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date: 24 April 2017

Martin Luther's Life, 1517-1525

Summary and Keywords

The years 1517–1525 were the most tumultuous of Luther’s career. They saw his emergence from obscurity to become a figure of international controversy and national renown as the controversy over indulgences exploded, with far-reaching ecclesiastical and political consequences. He emerged as a master—if not practically the creator—of the popular press, dominating German vernacular printing with a flood of treatises and the publication of his German New Testament in 1522. These years were the crucible in which Luther’s theology was shaped into its mature form through conflict not only with supporters of the papacy and of scholasticism but also with former colleagues and sympathizers. By 1525 Luther’s theology had established itself as a movement and distinguished itself from other versions of reform.

Keywords: Martin Luther, Heidelberg Disputation, Ninety-Five Theses, German Catholic bishops, Johannes Reuchlin, Leipzig Debate, printing and the Reformation, Diet of Worms, Schwärmerei/enthusiasm, Andreas Carlstadt

The University and the Critique of Scholasticism

At the beginning of 1517, Luther was scarcely known outside Wittenberg, save within his own order, where he served as district vicar. The center of his activity was the university, where he completed his lectures on Galatians in March 1517 and probably began lecturing on Hebrews by the end of the year.1 Amid his lecturing, Luther continued to advocate Augustine’s theology within the university, urging his colleagues to read Augustine’s works. His theological development in this year found public expression in the Disputation against Scholastic Theology, held on September 4, 1517,2 almost a year after the 1516 Disputation on the Powers and Will of Man without Grace. These theses began with an endorsement of Augustine’s theology in its sharpest anti-Pelagian formulations and continued to a ringing denunciation of the use of Aristotle in Christian theology: “The whole Aristotle is to theology as darkness is to light.” In context, what Luther was concerned with was the use of Aristotle’s account of human virtue to explain God’s grace and human salvation. Though Luther’s most frequently named target in the theses was the nominalist Tübingen theologian Gabriel Biel, the content of the disputation really did justify the sweeping scope of the title, since the theological approach that Luther criticized was the genuinely common inheritance of the scholastics of all schools.

Luther’s theological development along these lines continued with the Heidelberg Disputation held at the chapter of the reformed Augustinians in Saxony on April 26, 1518.3 Here Luther’s theses set forth paradoxes based (as he claimed) on Saint Paul and Augustine: the holy law of God itself (not merely Aristotle’s Ethics) is not a path to salvation but a hindrance; human free will after the fall can only commit sin, even in those works which appear best and most attractive. The saving work of God is hidden in the shame and suffering of the cross; God’s grace does not enable meritorious works but must simply be believed. Luther calls the authentic theologian, who understands God through the suffering of Christ, a “theologian of the cross,” in contrast with the “theologian of glory,” who seeks to understand God on the basis of the “invisible” divine attributes. Though Luther will further refine some of these ideas—for example, the Heidelberg theses present the law as a stimulus for humiliation of self rather than unambiguously as the divine power which itself crushes the sinner, and the theses do not explicitly identify grace with the promise of the gospel—they remain fundamental to his theology for the rest of his life.

The Indulgence Controversy

Luther’s theological development from the Disputation on the Power of Man to the Disputation against Scholastic Theology to the Heidelberg Disputation is a clear trajectory—yet this account leaves out the most famous of his sets of theses, the Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences: that is, the Ninety-Five Theses, which made Luther a public figure and the object of ecclesiastical censure.4 Yet in the context of Luther’s interests and work as a professor, the controversy over indulgences really was a tangent that was only gradually integrated with his larger theological concerns.

The campaign of indulgence-preaching that provoked Luther’s objections commenced at the beginning of 1517, though (with details that were not public knowledge at the time) it arose out of the arrangements for the confirmation of Albert of Brandenburg, who was already archbishop of Brandenburg, as archbishop of Mainz (and hence elector) in 1514, wherein contributions received for the indulgence were to be divided between Rome (for the construction of Saint Peter’s) and Albert (for repayment of the debts he had incurred for confirmation to a second archbishopric as well as the necessary dispensations from church law). Though Elector Frederick did not permit the indulgences to be preached in his own lands, Albert’s printed instruction for the indulgence agents came into Luther’s hands in the winter of 1517; by Easter, the Dominican indulgence commissioner Johannes Tetzel preached in nearby Jüterbog, an exclave of the diocese of Magdeburg.

As a preacher in the Wittenberg parish church, Luther occasionally touched upon indulgences over the course of 1517, warning the laity that the indulgences, at least in the form in which they were being preached, undermined both Christian love toward the neighbor and the necessity of genuine contrition before God.5 Finally, after preparing a draft treatise exploring the theology of indulgences,6 Luther took a public stand, as an academic, in critical opposition to the indulgence preaching.

On October 31, 1517, Luther wrote both to Albert of Mainz, the primate of Germany and the authority directly responsible for the indulgences, and to Jerome Scultaeus, the bishop of Brandenburg, who had jurisdiction over the Wittenberg church.7 Appended to these letters were a set of theological theses on indulgences that Luther proposed to defend. As was customary for academic disputations, Luther would have posted the theses on the doors of the Wittenberg churches.

The historicity of Luther’s posting of the theses, which came to loom so large in later Protestant iconography of the Reformation, was brought into question in the second half of the 20th century. The account that had been generally accepted until that point originated in Melanchthon’s introduction to the second volume of the Wittenberg edition of Luther’s Latin writings. Melanchthon, however, did not come to Wittenberg until 1518, and could not, therefore, have been an eyewitness. In 1962, Erwin Iserloh published a critique of the established account, arguing that neither Luther himself nor any contemporary witness describes the public posting of the theses in Wittenberg and that they had been intended for limited manuscript circulation and written response rather than public debate. Iserloh’s argument provoked an immediate response and decades of debate. Sources discovered more recently—especially a manuscript description of the posting of the theses in Georg Rörer’s hand in the margin of a 1540 German Bible and a late description of the posting by eyewitness Georg Major—tipped the balance of the question at least to equipoise. More recently, Andrew Pettegree has shown that surviving 1517 printings of the Ninety-Five Theses from other cities imitate the distinctive style of the Rhau-Grünenberg press, indicating the existence of a Wittenberg printing for university use. It was this printing that would, according to the university statutes, have been posted on the doors of both Wittenberg churches.8

The most plausible reason for the silence of Luther and other early sources on the posting of the theses is that it was an utterly banal event in late medieval university life—certainly not a heroic act of public defiance. In their theological content, too, the Ninety-Five Theses were relatively conservative, at least in contrast with the theses for the Disputation against Scholastic Theology, seeming at many points to appeal to the old rigorous contritionist view of penance articulated by Peter Lombard. It was the ecclesiological implications of the theses, drawn out by Luther’s opponents in ways that Luther himself had probably not intended, that proved explosive. The warning of Bishop Scultaeus, that Luther “was attacking the authority of the church and would get [himself] in trouble,” was prophetic.9

At first, however, the theses circulated rather quietly. Luther’s Nuremberg contacts spread copies of the theses among the humanist sodalities of Germany, and by December printed Latin editions had appeared in Nuremberg, Leipzig, and Basel, perhaps in a German edition as well, though it does not survive. It was this wave of publication that Luther seems to have had in mind when he later claimed that the theses were printed and “spread throughout the whole of Germany in a fortnight.”10 The humanist networks embraced Luther as a successor to Reuchlin’s cause, an association that Luther encouraged by briefly taking up the Hellenized name “Eleutherius.”11

It was not until the end of 1517 and the spring of 1518 that the response against Luther got underway. Albrecht sought advice from the Mainz theologians and referred questions about the pope’s authority over indulgences to Rome. In January, Tetzel defended theses in support of indulgences at Frankfurt-on-the-Oder; when copies of these reached Wittenberg in March, a mob of students seized them and burned them. Elsewhere, though most theological faculties attempted to remain relatively neutral, defending Luther’s right to propose his theses while not endorsing their content, the Ingolstadt theologian Johann Eck circulated his own critique, to which Luther responded privately in May.12 Meanwhile, Luther’s theses for the Heidelberg disputation (see “The University and the Critique of Scholasticism”) made no specific mention of indulgences.

