Volume 2 - Issue 2

A bibliographical guide to the study of the reformation (Part 1: Beginnings)

By A. Skevington Wood

Part I of this guide deals with the inception of the reform movement in Germany and Switzerland, with particular reference to the three key figures, Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. Erasmus, whose influence is increasingly recognized, is also included, along with Melanchthon and Bucer. The spread of Protestantism will be reserved for Part II, as will the Radical Reformation which is engaging so much attention at present. The catalogue consists mainly of works written in English within the last thirty years and goes out of its way to urge the student to get at the primary sources, i.e. the products of the reformers themselves. Books are listed with the publisher’s name and the date of publication (occasionally the latest edition is recommended): the place of publication is London unless otherwise indicated.

  1. Source material

The most comprehensive one-volume selection is still Documents Illustrative of the Continental Reformation, ed. B. J. Kidd (OUP, 1911), although students should be warned that whereas German is translated into English, Latin and Greek are not. The Reformation in its Own Words, ed. H. J. Hillerbrand (SCM, 1964) relates well-chosen extracts to the developing course of the movement and thus aims to provide a consecutive history rather than a mere anthology. Hillerbrand has collected items of more specifically theological interest in The Protestant Reformation (New York: Harper and Row, 1968). The wide-ranging documents in G. R. Elton’s Renaissance and Reformation 1300–16483 (New York: Macmillan, 1976) include much illuminating material. The writings of the reformers themselves constitute a major source and these will be indicated below. Concordia or Book of Concord: the Symbols of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (St Louis: Concordia, 1957) contains the Augsburg Confession, the Schmalkald Articles, and Luther’s two catechisms. Reformed Confessions of the Sixteenth Century, ed. A. C. Cochrane (SCM, 1966) covers twelve statements of faith from Zwingli’s Sixty-Seven Articles (1523) to the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), with crisp introductions to each.

  1. Reference works

A bird’s eye view of the Reformation can easily be gained by reading R. D. Linder’s entry in The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. J. D. Douglas (Exeter: Paternoster, 1974). The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church3, ed. F. L. Cross (OUP, 1974) is rather less sympathetic. The articles by E. G. Rupp in Encyclopedia Britannica (1964 ed.) vol. 19, and by R. H. Bainton in The New Encyclopedia Britannica (1974) vol. 15 are preferable to that by G. G. Coulton in previous editions (1929–1957). Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. J. Hastings (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1908–27) carries a clear account of the Reformation by H. M. Gwatkin, as well as helpful contributions by H. E. Jacobs and J. Orr on Luther and Calvinism respectively. The best over-all reference work for the Reformation, however, is The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia for Religious Knowledge, 13 vols., ed. S. M. Jackson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1949–50), based on the revised Real-Encyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche, ed. J. Herzog, G. L. Plitt and A. Hauck. It needs to be supplemented and on occasions corrected in the light of more recent research. The New Cambridge Modern History, II, The Reformation 1520–1559, ed. G. R. Elton (CUP, 1958) contains detailed analyses by experts in their field.

  1. General histories

For a brief and comprehensive introduction from the historical angle the student should begin with R. H. Bainton, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century (Hodder and Stoughton, 1953). Bainton rightly insists that the Reformation was a religious revival. The background of the period is admirably filled in by G. R. Elton, Reformation Europe 1517–1559 (Collins Fontana, 1963), while O. Chadwick, The Reformation(Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964) describes the transformation of the church. H. J. Grimm, The Reformation Era 1550–16502 (New York: Macmillan, 1973) is notably useful, but F. Lau and E. Bizer, A History of the Reformation in Germany (Black, 1969) is somewhat disappointing and suffers from an indifferent translation. E. G. Léonard’s comprehensive History of Protestantism is being reproduced in English and the first of these volumes, on the Reformation, appeared in 1965 (Nelson). J. Lortz, The Reformation in Germany, 2 vols. (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1968) represented a landmark in the Roman Catholic approach when it was first published in 1939–40. H. J. Hillerbrand, Christendom Divided: the Protestant Reformation (Hutchinson, 1971) makes a necessary distinction between religious, theological and political factors. K. Holl’s illuminating essay on The Cultural Significance of the Reformation (New York: Meridian, 1959) is essential reading.

