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The Annotated Luther, Volume 1

The Annotated Luther, Volume 1: The Roots of Reform

Timothy J. Wengert (Editor)
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Volume 1 of The Annotated Luther series contains writings that defined the roots of reform set in motion by Martin Luther, beginning with the Ninety-Five Theses (1517) through The Freedom of a Christian (1520). Included are treatises, letters, and sermons written from 1517 to 1520, which set the framework for key themes in all of Luther’s later works. Also included are documents that reveal Luther’s earliest confrontations with Rome and his defense of views and perspectives that led to his excommunication by Leo X in 1520.

These documents display a Luther grounded in late medieval theology and its peculiar issues, trained in the latest humanist methods of the Renaissance, and, most especially, showing sensitivity toward the pastoral consequences of theological positions and church practice.

Release date: 
September 1, 2015


Series Introduction
Introduction to Volume 1
1. The Ninety-Five Theses [or] Disputation for Clarifying the Power of Indulgences—Timothy J. Wengert
2. Letter from Martin Luther to Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz, Dated 31 October 1517—Timothy J. Wengert
3. A Sermon on Indulgences and Grace by the Worthy Doctor Martin Luther, Augustinian Friar in Wittenberg—Timothy J. Wengert
4. Heidelberg Disputation—Dennis Bielfeldt
5. The Proceedings at Augsburg (1518)—Suzanne Hequet
6. A Sermon on the Meditation of Christ’s Holy Passion—Dirk G. Lange
7. Sermon on the Sacrament of Penance, 1519—Dirk G. Lange
8. The Holy and Blessed Sacrament of Baptism—Dirk G. Lange
9. The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhoods—Dirk G. Lange
10. Treatise on Good Works—Timothy J. Wengert
11. To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation concerning the Improvement of the Christian Estate, 1520—James M. Estes
12. The Freedom of a Christian—Timothy J. Wengert

Discussion Guides

Volume 1

Volume 2


At once learned and highly accessible. . .

“As no other comparable series, The Annotated Luther provides the reader, whether lay or ordained, with a collection of the Wittenberg reformer’s most important writings that is at once learned and highly accessible. Here Luther’s works are presented in up-to-date translation with helpful introductions, explanatory notes, and engaging images. A must for the student and scholar of Luther alike!”

—Ronald K. Rittgers │ Valparaiso University

Provides a very welcome resource for meeting Luther again in the contemporary world. . .

“The Annotated Luther series provides a very welcome resource for meeting Luther again in the contemporary world. With language refreshed for our time, we can see more clearly Luther as a man who is actively grappling with a society undergoing dramatic challenges economically, religiously, and socially. By providing skilled commentary from scholars around the world and from diverse theological perspectives, this work will be of great help for modern Christians seeking to adapt and extend the insights from the Reformation to modern challenges.”

—Maria E. Erling │ Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg

In sum, a signal achievement. . .

“The Annotated Luther series represents a finely crafted synthesis between readable primary texts and some of the best secondary scholarship. A superb editorial team, under the leadership of Hillerbrand, Stjerna, and Wengert, has made seventy-five selections, ranging from major treatises to sermons and letters, and beautifully laid these out in six volumes, together with state-of-the-art analyses and explanatory notes. Luther the theologian, the biblical interpreter, the pastor, the social/political thinker—all are given their due, and the resulting multidimensional portrait combines balance with a newly sharpened focus. In sum, a signal achievement.”

—Denis R. Janz │ Loyola University New Orleans

“This Annotated Luther series will facilitate easy access to Luther. . .”

“This Annotated Luther series will facilitate easy access to Luther, especially for those who could not do so in the German or Latin. This will be a great resource likely to be translated into many vernacular languages.”

—Kenneth Mtata │The Lutheran World Federation

Appealing layout, rich images, and erudite editorials. . .