Luther’s critique of indulgences was introduced to a popular audience in the German Sermon on Indulgence and Grace, published in March of 1518.13 This little treatise marked a decisive expansion of Luther’s appeal, from an academic and ecclesiastical audience to a lay one. Masterfully compact and pithy, and printed in at least twelve editions by the end of the year, the Sermon on Indulgence and Grace presented Luther as a pastoral theologian addressing the laity seriously in their own language.14

Luther’s defense of his theses on indulgences soon thereafter began to draw more directly on the key innovations of the Heidelberg disputation, in effect reinterpreting Luther’s earlier emphasis on contrition in light of the contrast between law and grace. In his detailed written explanation of the Ninety-Five Theses (the Resolutiones), which took the place of the announced public oral debate, he now made it clear that the central point of penance was not the penitent’s perfect contrition but faith in the promise of forgiveness.15

In Rome, the curia did not take up Luther’s case until the summer of 1518. The theological response was drafted by the papal theologian Dominican Sylvester Prierias, whose Dialogus de potestate papae took the Ninety-Five Theses to be a challenge primarily to the authority of the pope.16 Prierias asserted an extreme position on papal authority, insisting that the pope was infallible not only in dogmatic decisions but also in his actions, so that any challenge to the existing practice of indulgences was heresy. His treatise arrived in Wittenberg in August 1518, along with an official summons to Luther to stand trial in Rome.

The fact that Luther was not in fact sent to Rome was due to the protection and diplomatic maneuvering of his prince, the elector Frederick the Wise, who secured a hearing for Luther at Augsburg in October, after the imperial diet, with the papal legate Thomas Cajetan, a Dominican like Prierias. To Prierias’s charge that Luther denied papal authority, Cajetan added the accusation that it was heretical for Luther to insist that the penitent be certain of his justification, a point that Luther acknowledged was at the heart of his theology, though he offered to keep silence on indulgences if Cajetan would require his opponents to do so as well. Nonetheless, Cajetan demanded a recantation from Luther rather than offering an opportunity for theological debate or compromise. The outcome was an impasse. In the wake of the encounter, Staupitz released Luther from his vows of obedience to the order of Augustinian Hermits to protect both Luther and the order from pressure to surrender him to Rome for judgment. Luther for his part submitted an appeal from Cajetan to a better-informed pope—an appeal that he recast upon his return to Wittenberg as an appeal to a future council.17

For the elector Frederick, the reasons for protecting Luther at this stage had more to do with the prestige and independence of the University of Wittenberg than with support for Luther’s distinctive theological position. The relative deference of the papal court in pressing Frederick was due to his status in imperial politics, which became all the more important with the death of the emperor Maximilian in January 1519. Frederick now became a pivotal figure in the imperial election and his support was sought by all sides.

In the interlude of the trial process, Luther’s activity at the university continued. Philipp Melanchthon had arrived as professor of Greek in August 1518, a reflection of Luther’s support for the study of the biblical languages as a foundation for theology. Their collaboration was of the deepest significance for the progress and shaping of the Reformation in Wittenberg and far beyond. Melanchthon now took over primary responsibility for lecturing on the New Testament, whereas Luther, with a few exceptions, concentrated for the remainder of his lecturing career on Old Testament texts. His second series of lectures on the Psalms (1518–1521) provided a context for integrating his exegetical, theological, and ecclesiological insights.18

Because of Luther’s connection with the university, his public controversy quickly came to involve the Wittenberg theological faculty more broadly. The critique of Luther’s theses on indulgences put forward by Eck from the University of Ingolstadt was answered publicly by Karlstadt; the two theologians arranged a public debate for the summer of 1519, with faculty of the University of Leipzig to serve as judge. Luther himself was added as a participant only late in the process. His theses for the disputation bring together his previous concerns: the rejection of a “Pelagian” emphasis on good works apart from grace, the doctrine of penance and the role of absolution, the theology of indulgences, and now a rejection of claims of papal authority as a historically recent innovation.19

In the disputation itself, Eck sought to connect Luther’s ecclesiology to the condemned teaching of Jan Hus. Though Luther at first rejected the connection, he came to openly defend key elements of Hus’s teaching. Eck then drew the consequence that Luther must reject the authority not only of popes but also of ecumenical councils, since Hus had been condemned at the Council of Constance. This conclusion, too, Luther eventually accepted, leaving the Scriptures as the sole infallible authority in the church. Luther’s acknowledged sympathy with the Hussites facilitated contacts with the Bohemians over the following years, but it alienated Duke George of Saxony, the patron of the Leipzig University, who became sharply antagonistic toward Luther. One of George’s chaplains, Jerome Emser (1478–1527), became a prominent literary opponent of Luther from this point forward. When the universities of Leipzig and Paris hesitated to render a judgment on the debate, Eck sought to obtain verdicts against Luther from the faculties of Louvain and Cologne, but the overall effect of the Leipzig Debate was to confirm on both sides the division between Luther’s opponents and his growing number of supporters.

Luther and the Press

The following months saw an explosion of publication from Luther, in Latin and especially in the vernacular, rebutting his opponents but also supplying the needs of lay devotion. Though Luther had begun experimenting with publishing in the vernacular with the partial edition of the Theologia Germanica in 1516 and the Seven Penitential Psalms in 1517, it was the Sermon on Indulgence and Grace of 1518 that opened the floodgates. Between 1518 and 1525, Luther published 261 new works, which were printed and reprinted in a total of 1,813 editions—not including the German Bible. Eighty-four percent of these were in German.20 This output and its reception made Luther, quite suddenly, the most published author in Europe.21

