of a particular brand of Protestantism, stuck in the middle of, and often forced to respond to, competing interests.6 Luther was increasingly convinced that he was engaged in an apocalyptic battle with the Devil, and accounted for events and opposition through that rubric.7 This piece will focus on Luther’s development in theology and practice, noting the points of discontinuity, and the underlying continuity, his uncompromising commitment to the gospel. We will also note his lifelong commitment to communicating the gospel to the everyman by whatever means available.

Martin Luther was born into an upwardly mobile family, and a child of such academic promise that he was sent to university with the goal of becoming a lawyer.8 There, increasingly confronted by his sin, and influenced by a near miss with a lightning bolt, he signed up for Monastic life in the Augustinian order, without his father’s consent.9 The Augustinians, aware of Luther’s                                                                                                                  “These beginnings of the greatest things put great authority around him, especially since the morals of the one teaching matched up with his speech, and his speech seemed born not on his lips, but in his heart.”   6  J.M  Kittelson,  ‘Ecumenism  and  Condemnation  in  Luther  and  the  Early   Lutheranism,’  Lutheran  Quarterly,  3.2,  (1989),  125-­‐139,  125   7  M.U  Edwards,  ‘Luther  on  his  Opponents,’  Lutheran  Quarterly,  16,  (2002),  329-­‐ 348,  332-­‐333   8  R.  Kolb,  ‘Martin  Luther:  The  Man  and  His  Mind,’  Reformation  and  Revival:  A   Quarterly  Journal  for  Christian  Leadership,  Vol  8,  1  (Winter,  1999),  11-­‐33,    12-­‐15   9  Life  and  Letters,  131-­‐132,  Luther  admits  that  he  entered  the  monastery  against   the  will  of  his  parents  in  his  dedication  of  On  Monastic  Vows.  

education and obvious intellect, pushed him towards the academy.10 His appointment as a Doctor of Theology in Wittenberg provided him with a platform. While his objections to Catholicism were yet to crystallise, Luther his platform to begin a work of academic reform, which was a necessary precursor to his theological reforms. Before he produced his theses against indulgences, Luther published, and circulated, 97 theses against Aristotle (1517), because “his ethics were not Christian and his philosophy not Pauline.”11 In a letter to John Lang (Feb, 1517), Luther revealed his educational agenda was to remove Aristotle from the university, “My soul longs for nothing so ardently as to expose and publicly shame that Greek buffoon, who like a spectre has befooled the Church.” A few months later he claimed to have had some success toppling Aristotle, and replacing him with “the new theology, that is on the Bible or St. Augustine or some other ecclesiastical authority.” 12

While his academic reforms were underway, Luther was also a dedicated churchman. Prior to launching his attack on the establishment, and its modern practices, Luther was on the ecclesiastical fast track within the Augustinian order. He began preaching in 1514, first in the chapel at Wittenberg, and then in a small, barnyard church,13 he was elected vicar of the district in 1515, and took his responsibilities seriously, in a letter to his friend and colleague, John Lang, he revealed that he thought a plague outbreak would kill him, but he would not desert his post.14 It was in the Black Cloister that he first began truly grappling with the Scriptures, using a humanist model of exegesis (1512).15 He began playing                                                                                                                 10  Melanchthon, Biography   11  Life  and  Letters,  25-­‐26   12  Life  and  Letters,  26   13  Life  and  Letters,  28   14  Life  and  Letters,  32-­‐33   15  P.  Smith,  ‘Luther’s  Development  of  the  Doctrine  of  Justification  by  Faith  Alone,’   Harvard  Theological  Review,  6.4  (1913),  407-­‐425,  415,  R.  Kolb,  ‘Martin  Luther:   The  Man  and  His  Mind,’  16,  27  

down the significance of works in his lectures at the college (1513-1515),16 before his reflections on Romans in 1515 lead to a privy epiphany regarding justification by faith.17 His interactions with the local prince, Frederic, revealed that his problems with superstitious religious works were beginning to develop, 18 because he believed such superstitions, including indulgences, to be unchristian, he did not see his attacks on these practices as necessarily an attack on the church.19 After preaching a series of sermons, from 1516-1517, against the practice of indulgence selling from his Wittenberg pulpit, Luther decided to hold a public debate, the 95 theses were designed to put forward the propositions he intended to defend.20 Luther did not necessarily intend the document to go viral, which they did, spreading across Germany in two weeks,21 they were particularly popular with the humanists.22 It seems, from the letter he sent with them to Albert, the Archbishop of Mayence, that they were intended as a shot across the bows, prior to Luther taking the matter public, he asked Albert to instruct his indulgence peddlers to preach something else, “lest perchance some one should at length arise and confute them and their Instructions publicly, to the great blame of your Highness,” this, he feared, may happen if Albert did not act quickly.23 This view of events is supported by a letter Luther sent to a                                                                                                                 16  P.  Smith,  ‘Luther’s  Development  of  the  Doctrine  of  Justification  by  Faith  Alone,’   418   17  P.  Smith,  ‘Luther’s  Development  of  the  Doctrine  of  Justification  by  Faith  Alone,’   420-­‐421,  the  privy  was  a  place  for  reflection,  “It  is  strange,  and  yet  certain,  that   this  revelation  was  vouchsafed  to  him  in  the  privy  of  the  Black  Cloister,  situated  in   the  little  tower  overlooking  the  town  walls…”   18  Life  and  Letters,  33-­‐34   19  Life  and  Letters,  36-­‐37   20  Life  and  Letters,  39-­‐42   21  L.W  Holborn,  ‘Printing  and  the  Growth  of  a  Protestant  Movement  in  Germany   from  1517  to  1524,’  Church  History,  123-­‐137,  131,  R.  Kolb,  ‘Martin  Luther:  The   Man  and  His  Mind,’  18,  in  the  first  modern  media  event.   22  Life  and  Letters,  43   23  Life  and  Letters,  42-­‐43,  M.  Luther,  ‘Letter  to  the  Archbishop  Albrecht  of  Mainz,   October  31,  1517,’   Luthers  Works,  Adolph  Spaeth,  L.D.  Reed,  Henry  Eyster  Jacobs,  et  Al.,  Trans.  &   Eds,  (Philadelphia:  A.  J.  Holman  Company,  1915),  Volume  1,  25-­‐28,  retrieved   online  1  June  2012,­‐ albrecht.txt    

