Theological Fragments: Leppin on Luther’s life

“To overstate the case slightly, if Martin Luther looks back on his “pre-Reformation” period, he does so with the sense of being right to have left this earlier phase behind. There is thus at least a possibility that he, like other converts, tended to paint his past in the darkest possible colours in order to bathe his present life in that much more light. It is possible that during his actual time in the monastery he did not perceive medieval piety as negatively as he expressed later. Perhaps his development originally was not at all in opposition to the late medieval world of piety, but he instead utilized the helpful aspects that it offered. Methodologically, one must then ask whether the later accounts, particularly when they are stirring, really correspond to the earlier course of events, or did Luther project his later understandings on them? (Volker Leppin, “Martin Luther, Reconsidered for 2017,” Lutheran Quarterly (Volume XXII/Number 4: Winter 2008), 376-77)

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