Luther’s Latin publication was important as a vehicle for the international dissemination of his ideas; already in the fall of 1518 a collected edition of his Latin works appeared from the Basel presses. His new publications included exegetical work such as the 1516–1517 Lectures on Galatians, published in 1519, and the Operationes in Psalmos, published in 1521; defenses of his Leipzig theses; and polemics addressed against the swarm of opponents who had emerged from the woodwork of the universities and religious orders.22 Luther’s German works up until 1520, however, were of an overwhelmingly pastoral and spiritual character. They did not engage in denunciation of the papacy but touched on ecclesiological issues where they impinged upon lay concerns, as in the case of indulgences or the scope of the church’s power of excommunication. More typically, Luther’s vernacular publications at this time were pastoral expositions of Scriptural and catechetical texts such as the penitential Psalms, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, or of the sacraments of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or penance. Luther provided lay Christians with guidance on prayer and Lenten devotion and on facing death.23 As Mark Edwards summarizes the message of these texts, they emphasized human sinfulness but also the unconditional promise of forgiveness in Christ. They not only addressed the laity but valorized their activities and religious status.24 Luther’s 1519 sermon On the Estate of Marriage25 exalted the value of the distinctive lay form of life, an emphasis that was carried over into all aspects of life in the world in his 1520 Treatise on Good Works.26

The theological structures behind these vernacular devotional works were articulated sharply in the 1518 sermons On Three Kinds of Righteousness and On Two Kinds of Righteousness, published in Latin (though the second was printed in German the following year).27 Here Luther distinguishes between the “alien” righteousness of Christ given in baptism and received by faith (fiducia) in Christ, and the “proper” righteousness of good works—a formulation that moves ever closer to Luther’s own late recollection of his decisive theological shift.28 Meanwhile, Luther’s vernacular treatises were moving to the forefront of his theological work. Though his local role as professor and preacher in Wittenberg remained crucial, the press made Luther a spiritual advisor and preacher for laity across Germany.

Break with Rome

After the imperial election had settled on the Hapsburg Charles V in the summer of 1519, the political pressures that had delayed the ecclesiastical proceedings against Luther were diminished. The papal bull threatening Luther with excommunication, Exsurge Domine, was dated June 1520 (though it was not published until July), the fruit of Eck’s labors to consolidate opposition to Luther. The Wittenberg theologian’s flood of publications had by now furnished Eck with a rich trove of heretical statements going beyond the questions of indulgences and papal authority.29

In fact, by the middle of 1520, roughly contemporary with the discussion of the bull in Rome but not connected to it, Luther began to express himself much more critically about the papacy than the curia could have known at the time. He was responding to the sweeping defenses of papal authority offered by his opponents such as Prierias and Eck, but also at the moment to the dissemination of their claims about the papacy to a vernacular, lay audience. Luther’s treatise On the Papacy in Rome, against the Most Celebrated Romanist in Leipzig engaged the defenders of the papacy in German, openly speculating about whether or not the papacy might not be the Antichrist.30

Luther’s other treatises of mid-1520 also broke new ground for him in proposing strategies for the reform of the church by lay rulers (Address to the German Nobility) and in criticizing the sacramental system as a whole in the name of a theology of divine promise that was the foundation of all authentic sacraments (Babylonian Captivity of the Church).31 In fact it was Luther’s redefinition of the sacraments that marked the largest departure in relation to medieval precedents—flirtation with identification of the papacy as Antichrist and the involvement of lay rulers in church reform were both staples of medieval reform movements.

The last of the major 1520 treatises, On the Freedom of a Christian, was the most conciliatory of the group, though it was no less theologically provocative in its content.32Freedom of a Christian appeared in the fall of 1520, after the papal bull had arrived in Wittenberg—though Luther’s prefatory letter dedicating the treatise to Pope Leo was backdated to make it appear to have been published before he received the threat of excommunication. Freedom of a Christian itself was a masterful encapsulation of Luther’s theology, revealing both deep connections to medieval traditions and a profound reordering of medieval priorities.

The treatise conveys the paradoxes of Luther’s theological theses in popular form. The fundamental division of the treatise—between the two sides of the paradox of the Christian’s free lordship of the inner man in relation to God and dutiful servitude of the outer man in relation to the neighbor—reflects Luther’s distinction between the two kinds of righteousness. The distinction is transposed to apply to the Scriptures as well, which contain both promises and commandments—not the two testaments, but two fundamentally different modes of divine speech, each of which occurs throughout the canon of Scripture. The commandments, which demand works for their fulfillment, are not intended to provide a pathway to salvation, not even when augmented with God’s grace, but to drive human beings to despair so that they may hear the promise of the gospel, which can only be believed. In this faith, the soul is united to Christ like a bride to her bridegroom, and everything that belongs to Christ becomes the property of the soul, and all that belongs to the soul becomes Christ’s: an exchange of sin for righteousness between partners who are fundamentally unlike rather than a union at the point of greatest likeness in the “depths” or “apex” or “spark” of the soul. The Christian imitates Christ not in order to be related to God but in order to serve the neighbor.

On one point, the frame offered by Freedom of a Christian would come to seem more problematic, however: the distinction between the inner man and the outer man. Luther insists that the inner man can be fed only by the Word of God, not by any works, even the most spiritual inner works of the soul. For Luther the inner man can only be sustained by the Word that is external. This paradox is implied but not explicitly recognized in Freedom of a Christian; in the course of Luther’s conflicts with the “enthusiasts” in the following years, it would become increasingly important.

Luther’s dedication to Pope Leo was respectful and distinguished the pope himself from the corruption of the court around him. Yet Luther clearly put himself forward as Leo’s teacher rather than his subject where God’s Word was concerned. His other public responses to the Exsurge Domine were more defiant. In addition to publishing treatises defending the articles condemned in the bull, Luther staged an act of public theater for the students of Wittenberg, burning copies of the canon law and confessional manuals as well as the papal bull itself on December 10, 1520, the date on which Luther’s threatened excommunication was supposed to come into force.33 A new bull declaring the excommunication as a fact was given in Rome on January 3, 1521, the Decet Romanum Pontificem.34

According to medieval practice, a heretic was condemned by the church but handed over to the secular government for bodily punishment. The curia therefore sought to secure the cooperation of the recently elected Charles V to take action against Luther and his adherents. Luther’s books were publicly burned in some dioceses. Meanwhile, Frederick’s representatives sought to secure a hearing for Luther at the upcoming imperial diet. The papal nuncio, Jerome Aleander, was struck by the scale and intensity of popular support for Luther’s cause. Eventually, Charles was convinced to summon Luther to the diet at Worms, issuing a letter of safe conduct for his protection.

At the diet, however, Luther was not to be given a chance to defend or debate his theology but only to respond to the demand that he retract. On April 17, 1521, he appeared before the diet and was confronted with his books. He acknowledged them as his own, but when asked to retract them, he requested time for consideration. When he returned the following day, Luther made an address in which he reviewed the different categories of his writings. He admitted only that in certain attacks on individual opponents he had been more sharp than was becoming. When challenged one last time to give an unambiguous answer as to whether he would recant, Luther is reported to have said:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen.35

Most early reports do not include the words “I cannot do otherwise, here I stand.” They do appear, however, in the 1521 Wittenberg edition by the well-connected university printer Johann Rhau-Grünenberg.36 It is therefore at least as likely that the provocative, even impertinent words addressed by the friar to the emperor were excised from other versions in order to avoid unnecessary offense as that they were inserted by the printer.37

The imperial estates hesitated to give immediate approval to a mandate against Luther, instead appointing a commission to hold further private discussions with Luther in an effort to persuade him to come to terms of agreement. When these discussions failed, Luther left Worms still under the protection of the safe conduct. The estates were left to consider Charles’s proposal for action against Luther, though the final form was not presented until just after the end of the diet, when several parties, including the elector Frederick, had already departed.