publisher, who questioned why he had not received Luther’s Theses to distribute, and Luther answered that “my purpose was not to publish them, but first to consult a few of my neighbours…But now that they are printed and circulated far beyond my expectation, I feel anxious about what they may bring,” his anxiety was not because he was uncomfortable with his work spreading, but “because this method is not that best adapted to instruct the public.”24 It is likely that he is referring not to publishing and circulating documents, but rather the form of the theses themselves. He had already adopted the method of activism by publication when it came to his educational reforms, and he wholeheartedly embraced mass media publication, in the vernacular, for the rest of his career. While he had published the theses in Latin, and the printers had translated them for the purpose, he proposed to fully flesh them out in German, which he did, in The Resolutions (1518).25 The accompanying letter to Pope Leo indicated that while the initial purpose of the 95 Theses had been to engage in debate with the learned, but his opponents desire to “set the world on fire” with his words led to explain himself by publishing “under the guardianship of your name and the shadow of your protection,” a book intended for the mass market.26 Prior to the publication of Resolutions, Luther was asked by Rome to recant, instead, he resigned his position as Vicar, and began his publishing campaign in Wittenberg.27 Luther’s earliest published objections to the Catholic Church were a response to the corruption he witnessed in its practices, but his reforms went deeper. There were hints of his growing convictions regarding the authority Scripture, and his central conclusion that justification, was by grace alone, through faith alone, in the 95 theses,28 but their posting, and public transmission, brought Luther firmly into the public eye. He began to embrace this position as his theological convictions deepened, and his methodology                                                                                                                 24  Life  and  Letters,  44-­‐45   25  Life  and  Letters,  44-­‐45   26  Life  and  Letters,  45   27  Life  and  Letters,  46  
On the centrality of Justification in Luther’s conflict with the papacy see a J. Wicks, "Justification And Faith In Luther's. Theology," Theological Studies 44 (March 1983), 15, citing M. Luther, Luther’s Works, 26:99

became increasingly focused not on his fellow churchmen, but on the rulers and the masses. His earliest publications consist largely of sermons, commentaries, and devotional works, aimed at the common man. These made Luther a best selling author.29 He published twice as many sermons as polemics.30 The Diet of Ausburg (1518) was a theo-political council brought together in an attempt to produce unity in the church, and empire, in the face of the Turkish threat.31 Luther appeared before the council, nonchalantly dismissive of the threat of the ban, he refused to recant.32 He was less than impressed with the hearing his views received at the council, and, in a letter to his friend Spalatin, promised to make his objections public that the accusations against him, and the Cardinal hearing his case “confounded throughout the whole world.” 33 Luther’s attention had turned global. He published his account of Ausburg in the Acta Augustana, and it is clear he was growing increasingly disillusioned not just with the practices of the church, but with the institution itself,34 though he had not yet washed his hands of it. The Cardinal, angered by Luther’s response, and Prince Frederic’s refusal to condemn him, requested that the Pope act ex cathedra on the matter,35 which set the wheels in motion for Luther to be invited to Rome to recant, if he wished.36 Luther had promised to write a paper urging the masses to follow the church, and indicate that his writings were directed at the “scandalous preaching” of indulgences.37 So he did. The publication An Instruction on Certain Articles distinguished between commands from the church, and the                                                                                                                 29  M.U  Edwards,  Printing,  Propaganda,  And  Martin  Luther,  (Minneapolis,  Fortress,   1994),  2005  reprint,  163-­‐164   30  M.U  Edwards,  Luther’s  Last  Battles:  Politics  and  Polemics  1531-­1546,   (Minneapolis,  Fortress,  1983),  2005  reprint,  14   31  Life  and  Letters,  48   32  Life  and  Letters,  48-­‐51   33  Life  and  Letters,  51   34  Life  and  Letters,  53   35  Life  and  Letters,  54   36  Life  and  Letters,  56,  on  the  basis  of  a  misunderstanding  in  a  meeting  between   Luther  and  a  papal  envoy   37  Life  and  Letters,  55  

commands of God, and he made it clear that good works were of more value than indulgences, but that works have no place in justification.38 Luther then entered into an exchange of pamphlets with John Eck, answering Eck’s Obelisk, with his Asterisks, and eventually twelve propositions against Eck, in which he declared the Catholic Church’s claim of superiority weak, and held up by vain papal decrees. 39 Luther had, through adversity and reflection, shifted into outright enmity with the papacy and the Catholic Church. He was increasingly convinced that Scripture was the sole authority. In a letter to Spalatin in 1519, he announced that Scripture and Rome were at odds, “for the truth of Scripture and of the church cannot be spoken… without offending that beast.”40 His study of church history led him to believe that Rome’s superiority was a papal creation, and a convenience.41 Luther and Eck held a public debate in Leipzig (1519), Luther describes his opponent as slippery, and suggests that had it not been for his rejection of the Pope, he and Eck would have agreed on all manners.42 Luther’s revolutionary focus had now moved from the practices of the church, to the underpinning structure. By 1520 he wrote that he considered himself part of a revolution, opposed by the Devil, and driven by the word of God, which he said “can never be advanced without whirlwind, tumult, and danger.”43 Reconciliation was no longer a possibility, “I despise the fury and favour of Rome; I will never be reconciled to them nor commune with them. Let them condemn and burn my books. On my side, unless all the fire goes out, I will condemn and publicly burn the whole papal law, that slough of heresies.”44 Luther longed to produce theologically valuable works, and indeed he did, but he saw his lot as fighting the war so that those coming after him might                                                                                                                 38  Life  and  Letters,  57   39  Life  and  Letters,  58-­‐59   40  Life  and  Letters,  60-­‐61   41  Life  and  Letters,  61   42  Life  and  Letters,  63-­‐68,  Luther  provides  his  version  of  events  in  a  letter  to   Spalatin.   43  Life  and  Letters,  72   44  Life  and  Letters,  75  

