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Martin Luther: The Christian between God and Death [Paperback]

By Richard Marius (Author)
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Item description for Martin Luther: The Christian between God and Death by Richard Marius...

A highly regarded historian and biographer paints a dazzling portrait of the German reformer, including his inner compulsions, his struggle with himself and his God, the gestation of his theology, his relationship with contemporaries, and his responses to opponents. A focus of the book is Martin Luther's writings from 1516 to 1525. 16 halftones. 592 p.

Publishers Description

Few figures in history have defined their time as dramatically as Martin Luther. And few books have captured the spirit of such a figure as truly as this robust and eloquent life of Luther. A highly regarded historian and biographer and a gifted novelist and playwright, Richard Marius gives us a dazzling portrait of the German reformer--his inner compulsions, his struggle with himself and his God, the gestation of his theology, his relations with contemporaries, and his responses to opponents. Focusing in particular on the productive years 1516-1525, Marius' detailed account of Luther's writings yields a rich picture of the development of Luther's thought on the great questions that came to define the Reformation.

Marius follows Luther from his birth in Saxony in 1483, during the reign of Frederick III, through his schooling in Erfurt, his flight to an Augustinian monastery and ordination to the outbreak of his revolt against Rome in 1517, the Wittenberg years, his progress to Worms, his exile in the Wartburg, and his triumphant return to Wittenberg. Throughout, Marius pauses to acquaint us with pertinent issues: the question of authority in the church, the theology of penance, the timing of Luther's "Reformation breakthrough," the German peasantry in 1525, Muntzer's revolutionaries, the whys and hows of Luther's attack on Erasmus.

In this personal, occasionally irreverent, always humane reconstruction, Luther emerges as a skeptic who hated skepticism and whose titanic wrestling with the dilemma of the desire for faith and the omnipresence of doubt and fear became an augury for the development of the modern religious consciousness of the West. In all of this, he also represents tragedy, with the goodness of his works overmatched by their calamitous effects on religion and society. "

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
Pages   576
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 5.7" Height: 1.5"
Weight:   1.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2000
Publisher   Belknap Press
ISBN  067400387X  
ISBN13  9780674003873  

Availability  0 units.

More About Richard Marius

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Richard Marius was a historian, novelist, playwright, and a member of the Harvard faculty.

Richard Marius has an academic affiliation as follows - HARVARD UNIVERSITY-CAMBRIDGE.

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1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Historical > General
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4Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Religious
5Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > People, A-Z > ( L ) > Luther, Martin
6Books > Subjects > History > Europe > General
7Books > Subjects > History > Europe > Germany > General
8Books > Subjects > History > Europe > Germany
9Books > Subjects > History > World > General
10Books > Subjects > History > World
11Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > Protestant

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Reviews - What do customers think about Martin Luther: The Christian between God and Death?

Do you know your Christian history-the Legacy of Martin Luther......  Jul 21, 2007
I have not read this book. I see it has many bad reviews--by those who feel Luther was a "Good" man, a "Good" Christian, A Hero even, somehow they feel this writer is slamming him. What I find disturbing is this... It appears 90% of all Christians today who call themselves Protestants have NO inkling to what damage this Man, this leader, this Revolutionary, has brought upon man since This Reformation. The simple POWER and damage of HIS WORDS, His BELIEFS, His GREAT influence -have done thru out History... PLEASE visit a few Holocaust Museums, look up the one in Florida on the net, type in "On Jews & their Lies" written by this wonderful man, Martin Luther, read his quotes for yourself. Do a search on His quotes on "REASON" also while you are at it. He is an Embarrasment to the Faith of Christianity. Even the Luthern Church gave an Official Apology (in the 1990's) for this book/pamphlet written 3 yrs before his death, How HIS Influence, his Legacy, his words set the stage for what Hitler did to millions of Jews. Hitler did ALL Of the things listed in Martin Luthers "dirty little book"- what some call it. Christians should be standing against this man and His legacy. And questioning every singe idea, or belief that came from him. The man did NOT have the "Fruits".
Fine Intellectual Overview of Luther's Seminal Works. Buy It.  Oct 6, 2006
`Martin Luther' by historian, novelist, and playwright Richard Marius is a finely crafted intellectual biography of the central figure behind the 16th century split in Western Christendom that became known as the Reformation.