V. H. H. Green, Renaissance and Reformation (Arnold, 1964) is a standard textbook designed for undergraduates, while H. Holborn, A History of Modern Germany: 1. The Reformation (New York: Knopf, 1959) presents the national standpoint. S. A. Fischer-Galati, Ottoman Imperialism and German Protestantism 1521–1555 (OUP, 1959) underlines political pressures not fully appreciated before. The sociological significance of the Reformation cannot properly be overlooked and A. G. Dickens, Reformation and Society in Sixteenth Century Europe (Thames and Hudson, 1966) serves as a short if admittedly sketchy introduction. R. Pascal, The Social Basis of the German Reformation (Watts, 1933) and J. Lecler, Toleration and the Reformation, 2 vols. (Longmans, 1960) are more thoroughgoing specialist studies, the latter by a Roman Catholic scholar.

  1. Luther

a. Luther and the German Reformation 

A first-class appetizer for the general reader is A. G. Dickens, Martin Luther and the Reformation (EUP, 1967). The same writer’s Birkbeck Lectures on The German Nation and Martin Luther (Arnold, 1974) reveal the reformer as leading a genuinely popular movement. Strong on the political side, but less impressive when dealing with theology, is V. H. H. Green, Luther and the Reformation,3 published in the University Paperbacks series (Methuen, 1969). J. Atkinson, The Great Light: Luther and the Reformation (Exeter: Paternoster, 1968) sees Luther as the focal figure in a distinctly religious renewal.

b. Luther’s works

The novice should start with Martin Luther, ed. E. G. Rupp and B. Drewery (Arnold, 1970)—a judicious and attractive anthology. As the editors explain, documents are quoted as fully as possible ‘rather than innumerable extracts marred by too frequent dots, which as all historians learn to fear often cover all manner of creeping things.’ Luther, ed. I. D. K. Siggins (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1972) contains selections freshly translated from the definitive Weimar edition, with hints on the critical treatment of sources. Already well established are Reformation Writings of Martin Luther, 2 vols. ed. B. L. Woolf (Lutterworth, 1952–55) and Martin Luther: Selections from his Writings, ed. J. Dillenberger (New York: Doubleday, 1961). Beyond these collections, the most practical shorter edition for students is Selected Writings of Martin Luther, 4 vols. ed. T. G. Tappert (Philadelphia, Fortress, 1967). The fine American edition of Luther’s Works, 56 vols., ed. J. J. Pelikan and H. T. Lehmann (St Louis: Concordia; Philadelphia: Fortress), begun in 1955, is nearing completion, and is incomparable in its scope. Four volumes in The Library of Christian Classics (SCM) cover Luther: Luther’s Lectures on Romans, ed. W. Pauck, 15 (1962); Luther: Early Theological Works, ed. J. Atkinson, 16 (1962); Luther and Erasmus on Free Will, ed. E. G. Rupp, 17 (1969); and Luther’s Letters of Spiritual Counsel, ed. T. G. Tappert, 18 (1955). Each has an instructive introduction. The famous Commentary on Galatians, ed. P. S. Watson (Clarke, 1953), originally published in 1535, is now presented in a revised and completed translation based on that of 1575. Volumes 26 and 27 of the American edition contain both the 1535 Lectures on Galatians and those of 1519 in modern English.

c. Lives of Luther

The first of the Luther biographies was written by his close friend, Philip Melanchthon, and since then their name has been legion. For a review and assessment, see E. W. Zeeden, The Legacy of Luther (Hollis and Carter, 1954). We can only mention a few of the most recent. Authentic and delightfully readable is R. H. Bainton, Here I Stand (New York: Abingdon, 1950). Exhaustive, and not a little exhausting by reason of its massive erudition, is E. G. Schwiebert, Luther and his Times (St Louis: Concordia, 1950). This is an indispensable store of information. An authoritative summary is found in G. Ritter, Martin Luther: his Life and Work (Collins, 1963), while the breach with Rome is dealt with in H. Boehmer, Martin Luther: Road to Reformation (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1946) and E. G. Rupp, Luther’s Progress to the Diet of Worms (SCM, 1951).

