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of historical research and theological analysis have been devoted to Martin Luther
than any other figure in the history of Christianity except its Founder.' Such
is the measured statement of Professor E. Harris Harbison of Princeton. It is
by no means an exaggeration. In view, therefore, of the vast mass of material
at our disposal, we can do no more in this brief survey than touch and glance
upon a few of the major studies of Luther which have appeared since the midpoint
of this present century. We shall concentrate mainly on those books and articles
which appear in English, although it will be necessary at times to allude to outstanding
The most serious impediment to an understanding of Luther here in Britain
has been the lack of adequate and comprehensive translations of his writings.
The definitive Weimar edition, which is still incomplete, yields its treasures only
to those who can cope with the late medieval Latin and middle high German in
which Luther expressed himself. English readers have had to rely on the much
slighter selections of Wace and Buchheim, whilst America has produced the editions
of Lenker and Holman. In 1955, however, there appeared the first of a fifty five
volume series of Luther's works, edited by Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan of Chicago, which
promises to make good a long standing deficiency. Thirty exegetical volumes are
to be published by the Concordia House of St. Louis and twenty five volumes of
Reformation writings and occasional pieces will issue from the Muhlenberg Press.
Volumes 12, 13 and 21 on the Psalms, the Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat,
are already available and maintain an exceptionally high standard. Another less
exhaustive series (edited by Bertram Lee Wolf) aims to cover The Reformation
Library of Christian Classics lists four titles relating to Luther, of which the
duced a judicious anthology. Dr. Pauck's rendering of the Lectures on Romans
will be awaited with the utmost interest: meanwhile we have to be satisfied with
J. Theodore Mueller's abbreviated version of 1954. For the theological significance
of this 'Reformation manifesto', as James Mackinnon called it, see my articles
in the Scottish Journal of Theology, March and June, 1950.
The year 1950 marked the advent of two remarkable biographies of Luther.
popular account. The first is supplied by E. G. Schwiebert in Luther and His Times:
It runs to over 300,000 words, contains almost 3,000 footnotes and includes 65
illustrations. It is a virtually exhaustive biography and yet it is much more.
It provides a broad historical outline of the period, sets Luther against his back-
ground and indicates the impact of his new theology upon his contemporaries.
He is presented as a Biblical Humanist effecting an educational reformation from
the University of Wittenberg. Schwiebert is no stylist and makes little attempt
to quicken the imagination. Roland H. Bainton, on the contrary, in Here I Stand:
life, and now that a cheap paper backed edition has been put on the market this
will undoubtedly top the bill as the best readable biography of Luther. It is
undergirded by sound historical scholarship.
Passing over W. J. Kooiman's By Faith Alone, which rather falls between
two stools, we note E. G. Rupp's Luther's Progress to the Diet of Worms, which
reviews the spiritual pilgrimage of the one time Augustinian monk in the lively
manner which we have learned to associate with the author. Mention must also
be made of the early chapters in Wilhelm Pauck's The Heritage of the Reformation
which deal with Luther's theological development. Whatever the truth about
Luther,' wrote Rupp, 'it will never he found by those who by pass his theology.'
The remainder of this bibliography is concerned with various aspects of this vital
theme. A useful introduction will be found in the first part of J. S Whale's
The Protestant Tradition, which stresses Luther's positive achievements in the realm
of doctrine. He is rightly placed at the head of a line which runs through Pascal
and Kierkegaard to the contemporary Biblical theology of encounter. For a more
extensive, though indirect, exposition of Lutheran theology the student may be
referred to Gustaf Aulén's The Faith of the Christian Church, which breathes
the very spirit of Luther and teams with quotations. Another book by Professor
Rupp, The Righteousness of God, is occupied in its central section with an ex-
amination of the underlying principle of Luther's doctrine as crystallized in the
phrase ' coram Deo '. His development from 1509 to 1521 is shown to possess
its own coherence and integrity as distinct from earlier Catholic and later Protestant
orthodoxy, and the heart of the Reformation is seen to be a crisis of vocabulary.
Dr. Rupp has done much to elucidate the relationship between Luther and the
Nominalists and on this important subject we must not overlook the article by
Bergt Haegglund on 'Was Luther a Nominalist?' (Theology, June, 1956).
Luther's ' article of a standing or a falling Church ', namely, justification
by faith, is handled by Dr. G. W. Bromiley in The Evangelical Quarterly for
April, 1952. A lucid account of varying viewpoints is contained in Luther Discovers
the Gospel: New Light upon Luther's Way from Medieval Catholicism to Evangelical
Faith by Uuras Saarnivaara followed by a direct challenge to current interpretations,
which also runs through Axel Gyllenkrok's Rechtfertigung und Heiligung in der
Luther in his De Servo Arbitrio. Rupp has a valuable article on 'Luther and the
Doctrine of the Church' (Scotish Journal of Theology, December, 1956) in which
he amfirms that ' the magisterial theme of Luther's ecclesiology, and its inte-
grating element, is the doctrine of the Word '. The outstanding volume on Luther's
attitude to Christian worship is Vilmos Vajta's Die Theologie des Gottesdienste
from his theological presuppositions and his idea of worship is helpfully expounded
under a dual analysis as the work of God and the work of faith. Luther's teaching
on the Holy Communion is summarized in a comparative study by Hans Grass.
W. H. Baar on 'Luther's Sacramental Thought' (Lutheran Ouarterly, 1950)
Norman Nagel's 'The Incarnation and the Lord's Supper in Luther' (Concordia
Theological Monthly, 1953) and Edward Quinn's 'Eck. Luther and the Mass' (Downside
Review, 1951). Gösta Hök deals with ' Luther's Doctrine of the Ministry ' as stemming from
his new conception of grace as ' favor Dei ' (Scotish Journal of Theology, March, 1954).
One of the most significant books to appear in the period under review is
Regin Prenter's Spiritus Creator: Luther's Concept of the Holy Spirit. It was
first published in Danish in 1944, but the English translation did not see the light
of day until 1953. Although Luther's view of the Holy Spirit dominates the whole
succeeds in doing to a marked degree. Attention is now being given to Luther's
hermeneutics and before long we may look for major works on this theme. Raymond
F. Surburg has dealt with the historical context in 'The Significance of Luther's
Hermeneutics for the Protestant Reformation' (Concordia Theological Monthly
1953) and more recently J. Theodore Mueller has written, perhaps rather too
emphatically, on ' Luther's Doctrine of Inspiration ' (Christianity Today, 1957).
W. Schwarz's Principles and Problems of Biblical Translation deals with the conflict
of the inspirational and philological principles in the work of sixteenth century
translation as reflected in the work of Reuchlin, Erasmus and Luther. He rather
too neatly inserts Luther into the purely inspirational category, forgetting that
recent research suggests that the Biblical humanist in Luther cannot be dismissed.
In the realm of Christian Sociology the most useful work to appear is George
W. Forell's Faith Active in Love: An Investigation of the Principles Underlying
Space forbids any detailed mention of Roman Catholic contributions to this
field, which have been considerable and generally marked bv a new sympathy
and honesty. P. Yves Congar has submitted Luther's ecclesiology to a detailed
critique in Vraie et fausse Réforme dans l'Eglise and P. Louis Bouyer examines
the fundamentals of his theology in The Spirit and Forrns of Protestantism. Those
who wish to consult a much fuller bibliography than the limits of this list will
permit should turn to John Dillenberger's survey in Church History, June, 1956.