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  • Martin Luther:A Christian between Reforms and Modernity
  • Mark Mattes
Martin Luther: A Christian between Reforms and Modernity (1517–2017). Three volumes. Edited by Alberto Melloni et al. Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2017. 1720 pp.

The five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation brought not just a flourishing of celebrations and conferences but also numerous books and essays exploring both the religious and secular significance of Luther's reform. These three scholarly volumes join other remarkable Luther reference works, also reviewed nearby, such as The Oxford Encyclopedia of Martin Luther and Dictionary of Luther and the Lutheran Traditions, and The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther's Theology, reviewed in volume 30.1 of Lutheran Quarterly. All these works highlight the historical, ecumenical, and global significance of Luther's impact on the church and the world. What is startling about this project, however, is that it is spearheaded by an Italian scholar who is also a Roman Catholic layman. Alberto Melloni, an expert on the history and theology of the Second Vatican Council, is Professor of the History of Christianity at the University [End Page 365] of Moderna-Reggio Eilia. The project was jointly funded by the Foundation of Religious Sciences, John XXIII, an Italian think tank begun in 1953 for the purpose of renewing the church through intense study of its heritage, and Refo 500, the Netherlands-based platform for the on-going discussion of the Reformation's impact. Lutheran Quarterly Editorial Advisor Krisi Stjerna serves as one of the Researchers affiliated with the Foundation of Religious Sciences, John XXIII. Of the 73 articles in these volumes, about a third are from Italian contributors. This project widens the scope of Luther Research by showcasing European Reformation scholars not found in English, German, or Scandinavian circles.

Similar to the reference works listed above, this project covers the full gamut of Luther research, including various social forces in place on the eve of the Reformation, the impact of the Reformation on social institutions and thinking, the various figures with whom Luther interacted, the influence of Luther's reform on philosophy, architecture, music, and the question of whether or not Protestantism contributed to the rise of secularism, as well as the global impact of Luther's reform in Asia, South America, and Africa. The three volumes are divided into the following sub-headings: (1) "Introductions," which seeks to situate Luther with respect to Roman Catholic reform measures, other medieval reformers, and Luther's theological legacy and continuing merit; (2) "Luther's Life"; (3) "Luther in Relation to other Protestant Reformers," such as Calvin, Zwingli, Müntzer, Italian "heretics," Erasmus, and Ignatius; (4) "Luther in Question," examining Luther on the status of women, Jews, Turks, sexuality, and politics; (5) "Lutheran Theology," including not only the doctrine of justification and the theology of the cross, but also Lutheran Scholasticism; (6) "Ecumenical impact," focusing not just on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification but also on Eastern Orthodoxy, and various other Protestant movements; (7) "Philosophical and Historical Influences," including the relation between Lutheranism and capitalism or Marxism, as well as the convoluted give-and-take between German Lutheranism and Nazism; (8) "Communicating Luther," examining Luther in portraiture, music, education, and cinema, as well as the Luther anniversaries of 1617, 1817, and 1883; (9) "Geographical Crossroads," the Wars of Religion, the demonization of [End Page 366] Luther in Modern Italy, the Enlightenment, and Luther in the Hispanic world, North America, Latin America, Africa, and India.

The essays are not polemical but instead markedly fair and balanced. Additionally, volume three has 30 maps presenting the Reformation's impact on Europe and the spread of Protestantism, 75 color portraits of the leading figures referenced, both Reformation and post-Reformation personalities, 21 images of "backgrounds," such as the Wartburg Castle and the Erfurt Monastery, 24 "documents," such as the title page of the Large Catechism, and 64 "representations" such as images of Luther, including Joseph Fiennes in the 2003 Luther movie or the recent and adorable Martin Luther Playmobile figure. While all these images are helpful, with widespread internet availability it would not seem necessary to include them, even though they archive Luther and the Reformation and illustrate...


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