have a platform, “I lose these years of mine in unhappy wars and would like all my works to perish…  It is my fate that all evil beasts attack me alone…  God grant that I may be David pouring out blood, but that Melanchthon may be Solomon reigning in peace.” 45 He was forced to weigh up the value of publishing books, which gained such a small audience, or easy to understand pamphlets.46 In 1520 he produced a string of pamphlets that left no question regarding possible reconciliation with the church, The Sermon on Good Works, The Papacy in Rome, The Address to the German Nobility, The Babylonian Captivity, and The Freedom of the Christian Man were all released in months, and sought to overturn not just the papacy, and the church institution, but also most of the sacraments,47 and, incidentally, to continue his educational reforms and his rejection of Aristotle.48 The initial print run of To The German Nobility involved 4,000 copies, and the response caused Luther to defend its tone to friend and foe alike, “I see that whatever is treated mildly in our age soon falls into oblivion, for no one minds it.”49 Luther’s pamphlets, published in 1520, brought the people of Germany behind him just as the authority of the empire, and the church, was to come against him. Upon reading The Babylonian Captivity, Erasmus declared the breach was irreparable,50 and both the Pope and Emperor agreed. The Pope issued a Papal Bull (1520), both excommunicating Luther and his followers,51 and ordering his works burnt. Luther initially pretended the Bull was fake,52 then declared the Pope the Anti-Christ,53 and burnt the Bull.54 Some see the Bull burning, a public act of defiance, as the real beginning of the Reformation movement.55 He rejected the Bull because it lacked any reference to Scripture,56 and issued the pamphlet Assertion of All the Articles                                                                                                                 45  Life  and  Letters,  75   46  Life  and  Letters,  75   47  Here  I  Stand,  136-­‐137   48  Life  and  Letters,  84   49  Life  and  Letters,  87   50  Here  I  Stand,  137   51  Eck  was  given  special  permission  to  add  names  to  the  list  of  people   excommunicated  if  he  believed  they  were  supportive  of  Luther   52  Here  I  Stand,  160   53  Here  I  Stand,  160   54  Here  I  Stand,  164-­‐166   55  R.W  Scribner,  Popular  Culture  and  Popular  Movements  in  Reformation   Germany,  (London,  Hambledon  Press,  1987),  146   56  Here  I  Stand,  161-­‐162  

Wrongly Condemned in the Bull, where he claimed to retract certain statements, only to replace them with other more intense polemics.57 Both Luther and the Pope appealed to the new emperor regarding the political status of the reformation.58 The Emperor convened a trial at the Diet of Worms, granting Luther safe passage. There, Luther made an impassioned defence of his teachings, refusing his publications, and acknowledge the authority of the papacy with the statement “I am bound by the texts of the Bible, my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience.”59 The Emperor upheld the Pope’s verdict, declared Luther’s teachings a “cesspool of heresies” and subjected Luther and his works to the ban.60 Copies of Luther’s speech flooded the marketplace.61 Luther became a wanted man after Worms, given just days to escape the consequences of the Imperial Edict.62 He was snatched away into the safety and anonymity of the Wartburg castle. During his time in exile he meditated, grew a beard, and published On Monastic Vows, where he reflected on his time as a monk and decided that monastic life was based on a lie.63 The Reformation had begun to cause violence and civil unrest.64 Luther made an incognito visit to Wittenberg to observe the commotion, and warned his followers to avoid conflict.65 He was now deeply committed to propagating printed material to answer his critics, and promote his theology, the educating and empowering of the common man was central to his objection                                                                                                                 57  Here  I  Stand,  164-­‐165   58  Life  and  Letters,  99-­‐102   59  Life  and  Letters,  115-­‐118,  the  “here  I  stand  I  can  do  no  other”  is  probably   apocryphal,  though  Here  I  Stand,  185,  suggests  the  scribe  may  not  have  copied  it   down  because  he  was  overcome  with  emotion.   60  Life  and  Letters,  120   61  M.U  Edwards,  Printing,  Propaganda,  And  Martin  Luther,  (Minneapolis,  Fortress,   1994),  2005  reprint,  165   62  Here  I  Stand,  189   63  Here  I  Stand,  201,  Life  and  Letters,  131-­‐133   64  Life  and  Letters,  136-­‐137,  R.W  Scribner,  Popular  Culture  and  Popular   Movements  in  Reformation  Germany,  (London,  Hambledon  Press,  1987),  174,  the   preaching  of  the  word  made  people  impatient  for  change.   65  Here  I  Stand,  204,  Life  and  Letters,  136  

to Catholicism. However, the Catholic Church’s decision to publish material for the masses, in the vernacular, demonstrated an inconsistency between their response and regular practice.66 LUTHER THE COMMUNICATOR: THE REFORMATION AND THE VALUE OF THE VERNACULAR Even in exile, Luther was a master communicator. He had matured as a writer.67 He supplied the masses with carefully articulated theological assertions, produced in response to his circumstances, bringing his early readers through the process of his thought and development, rather than presenting the finished product, and he did this by innovating, and changing the nature of the printing industry, with the birth of the creative propaganda pamphlet, in the vernacular.68 It is estimated in the first three years, 300,000 of Luther’s 30 popular pamphlets were circulating,69 and by the tenth year, two million copies of Luther’s 400 plus pamphlets were circulating,70 not just in Germany, but throughout Europe.71 The Reformation led to a sixfold increase in output from German printers.72 Luther printed sermons and devotional works aimed at the laity, which made him famous,73 as well as screeds against his opponents. And others soon joined the cause, from as early as 1518, lay people, clergy, and royalty, had joined their voices to the cause by publishing pamphlets in

