Book Reviews

Katharina von Bora

A Reformation Life

Rudolf K. Markwald, Marilynn Morris Markwald St. Louis 2002-10-01

An old bromide says, “Behind every successful man is a woman who causes his success.” The Markwalds’ portrayal of Katharina von Bora, the ex-nun who married Martin Luther, an ex-priest, confirms this saying. Luther was as unstable at times as he was assured of his calling and staunch in his opposition to the church of his day. He suffered from an array of physical problems, was sometimes disabled by moodiness and depression, and was a poor manager of his finances. However, he was also capable of intense insight and uncompromising zeal for the Lord in preaching, writing, and organizing.

Katharina, though remarkably different in personality, was a tireless helpmate who more than equaled her talented husband for resourcefulness and zeal. She fathered his six children, turned her home into a hotel (sometimes a hospital), managed their garden, saw to the publication of his books, was a wise counselor, and served on a pulpit committee.

This insightful study of Katharina von Bora Luther is a welcome addition to knowledge of the wives of the Reformers. Leaders who have mates who are independent, forceful, wise, and caring have a treasure of assets when they share together in a common vision of divine service. Melancthon had his Barbara; Zwingli his Anna; and Calvin his Ildelette, but Katharina appears as the archetypical woman of her time. It might be argued that she was the kind of helpmate who is ideal for every “Luther” in the world. She was an actively pious soul.

The book is enhanced by the inclusion of the letters Luther composed for his wife while at the Coberg Castle in 1530 and of comments from the famous Table Talks. They provide intimate insights into their relationship. She was truly a remarkable lady who married one of the most remarkable men of all time.

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John D. Hannah
Dr. John D. Hannah is a frequent and popular speaker at home and abroad. His teaching interests include the general history of the Christian church, with particular interest in the works of  Jonathan Edwards and John Owen. Among his published works are a history of DTS and a general history of the Christian church.
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