History During Reformation

I am looking for a summary or a source of what was going on in the Church when Luther posted his issues. I’ve heard there was violence in the region, problems with the Church at that time, and that things really didn’t turn out the way Luther wanted them to.

I have some in-laws who are Lutheran and I like to engage them in conversation.

Here is a good book that might help. Characters of the Reformation by Hilaire Belloc. It gives historical portraits of 23 men and women in the religious revolution of the 16th century.

[quote=janman55]I am looking for a summary or a source of what was going on in the Church when Luther posted his issues. I’ve heard there was violence in the region, problems with the Church at that time, and that things really didn’t turn out the way Luther wanted them to.

I have some in-laws who are Lutheran and I like to engage them in conversation.
[/quote]

Check out the 3-CD set Fire and Sword: Crusade, Inquisition, Reformation

by Matthew Arnold. I have it and highly recommend it.

Available at saintjoe.com/p/prod_desc.pl?id=325

Grace to you,
Paul

Luther honestly wanted to reform the RCC, not spliter it. If you read his early writtings, it becomes clear that he didn’t think the 95 thesis would start the firestorm it did. He more than likely wanted to just start some discussion and keep his classes interesting.

When the princes and electors got involved, all heck broke loose. The princes didn’t want the pope involved in the affairs of the state, and seized on Luther’s controversy as a way to do it.

That isn’t to say that Luther didn’t have some very real and serious concerns, just that he didn’t set out to start the Reformation the way it did.

The general history of the Reformation I’d tend to recommend is Euan Cameron’s The European Reformation. Diarmaid MacCulloch has recently written a general survey, but I haven’t read it yet. Steven Ozment has written a lot of books about religion and society in Germany in Luther’s day–anything by him is worth reading, although I don’t agree with all his views (I think his book The Reformation in the Cities exaggerates the extent to which ordinary laypeople felt burdened by the demands of .medieval religion and hence found the Reformation liberating). All of these have a Protestant bias but are good professional historians.

On the Catholic side, if you really want to go into the subject in detail, Johannes Janssen’s History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages is a multi-volume survey of religion and society in Luther’s day written in the 19th century. It’s very influential but I confess I haven’t read it yet . . . . Belloc is an excellent writer but IMHO is way too biased and not well-informed enough when he writes about the Reformation. He’s far too dismissive and doesn’t even begin to understand Protestantism.

The most in-depth biography of Luther is Martin Brecht’s three-volume work. But Brecht is not very useful at all for understanding the historical context–he has a strong Lutheran bias and relies mostly on Luther’s own writings rather than checking them against other contemporary sources to see where Luther may be distorting the picture (I’m particularly thinking of his description of Luther’s years in the monastery). If you want to know what Luther said and did when and where, Brecht is the best source. But that’s not what you were asking about.

The two biographies of Luther I’d recommend are Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand and Heiko Oberman’s Man Between God and the Devil. Bainton is the more readable, but IMHO Oberman is far more insightful (I’m not unbiased here–my advisor studied with Oberman). If you want a Catholic approach, Joseph Lortz and Hartmann Grisar have both written on Luther.

Besides his biography, Oberman has also written some very good stuff on the intellectual background for Luther. The Harvest of Medieval Theology is an in-depth study of the theology of Gabriel Biel, who wrote the textbook Luther used in his theological studies. Masters of the Reformation is a very good description of the German university system out of which Luther arose. Forerunners of the Reformation collects the writings of some late medieval reformers who in some respects paved the way for Luther. The Roots of Anti-Semitism discusses Christian attitudes to Judaism in Luther’s time, putting Luther’s notorious statements in some historical context.