                                                                                                                66  M.U  Edwards,  Printing,  Propaganda,  And  Martin  Luther,  165   67  H.  Bluhm,  ‘Luther’s  View  of  Man  in  his  Early  German  Writings,’  Concordia   Theological  Monthly,  34  no  10,  (1963),  583-­‐593,  583,  suggests  Luther’s  use  of   German  went  from  awkward  (1517-­‐1518)  to  masterful  (from  1520),  as  he   worked  out  how  best  to  use  the  medium,  and  the  vernacular.   68  L.W  Holborn,  ‘Printing  and  the  Growth  of  a  Protestant  Movement  in  Germany   from  1517  to  1524,’  Church  History,  123-­‐137,  126-­‐127,  previously  printing  was   focused  on  quality  books   69  L.W  Holborn,  ‘Printing  and  the  Growth  of  a  Protestant  Movement,’  129-­‐130     70  Life  and  Letters,  76-­‐77,  T.  Standage,  ‘How  Luther  Went  Viral,’  Economist,   12/17/2011,  Vol.  401  Issue  8764,  93-­‐96   71  Life  and  Letters,  77   72  Life  and  Letters,  75   73  M.U  Edwards,  Printing,  Propaganda,  And  Martin  Luther,  (Minneapolis,  Fortress,   1994),  2005  reprint,  163-­‐164  

support of Luther.74 These pamphlets were often as popular as Luther’s own.75 They were produced and circulated rapidly, within two days of the Worms verdict, lay pamphleteers based more than 80 miles from the city, had produced and circulated pamphlets depicting Luther’s trial as the Passion narrative.76 These pamphlets, called Flugschriften (literally “flying writings”), took a variety of forms, containing prose, poetry, ridicule, dialogue and drama in pictures and text, or open letters.77 Readers were encouraged to share the content with others,78 the pamphlet was a means to reach the widest audience possible.79 Luther’s reliance on the medium to spread his message is clear from the care he took in their production, in a letter from Wartburg, in 1521, he bemoans the quality of the printing and typography in a recent batch of pamphlets, “I cannot say how sorry and disgusted I am with the printing… they print it so poorly, carelessly, and confusedly, to say nothing of bad types and paper. John the printer is always the same old Johnny.”80 The Catholics struggled to compete both in volume, and uptake,81 thanks in part to seemingly universal support for the Reformation amongst Printers.82 Many lay preachers were printers by trade.83                                                                                                                 74  M.U,  Chrisman,  Conflicting  Views  of  Reform:  German  Lay  Propaganda  Pamphlets   1519-­1530,  (Boston,  Humanities  Press,  1996),  53,  229,  though  L.W  Holborn,   ‘Printing  and  the  Growth  of  a  Protestant  Movement  in  Germany,’  132,  suggests   these  bore  the  hallmarks  of  professional  printers  and  may  have  been  purposely   given  that  appearance.   75  M.U,  Chrisman,  Conflicting  Views  of  Reform,  115-­‐116   76  Here  I  Stand,  191   77  K.A  Strand,  "A  Note  on  Reformation-­‐Era  Flugschriften."    Andrews  University   Seminary  Studies,  24  (Summer  1986),  178-­‐  180,  179   78  R.W  Scribner,  Popular  Culture  and  Popular  Movements  in  Reformation   Germany,  (London,  Hambledon  Press,  1987),  277,  literacy  rates,  though  fairly   rudimentary,  were  fair  in  urban  areas,  and  middling  in  the  regions.       79  M.U  Edwards,  ‘Luther  on  his  Opponents,’  330-­‐331   80  Life  and  Letters,  124,  R.G  Cole,  ‘Reformation  Printers:  Unsung  Heroes,’  The   Sixteenth  Century  Journal,  15.3  (Autumn,  1984),  327-­‐339,  328,  Luther  had   initially  preferred  a  rough  and  homely  design,  but  increasingly  looked  for  better   print  quality   81  M.U  Edwards,  ‘Luther  on  his  Opponents,’  334   82  R.G  Cole,  ‘Reformation  Printers,’  330-­‐338,  Luther  had  a  close  relationship  to   many  printers,  who  were  such  a  pivotal  economic  force  that  edicts  to  burn  his  

Publishing took the Reformation to the mainstream.84 But Luther was not restricted by genre, or even medium, producing songs, theatre, and other forms of literature to ensure the gospel reached the masses.85 Woodcut images, and comic strips, were increasingly popular, both with Luther and the public, especially those produced by his friend Cranach.86

Luther now set about institutionalising his reforms to ensure their survival. Everything came to a head in 1525. The internal protestant debates continued, as did wider social unrest that had been quelled in Wittenberg, but spread elsewhere. Luther also married, and in dialogue with Erasmus, published a work that represented a departure from his intellectual roots. Protestant splinter groups and Luther’s political situation shaped his publications from 1525 until his death (1546).87