d. Luther’s Theology

H. Bornkamm, Luther’s World of Thought (St Louis: Concordia, 1958) is dedicated to R. H. Bainton and admirably complements his biography. First published in Germany in 1947, it shows that the categories of Luther’s teaching are valid for today. A pioneer survey in English was P. S. Watson, Let God be God! An Interpretation of the Theology of Luther (Epworth, 1947) which retains its value. The most detailed and systematic treatment is found in P. Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1966). Essential insights are reflected in E. G. Rupp, The Righteousness of God (Hodder and Stoughton, 1953). G. Ebeling, Luther: an Introduction to his Thought (Collins, 1970) is an exciting analysis of Luther’s dialectical method which tends to read too much back into the sixteenth century. Original research is evidenced in J. Wicks, Man Yearning for Grace: Luther’s Early Spiritual Teaching (Washington: Corpus, 1968).

From a long list of studies dealing with specific themes in Luther we can pick out only a few. His handling of Scripture is crucial and in this area H. Bornkamm, Luther and the Old Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969) is masterly. H. S. Bluhm, Luther, Creative Translator (St Louis: Concordia, 1965) is based on sound philological investigation. In J. M. Headley, Luther’s View of Church History (New Haven: Yale University, 1963) the claim is made that the biblical interpretation of history found a major expression in Luther. V. Vajta, Luther on Worship (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1958) is concerned with the theological presuppositions of liturgy, while R. Prenter, Spiritus Creator (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1956) is an outstanding treatment of Luther’s teaching on the Holy Spirit. It leads neatly to J. J. Pelikan, Spirit versus Structure: Luther and the Institution of the Church (Collins, 1968) which in turn follows on from Obedient Rebels (SCM, 1964) by the same author. A neglected aspect of Luther—namely, his exposition of Christian ethics—is covered by G. W. Forell, Faith Active in Love (New York: American Press, 1954).

  1. Calvin

a. Calvin and the Reformation in Switzerland

Part II of J. T. McNeill, The History and Character of Calvinism (OUP, 1954) deals with ‘Calvin and the Reformation in Geneva’. J. Mackinnon, Calvin and the Reformation (Longmans Green, 1936) provides an over-all account which still has merit, as does W. Walker, John Calvin, the Organizer of Reformed Protestantism 1509–1564 (New York: Putnam’s, 1906).

b. Calvin’s works

A conveniently simple entrée is supplied by H. T. Kerr, Introduction to the Writings of John Calvin (New York: Association Press, 1960) in the Reflection Book series. The same editor was responsible for A Compend of the Institutes of the Christian Religion (Lutterworth, 1964), which is an alternative to A Calvin Treasury: Selections from the Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. W. F. Keesecker (SCM, 1963). There is unfortunately no uniform set of Calvin’s works in English to match the American edition of Luther. The Institutes has been translated by F. L. Battles in what is virtually a new critical edition made from the Latin text of 1559; Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 vols., ed. J. T. McNeill (Library of Christian Classics 20, 21; SCM, 1960). This is a considerable improvement on the cramped and dated style of Beveridge’s version. The same series includes Calvin: Theological Treatises, ed. J. K. S. Reid, 22 (1954), and Calvin: Commentaries, ed. J. Haroutunian, 23 (1958)—extended extracts on major themes.

The Calvin Translation Society of Edinburgh published a forty-volume set of the reformer’s biblical commentaries from 1843 to 1855. These are still available from Eerdmans. The St Andrew Press of Edinburgh, taking over from Oliver and Boyd, is producing a new and more accurate rendering of the New Testament expositions edited by D. W. and T. F. Torrance (twelve volumes to date). T. H. L. Parker, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries (SCM, 1971) is a good introduction to Calvin’s methods. Some of Calvin’s more important occasional writings have recently been reprinted as Tracts and Treatises, 3 vols., ed. T. F. Torrance (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1958). Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, ed. J. K. S. Reid (Clarke, 1961) is mandatory for all who would grasp Calvin’s viewpoint. Letters of John Calvin, 4 vols. ed. J. Bonnet (New York: Franklin, 1972–73) is a reprint of the Edinburgh and Philadelphia editions of 1855–58. Calvin, like Luther, deserves to be read at first hand. As Jean Cadier remarks, ‘the student will find … that Calvin makes richer and more straightforward reading than any of his expositors.’