Finally, my advisor David Steinmetz has written several books you might find helpful. Reformers in the Wings describes various figures of the Reformation era, Protestant and Catholic–two of the Catholics, Geiler von Keysersburg and Johannes Staupitz, were pre-Reformation figures who are useful for understanding Luther’s context. Steinmetz also wrote his dissertation (Misericordia Dei) on Staupitz, and he wrote another book (Luther and Staupitz) comparing Luther’s theology with that of Staupitz (Staupitz was Luther’s superior in the Augustinian Order and was also his confessor). Steinmetz’s book Luther in Context has a number of essays comparing Luther with other figures of his own time and previously, especially in his interpretation of Scripture.

Sorry if this is too much, but this way you can pick what suits your needs or what you find available . . . . Feel free to ask me any specific questions you like (I’m currently writing my dissertation about the Reformation era).

In Christ,

Edwin

[quote=Contarini]The general history of the Reformation I’d tend to recommend is Euan Cameron’s The European Reformation. Diarmaid MacCulloch has recently written a general survey, but I haven’t read it yet. Steven Ozment has written a lot of books about religion and society in Germany in Luther’s day–anything by him is worth reading, although I don’t agree with all his views (I think his book The Reformation in the Cities exaggerates the extent to which ordinary laypeople felt burdened by the demands of .medieval religion and hence found the Reformation liberating). All of these have a Protestant bias but are good professional historians.

On the Catholic side, if you really want to go into the subject in detail, Johannes Janssen’s History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages is a multi-volume survey of religion and society in Luther’s day written in the 19th century. It’s very influential but I confess I haven’t read it yet . . . . Belloc is an excellent writer but IMHO is way too biased and not well-informed enough when he writes about the Reformation. He’s far too dismissive and doesn’t even begin to understand Protestantism.

The most in-depth biography of Luther is Martin Brecht’s three-volume work. But Brecht is not very useful at all for understanding the historical context–he has a strong Lutheran bias and relies mostly on Luther’s own writings rather than checking them against other contemporary sources to see where Luther may be distorting the picture (I’m particularly thinking of his description of Luther’s years in the monastery). If you want to know what Luther said and did when and where, Brecht is the best source. But that’s not what you were asking about.

The two biographies of Luther I’d recommend are Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand and Heiko Oberman’s Man Between God and the Devil. Bainton is the more readable, but IMHO Oberman is far more insightful (I’m not unbiased here–my advisor studied with Oberman). If you want a Catholic approach, Joseph Lortz and Hartmann Grisar have both written on Luther.

Besides his biography, Oberman has also written some very good stuff on the intellectual background for Luther. The Harvest of Medieval Theology is an in-depth study of the theology of Gabriel Biel, who wrote the textbook Luther used in his theological studies. Masters of the Reformation is a very good description of the German university system out of which Luther arose. Forerunners of the Reformation collects the writings of some late medieval reformers who in some respects paved the way for Luther. The Roots of Anti-Semitism discusses Christian attitudes to Judaism in Luther’s time, putting Luther’s notorious statements in some historical context.

Finally, my advisor David Steinmetz has written several books you might find helpful. Reformers in the Wings describes various figures of the Reformation era, Protestant and Catholic–two of the Catholics, Geiler von Keysersburg and Johannes Staupitz, were pre-Reformation figures who are useful for understanding Luther’s context. Steinmetz also wrote his dissertation (Misericordia Dei) on Staupitz, and he wrote another book (Luther and Staupitz) comparing Luther’s theology with that of Staupitz (Staupitz was Luther’s superior in the Augustinian Order and was also his confessor). Steinmetz’s book Luther in Context has a number of essays comparing Luther with other figures of his own time and previously, especially in his interpretation of Scripture.

Sorry if this is too much, but this way you can pick what suits your needs or what you find available . . . . Feel free to ask me any specific questions you like (I’m currently writing my dissertation about the Reformation era).

In Christ,

Edwin
[/quote]

You seem to be very well read! I didn’t see Warren H. Carroll’s* A History of Christendom Vol 4. The Cleaving of Christendom.* I find this a very good history. Have you read it?

THanks and blessings to all for your help, particularly Cabtarini…there is alot of info there.