Praise for Volume 1: The Roots of Reform

“The advent of The Annotated Luther series should be cause for celebration among scholars, pastors, students, and others eager to have easy access to so many of Martin Luther’s key writings. If the appealing layout, rich images, and erudite editorials featured in Volume 1 are an indication of what’s to come, then The Annotated Luther will quickly become the go-to resource for learning about Luther’s work and context.”

—Hans Wiersma │ Augsburg College

An excellent start to what promises to be a fine series. . .

Praise for Volume 1: The Roots of Reform

“This fine volume provides fresh translations of a dozen core Luther texts from the period 1517–1520. Public statements, sermons, major treatises, and letters that were previously scattered widely across five different volumes of the American Edition of Luther’s Works (plus the welcome addition of the lesser-known Sermon on Indulgences and Grace, which does not appear in LW) are brought together in a focused way so that the reader sees Luther’s theology develop in a more holistic manner, reflecting his work as a university professor, preacher, and church reformer. The introductions to the volume and to the individual writings combine historical context and theological themes in a thorough yet accessible manner; the annotations are both helpful and (unlike many academic notes) inviting to the eye. Wengert and his colleagues have produced a valuable text for classroom use and personal study. This is an excellent start to what promises to be a fine series.”

—Kathryn A. Kleinhans │ Wartburg College

I encourage you to include this series in your congregation’s library and use it for group or personal study. . .

Praise for Volume 1: The Roots of Reform

“As congregations and members of congregations face an increasingly more diverse and chaotic world, their struggle for what it means to be Christian in their context increases, not unlike Christians in Luther’s day. I am thrilled that Fortress Press is publishing The Annotated Luther, Volume I: The Roots of Reform. The individual works included in this volume are central to the particular witness Lutherans can share for a life of faith in the world and how it can be a witness of hope in the midst of pluralism and change. The essays and study tools, included alongside the original texts, bring these works to life for us today. I encourage you to include this series in your congregation’s library and use it for group or personal study.”

—The Rev. Gordon J. Straw │ Program Director for Lay Schools for Ministry, Congregational and Synodical Mission Unit, ELCA

The ideal volume for launching what promises to be a most helpful new series for twenty-first-century readers. . .

Praise for Volume 1: The Roots of Reform

The Roots of Reform is the ideal volume for launching what promises to be a most helpful new series for twenty-first-century readers looking to appropriate the thoughts of someone who wrote for an era five hundred years ago. This first volume deals with the writings that launched the Reformation and whose themes would shape Christian thought for decades—even centuries—to come. 

In the introduction, the editor Timothy Wengert again shows why he is one of the premier Reformation scholars of our generation when it comes to communicating the historical significance and pastoral value of Luther’s writings. Both he and the other editors of Luther’s writings do an outstanding job of providing helpful introductions (beyond a paragraph or two that barely scratches the surface), explanatory annotations, and maps. The layout of the volume deserves special mention for the way that it draws the reader into the text. In brief, this volume will be indispensable to anyone who wishes to understand better the early writings of the reformer, Martin Luther!”

—Charles P. Arand │ Concordia Seminary, St. Louis

A splendid, and eminently useful, achievement. . .

Praise for Volume 2: Word and Faith

"Professor Stjerna and her team of world-leading Reformation scholars have done us all a great service in fixing their eyes for detail and context onto these important writings of Luther. Those new to the Reformation saga and even those familiar with its events and debates will learn very much from these pages. By keeping readers honest to context when approaching Luther's theology, they invite church and academy to remain honest about their own missions, failings, and need for reform. A splendid, and eminently useful, achievement."

—Derek R. Nelson | Wabash College

A consummate edition of the intellectual production of a supreme theological mind. . .

Praise for Volume 2: Word and Faith

"This outstanding presentation of the core of Luther’s theology offers eight of his seminal works written over two decades, including those regarded by author as worthy of preserving for posterity. Magisterial introductions by internationally renowned theologians, editorial comments, artworks, prints, and proficient annotations bring forth the distinctiveness of the theology of the Wittenberg Reformer. Careful commentary of the translations adds to the uniqueness of the volume while all-embracing language highlights propriety. With this work, Luther studies have been aided with a consummate edition of the intellectual production of a supreme theological mind."

