Read Luther this Reformation Day (Matthew Barrett)
Reformation Day, October 31st, is upon us once more and it is a great opportunity to reflect upon the truths that define our core convictions as Protestants. What better way than to read Martin Luther himself. So here are five works in particular to read this Reformation Day to help you go deeper into the theology of Luther. Each come from Luther’s Works with a description and the TOC. Last, I conclude with a couple of new volumes as well.
Included in this volume are four of the debates or disputations held in Wittenberg University between 1535 and 1542. Thirteen of the fourteen treatises appear in their entirety in an English translation for the first time with publication of this volume.
Exhortation to All Clergy Assembled at Augsburg, 1530
Commentary on the Alleged Imperial Edict, 1531
Theses Concerning Faith and Law, 1535
The Disputation Concerning Man, 1536
The Disputation Concerning Justification, 1536
The Three Symbols or Creeds of the Christian Faith, 1538
Counsel of a Committee of Several Cardinals with Luther’s Preface, 1538
Preface to Galeatius Capella’s History, 1538
Preface to the Wittenberg Edition of Luther’s German Writings, 1539
Luther’s Will, 1542
The Licentiate Examination of Heinrich Schmedenstede, 1542
Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther’s Latin Writings, 1545
Against the Thirty-two Articles of the Louvain
An Italian Lie Concerning Dr. Martin Luther’s Death, 1545
The writings in this first of four volumes of Luther’s Works on Word and Sacrament are for the most part from a fifteen year span- from the year of the Leipzig Debate to the publication of Luther’s German Bible. All twelve are translated either for the first time or in revised form by the editor.
The Sacrament of Penance, 1519
The Holy and Blessed Sacrament of Baptism, 1519
The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ and the Brotherhoods, 1519
A Treatise on the New Testament, that is, the Holy Mass, 1520
A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the Gospels, 1521
Avoiding the Doctrines of Men and A Reply to the Texts Cited in Defense of the Doctrines of Men, 1522
How Christians Should Regard Moses, 1525
On Translating: An Open Letter, 1530
Defense of the Translation of the Psalms, 1531
Prefaces to the Books of the Bible
Prefaces to the Old Testament
Prefaces to the Apocrypha
Prefaces to the New Testament
This volume contains Luther’s most extensive exposition of his understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Directed against the more radical representatives of the sixteenth century reformation movement, this exposition is contained in the two major treatises appearing in an English translation in this volume. The translation and the wealth of historical commentary provided in this volume is a good starting point for a reassessment of the reformation contribution to our understanding of the Lord’s Supper.
That These Words of Christ, “This Is My body,” etc., Still Stand Firm Against the Fanatics, 1527
Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper, 1528
The final volume in the section entitled “Word and Sacrament” of Luther’s Works traces the development of Luther’s concept of the Lord’s Supper from the time of the Marburg Colloquy in 1529 down to 1544, two years before his death.
The Marburg Colloquy and The Marburg Articles, 1529
Admonition Concerning the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, 1530
The Private Mass and the Consecration of Priests, 1533
A Letter of Dr. Martin Luther Concerning His Book on the Private Mass, 1534
The Disputation Concerning the Passage: “The Word Was Made Flesh”
Brief Confession Concerning the Holy Sacrament, 1544
This volume in Luther’s Works contains writings of Luther directed for the most part against the fanatical front on the left. In denying the reality of the church, the validity and need of the office of the ministry, the fanatics relegate the sacraments to a secondary position, thus bypassing the Word as God’s means of communication to men.
Concerning the Ministry, 1523
Letter to the Princes of Saxony Concerning the Rebellious Spirit, 1524
Letter to the Christians at Strassburg in Opposition to the Fanatic Spirit, 1524
Against the Heavenly Prophets in the Matter of Images and Sacraments, 1525
Concerning Rebaptism, 1528
Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors in Electoral Saxony, 1528
The Keys, 1530
Inflitrating and Clandestine Preachers, 1532
Recent Publications on the Reformation
1. Beth Kreitzer, ed. Luke (Reformation Commentary on Scripture). InterVarsity Press, 2014.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Reflecting on this verse from the Gospel of Luke (2:11), Martin Luther declared it to be a summary of the gospel: “See here what the gospel is, namely, a joyful sermon about Christ our Savior. Whoever preaches him rightly preaches the gospel and pure joy.” Reformation commentators meditated upon the significance of the good news of Jesus Christ during a vibrant era in the history of the church that was characterized by spiritual renewal and reform, doctrinal controversy (especially over matters such as the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper) and the overriding desire to understand the meaning and implications of Scripture for Christian belief and practice. While in many ways similar to the other Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of Luke also testified to this good news through unique material, including the announcement of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds in the fields, the parable of the prodigal son and Jesus’ appearance to his disciples on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. In this volume, Beth Kreitzer skillfully leads readers through the rich diversity of Reformation commentary on the Gospel of Luke. Readers will be able to listen to both well-known and lesser-known voices from a variety of theological traditions, including Lutherans, Reformed, Radicals, Anglicans and Roman Catholics, many of whose comments appear for the first time in English. By drawing from an array of Reformation resources – including commentaries, sermons, treatises and confessions – this volume will equip scholars to understand better the depth and breadth of Reformation commentary, and it will provide contemporary preachers with resources from those in the Reformation church who sought to understand the meaning of this “good news of great joy” (2:10).