                                                                                                                work  were  scarcely  enforced,  L.W  Holborn,  ‘Printing  and  the  Growth  of  a   Protestant  Movement  in  Germany,’  134-­‐136     83  R.G  Cole,  ‘Reformation  Printers,’  330,  334-­‐335,  some  of  Luther’s  closest  allies,   including  Cranach,  also  ran  foundries.     84  M.U  Edwards,  ‘Luther  on  his  Opponents,’  Lutheran  Quarterly,  16,  (2002),  329-­‐ 348,  333   85  R.  Kolb,  ‘Martin  Luther:  The  Man  and  His  Mind,’  24,  G.K  Waite,  Reformers  on   Stage:  Popular  Drama  and  Religious  Propaganda  in  the  Low  Countries,  (Toronto,   University  of  Toronto  Press,  2000),  135,  suggests  themed  carnivals  were  used  by   reformers  between  1520  and  1543,  207,  and  dramas  helped  the  illiterate  masses.   M.U  Edwards,  Luther’s  Last  Battles:  Politics  and  Polemics  1531-­1546,  158,  by  the   1540s  satires,  rhymes,  poems  and  graffiti  were  common.   86  R.W  Scribner,  Popular  Culture  and  Popular  Movements  in  Reformation   Germany,  (London,  Hambledon  Press,  1987),  277,  C.  Weimer,  ‘Luther  and   Cranach  on  Justification  in  Word  and  Image,’  Lutheran  Quarterly,  Vol  18,  (2004),   387-­‐405,  for  Luther,  images  were  tools,  not  idols,  and  could  be  used  to  spread   truth,  397-­‐404,  the  two  worked  closely  to  present  the  relationship  between  law   and  gospel  effectively.   87  M.U  Edwards,  ‘Luther  on  his  Opponents,’  335  

The most valuable production of the Wartburg years was the German New Testament, which Luther finished before returning from exile in 1522.88 Luther returned from exile and began the process of restoring order at Wittenberg, and institutionalising his reforms.89 His New Testament was the first step towards moving the church service into the vernacular, which occurred in 1524.90 Next, he introduced a German Liturgy, featuring the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, hymn singing, the reading of Scripture and a sermon, though this order was free to be changed.91 He coupled this with the production of hymns, publishing two hymnals, which largely featured his own work (1524, 1528).92 He worked with Melanchthon to produce a manual for pastoral care (1527).93 His educational reforms continued alongside this program, he introduced a school curriculum, believing education was vital to the Reformation’s success.94 In 1529 he published his Catechisms, which were designed to teach Christian doctrine in easy form, as a “Bible for the laity.”95 The publication of the catechisms represents a change in focus from evangelism, to expressing Protestant theology in the language of the people and consolidating the movement.96 The content was drawn from his sermons, and theological and pastoral publications, serving as the pinnacle of his productions.97 The Catechisms were a literary masterpiece well suited to their purpose.98 This process of creating a German evangelical church represented Protestantism’s move into the mainstream, and required support from

                                                                                                                88  Here  I  Stand,  197,  210-­‐211,  Luther  had  always  planned  to  return  to   Wittenberg,  because  he  felt  he  needed  to  be  closer  to  Hebrew  scholars  for  his   translation  of  the  Old  Testament.     89  Life  and  Letters,  139-­‐150   90  Life  and  Letters,  230   91  Life  and  Letters,  230,  H.  Junghans,  ‘Interpreting  the  Old  Luther,’  274,  identifies   this  as  a  turning  point   92  Life  and  Letters,  231   93  R.  Kolb,  ‘Martin  Luther:  The  Man  and  His  Mind,’  25   94  Life  and  Letters,  234   95  Life  and  Letters,  234-­‐236   96  J.A  Nestigen,  ‘Luther’s  Cultural  Translation  of  the  Catechism,’  Lutheran   Quarterly,  15,  (2001),  440-­‐452,  443   97  G.G  Krodel,  ‘Luther’s  Work  on  the  Catechism  in  the  Context  of  Late  Medieval   Catechetical  Literature,’  Concordia  Journal,  October  (1999),  364-­‐404,  372-­‐376,   suggests  the  Catechisms  existed  in  embryonic  form  in  these  works.   98  G.G  Krodel,  ‘Luther’s  Work  on  the  Catechism,’  364  

German political powers.99 Luther was now part of the political establishment, and could use his authority to protect the church from emerging protestant rivals. 100 Carlstadt, a former ally of Luther’s, was the first of these rivals. He began publishing pamphlets against Luther, promoting an alternative view of the sacraments, which was picked up by Zwingli. Luther was now facing debate from two sides.101 The lack of uniformity in protestant theology was becoming increasingly obvious, and troublesome. Luther, in 1527, referred to Zwingli as his Judas.102 The leaders of the Reformation attempted to resolve these differences at both the Marburg Colloquy (1529), agreeing on 14 of 15 proposed points, though Luther refused to sign the Articles.103 Luther was caught in the middle of an ecumenical jungle, between the Catholics, and the Reformed.104 The Ausburg Confession, produced at the Diet of Ausburg (1530), was an almost ecumenical document, demonstrating Luther’s willingness to compromise on non-essential doctrine.105 It looked likely to succeed, largely thanks to Melanchthon’s willingness to compromise, and ambiguous wording which left both Protestants and Catholics with different understandings,106 but Luther refused to compromise with Catholic changes, and the Diet and proceedings fell apart.107 Luther, still an outlaw, stayed away from Ausburg, and communicated with participants by letter, while producing pamphlets. He used this time to work on his translation of the Old Testament, sending chapters off to the printers alongside his Ausburg pamphlets.108 The completed Old Testament was finally published in 1532, though edited by a panel in 1539,109 and the                                                                                                                 99  H.  Junghans,  ‘Interpreting  the  Old  Luther,’  276   100  H.  Junghans,  ‘Interpreting  the  Old  Luther,’  276   101  Life  and  Letters,  150-­‐156   102  Life  and  Letters,  241   103  Life  and  Letters,  244-­‐246   104  J.M  Kittelson,  ‘Ecumenism  and  Condemnation,’  129   105  J.M  Kittelson,  ‘Ecumenism  and  Condemnation,’  133-­‐134   106  Life  and  Letters,  259-­‐262   107  Life  and  Letters,  262   108  Life  and  Letters,  253   109  Life  and  Letters,  264  