c. Lives of Calvin

Théodore de Bèze was the first in the line of Calvin’s biographers and his account may be read in vol. I of Tracts and Treatises. E. Doumergue’s monumental panegyric in French (8 vols., 1899–1927) lacks an English translator. An easily read trailer is T. H. L. Parker, A Portrait of Calvin (SCM, 1954), leading to the same writer’s John Calvin: A Biography (Dent, 1975). J. Cadier, The Man God Mastered (IVP, 1960) treats Calvin as ‘one of the great warriors of the Spirit,’ while A-M. Schmidt, Calvin and the Calvinistic Tradition (Longmans, 1960) places him in historical perspective as ‘the second patriarch of the Protestant Reformation.’ ‘You animate history, you do not invent it,’ was Doumergue’s compliment to the litterateur, E. Stickelberger, author of Calvin: A Life (Clarke, 1959; German 1931). Doing double duty both as a biography and an introduction to Calvin’s theology is F. Wendel, Calvin: The Origin and Development of his Religious Thought (Collins Fontana, 1965) which is commendably free from ideological preconceptions.

d. Calvin’s theology

A. M. Hunter, The Teaching of Calvin2 (Clarke, 1950), first published in 1920, holds its ground as a convincing exposition. The author is Adam Mitchell Hunter of New College, Edinburgh, as distinct from Archibald MacBride Hunter of Aberdeen. W. Niesel, The Theology of Calvin (Lutterworth, 1956) supplements Hunter as a basic survey. T. H. L. Parker, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God: A Study in the Theology of John Calvin(Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1952), though brief, is useful as a general introduction as well as a specialized study. As belonging to the latter category it may be filled out from E. A. Dowey, The Knowledge of God in Calvin’s Theology (New York: Columbia, 1952). T. F. Torrance, Calvin’s Doctrine of Man (Lutterworth, 1949), rich in quotation from a wide range of the reformer’s writings, sets the record straight especially on the image of God and total perversity. On the atonement, P. van Buren, Christ in our Place: The Substitutionary Character of Calvin’s Doctrine of Reconciliation (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1957) no doubt raises evangelical eyebrows by the juxtaposition of author and subject, but is nevertheless a sympathetic piece of work. R. S. Wallace, Calvin’s Doctrine of Word and Sacrament (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1953) should be compared with K. McDonnell, John Calvin, the Church and the Eucharist (Princeton University Press, 1967), a well-received study by a Roman Catholic scholar. R. S. Wallace, Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1959) is a reminder that reformed theology is not coolly theoretical, while H. Quistorp, Calvin’s Theology of the Last Things (Lutterworth, 1955) examines his views on soul sleep, among other eschatological items. For an appreciation of Calvin as a preacher, see T. H. L. Parker, The Oracles of God(Lutterworth, 1947) and for moving samples of his preaching, turn to Sermons on the Death and Passion of Christ, ed. T. H. L. Parker (Clarke, 1936). Some important essays are contained in John Calvin, ed. G. E. Duffield (Appleford: Sutton Courtenay Press, 1966)—including J. I. Packer on ‘Calvin the Theologian’ and J. Cadier on ‘Calvin and the Union of the Churches.’ W. F. Graham, The Constructive Revolutionary: John Calvin and his Socio-Economic Impact (Richmond: Knox, 1971) is the best current assessment of the Weber-Tawney thesis.

  1. Zwingli

Ulrich Zwingli has been dubbed ‘the great unknown of the Reformation’ but scholars are increasingly realizing his stature. A fully annotated German edition of his collected works was completed in 1969. The standard English translation is The Latin Works of Huldreich Zwingli with Selections from his German Works, 3 vols., ed. S. M. Jackson and C. N. Heller (Philadelphia: Heidelberg Press, 1912–29). In The Library of Christian Classics(SCM) there are selections in Zwingli and Bullinger, ed. G. W. Bromiley, 24 (1953), prefaced by a review of Zwingli’s life, work and theology. The most detailed German biography is that in four volumes by O. Farner yet to be done into English. There is, however, a translation of a much shorter popular life in O. Farner, Zwingli the Reformer (Lutterworth, 1952), reprinted in 1968. The most attractive non-specialist biography in English is J. Rilliet, Zwingli: Third Man of the Reformation (Lutterworth, 1964), presenting him as a prophetic figure ‘at once prudent and audacious’. For a concise analysis of Zwingli’s teaching the student should consult J. Courvoisier, Zwingli, A Reformed Theologian (Epworth, 1964). R. C. Walton, Zwingli’s Theocracy (OUP, 1968) discusses the type of corporate government established in Zürich and the relationship between clergy and magistrates.