2. Berndt Hamm. The Early Luther: Stages in a Reformation Reorientation (Lutheran Quarterly Books). Eerdmans, 2014.
The development of Martin Luther’s thought has commanded much scholarly attention because of the Reformation and its remarkable effects on the history of Christianity in the West. But much of that scholarship has been so enthralled by certain later debates that it has practically ignored and even distorted the context in and against which Luther’s thought developed. In The Early Luther Berndt Hamm, armed with expertise both in late-medieval intellectual life and in Luther, presents new perspectives that leave old debates behind.
A master Luther scholar, Hamm provides fresh insights into the development of Luther’s theology from his entry into the monastery through his early lectures on the Bible to his writing of the 95 Theses in 1517 and The Freedom of a Christian in 1520. Rather than looking for a single breakthrough, Hamm carefully outlines a series of significant shifts in Luther’s late-medieval theological worldview over the course of his early career. The result is a more accurate, nuanced portrait of Reformation giant Martin Luther.
“In this volume Hamm harvests the fruits of forty years of studying the late medieval ‘theology of piety’ and places Luther in its context, illuminating many aspects of what Hamm rightly sees as the gradual development of Luther’s evangelical understanding of Scripture. This perspective enriches our understanding of why and how his theology took form and how it functioned within the milieu in which Luther grew up and began his career.” — Robert Kolb, Concordia Seminary
3. Jon Balserak. John Calvin as Sixteenth-Century Prophet. Oxford University Press, 2015.
This book examines John Calvin’s sense of vocation. It argues that Calvin believed himself to be a prophet “placed over nations and kingdoms to tear down and destroy, to build and to plant” (Jer. 1: 10). With this authority, he pursued an expansionist agenda which blended the religious, political, and social towards making France, upon which he turned his attentions especially after 1555, Protestant. Beginning with an analysis of the two trajectories of thought existing within Christian discourse on prophecy from the patristic to the Early Modern era, this monograph goes on to find Calvin within a non-mystical, non-apocalyptic prophetic tradition that focused on scriptural interpretation. This study, then, demonstrates how Calvin developed a plan to win France for the gospel; a plan which included the possibility of armed conflict. To pursue his designs, he trained “prophets” who were sent into France to labor intensely to undermine the king’s authority on the grounds that he supported idolatry, convince the French Reformed congregations that they were already in a war with him, and prepare them for a possible military uprising. An additional part of this plan saw Calvin search for a French noble willing to support the evangelical religion, even if it meant initiating a coup. Calvin began ruminating over these ideas in the 1550s or possibly earlier. The war which commenced in 1562 represents, this monograph argues, the culmination of years of preparation by Calvin.
4. Jane Dawson. John Knox. Yale University Press, 2015.
Jane Dawson has written the definitive life of John Knox, a leader of the Protestant Reformation in sixteenth-century Scotland. Based in large part on previously unavailable sources, including the recently discovered papers of Knox’s close friend and colleague Christopher Goodman, Dawson’s biography challenges the traditionally held stereotype of this founder of the Presbyterian denomination as a strident and misogynist religious reformer whose influence rarely extended beyond Scotland.
She maintains instead that John Knox relied heavily on the support of his “godly sisters” and conferred as well as argued with Mary, Queen of Scots. He was a proud member of the European community of Reformed Churches and deeply involved in the religious Reformations within England, Ireland, France, Switzerland, and the Holy Roman Empire. Casting a surprising new light on the public and private personas of a highly complex, difficult, and hugely compelling individual, Dawson’s fascinating study offers a vivid, fully rounded portrait of this renowned Scottish preacher and prophet who had a seismic impact on religion and society.
5. Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, L’ubomir Batka, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology (Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology). Oxford University Press, 2014.
As celebrations of the five-hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther’s initiation of the most dramatic reform movement in the history of Christianity approach, 47 essays by historians and theologians from 15 countries provide insight into the background and context, the content, and the impact of his way of thought. Nineteenth-century Chinese educational reformers, twentieth-century African and Indian social reformers, German philosophers and Christians of many traditions on every continent have found in Luther’s writings stimulation and provocation for addressing modern problems. This volume offers studies of the late medieval intellectual milieus in which his thought was formed, the hermeneutical principles that guided his reading and application of the Bible, the content of his formulations of Christian teaching on specific topics, his social and ethic thought, the ways in which his contemporaries, both supporters and opponents, helped shape his ideas, the role of specific genre in developing his positions on issues of the day, and the influences he has exercised in the past and continues to exercise today in various parts of the world and the Christian church. Authors synthesize the scholarly debates and analysis of Luther’s thinking and point to future areas of research and exploration of his thought.
Matthew Barrett is Tutor of Systematic Theology and Church History at Oak Hill Theological College in London, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. Barrett is the author of several books, including Salvation by Grace, Owen on the Christian Life, and God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture. Currently he is the series editor of The 5 Solas Series with Zondervan. You can read more about Barrett at matthewmbarrett.com.