complete Bible, with apocrypha, was available by 1534.110 His translation strategy was evangelistic, and agreement with the New Testament was a defining principle for Old Testament translation, but the work was significant, and based on the Masoretic Text.111 He aimed to use the German language in a manner accessible to the upper and lower classes, he said “I try to speak as men do in the market-place.“112 His familiarity with peasant, scholarly, and religious forms of the language,113 and with the written and spoken word,114 helped him launch a new literary style of German,115 his translation was to German what the King James is for English.116 The truncated Diet of Ausburg was replaced with a council meeting at Nuremberg (1532),117 where a compromise was reached that called both sides to respect the beliefs of the other until a solution could be reached. This provided political legitimacy, and freed the Protesant leaders up to fight with one another.118 Many of Luther’s pamphlets from 1527 to 1532 are directed at fellow protestants.119 THE REFORMATION AND CIVIL UNREST: THE PEASANT’S WAR The eventful year of 1525 culminated with a peasant uprising. The rise of civil unrest is easily attributable to Luther’s championing of the oppressed, though he specifically and consistently wrote against violent rebellion, the greater weight of his writing inspired the peasants in their revolt.120 The peasants turned to the reformer for assistance. Luther wrote against the Lords who                                                                                                                 110  M.J  Haemig,  ‘Luther  on  Translating  the  Bible,’  Word  and  World,  31.3  (Summer   2011),  255-­‐262,  256   111  Life  and  Letters,  264-­‐266   112  Life  and  Letters,  266,  on  Luther’s  translation  strategy  see  M.J  Haemig,  ‘Luther   on  Translating  the  Bible,’  255-­‐262,  M.S  Krause,  ‘Martin  Luther’s  Theory  of  Bible   Translation,’  Stone-Campbell Journal, 2 (Spring, 1999) 57-73, 60-63 113  M.S  Krause,  ‘Martin  Luther’s  Theory  of  Bible  Translation,’  60 114  L.W  Holborn,  ‘Printing  and  the  Growth  of  a  Protestant  Movement  in  Germany   from  1517  to  1524,’  Church  History,  123-­‐137,  128-­‐129   115  L.W  Holborn,  ‘Printing  and  the  Growth  of  a  Protestant  Movement,’  128   116  J.A  Nestigen,  ‘Luther’s  Cultural  Translation  of  the  Catechism,’  440-­‐441   117  Life  and  Letters,  275   118  Life  and  Letters,  279   119  M.U  Edwards,  ‘Luther  on  his  Opponents,’  359   120  Life  and  Letters,  157-­‐159,  M.U  Edwards,  Printing,  Propaganda,  And  Martin   Luther,  171  

taxed and oppressed their people while claiming to honour the gospel, he denied responsibility for the unrest, and then turned his attention to the peasants, calling them to submit to unworthy authorities.121 His intervention was too little to late. The peasants were revolting, and Luther sided with the authorities, publishing Against the Thieves and the Murdering Hordes of Peasants, and losing the support of the common man for his reformation movement.122 Siding with the authorities was consistent with Luther’s institution building, as it guaranteed their support for the evangelical church.123 LUTHER’S MARRIAGE Luther’s marriage, like his earlier monastic vows, came like a bolt from the blue. He wrote, in 1524, “my mind is averse to wedlock, because I daily expect the death of a heretic,” and then, just two months before he married “I find so many reasons for urging others to marry, that I shall soon be brought to it myself,” a month before he married he wrote that “he would, take his Katie to wife before he died, in spite of the Devil.”124 Luther’s wedding, though involving love of a sort, was conducted to serve the reformation, spite the devil (and the papacy), and please his father.125 The move confounded many, including Melanchthon, who suggested that while many suffered, “Luther does not sympathize with them, but, as it seems, prefers a life of pleasure and to lower his dignity.”126 Though he also hoped the marriage would soften Luther’s scurrilous tone.127 LUTHER AND ERASMUS: LEAVING HUMANISM BEHIND The publication of On the Bondage of the Will, a landmark work that signaled his departure from humanism, showed that marriage had neither distracted him, nor, according to Erasmus, who was the work’s target, softened his temper.128                                                                                                                 121  Life  and  Letters,  158-­‐159   122  Life  and  Letters,  162-­‐167,  M.U  Edwards,  Printing,  Propaganda,  And  Martin   Luther,  168   123  M.U  Edwards,  ‘Luther  on  his  Opponents,’  329.   124  Schaff,  s77   125  Life  and  Letters,  174-­‐177   126  Life  and  Letters,  178   127  Life  and  Letters,  178   128  Schaff,  s77

Luther’s approach to Scripture itself owed much to Erasmus,129 who both developed the hermeneutic Luther adopted in his reading of the Scriptures,130 and produced the Greek New Testament which replaced the Vulgate in Luther’s study,131 and formed the basis of his German New Testament.132 Erasmus was a proto-reformer, equally upset with the practices of the church, but driven by humanist academic convictions.133 In the early years many observers, including the men themselves (though Erasmus had not really read much Luther),134 assumed they were allies.135 In a letter praising his contribution to the church, but questioning his mettle, Luther urged Erasmus to remain neutral,136 but, facing exile, Erasmus could not.137 He published On the Freedom of the Will (1524), affirming humanism’s optimistic understanding of mankind, including free will, and the necessity of good works.138 Luther’s response, On the Bondage of the Will (1525), demonstrated that his theological                                                                                                                 129  By  his  own  acknowledgment,  Life  and  Letters,  205  
It is equally plausible that their commitment to the text was a result of their own humanist educations, but some have suggested a more or less direct link, see J. Brashler, ‘From Erasmus to Calvin: Exploring the Roots of Reformed Hermeneutics,’ Interpretation 63 no 2 Ap 2009, 154-166, and G.G Krodel, “Erasmus – Luther: One Theology, One Method, Two Results,’ Concordia Theological Monthly 41 no 10 N 1970, 648-667, 600-652 131 J. Brashler, ‘From Erasmus to Calvin,’ 154-155, R.G Kleinhans, ‘Luther and Erasmus, another perspective,’ Church History 39 no 4 D 1970, 459-469, 459
132  Life  and  Letters,  134  

