Luther, “The Ninety-Five Theses” (Russell, ed.)

9780143107583All this year, we’ve been noting the many books that publishers are releasing for the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses, the document that initiated the Protestant Reformation. Out today from Penguin Random House is a new translation, The Ninety-Five Theses and Other Writingsby Luther scholar William Russell. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

For the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, a new translation of Martin Luther’s most famous works by leading Luther scholar and pastor William Russell

This volume contains selections from Martin Luther’s most evocative and provocative writings, freshly translated, for the 21st century. These documents, which span the Reformer’s literary career, point to the enduring and flexible character of his central ideas. As Luther’s reform proposals emerged, they coalesced around some basic priorities, which he delivered to wide-ranging audiences–writing for children, preaching in congregations, formulating academic treatises, penning letters to family and friends, counter-punching critics, summarizing Biblical books, crafting confessions of faith, and more. This book demonstrates that range and provides entry points, for non-specialists and specialists alike, into the thought and life of the epoch-defining, fascinating, and controversial Martin Luther. With attention to the breadth of his literary output, it draws from his letters, sermons, popular writings, and formal theological works. This breadth allows readers to encounter Luther the man: the sinner and the saint, the public activist and the private counselor, the theologian and the pastor. These writings possess a practical, accessible arc, as Luther does not write only for specialists and church officials, but he applies his chief insights to the “real-life” issues that faced his rather wide variety of audiences.

Kaufmann, “Luther’s Jews”

In March, Oxford University Press will release Luther’s Jews: A Journey into Anti-Semitism by Thomas Kaufmann (University of Gottingen). The publisher’s description follows:

luthers-jewsIf there was one person who could be said to light the touch-paper for the epochal transformation of European religion and culture that we now call the Reformation, it was Martin Luther. And Luther and his followers were to play a central role in the Protestant world that was to emerge from the Reformation process, both in Germany and the wider world.

In all senses of the term, this religious pioneer was a huge figure in European history. Yet there is also the very uncomfortable but at the same time undeniable fact that he was an anti-semite. Written by one of the world’s leading authorities on the Reformation, this is the vexed and sometimes shocking story of Martin Luther’s increasingly vitriolic attitude towards the Jews over the course of his lifetime, set against the backdrop of a world in religious turmoil.

A final chapter then reflects on the extent to which the legacy of Luther’s anti-semitism was to taint the Lutheran church over the following centuries. Scheduled for publication on the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation’s birth, in light of the subsequent course of German history it is a tale both sobering and ominous in equal measure.

Roper, “Martin Luther”

In March, Penguin Random House Press will release Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet by Lyndal Roper (Oxford University). The publisher’s description follows:

martin-lutherThis definitive biography reveals the complicated inner life of the founding father of the Protestant Reformation, whose intellectual assault on Catholicism ushered in a century of upheaval that transformed Christianity and changed the course of world history.

On October 31, 1517, so the story goes, a shy monk named Martin Luther nailed a piece of paper to the door of the Castle Church in the university town of Wittenberg. The ideas contained in these Ninety-five Theses, which boldly challenged the Catholic Church, spread like wildfire. Within two months, they were known all over Germany. So powerful were Martin Luther’s broadsides against papal authority that they polarized a continent and tore apart the very foundation of Western Christendom. Luther’s ideas inspired upheavals whose consequences we live with today.

But who was the man behind the Ninety-five Theses? Lyndal Roper’s magisterial new biography goes beyond Luther’s theology to investigate the inner life of the religious reformer who has been called “the last medieval man and the first modern one.” Here is a full-blooded portrait of a revolutionary thinker who was, at his core, deeply flawed and full of contradictions. Luther was a brilliant writer whose biblical translations had a lasting impact on the German language. Yet he was also a strident fundamentalist whose scathing rhetorical attacks threatened to alienate those he might persuade. He had a colorful, even impish personality, and when he left the monastery to get married (“to spite the Devil,” he explained), he wooed and wed an ex-nun. But he had an ugly side too. When German peasants rose up against the nobility, Luther urged the aristocracy to slaughter them. He was a ferocious anti-Semite and a virulent misogynist, even as he argued for liberated human sexuality within marriage.

A distinguished historian of early modern Europe, Lyndal Roper looks deep inside the heart of this singularly complex figure. The force of Luther’s personality, she argues, had enormous historical effects—both good and ill. By bringing us closer than ever to the man himself, she opens up a new vision of the Reformation and the world it created and draws a fully three-dimensional portrait of its founder.

Mjaaland, “The Hidden God”

In November, Indiana University Press will release “The Hidden God: Luther, Philosophy, and Political Theology” by Marius Timmann Mjaaland (University of Oslo). The publisher’s description follows:

In this phenomenological reading of Luther, Marius Timmann Mjaaland shows that theological discourse is never philosophically neutral and always politically loaded. Raising questions concerning the conditions of modern philosophy, religion, and political ideas, Marius Timmann Mjaaland follows a dark thread of thought back to its origin in Martin Luther. Thorough analyses of the genealogy of secularization, the political role of the apocalypse, the topology of the self, and the destruction of metaphysics demonstrate the continuous relevance of this highly subtle thinker.

Martin Luther’s “On the Freedom of a Christian” (Luther Helfferich (ed.))

Next month, Hackett will publish a new edition of Martin Luther’s On the Freedom of a Christian, edited by Tryntje Helfferich luther_freedom_165x260_5th(Ohio State University). The publisher’s description follows.

In addition to the first-ever English translation of Martin Luther’s own German text, this edition offers: a substantial introduction to Luther’s life and work; a selection of related documents designed to help students set this masterpiece of Reformation thought into its historical and theological contexts; and thorough annotation identifying the many Biblical and historical references found in the text. Reproductions of several contemporary woodblock prints are also included.

%d bloggers like this: