Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero: Images of the Reformer, 1520–1620

2 publishers
, 1999


Despite the vast number of studies concerning the life and teaching of Martin Luther, scholars have not previously considered the ways in which his contemporaries and successors used his influence in the German Reformation. Robert Kolb treats that subject in this well-researched volume on the continuing role of Luther’s legacy. The following generations of Reformers, he argues, used Luther in different ways as they sought to deal with the changed circumstances of the church in their own age.

Kolb suggests three categories to describe the ways in which Luther’s disciples used his influence and adapted it to the needs of the church in their respective ages: prophet, teacher, and hero.

  • Prophet—During his own lifetime and immediately thereafter, Luther was often identified with the biblical prophets as having a unique authority from God to challenge the place of the papacy.
  • Teacher—As internal conflicts and doctrines increasingly came to the fore, Luther was seen as the authoritative interpreter of Scripture whose writings could be cited as the definitive proofs on any disputed points.
  • Hero—By the end of the sixteenth century, much less emphasis was placed on Luther as a distinctive and authoritative prophet/teacher, and he was more often revered as the hero of the national church whose courage was celebrated in art and on stage.

The second section of the work focuses more particularly on the use and collection of Luther’s writings. Kolb recounts the stages of publication as Luther’s many treatises, pamphlets, and sermons were gathered for varying purposes. Collected editions were issued, and then topical and systematized selections were gathered for teaching and edification on specific topics. These stages of publication reinforce the author’s thesis concerning the changing use of Luther’s legacy. Over the course of the century, his writings were no longer cited as uniquely authoritative, rather they were used for edification—the prophet/teacher had become the national hero.

Students of Luther in particular and of the Reformation era in general will find this volume to be of great value. The author’s unique approach to Luther’s lasting legacy in the German church provides an entirely new perspective that moves scholarly discussion ahead significantly.

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Scripture citations link directly to English translations, and important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Key Features

  • Delves into the effect that Luther had on his contemporaries after his death
  • Examines how following generations used Luther’s theology in different ways
  • Clearly states the development of Lutheranism through primary resources years spent studying


  • Part I: Theander Lutherus: The Man of God as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero
    • The Living Prophet: Luther in the View of His Contemporaries
    • The Prophet of God: Luther as the Authoritative Interpreter of God’s Word
    • The German Prophet: Luther as Hero of the People and the Nation against the Baalites of Rome
    • The Teaching Prophet: Luther as Instructor of Pure Teaching in Conflict with the Sacramentarians
    • The Hero of the Reformation: Popular Presentations of Luther in Maturing Lutheranism
  • Part II: Opera Omnia Reverndi Dmoni Martini Lutheri: The Reprinting of Luther’s Work in the Half Century after His Death
    • The Complete Luther: The Initial Editions of Luther’s Published Teaching
    • Blossoms and Bouquets from Luther’s Thought: Topical Collections and Individual Reprints of Luther’s Publications
    • The Loci Communes Lutheri: Luther Systematized for Teaching the Faith

Praise for the Print Edition

Robert Kolb’s study of changing interpretations of Luther’s life and work is a valuable contribution to Luther studies. In particular, it demonstrates the impact of Luther on German theological thinking since the sixteenth century.

—John Johnson, president, Concordia Seminary

Professor Kolb has woven a fascinating tale about the effect of Luther on his theological heirs. Here, in an easy-to-read, yet scholarly account, the reader is expertly led through a labyrinth of sixteenth-century Luther reception. Kolb’s grasp of the pertinent secondary literature and his command of a vast array of primary sources combine to reveal the variety of ways early Lutherans and others sought to comprehend how the Reformer had changed the religious and social landscape of the early modern German lands. This is a landmark study with which everyone interested in Luther studies will need to grapple.

Timothy J. Wengert, Ministerium of Pennsylvania Professor of the Reformation History, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia

Kolb’s study, written in his typically clear style and based on thorough research, is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the development of Lutheranism.

Sixteenth Century Journal

For anyone interested in ‘how Luther after his death continued to function as an authority, as a teacher, and as a hero for those who claimed his name’ and how Luther’s heirs conceived ‘the nature of authority within the church . . . in the midst of a changing society,’ Kolb’s study is both unique and indispensable.

Lutheran Quarterly

Kolb is a seasoned Reformation scholar and a leading expert on Lutheran developments in the century after Luther. His wide readings and careful research are reflected in this book, which does a real service in elucidating a complex but important period.

Religious Studies Review

Product Details

About Robert Kolb

Robert Kolb is emeritus mission professor of systematic theology and director of the Institute for Mission Studies at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. Among his many publications are The Book of Concord and Martin Luther: Confessor of the Faith.


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