The Edict of Worms placed Luther under imperial proscription as a condemned heretic. He was henceforth an outlaw whose life was forfeit under the law of the empire. The edict also threatened anyone who sheltered or supported Luther with confiscation of property and prohibited the reading, distribution, or printing of Luther’s works. In practice, the execution of the edict depended on the will of local authorities. The question of its enforcement by the estates was a perennial one at imperial diets for the next decade.

Meanwhile, as Luther’s small party made its way back to Wittenberg, it was seemingly waylaid by highwaymen, and Luther was taken. The public at large assumed that he had been killed. In fact, Luther was taken secretly by Frederick’s men to the Wartburg castle, where he was kept in protective custody, disguised as a knight under the assumed name “Junker Jörg.”

The Bible

Without revealing his location, Luther resumed his correspondence with his inner circle of friends in Wittenberg. Freed from his lecturing and preaching responsibilities, Luther poured himself into writing for publication, thus eventually making his survival known to the world even as his location remained secret. Luther continued writing against theological opponents—though some of his work was delayed in publication by Spalatin, for political reasons—as well as to address pastoral concerns.

While in the Wartburg Luther also completed the crucial initial versions of two texts that became foundational for his reformation movement for generations to come. He wrote the first sections (for Christmas and Advent) of the collection of German sermons that came to be known as the Church Postil—supplying preachers with examples to imitate or to use outright from the pulpit as well as a devotional book for household reading, applying the biblical texts appointed for worship to lay lives in light of the structures of Luther’s theology. The collection was completed for the whole church year by the end of the 1520s, and Luther continued to supervise the revision of the postil until the last years of his life.38

It was also in the Wartburg that Luther undertook the German translation of the New Testament, based on Erasmus’s Greek edition. The printed New Testament, which appeared in Wittenberg in September 1522, became a bestseller despite its enormous cost compared with Luther’s pamphlet-sized works.39 Luther’s use of the German dialect employed by the Saxon chancellery as well as his own literary skill had profound influence on the unification of a modern German language. After Luther’s return to Wittenberg, he continued to revise the New Testament translation and to work with the help of his colleagues on the translation of the Old Testament. Sections of the developing translation were published as they were completed, and the first complete edition of Luther’s German Bible appeared in 1534. Beginning already with the 1522 September Testament, Luther’s Bibles included extensive woodcut illustrations by Lucas Cranach, uniting word and images in a way that became a hallmark of Luther’s reform.

Like most medieval Bibles, Luther’s German New Testament had marginal notes and prefaces to the individual books, but these were now Luther’s own composition rather than translations of the prefaces of Jerome or the Glossa Ordinaria. Luther’s biblical prefaces—especially the preface to the New Testament as a whole and the preface to Romans—emphasized that the Bible must be read and understood in light of the distinction between law and gospel.40 The books that most clearly taught Christ and the gospel were the “true and noblest books of the New Testament”; applying this theological criterion alongside the historical boundaries of the canon meant that some books—especially the Epistle of James but also the Apocalypse—had a secondary status. Luther printed these at the end of the New Testament, listed separately and without their own numeration in the table of contents.

The publication of the German Bible reflected Luther’s theological conviction, refined through his early opponents’ competing appeals to ecclesiastical tradition, that the Scriptures were the uniquely normative authority for Christian theology. It embodied the claim, implicit in much of the pamphlet literature of the early Reformation, that the laity should apply the Bible for themselves in evaluating theological claims. Yet Luther’s Bible also made it clear that the Bible had to be understood and used properly. The proclamation of the biblical message could and should take place in a wide variety of forms.

Challenges to the circulation of the German Bible provoked Luther’s articulation of his political theology, making a distinction, parallel to that between law and gospel, between two kingdoms or two governments (zwei Reiche, zwei Regimente). When the hostile government in Ducal Saxony sought to ban and confiscate copies of Luther’s German New Testament, Luther responded in his 1523 treatise On Secular Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed.41 Luther argues first that secular authority is ordained by God to restrain human wickedness and that Christians are obliged to obey it in matters concerning the body and property; in matters of faith or conscience, however, God’s Word alone rules, and the government has no right to compel obedience. The complex application of this distinction, which has been criticized as endorsing blind obedience to the state, is shown in Luther’s practical conclusion: that Christians should therefore refuse to surrender their Bibles. For Luther, the Bible, though a physical thing, falls decisively within the realm of faith. A distinctively Lutheran theology of resistance thus takes root in Luther’s defense of God’s Word as something physical and external yet supremely spiritual.

Luther and the “Enthusiasts”

While Luther was in hiding in the Wartburg, Andreas Karlstadt took over the leading role in the guidance of reforms in Wittenberg. He abandoned the tradition liturgical practice and administered both the bread and the cup in the Lord’s Supper to the lay Wittenberg congregation at Christmas 1521, and in January 1522 he married—both firsts for the Wittenberg reformers. Both of these were steps that Luther had envisioned—though his own Judgment on Monastic Vows, written in November 1521, was held back from the press by Spalatin until early in 1522.42 But the fundamental issue of reform as Karlstadt articulated it was the elimination of idolatry: the Christian dependence on external, physical things, which always distracted from inward attachment to God. He therefore insisted that images should be immediately destroyed lest they do spiritual harm—just as one would snatch away a sharp knife from the hands of a baby.

Karlstadt’s emphasis on the internal, which had deep roots in mysticism, was paralleled in still more radical form by the so-called Zwickau prophets from Thomas Müntzer’s congregation, who appeared in Wittenberg claiming direct inner revelation from God as authority for their apocalyptic preaching. Even Melanchthon was impressed by their claims. On the other hand, the cautious Saxon elector Frederick, under pressure from imperial legislation, was trying to suppress any effort to make visible changes in the practice of the Wittenberg church. The conflict threatened the relationship between the Wittenberg town government and the elector.

Luther had attempted to address the situation in Wittenberg through his writings, In The Misuse of the Mass, he enlarged on themes from the Babylonian Captivity in rejecting the elevation of the clergy over the laity.43 Instead, he claimed, all Christians were priests who were called to offer spiritual sacrifices—but the testament of Christ is a gift and promise given to human beings, not a sacrifice offered to God. For Luther, this theological understanding of the Mass was the essential thing, not liturgical changes or the introduction of new regulations. In his Sincere Admonition to All Christians to Guard against Insurrection, Luther warned against the use of force to carry out religious reforms.44

Amid deteriorating circumstances in Wittenberg, Luther decided, against the will of the elector, to return from his hiding place in March 1522 (he had visited briefly, in disguise, in December 1521). In his return to the Wittenberg pulpit (in the so-called Invocavit sermons), Luther argued that the pace of change introduced by Karlstadt was a sin against love, damaging the consciences of those who had not first been convinced that the external changes were right. Ironically, in Luther’s analysis, it was Karlstadt who put too much weight on external things. The right path for reform was to preach and let God’s Word change hearts, and then to make external changes.45 There were certainly political benefits to Luther’s position, which was acceptable to the cautious Saxon elector. But it also heralded a dividing of ways in the Wittenberg revival of Augustine in which Luther had enlisted Karlstadt the decade before.