G.G Krodel, “Erasmus – Luther,’ 651-655, R.G Kleinhans, ‘Luther and Erasmus,’ 460 134 R.G Kleinhans, ‘Luther and Erasmus, another perspective,’ Church History 39 no 4 D 1970, 459-469, reconstructs Erasmus’ interactions with Luther to suggest that he did not actually read anything by Luther until 1522, ironic given Erasmus defended Luther on the basis that his critics had not read him, D. Preus, ‘Luther and Erasmus : scholastic humanism and the Reformation,’ Concordia Theological Quarterly 46 no 2-3 Ap-Jl 1982, 219-230, 221-224 135 Melanchthon, Biography, suggests they were allies at Worms, though Erasmus didn’t like Luther’s tone. Life and Letters, 200, also, G.G Krodel, “Erasmus – Luther: One Theology, One Method, Two Results,’ 649, citing Martin Bucer’s Letter to Beams Rhenanus, R.  Kolb,  ‘Martin  Luther:  The  Man  and  His  Mind,’  18 136 Life and Letters, 205, also D. Preus, ‘Luther and Erasmus,’ 224 137 Here I Stand, 192, Life and Letters, 200-205, J. Wicks, "Justification And Faith In Luther's. Theology," 18 138 J. Wicks, "Justification And Faith In Luther's. Theology," 18, C.  Lindberg,  


‘Theology  and  Politics:  Luther  the  Radical  and  Muntzer  the  Reactionary,’   Encounter,  356-­‐371,  suggests  Anthropology  was  also  the  key  to  Luther’s  position   in  the  Peasant  War,  class  systems  were  irrelevant,  and  man  was  free,  because   salvation  was  the  means  of  humanity,  not  the  ends.  

convictions were in conflict with his humanist education.139 Anthropology was central to the Reformation.140 So Luther carefully presented his theological anthropology,141 including total reliance on grace for salvation,142 and a new education system.143 Erasmus preferred abstractions to assertions,144 but Luther believed assertions were necessary for the Gospel, so left his humanist education behind. He began opposing the philosophy as directly as he opposed Rome,145 also rejecting the Scotist teaching of infused righteousness, the Thomist view of free will, and other trappings of the schoolmen.146 Works he had studied during his education.147 The Reformation brought with it a new philosophy, driven by a new theology. A theology of the cross, including a soteriology centred exclusively on God’s sovereignty. This was at odds with both the humanism of Luther’s past, and the semipelagian late medieval scholastic movement.148 LUTHER THE CANTANKEROUS POLITICIAN V THE POPE

G.G Krodel, “Erasmus – Luther: One Theology, One Method, Two Results,’ 655656
140  Life  and  Letters,  207,  Luther  says  that  Erasmus  alone  has  identified  the  core  


issue.   141  M. Luther, De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will,
(Grand Rapids, Christian Classics Ethereal Library), retrieved online 7 March 2012,, CLI, 260, Especially  featuring  

man’s sinfulness, inability to contribute good deeds to the salvation process, R.A  Faber,  ‘Humanitas  as  Discriminating  Factor  in  the  Educational  Writings  of   Erasmus  and  Luther,’  Dutch  Review  of  Church  History,  85,  (2005),  25-­‐37,  36,   Luther’s  anthropology  was  theological,  Erasmus’  philosophical.  H.  Bluhm,   ‘Luther’s  View  of  Man  in  his  Early  German  Writings,’  Concordia  Theological   Monthly,  34  no  10,  (1963),  583-­‐593,  suggests  this  represents  a  theological   discontinuity  between  the  young  and  old  Luther.  

M. Luther, The Bondage of the Will, 260

143  R.A  Faber,  ‘Humanitas,’  30-­‐34  

J. Wicks, "Justification And Faith In Luther's. Theology," 18, G.G Krodel, “Erasmus – Luther: One Theology, One Method, Two Results,’ 655-659 145 J.I Packer, ‘Luther Against Erasmus,’ Concordia Theological Monthly, 37 no 4 Ap 1966, 207-221, 221, R.G Kleinhans, ‘Luther and Erasmus, another perspective,’ 459 146 T.A. Fudge, ‘Saints, sinners, and stupid asses: the place of faith in Luther's doctrine of salvation,‘ Communio viatorum 50 no 3 2008, 231-256, 232-234


read for a long time and thoroughly the writings of Occam, whose perspicacity he preferred to Thomas and Scotus. He also carefully read Gerson, but he often read all the works of Augustine, and remembered them the best.”

147  Melanchthon,  Biography,  “He

J. Wicks, "Justification And Faith In Luther's. Theology," 28

While the Reformation was always both theological and political, the political nature of the movement moved to the fore in the later years.149 This meant, from 1532, when the League of Schmalkalden was formed to protect protestant interests, Luther necessarily changed the focus of his publications as his opponents became increasingly political,150 though they always propagated his theology.151 In the period between 1526 and 1530, his polemics appeared in equal numbers to his published sermons.152 As illness became a more significant part of his daily reality, his beliefs that his life would end at any moment, and that he was involved in an apocalyptic conflict loomed larger,153 Luther began to worry that his movement had not entrenched itself amongst the masses,154 his popularity had waned after the Peasant’s War.155 He was particularly concerned to undermine the authority of the pope, and his political allies shared this concern. Luther became noticeably shriller in his later years, as a sense of urgency set in, he increasingly saw his publications as a last foray in the apocalyptic battle, so he chose to become more vulgar and violent in his polemics.156 Even in the most crass of all his publications, he continued to preach the Gospel and protect the church.157 One area in which Luther’s written work took a drastic turn was in his treatment of the Jews, his 1523 Jesus was born a Jew stands in marked contrast

