Luther’s bibles: a question of church?

I have previously written about Germanic bibles before Luther. But we might as well ask “before what Luther?”

As I’ve written previouslyMartin Luther began translating the Bible programmatically in 1522, with two versions of the New Testament appearing in quick succession. Another portion appeared in 1523, covering what Luther referred to as the “Five Books of Moses”. A complete Luther bible did not arrive until 1534 (or 1533 if we include the Low German bible prepared by Luther’s associate Joannes Bugenhagen which carried Luther’s endorsement).1 In the meantime, Luther had already begun to revise his work, and he would continue making changes until his death in 1546.

I often frame my explanations with reference to the book of Ruth.2 In this case though, prompted by an enquiry, I’m going to illustrate some of the steps in tracing Luther’s translation (and, allied with that, his thinking) with attention to Genesis. Continue reading Luther’s bibles: a question of church?

What did Luther ever do for philosophy?

Back in February, amidst striking and snow, I pondered the question “What would Luther do…?” in relation to some problematic picket lines. As things worked out, it proved possible to renegotiate the setting for the talk and I was able to meet Diarmaid MacCulloch and subsequently get his insight on some of my research. (It happened to tie in rather closely with the direction of his new Cromwell biography, so it is a pity I’d not felt bold enough to share my work sooner–but then I’m not sure it was ready.)

Continue reading What did Luther ever do for philosophy?

Here I stand: can I do other?

It must be six months or more since I first heard that Oxford church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch was coming to Sheffield as a Prokhorov lecturer. I immediately emailed the colleague responsible to reserve a place at the masterclass. Though I doubt he recalls it, MacCulloch was approached as a possible examiner for my PhD thesis and I remain a little bit fanatical about his work on Reformations—so marvellously complex. It is therefore with real sadness that I find myself on the outside of that event.

Masterclass day is day 2 of UCU strikes. Pensions are the official issue, but there’s a wider anger afoot. Zero-hour teaching contracts, a culture of publish or perish, constant criticism from public figures who think they have an idea how we spend our summers.

All this comes as a project I’ve been curating for (coincidentally) at least 6 months felt like it was taking off. And with permission from an organising colleague, we had advertised MacCulloch’s evening lecture under that 500 Reformations umbrella. 500 Reformations had itself revealed to me an unexpected direction of collegiate interest in Luther. I found myself added into a collaborative bid to consider the great reformer’s philosophical legacy. The first event for that collaboration is also taking place on day 2 of the strikes.

As it happens I know through private networks that I’m far from the only person who queried the intention to go ahead with the scheduled events as planned. However, for some colleagues it is apparently less obvious that this kind of collaborative enterprise–whether masterclass or explorative meeting–is part of the labour our union has asked us to withdraw, part of the work the University finds valuable, part of what I’m–we’re–paid to get involved in. (Yes, I know there’s luxury in that.) I wish I were able to reconcile my priorities with such personal convenience, or that we were able to find a workable compromise—to postpone or cancel the planned events and perhaps do something informal, off-campus in their place.

Sadly, that kind of resolution looks increasingly unlikely. So I’ve ploughed my energies into a creative protest, one that harnesses a little of Luther’s language and hopefully achieves a level of provocative kindness.

To the picket line, good people… okay, sinners.


–Inviting others to #jointheconversation.

–And a question for debate, “What would Luther do?”
–And some provocative kindness for those who wish to carry on in and enjoy the Masterclass!

Luther & Language (video)

The past few weeks have been busy with preparations for the launch of 500 Reformations. This week, I received links to videos of two of the three public talks I gave earlier in the year. I’ve just found the necessary ten minutes to watch myself back. Ignoring the note of mild stress in the voice (I have to get through all this in 10 minutes!) I was pleased to find I could watch it through without cringing. Continue reading Luther & Language (video)

Early Modern Bibles on the net

As one whose university career began in the 1990s, I cannot fail to appreciate the ways in which digital resources are constantly evolving and extending. The breadth of data collated within this study would have been impossible without the many digitisation projects, and the growth of Open Access collections.

When I wrote Continue reading Early Modern Bibles on the net

Watching Luther: a prequel to three public talks

On Halloween, 1517, nearly 500 years ago, Luther posted up his debate text on the doors of the Wittenberg Castle Church. Was Luther’s text inflammatory? Composed in Latin, its direct capacity to inflame was limited to his literate peer group. Continue reading Watching Luther: a prequel to three public talks