Karlstadt withdrew to a country parish, renouncing his academic titles and working as a peasant while he continued to pursue his own vision of reform, destroying images and now teaching that the Lord’s Supper was a matter of the Christian’s cultivation of the passionate remembrance of Christ.46 He came to reject unequivocally Luther’s description of Christian faith and life in Freedom of a Christian, declaring that “it is not good enough to serve for nothing and do good to the neighbor, as Christ did and Dr. Luther says. We must above all else be like Christ in our inner being.”

Luther’s full-scale response to Karlstadt, titled Against the Heavenly Prophets, appeared in 1525, after Karlstadt’s exile from Saxony.47 In it, Luther first rejected Karlstadt’s iconoclasm, charging him with a new papal legalism. In trying to detach Christians from everything physical and external in order to turn to the spiritual and internal, Karlstadt was in fact rejecting God’s Spirit, who always gives inner faith through the external means of the “oral word of the gospel and through material signs.” The assumption, supported by reason (“Frau Hulda”), that the Spirit must work through what is internal and immaterial, was the real basis for Karlstadt’s doctrine of the Supper.

Luther’s insistence that it is God’s will always to work through external, physical means, implicit in his earlier discussion of God’s word and promise, became a central principle of his theology. Luther labeled Karlstadt and his followers “enthusiasts,” or Schwärmer: those who claimed to experience the inner activity of the Spirit without means, as if they had “devoured the Holy Spirit feathers and all.” For Luther, the charge of “enthusiasm” applied to a very wide range of his theological opponents, from the Zwickau prophets, to the southern German and Swiss Sacramentarians, to the Anabaptists to the papacy itself.48

Alongside Karlstadt, however, the prototypical Schwärmer for Luther was Thomas Müntzer, a priest who had been attracted to Luther’s theology already in 1517. He shared with the early Luther a concern with predestination and with the experience of suffering (for Luther: temptation, or Anfechtung). But whereas Luther had resolved these concerns by turning outward, to the alien righteousness of Christ and the external promise of the gospel, Müntzer turned inward. He came to denounce Luther and the Wittenbergers as the soft-living servants of a dead God buried in the pages of mere Scripture. For Müntzer, what mattered was the inner voice of the living God, experienced by the elect, who were called to take up the sword, extirpate the godless, and establish the kingdom.

Faced with the explosive political implications of Müntzer’s claims, Luther urged the Saxon princes to take a remarkably moderate response, not suppressing Müntzer’s preaching but allowing the Word to be preached against it. Only if Müntzer resorted to violence should the princes intervene with force. For Luther, revolution was not a Christian calling; instead, Christians should work to improve the existing state of affairs gradually by “darning and patching.”49

Peasants’ War

Others who sought political changes nonetheless did so in Luther’s name. In March 1525, when the peasants of Upper Swabia drafted their twelve articles demanding relief from feudal obligations, they appealed to the gospel, Christian freedom, and Luther’s own judgment. Luther’s Admonition to Peace acknowledged the justice of most of the peasants’ demands and urged the princes to recognize this and come to terms.50 He criticized the peasants, however, for making their appeal on the basis of the gospel rather than that of natural law and justice. When some of the peasants turned to brutal violence against the noblemen (and were co-opted in Thuringia by the millenarianism of Thomas Müntzer), Luther responded by denouncing their rebellion and urging the princes to prevent and punish the violent peasants using any force necessary, a judgment that Luther intended to publish appended to a reprinting of his initial positive admonition.51

Tragically, Luther’s “harsh book” Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants was issued by the printers on its own, only after the peasants had already been defeated, and it was used by the princes as justification for unlimited retribution. Though the contours of Luther’s theology of the two kingdoms can be seen in both phases of his response, the pace of events outstripped the intended relevance of Luther’s advice. Luther’s Roman Catholic opponents pointed to the revolt as the inevitable result of Luther’s religious disobedience, whereas many who were sympathetic to Luther deplored the sanguinary outcome of Luther’s advice.

Luther and Erasmus

Dissatisfaction with the results of Luther’s reforms at quite a different social level was also in the background of another public separation, with the publication of Erasmus’s De libero arbitrio in the fall of 1524.52 Erasmus had long maintained a cagey neutrality in the controversy over Luther, approving certain aspects of his critique of the church while regretting his controversial approach. For his part, Luther had long prized Erasmus’s philological contributions to biblical exegesis but was dubious from an early date about Erasmus’s theological depth. The resolutely Augustinian orientation of the Wittenberg reforms was problematic for Erasmus, who preferred other patristic authorities, or at least a broader range.

The De libero Arbitrio set itself specifically against the thesis that Luther had first offered in the Heidelberg Disputation: that “free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do, it commits a mortal sin.” Erasmus found the claim to be ill-supported in church tradition and therefore unnecessarily divisive. Yet even if the thesis were true, Erasmus argued, it was inappropriate and inexpedient for Luther to air his theological “paradoxes” before an uneducated, lay audience, where the claim that human beings were unable to choose to do good works could only open a “window to impiety.” Erasmus, owning his own indebtedness to scholastic formulations, instead favored a theology in which God’s grace was primary, but human beings, using the higher parts of their nature, had the freedom to choose to accept it.

Luther’s response to Erasmus, the De servo Arbitrio, which appeared at the very end of 1525, credited Erasmus with having touched on the theological heart of the matter.53 Yet even beyond the formal disagreement over the definition and extent of human free will, the De servo arbitrio revealed the vast gulf between the theological approaches of the two writers. If Erasmus had delighted in suspending judgment where the church had not definitively made pronouncement, Luther now declared that Christianity was a matter of assertions—“the Holy Spirit is no Skeptic.” Where Erasmus had argued that Scripture was fundamentally obscure, Luther insisted that the Scriptures were clear, even when they taught paradoxes or what was contrary to reason. Luther did not deny human freedom in things “below” humanity, but insisted that there was none at all in relation to God. Erasmus, according to Luther, confused law and gospel in insisting that God’s commands implied human power to fulfill them. Yet rather than undermining Christian piety, this knowledge of human powerlessness and utter dependence on God was its foundation. Christian theology dealt, emphatically, with God as preached, as revealed in his promise, not with God hidden in majesty. Luther’s response shows both the continuity of his insights since the Heidelberg Disputation and their development. The work was one of the small number of his books with which Luther was thoroughly pleased.54

The breach between Luther and Erasmus, though significant, should not be taken as paradigmatic of a break between the Wittenberg Reformation and humanism. Though, as Lewis Spitz noted, the German humanists of the older generation tended to follow Erasmus in distancing themselves from Luther and remaining within the Roman Church, the younger generation tended to remain supporters of the reform even in separation from the papacy. With Melanchthon’s help, Luther encouraged the reform and development of schools across Germany, proposing the rededication of monastic property for educational purposes. At Luther’s urging, this education—no matter Erasmus’s criticism of Luther—was fundamentally humanistic, emphasizing study of the languages, literature, and history.55

