A meaty autobiography of the Reformation leader.
Metaxas (If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, 2016, etc.) brings his flair for epic biography that was on such impressive display in his 2010 book, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Despite a glut of Luther biographies surrounding the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Metaxas offers something different and special. As in many other works about Luther, the author follows his life chronologically and covers much familiar ground. However, he manages to concentrate on certain aspects of Luther’s life and times that set his work apart. Metaxas expertly introduces the many key players in Luther’s saga in ways that make them understandable and unique to lay readers; notably, he realizes that places are often personae, and he treats the places of the Luther story as characters to be understood for the roles they played. The author relies heavily on primary sources, trusting his audience to read along with him in these documents. Unlike many biographers, Metaxas includes the full text of all 95 Theses (the key to the Reformation’s birth) in the middle of the book, devoting nine pages to them. Elsewhere, readers find an entire letter to Pope Leo X, who excommunicated Luther, and lengthy excerpts from other key source material. Most importantly, Metaxas shares rarely told stories about his subject, adding depth to an understanding of his life. He spends dozens of pages retelling Luther’s decision to marry and the details of his married life, details that are often a mere mention in other biographies. Finally, the Metaxas flair for dramatic language is on full display: “It is indeed as though every medieval mountain were uprooted and the whole Potemkin range of them cast into the heart of the sea….The curtain was whisked back and the papal Oz exposed as a fraud, frantically pulling his ecclesiastical levers.”
Perfect for lay readers who want something more than a mere introduction to Luther.