—Vítor Westhelle | Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

 Useful for instruction in church and classroom settings. . .

Praise for Volume 2: Word and Faith

"Luther's writings as contained in this fine collection are as helpful to read today as when he first wrote them to such a profound historical effect. They continue to be fertile for further theological reflection and biblical insight. Introductions and many marginal notes also explain items for better understanding—including those which criticize Luther, making this volume useful for instruction in church and classroom settings."

—Peter Krey | Pastor, Christ Lutheran Church, El Cerrito, California


Annotated Luther sample pages 1

Annotated Luther sample pages 2

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Luther preaching Christ

This altarpiece painting in Wittenberg church by Cranach illustrates Luther preaching and illustrates how Christ is to be at the center of a sermon, wherein Christ comes to us and we are brought to Christ.

Figure 4.1

Title-page woodcut for Luther’s sermon on indulgences and grace, showing a man approaching a church building with rosary in his left hand and perhaps a slip of paper in his right.

Martin Luther's parents

Portraits of Luther's father Hans and mother Margaretha painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder in 1527.

Annotated Luther Figure 2.4

Indulgence for priests and other clergy issued at the insistence of J. Tetzel, to support the rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and to repay the loan with which Albert of Brandenburg obtained the pallium.

Annotated Luther Figure 1.4

The title page of Exsurge Domine, the papal bull excommunicating Luther, promulgated in Rome in 1520.

Annotated Luther Figure 2.6

The single-sheet printing of the Ninety-Five Theses by Michael Lotter in Liepzig. Now in the National Library in Berlin.

Figure 6.3

Portrait of Martin Luther (1483-1546) from the German translation of The Babylonian Captivity of the Church by the artist Hans Baldung Grien (d. 1545) depicting the reformer as an Augustinian monk expounding on the Bible.

Figure 7.4

This engraving of the crucifixion is by the artist Hans Schäufelein (ca. 1480 - ca. 1539), as found in Martin Luther’s Operationes in Psalmos of 1519.

Figure 9.2

Image of infant baptism from a 1545 printing of Luther’s Small Catechism

Figure 11.1

This historiated title-page border of Luther’s Treatise on Good Works features the crest of the printer, Melchoir Lotter, the Younger, at the foot. It has been attributed to Lucas Cranach, the Elder, or to his workshop.

Figure 12.2

Luther is shown as an Augustinian monk debating the pope, a cardinal, a bishop, and another monk at the Diet of Worms in 1521.

 Jacobus Latomus

Jacobus Latomus (c.1475-1544) was a distinguished member of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Leuven and an adviser to the Inquisition.

Duke John Frederick

Portrait of Duke John Frederick by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1531.

A title page of Hieronymous Emser's translation of the New Testament

A title page of Hieronymous Emser's translation of the New Testament into German, published 1527 in Dresden, Saxony.

The title page of Luther's On the Bondage of the Will.

The title page of Luther's On the Bondage of the Will.

Portrait of Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam

Portrait of Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam with Renaissance Pilaster Hans Holbein the Younger (1498-1543).

Wenceslaus Linck

Wenceslaus Linck, the publisher of the Confession of Faith, had been an Augustinian monk and professor at Wittenberg along with Luther, and was a pastor in Nuremberg.

Katharina von Bora

Portrait of Luther's wife Katharina von Bora painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder, c. 1530.

Philipp Melanchthon

A portrait of Philipp Melanchthon by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553).

Johannes Bugenhagen

In this painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Johannes Bugenhagen, Luther's friend and confessor in Wittenburg, is pictured holding the keys of the kingdom.


Review in Journal of Theological Studies (2017)

How can congregations best prepare for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017? We asked a group of pastors to provide feedback on how The Annotated Luther series could be put to use for adult education in congregations, and they enthusiastically replied with gracious praise for Volume 1: The Roots of Reform.