Wittenberg Reformation

The mid-1520s were not only a period of separation and division between Luther and other reformers but also one of consolidation of Luther’s theology into an organized movement and the development of structures that came to be typical of his own version of reform in Wittenberg and beyond. Alongside the new conflicts, Luther’s critique of scholastic theology continued. He now expressed himself with particular vigor against the theology of Thomas Aquinas, who had been a relatively peripheral figure in Luther’s earlier critiques of scholasticism.56 Luther’s concern with conveying the Bible to the laity was reflected in his preaching for the Wittenberg congregation, including extended series on 1 and 2 Peter and Jude and on Genesis and Exodus in addition to Sunday preaching.57 Luther also endorsed the efforts of others both to respond to opponents and to expound the Scriptures. His prefaces for the books of his colleagues, former students, and others show Luther as conductor of an ensemble and not simply a solo voice.58

Luther moved more deliberately than Karlstadt or Müntzer in introducing liturgical reforms in Wittenberg, though already in 1522 he articulated the principle that in the liturgy “everything is to be done for the sake of God’s Word, so that it may have free course and ever restore and give life to souls, that they may not become weary.”59 Luther’s first complete proposal for an evangelical liturgy, the Latin Formula Missae of 1523, sought to “repudiate everything that smacks of sacrifice,” excising the canon of the Mass entirely even as it preserved nearly all the rest of the traditional liturgy.60 By the end of 1525, Luther had introduced a German order of service in Wittenberg, though both Latin and German long continued in use alongside one another, especially because Latin was the language expected of the Lutheran schoolboys who served in the town choirs.61

Already in his Latin liturgical proposals, Luther had urged that the congregation should also sing German hymns, and he encouraged his colleagues to help write more to augment the medieval inheritance. Luther himself became a leading composer of texts and melodies, beginning with an outpouring in 1523 and 1524 but continuing throughout his life.62 These hymns were partly based (sometimes quite freely) on biblical texts, partly translations of Latin hymns, and partly free compositions. Luther identified the content and role of the hymns, theologically, as the proclamation of the Word of God, whether they were sung in church, in schools, or at home. Luther’s hymnals, arranged with the help of the Saxon cantor Johann Walther, were thus schoolbooks and household books of devotion at least as much as books for the church.63

Luther’s prayer book for private, domestic use also appeared in its first edition in 1522. In contrast to late medieval prayer books for laity, Luther’s Betbüchlein, even as it was revised and enlarged throughout Luther’s lifetime, confined itself almost entirely to biblical texts. In Luther’s vision, the hymnal and prayer book functioned alongside the Bible (and in a few years the catechism as well) as the foundation of lay piety.64

With the death of the elector Frederick in May 1525, the political history of the Reformation also entered a new stage. The protection and advancement of Luther and his movement were clearly no longer the matter of the personal disposition of a single prince. Luther’s Reformation had arrived.

Review of the Literature

Martin Brecht’s standard biography of Luther covers the years 1517–1525 in the first and second volumes.65 Heinrich Bornkamm’s Luther in Mid-Career: 1521–1530 is still valuable for its special attention to the 1520s.66 Much late 20th-century scholarship followed Ernst Bizer in placing Luther’s “breakthrough” during these years, in 1518–1519, pointing to the evidence of Luther’s lectures on Hebrews in particular. More recent scholarship has paid special attention to Luther’s “theology of the cross” articulated at the Heidelberg Disputation.67 If Bizer’s thesis of a late “breakthrough” is set aside in favor of a description of Luther’s continuous theological development, Luther’s history in these years nonetheless remains important—or becomes even more so—because it takes place not in the wake of a single decisive shift but in the course of ongoing growth, defined not only by Luther’s own path but by his rejection, by 1525, of the alternatives advocated by others who had been his early supporters.

Historical questions surrounding what became remembered as iconic moments of Luther’s career during these years—the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses and his words at the Diet of Worms—have been debated since the 1960s by Erwin Iserloh and others.68 Luther’s various relationships and conflicts with other theologians and groups in these years have received separate treatment: Lewis Spitz on Luther and the humanists;69 David Bagchi on Luther’s Catholic opponents;70 James Preus and Amy Nelson Burnett on Luther and Karlstadt;71 and a flood of literature on Luther’s dispute with Erasmus by Gordon Watson, Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle, and others.72

Luther’s emergence into public notice and the nature of his appeal to the German public were the subject of debate in the 1960s and 1970s between Bernd Moeller and Steven Ozment: Moeller emphasized the coherence of Luther’s ideas with civic values in the free cities of the empire, whereas Ozment pointed to Luther’s valorization of lay religion and solution for religious anxiety.73 Later scholarship has attended particularly to the patterns of publication of Luther’s works for lay audiences, against the background of a wider current of scholarship, such as Elizabeth Eisenstein’s seminal Printing Press as an Agent of Change, on the revolutionary implications of printing.74 Mark U. Edwards, Jr., and more recently Andrew Pettegree have described Luther’s presence in print, arguing emphatically for his dominance and mastery of the medium—and tending on the whole to support Ozment’s characterization of Luther’s early printed work and its appeal.

Primary Sources

The primary sources for Luther’s life from 1517 to 1525 are vastly more abundant than for the earlier period. Some six hundred sermons (both published and unpublished) and over nine hundred letters from these years are preserved in the WA. Luther’s lectures on Hebrews, first lectures on Galatians, second lectures on the Psalms, lectures on Deuteronomy, and most of his lectures on the minor prophets—Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Haggai—belong to these years as well, though some were not printed until much later. This was the period of Luther’s most intensive productivity in publishing, with 267 separate works (of widely varying lengths) issued. The catalogues of Luther’s works—Aland’s Hilfsbuch zum Lutherstudium and Benzing’s Lutherbibliographie—are essential to navigating this material and its dissemination.75 Luther’s German Bible translation is edited in the WA DB volumes. The sources for the stages of Luther’s public trial have been collected and edited by Fabisch and Iserloh.76 Luther himself drafted accounts of his history in this period, including an extended description of the origins of the “Lutheran rumpus” in his 1541 Against Hans Wurst as well as the account in his 1545 Preface to the Latin Writings.77 In evaluating all these sources and their significance in context, it is vitally important for the modern scholar, equipped with critical editions of Luther, to remember the different perspective of Luther’s contemporaries: which sources would have been accessible to a small and local public by oral transmission, and which were widely published—and where and when.

