Martin Luther Criticism - Essay

Joseph Priestley (essay date 1803)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Progress of the Reformation," in The Theological and Miscellaneous of the Works Joseph Priestley, Vol. X, edited by J. T. Rutt, 1803. Reprint by Kraus Reprint Co.,1972, pp. 112–27.

[In the excerpt below, Priestley traces Luther's increasing conflict with papal authority and the rise of his popularity with the laity.]

It is something remarkable that Luther began his reformation independently of any thing that had been done before him; so that he was truly a great original in that way. He ever dreaded the reproach of heresy, and it was by slow degrees that he was brought to any connexion with those who had been denominated heretics; but the affinity...

(The entire section is 6879 words.)

Thomas M. Lindsay (essay date 1900)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Three Great Reformation Treatises," in Luther and the German Reformation, T. & T. Clark, 1900, pp. 93–112.

[Below, Lindsay, outlines several of Luther's early works that challenged the power of Rome, and describes the subsequent reactions by the German peopie.]



In 1520 Luther published the three writings which contain the principles of his reformation. They appeared in the following order: To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, respecting the Reformation of the Christian Estate, probably in...

(The entire section is 5621 words.)

Erik H. Erikson (essay date 1958)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Faith and Wrath," in Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1958, pp. 223–50.

[In the excerpt below, Erikson examines Lather's writings, provides a psychoanalysis of the reformer, and describes the dynamics of his theology,.]

The importance of Luther's early lectures lies in the fact that they bear witness not only to the recovery of his ego, but also to a new theology conceived long before he suddenly became famous as a pamphleteer in the controversy over indulgences. To the Catholic scholar, his theological innovations seem pitiful, mere vulgarized fragments of the order he disavowed; to the Protestant,...

(The entire section is 7836 words.)

Gerhard Ebeling (essay date 1964)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Way Luther Speaks of God," in Luther: An Introduction to His Thought, translated by R. A. Wilson, Fortress Press, 1970, pp. 242–67.

[In the following excerpt from a work originally published in 1964, Ebeling describes how Luther's conception of an "omnipresent" God shaped his faith.]

There is something challenging about the way Luther speaks of God. We cannot turn to his works without our own way of speaking about God faltering or falling silent or being brought into question, or without doubt being cast upon it. This implies that Luther's way of speaking of God expresses more than an ordinary degree of personal involvement, and therefore also involves...

(The entire section is 8743 words.)

Paul Althaus (essay date 1966)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The True Church and the Empirical Church," in The Theology of Martin Luther, translated by Robert C. Schultz, Fortress Press, 1966, pp. 333–44.

[In the following excerpt, Althaus explains how Luther used scriptural authority to distinguish between the "true" Church and the exercise of ecclesiastical power.]


For Luther the Christian church is, without detriment to its spiritual nature, a historical reality, which constantly existed through all the centuries from the time of the apostles till his own time. The Evangelicals are not another and a new church but "the true old church, one body...

(The entire section is 4541 words.)

Gerhard Ebeling (essay date 1972)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Way Luther Speaks of God," in Luther: An Introduction to His Thought, translated by R. A. Wilson, Fortress Press, 1970, pp. 242–67.

[In the excerpt below from a work originally published in 1970, Ebeling discusses the problem of historical periodization, suggesting a way to transcend the attempts of Ernst Troeltsch and Hegel to assign Luther to either the medieval or modern age.]


1. Interpretation in the Manner of Salvation History

In his lectures on the philosophy of history Hegel calls the Reformation "the all-illuminating sun, which follows that day-break at...

(The entire section is 11973 words.)

Quentin Skinner (essay date 1978)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Principles of Lutheranism," in The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, Vol. 2, Cambridge University Press, 1978, pp. 3–19.

[Here, Skinner describes how Luther's theological tenets ultimately required individual obedience to secular authority.]

To begin the story of the Lutheran Reformation at the traditional starting-point is to begin in the middle. Luther's famous act of nailing up the Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg on the Eve of All Saints in 1517 (which may not even have happened)1 merely marks the culmination of a long spiritual journey on which he had been travelling at least since his...

(The entire section is 8622 words.)

Heiko Augustinus Oberman (essay date 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Simul Gemitus et Raptus: Luther and Mysticism," in The Dawn of the Reformation: Essays in Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought, T. & T. Clark Ltd, 1986, pp. 126–34.

[Below, Oberman outlines approaches to studying Luther and mysticism, and discusses Luther's own understanding of the role of mysticism in faith.]

"We will deal with that material than which none is more sublime, none more divine, and none more difficult to attain …" Jean Gerson1

"That [mystical] rapture is not the passageway [to God]." Martin Luther2


It cannot be our task to determine...

(The entire section is 13402 words.)

Carter Lindberg (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Dawn of a New Era," in The European Reformations, Blackwell Publishers, 1996, pp. 56–90.

[In the excerpt below, Lindberg gives a brief overview of the medieval worldview and the religious practices of the day, focusing on Luther's opposition to the Church's granting of indulgences for monetary donations.]

It is through living, indeed through dying and being damned that one becomes a theologian, not through understanding, reading, or speculation.

Martin Luther

Luther came from an upwardly mobile family. His grandfather was a peasant farmer but his ambitious, determined...

(The entire section is 13803 words.)