Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Luther's Fortress: Martin Luther and His Reformation under Siege

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Luther's Fortress: Martin Luther and His Reformation under Siege

Article excerpt

Luther's Fortress: Martin Luther and His Reformation under Siege. By James Reston Jr. (New York: Basic Books. 2015. Pp. xii, 260. $27.00. ISBN 978-0-465J0r6. 3(9N3e-w2. )York: Basic Books. 2015. Pp. xii, 260. $27.00. ISBN 978-0-465Good

history writing needs both a clear topic and careful execution. To grasp the complexities of Martin Luther's thought and life, independent scholar and writer James Reston Jr. admirably chose to focus on a single year: Luther's sojourn in the Wartburg Castle (1521-22), when Luther was in the protective custody of his prince, the Elector Frederick the Wise. From here Luther penned many influential works and, most important, translated the New Testament from Greek into German.

Reston's execution, however, fails completely. First, the text is riddled with factual errors. Philipp Melanchthon, Luther's colleague at Wittenberg, was fourteen (not seventeen) years Luther's junior; his father did not change his name to "Melanchthon" (p. 54 f.). Luther did not eat potatoes for his Christmas dinner in 1521 at the Wartburg (not introduced until the 1570s; p. 152), nor did he frequent a bar in Wittenberg (or use drinking songs for melodies of his hymns; pp. 112, 156, 231f.). In Reston's description of Luther's addition of the term "faith alone" to the text of Romans, he gets the verses wrong and thus incorrectly compares the Vulgate and King James Version on Romans 3:23-24 with Luther's on Romans 3:28 (p. 168). Regarding Frederick the Wise, Reston misdates the founding of the University of Wittenberg and imagines that the prince personally recruited Luther, was impressed by Luther's Latin lectures on the Psalms, and raised Luther's salary to keep him at the university (as a monk, Luther had taken a vow of poverty; raises came with Frederick's death and Luther's marriage in 1525). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.