Martin Luther: An Introduction to His Life and Work

Martin Luther: An Introduction to His Life and Work

Martin Luther: An Introduction to His Life and Work

Martin Luther: An Introduction to His Life and Work


Luther's impact on theology and history was monumental, his writing was prodigious, his character was complex. The need for a critical overview of Luther's life and work, particularly concerning his writings and theology, is now met in Bernhard Lohse's comprehensive introduction.

Beginning with an overview of Luther's world, Lohse summarizes the course of the reformer's life, highlighting the findings of Luther research and the question that still surround the figure about whom "we know more... than we do about anyone else in the sixteenth or any earlier century."

Attention is given to al of the major writings, their relative importance, genre, and historical context. Lohse expertly guides the reader through significant issues in Luther's theology and discusses landmark contributions to the interpretation of Luther. Editions, translations, and other aids for the study of Luther are clearly described and a select bibliography of related works in English is appended.


In this volume, I shall attempt to give a basic overview of the important problems and dimensions of Luther research. I shall also try to encourage those of you who read this book to begin to study Luther for yourselves. I will therefore suggest some possible areas for the reader’s own further research.

Such an introductory overview has not yet appeared—at least I am not aware of one—in spite of the constantly growing list of publications dealing with Luther and the Reformation. Heinrich Böhmer had a somewhat similar purpose in his book Luther in the Light of Modern Research, but he actually developed his material in quite a different way. Böhmcr gave much more attention to Luther’s life and personality than I intend to. In contrast, I shall begin this book with a brief description of the world in which Luther lived and the significant phases of his life. I shall, however, give the most attention to Luther’s writings and to his theology. In doing this, I have always tried to direct the reader’s attention to developments in Luther research and, simultaneously, to suggest possible tasks in our study of Luther that still require attention. I thereby intend to encourage you who read this book to undertake your own personal studies of Luther.

Obviously a summary presentation of this kind cannot make any claim to completeness. Its size is limited by the realities of contemporary publication practices as well as by my consideration for the patience of its Intended readers. In order to achieve the purpose of this book, it was necessary to make difficult choices about what should be included or omitted at various points. Frequently, I have drawn attention to significant events and problems only by referring to them as examples. Another author would undoubtedly have chosen differently at many points. This book, however, must itself demonstrate whether it has achieved the goals for which it was written.

References to Luther’s works are given in terms of the Clemen Edition when possible, but in every case there is a reference to the Weimar Edition. An English translation is cited whenever possible, usually the fifty-five volume American Edition of Luther’s Works (LW) .

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