                                                                                                                149  M.U  Edwards,  Luther’s  Last  Battles,  205   150  M.U  Edwards,  Luther’s  Last  Battles,  20,  205,  M.U  Edwards,  ‘Luther  on  his   Opponents,’  340-­‐341,     151  M.U  Edwards,  ‘Luther  on  his  Opponents,’  342  H.  Junghans,  ‘Interpreting  the   Old  Luther,’  279-­‐281,  suggests  Luther  is  simply  trying  to  act  within  the  political   and  protestant  reality.   152  M.U  Edwards,  Luther’s  Last  Battles:  Politics  and  Polemics  1531-­1546,  14   153  H.  Junghans,  ‘Interpreting  the  Old  Luther,’  279   154  R.W  Scribner,  Popular  Culture  and  Popular  Movements  in  Reformation   Germany,  299   155  M.U  Edwards,  ‘Luther  on  his  Opponents,’  334   156  M.U  Edwards,  ‘Luther  on  his  Opponents,’  342-­‐346   157  M.U  Edwards,  ‘Luther  on  his  Opponents,’  343,  M.U  Edwards,  Luther’s  Last   Battles,  208  

to his 1543 work, Jews and their Lies.158 This transition provides a neat snapshot of how Luther’s lifelong battle with the Devil, in polemic form took its toll, and left him as an increasingly distant and irascible figure. For Luther, the Jews, as non-Christians, were tools of the Devil in this fight.159 Luther’s treatment of the Jews is deeply shameful, and regrettable, though in no way central, or disqualifying of protestant theology.160 Luther had long been a student of popular culture, especially music,161 and in 1535, he wrote to Lord Wenzel requesting he compile all the popular German works he could lay his hands on, because he wanted to make German publications that pleased the masses.162 Ten years later, he used this research, and his understanding of the common man to produce Against the Papacy at Rome Founded by the Devil, his crudest, most pointed, and arguably most lasting critique of the papacy, in the mediums and imagery most favoured by the masses,163 using popular, rather than theological, rebukes.164 Luther signed his name to these works, produced by Cranach, so they could not be considered anonymous libel.165 The crude images were designed to convey a book’s worth of information in a sitting, and leave people feeling sick                                                                                                                 158  C.  Probst,  ‘Martin  Luther  and  the  Jews:  A  Reappraisal,’  The  Theologian:  An   Internet  Journal,  retrieved  online  31  May,  2012,,  provides  s   useful  treatment  of  Luther’s  writings  on  Judaism  and  Jews  as  they  developed,   and  in  the  context  of  their  time.     159  M.U  Edwards,  ‘Luther  on  his  Opponents,’  332-­‐333   160  C.  Probst,  ‘Martin  Luther  and  the  Jews:  A  Reappraisal.’  Suffice to say that it is unrepresentative of Luther’s broader contribution, and thus not central to his theology, and should be dismissed as a sinful mistake.   161  Life  and  Letters,  347-­‐350   162  Life  and  Letters,  344-­‐345,  “have some boy collect all the German pictures, rimes, songs, books, lays of the Meistersinger, which have this year been painted, composed, made, and printed by your German poets, publishers, and printers. I have a reason for wanting them. We can make Latin books for ourselves, but we wish to learn how to make German ones, as we have hitherto made none that please anybody.”  M.U   Edwards,  Luther’s  Last  Battles:  Politics  and  Polemics  1531-­1546,  158,  suggests   this  was  the  pattern  for  Reformation  publications  in  the  1540s.   163  R.W  Scribner,  Popular  Culture  and  Popular  Movements  in  Reformation   Germany,  295,  299,  suggests  this  was  a  last  ditch  attempt  because  Luther  had   failed  to  secure  the  attention  of  the  masses.   164  R.W  Scribner,  Popular  Culture  and  Popular  Movements,  295   165  M.U  Edwards,  Luther’s  Last  Battles,  199  

whenever they thought of a cleric.166 In a demonstration of their political cachet, Luther’s elector distributed twenty florins worth of the publication.167

Figure 2. A woodcut image from Against the Papacy, source: M.U  Edwards,   Luther’s  Last  Battles,  198                                                                                                                 166  R.W  Scribner,  Popular  Culture  and  Popular  Movements,  299,  M.U  Edwards,   Luther’s  Last  Battles,  199   167  M.U  Edwards,  Luther’s  Last  Battles,  200  

Luther’s transitions between life stages were marked by personal reinvention driven by his commitment, integrity, and uncompromising convictions. His unwavering commitment to monastic life, driven by a near miss with a lightning bolt, was only tempered by his convictions regarding the authority of Scripture, and his opposition to the corrupt practices of the Catholic Church. His dangerously whole-hearted commitment to the Reformation meant he refused to recant in the face of excommunication, political pressure, and an eventual death sentence. His theological convictions led him to reject avenues for compromise with fellow reformers, the state, and the Catholic Church. While he was initially surprised at how far the 95 Theses spread, he learned a valuable lesson about mass communication, in the vernacular, which stayed with him as he fought for, then institutionalised, his reforms. His publications reflected his times, and were born out of social and theological necessity. He was driven by consistent theological convictions, but situationally aware. The changing nature of his opposition, the political ascendancy of the Lutheran movement, and his increasing conviction that he was a player in an apocalyptic battle with Satan, were all factors in how he conducted himself in the final era of his life, sometimes to his detriment, and the detriment of his work, but often producing further opportunities for the ongoing preaching of the gospel, and establishment of the protestant church.


Figure 1: Luther the Monk, Life and Letters, 64

Figure 2: Luther in 1521, Life and Letters, 118

Figure 3. Incognito Luther, Life and Letters, 137

Figure 4. Luther the translator, Here I Stand, 196

Figure 5. Mr and Mrs Luther, Here I Stand, 291

Figure 6. Older Luther, Here I Stand, 222

Figure 7. Luther in 1546, Here I Stand, 383

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