The end of this month will mark the 498th anniversary of the great 16th century Reformation, usually marked by Martin Luther’s nailing of his Ninety-five theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517.
During this Reformation month I want to call attention to some new books related to the history of the Reformation that have recently been added to the PRC Seminary library. Today I mention two of them.
The first is Luther’s Fortress: Martin Luther and His Reformation Under Siege, written by James Reston, Jr. and published this year by Basic Books (Hardcover, 272 pgs.). Here is the description provided by the publisher:
In 1521, the Catholic Church declared war on Martin Luther. The German monk had already been excommunicated the year before, after nailing his Ninety-Five Theses—which accused the Church of rampant corruption—to the door of a Saxon church. Now, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V called for Luther “to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic.” The edict was akin to a death sentence: If Luther was caught, he would almost inevitably be burned at the stake, his fragile movement crushed, and the nascent Protestant Reformation strangled in its cradle.
In Luther’s Fortress, acclaimed historian James Reston, Jr. describes this crucial but little-known episode in Luther’s life and reveals its pivotal role in Christian history. Realizing the danger to their leader, Luther’s followers spirited him away to Wartburg Castle, deep in central Germany. There he hid for the next ten months, as his fate—and that of the Reformation—hung in the balance. Yet instead of cowering in fear, Luther spent his time at Wartburg strengthening his movement and refining his theology in ways that would guarantee the survival of Protestantism. He devoted himself to biblical study and spiritual contemplation; he fought both his papist critics and his own inner demons (and, legend has it, the devil himself); and he held together his fractious and increasingly radicalized reform movement from afar. During this time Luther also crystallized some of his most significant ideas about Christianity and translated the New Testament into German—an accomplishment that, perhaps more than any other, solidified his legacy and spread his bold new religious philosophy across Europe.
Drawing on Luther’s correspondence, notes, and other writings, Luther’s Fortress presents an earthy, gripping portrait of the Reformation’s architect at this transformational moment, revealing him at his most productive, courageous, and profound.
The second book is a new one on Frederick the Wise, carrying that very title (Concordia, 2015; paperback, 352 pgs.). Below is the overview the publisher gives on this book:
Frederick the Wise unlocks German research to make available in English, for the first time, a full-length story of Frederick III of Saxony. The fascinating biographical journey reveals why this noteworthy elector risked his realm of Saxony to protect the fiery monk Martin Luther and the developing reforms of the Church. As one of the most powerful territorial princes of the Holy Roman Empire of his time, Frederick’s “humanity and integrity were rare for someone of his elite status”, notes Dr. Paul M. Bacon. “Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony was much more than simply Martin Luther’s noble protector.”
If you are looking for some new titles to tackle for your 2015 Reformation reading, these two would be a good place to start!