The Reformation

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Steven Ozment is, undoubtedly, one of the leading historians of the Reformation in the world. I first read his early, seminal works in grad school (The Reformation in the Cities and The Age of Reform 1250-1550). He is a professor of history at Harvard where he continues to teach both graduate students and undergraduate course in western civilization.

I admire and have enjoyed his writings, more recently Magdalena & Balthasar and Protestants.

One of my beach books is his new study of Martin Luther and the Saxon court artist, Lucas Cranach, titled The Serpent and the Lamb.

It is a fascinating, provocative, frustrating, maddening, illuminating, challenging and informative read.

Cranach’s life is intertwined with Luther’s in numerous ways. Cranach illustrated some of Luther’s pamphlets, and was a partner in one of the printing presses that published Luther’s writings, including Luther’s German translation of the New Testament. They developed a close personal relationship. Cranach was a witness at Luther’s wedding and later godfather to his children.

Cranach himself was more than just a court painter. He has been justifiably placed in the first rank or artists with his friend and rival, Albrecht Durer. He was also a successful businessman, entrepreneur, large landowner, and city official (twice mayor) in Wittenberg.

Ozment’s biography of Cranach (with special attention to his relationship with Luther) is a magisterial tour de force. Ozment is in command of all the details and figures of Reformation Germany and deftly places Cranach in context and relationship with the major players: Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony, Albrecht of Halle, twice arch-bishop, Emperor Maximillian and his grand-son, Charles V.

Ozment is also an observant analyst of the subjects and style of Cranach’s paintings over succeeding decades.

I’d recommend the book for anyone who is curious about Cranach’s life and art, and the relationship between the Reformation and the arts.

Having said all that, there is one howler in Ozment’s otherwise astute analysis that is indicative of one of the blind spots of current historical analysis.

In his discussion of Cranach’s treatment of women in a series of paintings of Old Testament heroines (an otherwise fascinating analysis), he turns to a 1528 painting by Cranach entitled Lot and His Daughters. Here’s how he summarizes the biblical story which Cranach depicted:

“The ending and moral of this story are also of great biblical complexity. Both daughters were impregnated by their father and delivered healthy boys who grew up to be leading Hebrew tribesmen. By its silence, the Old Testament implies that God took no offense at the daughters’ and the father’s transgression of the incest taboo. Apparently the daughters’ benevolent desire to salvage the future of their family, and perhaps all of humankind, made their gamble forgivable in the eyes of God.”

The story is told in Genesis 19 and the two healthy boys here are Moab and Ammon. Although descended from Terah (the father of Abraham) they are decidedly NOT Hebrew. The nations of Moab and Ammon became rivals, enemies, and at times oppressors of Israel. It’s a bit jarring, in an otherwise exceptionally well written book, to see such a simple factual error. All the more jarring, since one expects a historian of the Reformation to have a better than average knowledge of the Bible.

Doesn’t diminish the utility of the book, and my admiration for the author. Just a reminder that he’s not an expert in all areas.

RedHatRob at the Cranach House in Wittenberg

RedHatRob at the Cranach House in Wittenberg


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is worth a read.

This one expecially.

William Grigg at Pro Libertate on the doctrine of Interposition.

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It will be some time before we are able to get these printed, but in the meantime we wanted to make them available to anyone who is interested. You can browse online here or download a .pdf to your own computer. You can even print your own copy if you’d like.

Our history study packages are typically designed for use in one semester, so now’s the time to order for the new year. Break out of the textbook box. Give your children real stories about real people. Reclaim history for them and for yourself.
Greenleaf Press 2010 Retail Catalog

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Greenleaf Press proudly announces the publication of Voices of the Renaissance and Reformation, edited by Robert G. Shearer. Voices includes 31 original source selections by 19 of the key figures from the Renaissance and Reformation.

The Renaissance selections include sonnets by Petrarch, a letter by Lorenzo de’ Medici, excerpts from the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, sermons by Savonarola, and excerpts from Machiavelli’s The Prince.

