1618: Outbreak of the Thirty Years War

Originally erupting along Protestant-Catholic religious lines, the Thirty Years’ War ravaged central Europe from 1618-1648. Over time, alliances depended more upon political rather than religious interests, with Catholic France joining Protestant Sweden and Denmark briefly allying itself with the Hapsburgs, for instance. The Peace of Westphalia ended the war and gave Reformed (Calvinist) communities legal rights for the first time. Results of the war included the death of about a third of central Europe’s population, a new religious détente as defined by the Peace of Westphalia, an independent Dutch Republic, and the emergence of Sweden as a European power, as described in this 1999 LQ essay “Sweden, the Elect Nation.”

Essay: “Sweden, the Elect Nation” by Bo Andersson, LQ 13 (1999), 305-314.

Gustavus Adolphus II, King of Sweden (1611-1632), attributed to Jacob Hoefnagel

Image: Gustavus Adolphus II, King of Sweden (1611-1632), attributed to Jacob Hoefnagel


Early 1600s: The Rise of Lutheran Orthodoxy

In this comprehensive review essay, frequent Lutheran Quarterly contributor Robert Kolb examines the state of research on Lutheran Orthodoxy, which broadly stretched from the late 1500s into the 1700s. Particularly insightful elements of this review essay include a discussion of periodization, attention to reform movements within Orthodoxy, and unique Orthodox contributions to the devotional life, worship and piety of the period.

Essay: “Review Essay: Lutheran Theology in Seventeenth-Century Germany” by Robert Kolb, LQ 20 (Winter 2006), 429-456. (N.B. the essay begins on the second page of the linked text)

Image: 21-volume edition of John Gerhard’s Loci Theologici, from the rare book collection of Wartburg Theological Seminary. Photo by Martin Lohrmann, used with permission.



1620: Jiri Tranovsky Translates the Augsburg Confession into Czech

After studying in Wittenberg, Jiri Tranovsky (1592-1637) returned to his homeland, where he served as a pastor. In 1620, he translated the Augsburg Confession into Czech. In the following years, Tranovsky also published hymnals and liturgical works in Czech, many of which he wrote himself. The following essay sketches the history of the Lutheran church in and around Bratislava.

Essay: “Witnesses to the Lutheran Faith in Bratislava” by Janka Krivošová, LQ 16 (2002), 415-432.

Jiri Tranovsky (1592-1637)

Image: Jiri Tranovsky (1592-1637)


1630: Baroque Lutheran Hymnody

Continuing Luther’s legacy, later generations of Lutherans continued to write hymns for congregational and devotional use. Influenced by both Lutheran Orthodox theology and an emerging Pietism, these hymnwriters understood singing to be a sign of “celestial harmony.” The astronomer Johannes Kepler—who had wanted to be a pastor but was suspected of having Calvinist ideas—also contributed to this view by including harmony in his description of planetary movement. The image here is a still life by the German Baroque painter Anna Katharina Block.

Essay: “Celestial Harmony in Baroque Lutheran Writings” by Joyce Irwin, LQ 3 (1989), 281-297.

“Flowers” by Anna Katharina Block (ca. 1660)

Image: “Flowers” by Anna Katharina Block (ca. 1660)


1637: John Gerhard’s “Catholic Confession”

One of the great theologians of early Lutheranism, John Gerhard (1582-1637) constructively engaged the works of the influential Jesuit Robert Bellarmine and other Catholic theologians. His goal was not to demonize Catholicism but to show the shared Christian roots of Catholic and Evangelical (Lutheran) theology by using Roman Catholic sources. Translated, the full title of Gerhard’s monumental work is “The Catholic Confession, in which the Catholic and Evangelical Doctrine, which is Confessed by the Churches Adhering to the Augsburg Confession, is Confirmed by the Support of Roman Catholic Authors.” Although the political situation after the Thirty Years’ War changed the context for such discussions, Gerhard’s work shows a unique approach to early Lutheran-Catholic understandings.

Essay: “Polemic and Dialogue in John Gerhard’s Confessio catholica by Bengt Hägglund, LQ 14 (2000), 159-172.

Image: Title page to Confessio Catholica, from the rare book collection of Wartburg Theological Seminary. Photo by Martin Lohrmann, used with permission.



1648: Early Lutheran Attitudes toward Jews

As the Thirty Years War was nearing its end, theologians in Wittenberg answered questions from the city of Minden about the treatment of Jews. By revisiting their reply, Kenneth Appold has uncovered a more tolerant (though still deficient by contemporary standards) response to the issue, which included consideration of Luther’s harshest anti-Jewish writings.

Essay: "Early Lutheran Attitudes toward Jews" by K. Appold, LQ 20 (Summer 2006), 170-189.

Etching of the Expulsion of the Jews from Frankfurt, August 23, 1614

Image: Etching of the Expulsion of the Jews from Frankfurt, August 23, 1614


1675: Spener’s Pia Desideria and the Birth of Pietism

Remembered as the “father of pietism,” Philipp Jakob Spener’s famous tract Pia Desideria (Pious Desires) first appeared as a preface to a new edition of True Christianity by Johann Arndt. This essay considers the enduring contributions of Spener’s work and of pietism over the centuries.

Essay: “Philipp Spener’s Pia Desideria by Timothy Maschke, LQ 6 (Summer 1992), 187-204.

Image: Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705)

Image: Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705)


1678: Conflicts between Lutheran Orthodoxy and Pietism

From common origins in the 16th century, orthodoxy and pietism became two important ways to live out Lutheran faith. Pietism’s emphasis on the heart and right actions came into particularly sharp conflict with the religious and political establishments during the “opera wars” in Hamburg of the later 1600s and early 1700s. Taking center stage: a debate about the public morality of theater and the performing arts.

Essay: “Opera, Politics and Religion in Hamburg 1678-1715” by W. Gordon Marigold, LQ 3 (1989), 65-90.

1726 sketch of the original Hamburg Opera building.

Image: 1726 sketch of the original Hamburg Opera building.


1696: Luther’s Catechism Published in Algonquian

The first Lutheran worship service in the Americas was held in 1620s by Rasmus Jensen, chaplain of a Danish exploration crew that wintered on the Hudson Bay; Jensen and most of the sailors did not survive the winter. More lasting settlements came when the Swedes founded a colony along the Delaware River in 1638. Upon reaching the Delaware Valley as a pastor for New Sweden in the 1640s, Pastor Johan Campanius began translating Luther’s Small Catechism into the language of the local Lenni-Lenape. Although the translation was not published in Sweden until 1696, there is evidence that it was then used in Swedish Lutheran interactions with native peoples.

Essay: “The Swedish-Indian Catechism: Some Notes” by Isak Collijn, LQ 2 (Spring 1988), 89-98.

Image (through link): The Swedish-Indian Catechism


August 1, 1714: A Lutheran King of England?

Duke George of Hanover was the closest Protestant relative to England’s Queen Anne. When she died on August 1, 1714, he became King George I, launching the Hanoverian dynasty in England. The new king spoke little English and had been ruler of an officially Lutheran land, which caused a good deal of consternation among the Anglicans of whom George was now the spiritual head.

Essay: “Anglican Perceptions of Lutheranism in Early Hanoverian England” by Daniel L. Brunner, LQ 20 (2006), 63-82.

King George I, Defender of the Faith

Image: King George I, Defender of the Faith