All4life,

I haven’t read Carroll, but I should sometime. I only find him mentioned by conservative Catholics, and as a general rule the mark of a good historical work is that even people who don’t share its biases find value in it, or at least admit its importance. However, since I’m interested in the conservative Catholic take on things, I should definitely have a look at Carroll. And of course it may happen that the guild ignores work whose biases happen to be unfashionable! So I’m not making any judgment on Carroll, just expressing my general approach to deciding what out of the vast masses of material out there is worth paying attention to.

In Christ,

Edwin

Two excellent reference sources I neglected to mention are:

The Handbook of European History, 1400-1600, vol. 1, which contains a wealth of information on the economy, politics, society and religion of the period. And

The recent Blackwell Companion to the Reformation World, which contains up-to-date surveys of the whole era.

Edwin

What’s a “conservative Catholic”? Are “orthodox Catholic” and “conservative Catholic” interchangeable in your lexicon?

BTW, Carroll is a Columbia-trained historian, an orthodox Catholic convert, founder of Christendom College (as you may know). He’s also an excellent writer.

JMJ Jay

Heiko Oberman’s _Man Between God and the Devil

This is an excellent book, not necessarily for what was going on in the Church but what were some of the major factors outside of Luther that instigated and caused a schism when it should have just been a reformation within the Church.

Germany, Germany, Germany

A simply Monk did not have the power to do what happened in that time period. It was a collection of things both inside and outside of the Church, Luther was simply the catalyst.

Is this a decent thumbnail sketch of the situation?

metmuseum.org/toah/hd/refo/hd_refo.htm

I agree.

Growing up, I heard quite a few pastors say that the Reformation could have possibly been peaceful except for three things.

  1. The German princes. The princes and electors of the Holy Roman Empire where well known to play fast and loose with the Pope. Many Emperors would simple depose a Pope they disagreed with. In the 15th century, they German princes were involved in various arguements with Pope Leo and it is no surprise that they would sieze on the writtings of a little known professor monk who was probably just trying to liven up his classes a bit.

  2. and 3. The personality of the characters (Luther and Leo) involved. Both had some problems, and both where known to be rather emotional. Once the two egos became engaged, it was a recipe for trouble.

:What’s a “conservative Catholic”?:

In the context I used the term, I mean the sort of Catholic who would regard Catholic Answers and EWTN as excellent exponents of Catholicism and would agree with most of what they teach. It was largely a sociological category. I wasn’t expressing any opinion one way or the other as to the validity of your views.

: Are “orthodox Catholic” and “conservative Catholic” interchangeable in your lexicon?:

Not in my lexicon. But then my definition of “orthodox Catholic” may be very different from yours. Indeed, I’d shy away from trying to define an orthodox Catholic, since I’m not Catholic myself. If I did give a definition, it would probably cover everyone who does not reject outright unquestionably infallible teaching. As I see it, Catholic orthodoxy is a certain attitude toward controversial issues rather than a specific position on them. So someone could hope for women’s ordination and be orthodox, but they could not simply scoff at the Church’s stance and be orthodox. I don’t expect you to agree with this definition, of course. Which is why, in spite of all the protests, terms like “conservative Catholic” are very useful. We don’t have to have a theological argument in order to name a certain wing of the Catholic Church. (This is not a claim that it’s impossible to determine orthodoxy–only that it’s not self-evident, especially to someone who is not himself a Catholic.)

:BTW, Carroll is a Columbia-trained historian, an orthodox Catholic convert, founder of Christendom College (as you may know).:

I knew he taught at Christendom–I didn’t know he founded it. I wasn’t disputing his credentials, only responding to a question why I did not recommend his work. The works I mentioned are works that specialists in the field of all theological persuasions would agree are very important. Possibly Carroll belongs there. But not having read his work, I don’t know that.

: He’s also an excellent writer.:

I don’t dispute that, and I hope to read his work someday.