The Reformation selections include important writings from Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox including autobiographical accounts of their own conversions. Also included are The 67 Articles of Ulrich Zwingli, the Schleitheim Confession by Michael Sattler, and the Reply of John Wycliffe to his Summons by the Pope to come to Rome.

We are particularly pleased to be able to include in this collection several recently published texts from the Reformation, including two letters from Conrad Grebel (the leader of the Anabaptists in Zurich) to Thomas Müntzer, the leader of the Peasant Rebellion, written in 1525. The letters of Grebel are included by permission from Herald Press of Scottsdale, PA.

Also included in the collection is a lengthy selection from William Tyndale‘s An Answer Unto Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue in which Tyndale eloquently defends his translation of the New Testament into English and his use of the words congregation, elder, and love (rather than church, priest, & charity) which More had charged were serious errors.

The selections from Martin Luther include the complete text of The 95 Theses (1517), as well as lengthy selections from his three great essays of 1520:

  • Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation ( Aug 1520)
  • On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church ( Oct 1520)
  • On the Freedom of a Christian (Nov 1520)

The selections from John Calvin include The Geneva Confession of 1536 and his Reply to Cardinal Sadoleto, written in 1539.

Editor Robert Shearer observed, “Textbooks provide an overview of a time period. A biography helps us to understand the significance of a historical figure, but if you really want to know the people and the times, you must read what they wrote in their own words.”

The source collection should prove to be a valuable resource for students of all ages who wish to study the Renaissance and Reformation, particularly for high school and college students.

Voices of the Renaissance and Reformation is an 8″x10″ paperback, 194 pages and is available for $18.95 directly from Greenleaf Press.

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catalog cover

The New Greenleaf Press catalog is done! Yeah!

This is NOT a full catalog, listing ALL of the products we sell. We continue to add products (now over 1400!) and update the online store every week and a full printed catalog would be out of date before it could even be printed. This is, instead a summary of the history study packages, Famous Men” books, Reformation biographies, and English for the Thoughtful Child, volumes 1 & 2 – and a few selected titles for each time period. ALL of our titles are available and in-stock.

You can download the .pdf by clicking here or on the cover image above. And you can always order online or look up complete reviews on any product we carry at the Greenleaf online store.

Hard-copy should be in the mail next week.

– Rob Shearer

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The Siege – Revolt in the Netherlands 1585

siegeThe Siege: Under Attack in Renaissance Europe is an unusual book. It’s the only children’s book I’ve found (by anyone other than G.A. Henty) that is set in the Netherlands during the 16th century revolt against the Spanish. The revolt had been triggered by an ill-considered attempt on the part of the Spanish Crown to exterminate the Protestant heresy from their northern European territories by introducing the Inquisition. While the book does not go into detail about these matters, it does give a brief introduction to the religious dimension of the revolt.
One reason that a children’s book on this topic is unusual is that the late 16th century is a neglected period in European history. American historians are anxious to get on to Jamestown and Plymouth. English historians are focussed on Elizabeth and the Armada.

We too easily forget what life was like in other places… like the Netherlands. The events of this book are set in 1585 as the Spanish Empire attempts to put down the revolt of the Netherlands. One Dutch town blocks the Spanish army from marching into Holland. What follows is an account of the siege from the arrival of the first troops, over the long weeks of trenching and mining and bombardment, and the final failed assault by the Spanish troops.

The storyline of the book allows a detailed and well illustrated study of 16th-century life during a military siege of a city. Based on a composite of several battles, this uses dramatic storytelling to show life behind the defensive wall as well as in the attacking army’s camp.

Reading level is 5-6 grade, interest level extends through high school and adult. I recommend The Siege as an excellent companion book for any study of the Reformation, Queen Elizabeth, or the story of the Spanish Armada. It is a 56 page paperback, price is $12.95. You can order it directly from Greenleaf Press.
– Rob Shearer
Publisher, Greenleaf Press