One of the first impressions I get from reading this book is the shock of seeing opposing religious groups' warring against and executing `heretics', the easy term for people who don't agree with them; corruption and sexual misconduct in the Roman church; near empty Evangelical churches and poorly paid pastors; conservative Christian factions battling for local political control; and religious indifference among the great mass of less well educated. This is a sketch of the state of affairs at the apex of the `Age of Faith', decades before Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler turned the rational world on its ear by upsetting the world view of Medieval terracentric cosmology.

For this perspective alone this book is a great contribution to an educated person's intellectual point of view, but the book offers much, much more. But before I get too far, let me be clear about what it does not cover.

First, it does not cover all of Luther's life. In fact, the last chapter ends in 1525 with Luther's debate over freedom of the will with Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, with the publication of Luther's `On the Slavery of the Will', his response to Erasmus' much shorter `Discourse on Free Will'. This is almost 20 years before Luther passes away in 1545. This is an appropriate stopping point, as Luther and many of his interpreters regard this as his most important work, along with the catechism. Marius does not agree that this is Luther's most important work, and makes a very good case for why this is not so in his narrative of the twelve years between his mature theological works (especially on Paul's letters to the Romans and Galatians, and on the Psalms) and the publication of `On Slavery of the Will'. Luther's translation of the Bible into German, with comments, and the pamphlets `The Freedom of a Christian' and `Babylonian Captivity of the Church' are more seminal, and far more important than the '95 Theses' which was really just the little pebble which got the great snowball of the Reformation started.

Second, it makes no pretense at covering all of Luther's published works, which occupy 55 large volumes in the standard English translation and even more volumes in the German edition of his translated Latin and German works. In fact, the author claims that most Lutheran scholars don't even pretend to have read his complete output.

What is much more important is the perspective Marius does give on Luther and his movement. On the positive side of the Reformation, one must dig to imagine any greater or more important intellectual conversation than the one between Luther, Erasmus, and Thomas More of England. The battle of these intellects is made more monumental by the fact that it is based almost entirely on reason, arguments over the role of tradition, and the interpretation of writings from 1400 years ago. Marius makes it clear that after the initial outrage on the sale of indulgences, the conflict within a very few years centered on the value of tradition and the witness to faith by the Saints over the years (argued by the Roman church) against the total reliance on the original scriptures (argued by Luther). And, it was important to base one's beliefs not only on the original scriptures, but to focus on the life and teachings of Jesus and his most important apostle, Paul.

One of the ironies behind the controversy between Luther and Erasmus is that the latter writer was a much deeper scholar into the philology and interpretation of the ancient Greek and Hebrew texts. In fact, Luther relied heavily on Erasmus' commentaries on the original texts in doing his German translation of scriptures. So, with Erasmus and Luther, we have the embryo of modern Bible scholarship that does not weigh every word and every work in the scripture equally. Luther, for example, clearly did not like James' letter because he felt that unlike Paul, it does not give enough importance to faith and grace rather than on `good works'. This selective interpretation of the scriptures was also a powerful argument against the literal interpretations of the scriptures by Zwingli and Calvin. But, we also discover that Luther and Calvin were really not that far apart on the central doctrine of predestination and the illusion of free will.

The most important thing I take from this book is Luther's dismissal of reason, especially Aristotle's logic in reaching the ultimate truth in Christian doctrine, and his stressing the fact that the ultimate acts of faith and grace are based on the mystery of Jesus Christ's sacrifice, death, resurrection, and `dual' nature as both human and divine. And, the only real evidence we have of this is in the scriptures (especially the gospel of John and Paul's letters). The irony of this position is that Luther relies on reason to sustain this position and destroy the edifice of Roman tradition. A second important lesson I take from this book is the fact that after discarding four of the seven Roman sacraments (and reducing penance to a private act), Luther essentially creates a new sacrament out of the sermon, the interpretation of the scripture to the layman, the `priesthood of all believers'. The downside of this shift from Roman practice is that while Roman churches are open all week, Lutheran churches are locked down except for Sunday morning and even then, interest wanes if the pastor does not illuminate the scripture.

