Luther: Conservative or Revolutionary?

Was Martin Luther the author of a 'Moderate Reformation'? Or was his progeny to prove a 'Radical Reformation'? An article by Michael Mullett.

Put the title question another way: was Martin Luther an innovator? No major historical figure breaks entirely new ground, all great men and women build on foundations laid by predecessors. This was certainly true of Martin Luther, Even in his most radical offensive – against the papal church – Luther was anticipated by medieval precursors. In England, John Wyclif (circa 1328-84) identified the papacy as 'antichrist'. In Bohemia (roughly, modern Czechoslovakia) John Hus (1373-1415) decried the materialism of the Catholic church and met a martyr's death. Both Hus and Wyclif anticipated Luther in looking towards a national reformation of the church, whether in England or Bohemia or, with Luther, Germany. Luther reminds us particularly of John Hus; with his peasant background and great courage; with his call for the holy communion to be given out in the forms of bread and wine; in these ways Luther put contemporaries in mind of the earlier figure of Hus.

To read this article in full you need to be either a print + archive subscriber, or else have purchased access to the online archive.

If you are already a subscriber, please ensure you are logged in. 

Buy Subscription | Buy Online Access | Log In

If you are logged in and still cannot read the article, please email digital@historytoday.com.

Get Miscellanies, our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week
X