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The development of Martin Luther's thought has commanded much scholarly attention because of the Reformation and its remarkable effects on the history of Christianity in the West. But much of that scholarship has been so enthralled by certain later debates that it has practically ignored and even distorted the context in and against which Luther's thought developed. In The Early Luther Berndt Hamm, armed with expertise both in late-medieval intellectual life and in Luther, presents new perspectives that leave old debates behind.
A master Luther scholar, Hamm provides fresh insights into the development of Luther's theology from his entry into the monastery through his early lectures on the Bible to his writing of the 95 Theses in 1517 and The Freedom of a Christian in 1520. Rather than looking for a single breakthrough, Hamm carefully outlines a series of significant shifts in Luther's late-medieval theological worldview over the course of his early career. The result is a more accurate, nuanced portrait of Reformation giant Martin Luther.
Berndt Hamm is professor emeritus of modern church historyat the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, and theauthor of The Reformation of Faith in the Context of LateMedieval Theology and Piety.
-- University of Chicago Divinity School
"Many Luther scholars over the past century have sought to identify the decisive breakthrough in Luther’s Reformation theology, usually finding it at some point between 1515 and 1518. By means of a meticulous and original analysis of Luther’s early life and writings, Berndt Hamm’s challenging book breaks with this paradigm, showing how Luther’s progression toward a new understanding of Christian faith, especially when viewed from the perspective of his late medieval theology and piety, was a multi-layered and gradual process stretching out from 1505 to 1520. This is a major contribution to Luther studies, not least because of its insistence on the mystical foundations of Luther’s theology."
-- Concordia Seminary
"In this volume Hamm harvests the fruits of forty years of studying the late medieval ‘theology of piety’ and places Luther in its context, illuminating many aspects of what Hamm rightly sees as the gradual development of Luther’s evangelical understanding of Scripture. This perspective enriches our understanding of why and how his theology took form and how it functioned within the milieu in which Luther grew up and began his career."
Arland J. Hultgren
-- Luther Seminary
"Berndt Hamm offers a welcome and refreshing perspective on the development of Martin Luther’s theology. . . . Especially noteworthy and intriguing is Hamm’s discussion of how the concept of faith, regarded as the lowest of emotions and virtues previously, became central to Luther’s view of the Christian life. . . . This eminently readable book provides a gateway to a clearer understanding of Luther."
— Zwinglius Redivivus
“This is a very fine book. . . . Students of the Reformation and students of the theology of Luther will most certainly wish to read it.”