  1. Erasmus

Erasmus of Rotterdam is nowadays regarded as a reformer in his own right. A new edition of his Latin works in twenty volumes was launched in 1969 from Amsterdam. His collected works in English are now being released in forty-five volumes, starting with The Correspondence of Erasmus: Letters 1 to 141 (1484 to 1501), ed. B. Corrigan (University of Toronto Press, 1974). Ten major works of Erasmus are also translated separately, including Praise of Folly, ed. A. H. T. Levi (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971), The Colloquies, ed. C. R. Thompson (Chicago University Press, 1965), and On Free Will, ed. E. F. Winter (New York: Ungar, 1961). The Enchiridion is in Advocates of Reform, ed. M. Spinka (Library of Christian Classics 14; SCM, 1953), together with an informative essay on ‘Desiderius Erasmus, A Humanistic Reformer’.

J. Huizinga, Erasmus of Rotterdam (Phaidon, 1952) is a justly famous biography (1924) which is still worth reading. It has been reproduced as Erasmus and the Age of Reformation (New York: Harper Torchbook, 1957). The best recent life is R. H. Bainton, Erasmus of Christendom (New York: Scribners, 1969), now available as a paperback (Collins Fontana, 1972). A. Hyma, The Youth of Erasmus2 (New York: Russell and Russell, 1968) and M. M. Phillips, Erasmus and the Northern Renaissance (Hodder and Stoughton, 1949) are worth attention. L. Bouyer, Erasmus and the Humanist Experiment (Chapman, 1959) should be compared with the same writer’s final chapter in The Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 2, The West from the Fathers to the Reformation, ed. G. W. H. Lampe (CUP, 1969). J. W. Aldridge, The Hermeneutic of Erasmus (Richmond: Knox, 1966) and J. B. Payne, Erasmus: His Theology of the Sacraments (Richmond: Knox, 1969) deal with important aspects of his thought. A more general coverage is found in Erasmus of Rotterdam: A Quincentennial Symposium ed. R. L. de Molen (New York: Twayne, 1971).

  1. Melanchthon and Bucer

a. Melanchthon

A modern selected edition of Melanchthon’s works was begun in 1951 under the supervision of R. Stupperich. The English reader can use Melanchthon: Selected Writings, ed. E. E. Flack and L. J. Satre (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1962). His Loci Communes is accessible in The Library of Christian Classics (SCM): Melanchthon and Bucer, ed. W. Pauck, 19 (1969). The most readable biography is C. Manschreck, Melanchthon, the Quiet Reformer (New York: Abingdon, 1958). R. Stupperich, Melanchthon (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965) is a popular account from a leading authority. More recent is M. Rogness, Melanchthon: Reformer without Honour(Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1969). An intriguing question is raised in F. Hildebrandt, Melanchthon: Alien or Ally?(CUP, 1946).

b. Bucer

According to T. F. Torrance, Kingdom and Church: A Study in the Theology of the Reformation (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1956), ‘history has not yet taken its full measure of Martin Butzer’. Torrance deals with Bucer’s ‘Eschatology of Love’ in chapter two. F. Wendel and R. Stupperich were chiefly responsible for an edition of Bucer’s works started in 1955. There are translated extracts in D. F. Wright, Common Places of Martin Bucer (Appleford: Sutton Courtenay Press, 1972) and The Library of Christian Classics 19 contains his De Regno Christi. His life is effectively covered by H. Eells, Martin Bucer (New York: Russell and Russell, 1971; reprinted from 1931). W. P. Stephens, The Holy Spirit in the Theology of Martin Bucer (CUP, 1970) regards this as ‘the pivotal doctrine’ in the writings of ‘the neglected reformer’. The fruits of the Bucer renaissance in Holland are reflected, for example, in G. J. Van de Poll, Martin Bucer’s Liturgical Ideas (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1954). There are chapters on ‘Luther and Butzer’ and ‘Calvin and Butzer’ in W. Pauck, The Heritage of the Reformation (OUP, 1968).

A. Skevington Wood

Principal of Cliff College Calver