"With the publication of The Annotated Luther, reading Luther will never be the same. In these volumes, Luther's voice is refreshed for a twenty-first-century reading audience, providing a new level of accessibility to the postmodern reader. Accessible introductions to Luther's key writings provide helpful background to more deeply understand Luther's writings and their historical context. Additionally, annotations within the writings themselves provide the reader with helpful definitions and background at just the right moments. These annotations, like a helpful guide, keep the reader engaged and aid in understanding Luther's main points. Images of Luther's original works along with other artwork bring beneficial illustration to these volumes.

"The first volume in this series provides some of Luther's early and most enduring works that lay the cornerstone for much of Lutheran theology as it emerged throughout this period. As congregations prepare to celebrate Luther's legacy, this volume makes Luther's writings accessible for those new to his work, though does not spare on insights that will aid the experienced reader. These volumes are suited for both independent and group study. The introductions and annotations accompanying the updated translations of these writings will guide individuals and groups through the heart of Luther's theology that continues to shape the church and our life together."
The Rev. Robert A. Franek
Faith Lutheran Church
Wataga, Illinois

"Augsburg Fortress has chosen to give us a 500th birthday present—The Annotated Luther series. And what a present it is, even though at this point only two of its six envisioned volumes are ready for release. Timothy Wengert, who writes and annotates five of the first volume's twelve sections, is joined by four of the most fluent scholars of our day to assemble a resource that should find its place on the shelf of every rostered leader’s and congregational library. Wengert's passion for the subject and the project is obvious from the first page of the series introduction and is maintained throughout the work of these five historians to its final page. With eloquent yet accessible prose, each section of the twelve is introduced and framed in its historic and theological context. Even if one reads only the twelve introductory pieces of each of the volume's sections, one's understanding of the Reformation's progression from a fire in the belly of the solitary Augustinian monk Luther to a full-blown theological movement would be enhanced.

But don't settle for just those twelve introductions. The true depth and breadth of this series' contribution to current Reformation studies lies in its names—The Annotated Luther. Wengert and his team have rallied the very best resources of current scholarship, translations, and historic discoveries to provide us with a concise, comprehensive guide to all things precious in our Lutheran DNA. When speaking of its guiding principles, the introduction states clearly, 'The focus is on linguistic accuracy and Luther's intent.' It is difficult to imagine the hours these authors spent in poring over texts, translations, and resources to do this work so we don't have to.

This is not so much a book that one will read as one will use. A quick perusal of its contents—and perhaps even a thorough assimilation of what is available here—will make it a resource to which one returns again and again. Most pastors' dusty library shelves likely contain the materials covered in this initial series offering. But to have it gathered together in one place, introduced and contextualized with such passion, and annotated with such clarity makes this a valuable addition to one's Reformation resources. Even the order in which the various essays are arranged is instructive and provides theological accretion. When, for example, one is preparing a sermon or a class on baptism or the Eucharist, to be able to easily screen what Luther said and what it meant by consulting Dirk Lange's commentaries and annotations on Luther's own sermons is indispensable. I doubt that such reliable source material exists elsewhere, no matter how much one points and clicks.

What I love most about this resource is that it rekindled in me a passion for the Reformation and its deep traditions and heritage that the Reformer's convictions set into motion. In a time of our own incredible challenges to reform and rethink our place and our message in a world desperately in need of God, the rewards of exploring this resource were twofold. The Roots of Reform first reminded me of how deeply important it is to be wisely and cautiously immersed in the needs of the culture both within and outside the church's doors. More, it encouraged me with the timeless insights of the Reformation's rediscovery of the principle gifts of the church to the world—the saving Word and the sustaining Sacraments. If this series can rekindle our commitment to the world in need, as I believe it can, and reignite our passion for the core values of Lutheranism, then it is gift indeed. Happy birthday to us. Happy birthday to all."
Pastor Paul E. Hoffman
Author of
Faith Forming Faith and Faith Shaping Ministry
Seattle, Washington



Interview with series editor Timothy J. Wengert featured on the Logos Academic Blog