Friday, September 1, 2017

The Unreformed Martin Luther by Andreas Malessa, 2017

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Will the real Martin Luther please stand up? 

After five hundred years of examining the life of the "father of the Reformation," we must surely know all there is to know about Martin Luther. But is that true?
Did he really nail his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door?
Did he throw an inkpot at the devil?
Did he plant an apple tree?
Did his wife escape her convent in a herring barrel?
German radio and television journalist Andreas Malessa looks at the actual history of Luther and concludes that many of the tales we know best are nothing but nonsense.
Diving gleefully into the research, Malessa investigates many of the falsehoods and fallacies surrounding the reformer, rejecting them in favor of equally incredible facts. Full of humor and irony, this book educates and entertains while demonstrating a profound respect for Luther's life and mission.
If you're looking for the truth of the man behind the theses, come discover his faith and influence--with the myths stripped away.
(168 pages)

First, I want to describe my background going into The Unreformed Martin Luther: basically, I am not a Lutheran and I don't really worship the ground Luther once walked on. I do, however, think he was a very important historical figure and that his life warrants historical examination. I'd read a biography about him in the past and learned a little bit about him in AP European History, but I had never even heard most of the rumors being debunked in this book until, well, the book said them right before debunking them.

But you know what? The middle ages were a very interesting time period. And people back then were . . . well, not exactly living up to the Victorian standard. Even Martin Luther, this Catholic priest and religious leader, was bawdy at times. And he also, apparently, liked to write in detail to his friend(s) about his constipation. Because oversharing was definitely a thing back then.

Speaking over oversharing, did you know that newlyweds in the Middle Ages had to have witnesses on their wedding night to make sure they were really consummating the marriage? They would slip away once things really started to get going, but still. That is yet another reason I am glad I don't live in the Middle Ages (ranked fourth after 1. they didn't have glasses so I would have been blind as a bat and 2. women were stuck making bread and raising babies and 3. everybody died young).

But honestly, some of these chapters were really cool. My favorites were probably the one on constipation (because I just think it's hilarious we know so much about the bowel movements of some guy from 500 years ago!) and the one about the origin of the "Here I stand" quote. It turns out that when Luther said "Here I stand" he was actually saying "Look, I've already given my speech in two different languages today and it's really hot and I feel sick and I can't do it a third time. All I can do now is stand here." The actual end to his speech was good too, but I can't remember what it was. Obviously not as memorable as "here I stand," I guess.

Before I end I suppose I should also add that, in keeping with the slightly vulgar nature of discourse back then, a few of the Luther quotes are rather lewd. I pretty much just took that in stride, though, because the whole point of the book is to show us the "unedited" version of who Martin Luther really was.

Basically, The Unreformed Martin Luther is a really funny and infomative book about a major historical figure and his time period. Whether you agree with his beliefs or not, you can't help but get a hoot out of reading this unfiltered examination of the real man behind the myths.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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