Further Reading

Bizer, Ernst. Fides ex Auditu: Eine Untersuchung über die Entdeckung der Gerechtigkeit Gottes durch Martin Luther. 3d ed. Neukirchen, Germany: Neukirchener Verlag, 1966.Find this resource:

Bluhm, Heinz. Martin Luther, Creative Translator. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia, 1965.Find this resource:

Bornkamm, Heinrich. Luther in Mid-Career: 1521–1530. Translated by E. Theodore Bachmann. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983.Find this resource:

Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. Translated by James L. Schaaf. 3 vols. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985–1990. Vols. 1–2.Find this resource:

Edwards, Mark U., Jr. Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Leaver, Robin. Luther’s Liturgical Music: Principles and Implications. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.Find this resource:

Lohse, Bernhard. Martin Luther’s Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development. Translated by Roy A. Harrisville. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1999.Find this resource:

McGrath, Alister E. Luther’s Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther’s Theological Breakthrough, 2d ed. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.Find this resource:

Ozment, Steven. Protestants: The Birth of a Revolution. New York: Doubleday, 1992.Find this resource:

Pettegree, Andrew. Brand Luther. New York: Penguin, 2015.Find this resource:


(1.) Luther, Lectures on Galatians, WA 57:5–108; cf. LW 27:151–410; Lectures on Hebrews (1517–1518), WA 57:3–238, LW 29:107–241. On the dating and significance of the Hebrews lectures, see Ernst Bizer, Fides ex Auditu: Eine Untersuchung über die Entdeckung der Gerechtigkeit Gottes durch Martin Luther, 3d ed. (Neukirchen, Germany: Neukirchener Verlag, 1966).

(2.) Luther, Disputatio contra scholasticam theologiam (1517), WA 1.224–228; Otto Clemen et al., eds. Luthers Werke in Auswahl, 8 vols. (Bonn: A. Marcus & E. Weber, 1912–33; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1955–56, 1966–67), 5:320–326, LW 31:3–16.

(3.) Luther, Disputatio Heidelbergae habita (1518), WA 1:353–74, in Clemen et al., Luthers Werke in Auswahl 5:377–404, LW 31:35–70.

(4.) Luther, Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum (1517), WA 1:233–238, LW 31:17–33.

(5.) See Luther’s sermons of July 26, 1516 (WA 1:424); July 27, 1516 (WA 1:69).

(6.) Luther, Tractatus de indulgentiis (1517), WA 1:65–69.

(7.) Luther to Albrecht, October 31, 1517, WA BR 1:110–12, LW 48:43–49.

(8.) See Melanchthon, Praefatio in tomum secundum omnium operum reverendi domini Martini Lutheri (1546), in Philippi Melanthonis Opera quae supersunt omnia, eds. C. G. Bretschneider and H. E. Bindseil, 28 vols. (Halle: C. A. Schwetschke, 1834–60), 6:161–163, translated in Luther’s Lives: Two Contemporary Accounts of Martin Luther, trans. Elizabeth Vandiver, Ralph Keen, and Thomas D. Frazel (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 2002), 19. See Erwin Iserloh, Luthers Thesenanschlag: Tatsache oder Legende? (Wiesbaden, Germany: Steiner, 1962) and Iserloh, Luther zwischen Reform und Reformation (Münster, Germany: Aschendorff, 1966), tr. as The Theses Were Not Posted: Luther between Reform and Reformation (Boston: Beacon, 1968), and against Iserloh, Kurt Aland, Martin Luther’s 95 Theses (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia, 1967). See the updated summary by Volker Leppin and Timothy J. Wengert, “Sources for and against the Posting of the Ninety-Five Theses,” Lutheran Quarterly 29 (2015): 373–398, and the recent argument for the posting in Andrew Pettegree, Brand Luther (New York: Penguin, 2015), 13, 70–72.

(9.) Quoted by Luther in Wider Hans Worst (1541), WA 51:540, LW 41:234.

(10.) WA 51:540, LW 41:234.

(11.) For Luther’s use of the form “Eleutherius” from November 1517 through 1518, see, e.g., Luther to Spalatin, November 1517, WA BR 1:11; Luther to Lang, November 11, 1517, WA BR 1:122; Luther to Melanchthon, November 22, 1518, WA BR 1:252.

(12.) For Eck’s Obelisci, reprinted with Luther’s Asterisci (1518), see WA 1:280–314.

(13.) Luther, Sermon von Ablaß und Gnade (1518), WA 1:243–46.

(14.) See Mark U. Edwards, Jr., Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994), 44–51; and Pettegree, Brand Luther, 79–81.

(15.) Luther, Resolutiones disputationum de indulgentarum virtute (1518), WA 1:525–628, LW 31:77–252.

(16.) Prierias, Dialogus de potestate papae (1518), in Dokumente zur Causa Lutheri (1517–1521), ed. Peter Fabisch and Erwin Iserloh 2 vols. (Münster, Germany: Aschendorff, 1988–1991), 1:52–106. Luther’s Responsio (1518) is printed in WA 1:647–686.

(17.) See the report published by Luther, Acta Augustana (1518), WA 2:5–26, LW 31:253–292.

(18.) Luther, Operationes in Psalmos (1521), WA 5:19–676; Archiv zur Weimarer Ausgabe vols. 2–3; cf. LW 14:279–349.

(19.) For Eck’s theses, see WA 9:207–212; for Luther’s Leipzig theses, see WA 2:153–161, translated along with his own description of the debate (WA BR 1:420–424) in LW 31:307–325. The published acts of the disputation itself appear in WA 2:254–83; and a version derived from the official minutes is edited in WA 59:433–605.

(20.) See Edwards, Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther, 14–25.

(21.) See Pettegree, Brand Luther, xii.

(22.) See David V. N. Bagchi, Luther’s Earliest Opponents: Catholic Controversialists, 1518–1525 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991).

(23.) See the catalogue of works in Edwards, Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther, pp. 43–44 and notes 6–20.

(24.) Edwards, Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther, 44–51.

(25.) Luther, Sermon von dem ehelichen Stand (1519), WA 2:166–171, LW 44:3–14.

(26.) Luther, Von den guten Werken (1520), WA 6:202–276.

(27.) Luther, Sermo de triplici iustitia (1518), WA 2:43–47; Luther, Sermo de duplici iustitia (1518), WA 2:145–152, LW 31:293–306.

(28.) See Robert Kolb, “Luther on the Two Kinds of Righteousness,” Lutheran Quarterly 13 (1999): 449–466.

(29.) For the Exsurge Domine, see Fabisch and Iserloh, Dokumente zur Causa Lutheri, 2:364–412. For Luther’s defense of the condemned articles, see Assertio omnium articulorum M. Lutheri (1520), WA 7:308–357, LW 32:3–99.

(30.) Luther, Von dem Papsttum zu Rom (1520), WA 6:285–324, LW 39:49–104. See Scott H. Hendrix, Luther and the Papacy: Stages in a Reformation Conflict (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981).

(31.) Luther, An den christlichen Adel deutscher Nation (1520), WA 6:404–469, LW 44:115–217; and Luther, De captivitate Babylonica ecclesiae praeludium (1520), WA 6:497–573, LW 36:3–126.

(32.) Luther, Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen (1520), WA 7:20–38; the Latin version, Tractatus de libertate Christiana, WA 7:42–73, with Luther’s dedication to Pope Leo, is translated in LW 31:327–377.

(33.) See Luther, Warum des Papstes und seiner Jünger Bücher von D. M. Luther verbrannt sind (1520), WA 7:161–182, LW 31:379–395.

(34.) See Fabisch and Iserloh, Dokumente zur Causa Lutheri, 2:457–466.

(35.) Acta comparationis Lutheri in Diaeta Wormatiensi, WA 7:838, LW 32:112–13.