In Christ,

Edwin

That’s a good definition :smiley:

The first subject of discussion which was laid before the general congregation by the legates on 8 February was the Scriptures as the source of Divine revelation. After exhaustive preliminary discussions in the various congregations, two decrees were ready for debate at the fourth session (8 April, 1546), and were adopted by the fathers. In treating the canon of Scripture they declare at the same time that in matters of faith and morals the tradition of the Church is, together with the Bible, the standard of supernatural revelation; **then taking up the text **and the use of the sacred Books they declare the Vulgate to be the authentic text for sermons and disputations, although this did not exclude textual emendations. It was also determined that the Bible should be interpreted according to the unanimous testimony of the Fathers and never misused for superstitious purposes. Nothing was decided in regard to the translation of the Bible in the vernaculars.

In the meantime earnest discussions concerning the question of church reform had been carried on between the pope and the legates, and a number of items had been suggested by the latter.

newadvent.org/cathen/15030c.htm

FOURTH SESSION: DECREE CONCERNING THE CANONICAL SCRIPTURES: “If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their entirety and with all their parts [the 66 books of the Bible **plus 12 apocryphal books, being two of Paralipomenon, two of Esdras, Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Sophonias, two of Macabees], **as they have been accustomed **to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA.”

There is an exact date that the apocrypha that the rcc’s hold so dear were canonized. previous to this they were only read and not considered part of the Bible.

[quote=redeemed1]The first subject of discussion which was laid before the general congregation by the legates on 8 February was the Scriptures as the source of Divine revelation. After exhaustive preliminary discussions in the various congregations, two decrees were ready for debate at the fourth session (8 April, 1546), and were adopted by the fathers. In treating the canon of Scripture they declare at the same time that in matters of faith and morals the tradition of the Church is, together with the Bible, the standard of supernatural revelation; **then taking up the text ****and the use of the sacred Books they declare **the Vulgate to be the authentic text for sermons and disputations, although this did not exclude textual emendations. It was also determined that the Bible should be interpreted according to the unanimous testimony of the Fathers and never misused for superstitious purposes. Nothing was decided in regard to the translation of the Bible in the vernaculars.

In the meantime earnest discussions concerning the question of church reform had been carried on between the pope and the legates, and a number of items had been suggested by the latter.

newadvent.org/cathen/15030c.htm

FOURTH SESSION: DECREE CONCERNING THE CANONICAL SCRIPTURES: "If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their entirety and with all their parts [the 66 books of the Bible **plus 12 apocryphal books, being two of Paralipomenon, two of Esdras, Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Sophonias, two of Macabees],
[/quote]

**as they have been accustomed **to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA."

There is an exact date that the apocrypha that the rcc’s hold so dear were canonized. previous to this they were only read and not considered part of the Bible.

[quote=redeemed1]FOURTH SESSION: DECREE CONCERNING THE CANONICAL SCRIPTURES: "If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their entirety and with all their parts [the 66 books of the Bible **plus 12 apocryphal books, being two of Paralipomenon, two of Esdras, Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Sophonias, two of Macabees],
[/quote]

**as they have been accustomed **to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA."

There is an exact date that the apocrypha that the rcc’s hold so dear were canonized. previous to this they were only read and not considered part of the Bible.Ok, Very nice. Now here is what really was promulgated on April 8, 1546:

The holy, ecumenical and general Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same three legates of the Apostolic See presiding, keeps this constantly in view, namely, that the purity of the Gospel may be preserved in the Church after the errors have been removed. This [Gospel], of old promised through the Prophets in the Holy Scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, promulgated first with His own mouth, and then commanded it to be preached by His Apostles to every creature as the source at once of all saving truth and rules of conduct. It also clearly perceives that these truths and rules are contained in the written books and in the unwritten traditions, which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ Himself, or from the Apostles themselves, the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down to us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand.

