We may think we know Luther, but Lyndal Roper shows how much we’ve missed. The service that her magisterial biography does to his memory is twofold: she presents him both as a human being and as a man of his time. She describes a life as it unfolded, full of ambivalence and chance, not retrospectively mythologised. Hers is a book rich in meticulous research and eloquent prose, acute insights and humane judgments. It is surely the definitive account of Luther’s life and work, and will remain so for many years.
It is a fine achievement, deeply researched and fluently written, and it brings its difficult and cantankerous subject to life as no other biography has ... Ms. Roper uses a vast mass of source material in her quest, including 120 volumes of Luther’s collected works. But she also breaks new ground by setting his thought and actions firmly in social context ... Perhaps Ms. Roper focuses too narrowly on Luther’s theology, to the neglect of other sides of his character ... a magnificent study of one of history’s most compelling and divisive figures.
...her book situates this revolutionary thinker and his thought in the sociological, political and religious crosscurrents of contemporary Germany ... Let me stress that Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet isn’t written by an atheistical Christopher Hitchens wannabe, but by a highly respected historian. Roper’s tone throughout is one of evenhanded scholarly inquiry. Along the way, though, she drives home a harsh truth: People who are reasonable, empathetic and civilized make ideal neighbors but it’s usually the zealots and extremists who, for good or ill, change the world.