(36.) Ad Cesaree Maiest. interrogata D. Martini L. responsum Wurmacie xvii. Aprilis. Anno M.d.xxi. [Wittenberg]: [Rhau-Grunenberg], 1521. See Martin Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 1, His Road to Reformation: 1483–1521 (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985), 460n24.

(37.) See Timothy Lull and Derek Nelson, Resilient Reformer: The Life and Thought of Martin Luther (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2015), 130.

(38.) Luther, Weinachtspostille (1522), WA 10/I.1:1728; Adventspostille (1522), WA 10/I.2:1–208. See LW 52 and the new English edition of the Church Postil in LW 75–79, as well as the comprehensive introduction by Benjamin T. G. Mayes in LW 75:xiii–xxxii.

(39.) Edwards, Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther, ch. 5.

(40.) Luther, Preface to the New Testament (1522), WA DB 6:2–11, LW 35:357–362; and Luther, Preface to Romans (1522), WA DB 7:3–27, LW 35:365–380.

(41.) Luther, Von weltlicher Oberkeit, wie weit man ihr Gehorsam schuldig sei (1523), WA 11:245–81, LW 45:75–129.

(42.) Luther, De votis monasticis (1521/1522), WA 8:573–669, LW 44:243–400.

(43.) Luther, Vom Mißbrauch der Messe (1521), WA 8:482–563, LW 36:127–230.

(44.) Luther, Eine treue Vermahnunt M. Luthers zu allen Christen, sich zu huten vor Aufruhr und Empörung (1522), WA 8:676–687, LW 45:51–74.

(45.) Luther, Invocavitpredigten (1522), WA 10/III:1–64, LW 51:67–100.

(46.) See Amy Nelson Burnett, ed., The Eucharistic Pamphlets of Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, Early Modern Studies 6 (Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2011); and Burnett, Karlstadt and the Origins of the Eucharistic Controversy: A Study in the Circulation of Ideas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

(47.) Luther, Wider die himmlischen Propheten, von den Bildern und Sakrament (1525), WA 18:62–125, LW 40:73–223.

(48.) See Luther’s later formulation in the Smalcald Articles (1537/1538) 3.8.3–13, in Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), 322–323.

(49.) See Steven Ozment, Age of Reform (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980), 270.

(50.) Luther, Ermahnung zum Frieden (1525), WA 18:291–334, LW 46:3–43.

(51.) Luther, Wider die räuberischen und mörderischen Rotten der Bauern (1525), WA 18:357–361, LW 46:45–55. Cf. Luther’s defense in his Sendbrief von dem harten Büchlein wider die Bauern (1525), WA 18:384–401, LW 46:57–85.

(52.) Erasmus, De libero arbitrio Diatribe seu collatio (1524), in Opera omnia, 10 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Peter Vander, 1703–6), vol. 9; translated in Collected Works of Erasmus (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974–), vol. 76.

(53.) Luther, De servo arbitrio (1525), WA 18:600–787, LW 33.

(54.) See Luther to Capito, July 9, 1537, WA BR 8:99, LW 50:172–173.

(55.) Luther, An die Ratsherren aller Städte deutsches Landes, daß sie Christliche Schulen aufrichten und halten sollen (1524), WA 15:9–53, LW 45.339–378.

(56.) See, e.g., Luther, Contra Henricum Regem Angliae (1522), WA 10/II:180–222.

(57.) Luther, Sermons on 1 Peter (1523), WA 12:259–399, LW 30:1–145; Sermons on 2 Peter and Jude (1523/1524), WA 14:14–91, LW 30:147–215; Sermons on Genesis (1523–1524), WA 24:1–710; and Sermons on Exodus (1524/1527), WA 16:1–646.

(58.) See Luther’s prefaces to Philip Melanchthon, Annotations on Paul’s Letters to the Romans and to the Corinthians (1522), WA 10/II:309–310, LW 59:18–22; Philip Melanchthon, Annotations on the Gospel of John (1523), WA 12:56–57, LW 59:43–47; and Johann Bugenhagen, Interpretation of the Psalms (1524), WA 15:8, LW 59:82–87. On Luther’s activity writing prefaces as a literary patron, see Christopher Boyd Brown, “Introduction to LW 59 and 60,” LW 59:xvii–xl, and Pettegree, Brand Luther, 180–185.

(59.) Luther, Von Ordnung Gottesdiensts in der Gemeine (1522), WA 12:36, LW 53:13.

(60.) Luther, Formula missae et communionis (1523), WA 12:205–220, LW 53:15–40.

(61.) Luther, Deutsche Messe (1526), WA 19:72–113, LW 53:61–90.

(62.) Luther’s hymn texts are edited in Markus Jenny, ed., Archiv zur Weimarer Ausgabe 4 (replacing the earlier edition in WA 35), and translated in LW 53. On Luther’s activity as a liturgist and hymn writer, see Robin Leaver, Luther’s Liturgical Music: Principles and Implications (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007).

(63.) See Christopher Boyd Brown, Singing the Gospel: Lutheran Hymns and the Success of the Reformation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 1–25.

(64.) Luther, Betbüchlein (1522), WA 10/II:375–501, LW 43:47–55.

(65.) Brecht, Martin Luther.

(66.) Heinrich Bornkamm, Luther in Mid-Career: 1521–1530, trans. E. Theodore Bachmann (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983).

(67.) Walther von Loewenich, Luther’s Theology of the Cross, trans. Herbert J. A. Bouman (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1976); Gerhard O. Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997); and Alister E. McGrath, Luther’s Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther’s Theological Breakthrough, 2d ed. (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).

(68.) See note 8.

(69.) Lewis W. Spitz, The Religious Renaissance of the German Humanists (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963).

(70.) David V. N. Bagchi, Luther’s Earliest Opponents: Catholic Controversialists, 1518–1525 (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991).

(71.) James S. Preus, Carlstadt’s Ordinaciones and Luther’s Liberty: A Study of the Wittenberg Movement, 1521–22 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974); and Amy Nelson Burnett, Karlstadt and the Origins of the Eucharistic Controversy: A Study in the Circulation of Ideas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

(72.) Philip S. Watson, Let God Be God: An Interpretation of the Theology of Martin Luther (London: Epworth, 1954); and Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle, Rhetoric and Reform: Erasmus’ Civil Dispute with Luther (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983).

(73.) Bernd Moeller, Imperial Cities and the Reformation, trans. H. C. Erik Midelfort and Mark U. Edwards, Jr. (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972); and Steven E. Ozment, The Reformation in the Cities: The Appeal of Protestantism to Sixteenth-century Germany and Switzerland (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975).

(74.) Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, 2 vols. (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1979); see also Andrew Pettegree, The Book in the Renaissance (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010).

(75.) Kurt Aland, Hilfsbuch zum Lutherstudium, 4th ed. (Bielefeld, Germany: Luther Verlag, 1996); and Josef Benzing, Lutherbibliographie, 2 vols. (Baden-Baden, Germany: Koerner, 1966–1994).

(76.) Fabisch and Iserloh, Dokumente zur Causa Lutheri.

(77.) Luther, Wider Hans Worst (1541), WA 51:538–45, LW 41:231–236; and Vorrede zum ersten Bande seiner lateinischen Schriften (1545), WA 54:179–187, LW 34:323–338.