Following, then, the examples of the orthodox Fathers, it receives and venerates with a feeling of piety and reverence all the books both of the Old and New Testaments, since one God is the author of both; also the traditions, whether they relate to faith or to morals, as having been dictated either orally by Christ or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church in unbroken succession. It has thought it proper, moreover, to insert in this decree a list of the sacred books, lest a doubt might arise in the mind of someone as to which are the books received by this council.

They are the following: of the Old Testament, the five books of Moses, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first and second of Esdras, the latter of which is called Nehemias, Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidic Psalter of 150 Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, the twelve minor Prophets, namely, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of Machabees, the first and second. Of the New Testament, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen Epistles of Paul the Apostle, to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the Apostle, three of John the Apostle, one of James the Apostle, one of Jude the Apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the Apostle.

If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their entirety and with all their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, let him be anathema.

So, according to your argument, all of the books listed would be uncanonical because they were “accustomed to be read” in the Catholic Church.

[quote=redeemed1]FOURTH SESSION: DECREE CONCERNING THE CANONICAL SCRIPTURES: "If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their entirety and with all their parts [the 66 books of the Bible **plus 12 apocryphal books, being two of Paralipomenon, two of Esdras, Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Sophonias, two of Macabees],
[/quote]

**as they have been accustomed **to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA."
Furthermore, the “two of Paralipomenon” would be 1 and 2 Chronicles, and “Sophonias” would be Zephaniah. Are these books not part of the bible as accepted by the protestants???

[quote=Contarini]All4life,

I haven’t read Carroll, but I should sometime. I only find him mentioned by conservative Catholics, and as a general rule the mark of a good historical work is that even people who don’t share its biases find value in it, or at least admit its importance. …]
Edwin
[/quote]

Contarini,

Here are some excerpts from the Introduction of the first volume.

This history is written by a Catholic, from the Catholic perspective, with the conviction that Jesus Christ founded a church and that the visible church He founded is the Roman Catholic Church which trought its succession of Popes in particular, has remained, is, and always will be His Church, and through which He acts in particular ways not available to members of most of the separated churches, notably in the Holy Eucharist by which He becomes really present on the altar at Mass, and reserved in the tabernacle. But He has other sheep who are not of the visible Catholic fold, members of His church through baptism by water or by desire. . . . .]

Regarding objectivity, every professional historian knows that the most difficult single task in historical research is pruning down and weeding out the original indigestible mass of raw material into the basis for a coherent presentation of the subject being researched and written about. Every historian must use principles of selection of what material is important and relevant to his general and particular task. Every historian (though not all are fully aware of this) has a world-view which has much todo with his choice of what is significant and relevant. For the historian to suppress evidence bearing directly on his own subject and conclusions is a grave dereliction; but for him to screen out irrelevant information is a duty, an essential part of his craft. In all honesty, every historian owes to his reader an identification and a statement of his own world-view.

Above all it is necessary to see the fundamental error in the widely held idea that the history of religion is “objective” when written by those who do not believe in the religion they are writing about (or, often, in any religion), but biased when written by a religious man. The rejection of some or all religious truth is every bit as much an intellectual position as is the acceptance of religious truth. Both the believer and the non-believer have a point of view. Both are equally tempted to bias; either may be objective by overcoming that temptation. Objectivity does not derive from having no point of view. History cannot be written without one. Objectivity does require honesty and respect for truth always.

This writer’s [Dr Carroll’s] own beliefs will be made very clear throughout these volumes. Facts and positions contrary to the conclusions stated herein will be noted to the fullest extent that a reasonable utilization of space permits. Again, due to the scope of the work and of the historical controversies concerning its subject matter, nothing like a definitive presentation of the contrary views can be attempted–after all, the primary purpose of these volumes is to present a Christian view, not today’s much more common non-Christian view, of five thousand years of history. But the contrary arguments and especially the awkward facts, not appearing to fit the conclusions here stated, deserve to be, and will be, presented and dealt with explicitly.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.