While I feel the need to read a second Luther biography to learn of the political side of the Reformation, I truly admire Marius' service to us in laying out the intellectual narrative and foundations of Luther's Reformation.
poor writing and slanderous  Aug 27, 2006
the writer, a Harvard Professor, displays an accute amateurish tone throughout the book. Unsuccessfully tries to diminish Luther's accomplishments and genius with improbable assumptions and irrelevant speculation. It's a weak biography and flawed historical account. If the poor quality of this book is indicative of the intellectual level at Harvard, I would say that they have serious problems. In fact, what is their great reputation all about?
5 points in academic writing...3 points for general public  Apr 4, 2006
I noticed that a few of the other reviwers here aren't in favor of the book. I think I can sort of feel for them because Maurius, generally speaking, is critical on Luther. For some people who were raised up with the notion of Luther being the ultimate good guy hero figure, this book might not be well suited for them. There are other excellent books out there that they might like such as one by Heiko Oberman.

What Richard Marius has done is a kin to taking a complicated machine apart and trying to analyze it item by item. One of the chief parts and items Marius looks at in this book is death. Just as the title suggest, "The Christian Between Life and Death" the author is trying to examine Luther's stance on death and how it shaped the reformer's theology.

He also shows how the many paradox ideas that Luther championed were simply too difficult for the half literate population of Germany to understand. There was simply not of enough education around at the time for people to understand. The two concept of Law and Gospel, and the relations of these two, that he preached so much was hard over the years - was simply beyond the grasp of many poor folks of his time. The result was a lot of misunderstanding, miscommunication, and a lot of terrible bloodshed. As you try to read the text and leave out your own personal bias, you sort of sympathize for Erasmus who at first was sympathetic to Luther, but later becomes the reformer's greatest enemy.
Considering the fact that the author is a university theology professor, he probably knows a lot about religious wars and bloodshed all in the name of religion - the result, his inclination is with the Erasmus.

As you probably know, Luther made a few sermons at the end of his life that were quite harsh on the Jews. Marius does a pretty good job on examing this topic. Though it would have been interesting if he could have expanded on this a little bit more.

So what didn't I like about the book?

It was a little bit too harsh. It's like someone writing a book about a US President and concentrating a lot of the text on the bad things that president did.

Ok, I admit my comparison with a US President is a little far fetched, but I hope you get what I'm trying to get at. We need to know both the good and the bad of these people. We can't just go running around thinking this President was a saint. And we can't go running around thinking he was a demon. He was a human being both good and bad. This President had to make tough choices and there were a lot of serious reprecussions because of it.

Marius could have written a lot on the negative qualities of Luther, and also have written a lot of the positives as well.

But it was slightly bias to towards the negative side - and that's what ruins a good enertaining read. This book is not your hero's tale that leaves you feeling tall after you put it down.

No. It's more or less written with academic's microscope.

This book might be good for let say, a graduate level university course, but it's might not be too good for someone looking for a good story about their favorite hero.

Biased account still shows Luther's greatness and talent  Aug 31, 2005
As noted by some of the other reviewers, Marius's work is severely biased against Luther. Marius seems to blame Luther for the chaos of the last 500 years, starting with the wars that followed Luther's death. In my opinion, he seems to forget the chaos that has always surrounded our history.

In spite of his disapproval of Luther, he is not a liar and through his views of Luther's actions and ideas I was still able to see Luther as an extraordinary man of great talent. In some ways, Marius was even more complementary of Luther than other authors I have read.

If you are religiously inclined and are looking for a general work on Luther I would suggest instead Roland Bainton's Here I Stand or even the more recent work Luther the Reformer by Kittelson.

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