Lutheran Quarterly

Winter 2021: “Revisiting Humanism and the Urban Reformation” by Amy Nelson Burnett

Virtually every textbook account of the Reformation repeats the claim that Erasmus laid the egg that Luther hatched. In an influential essay published in 1959, “The German Humanists and the Beginnings of the Reformation,” the German church historian Bernd Moeller generalized this association between Erasmus and Luther to link two broader movements. His dictum, “without humanism, no Reformation,” is cited in textbooks almost as frequently as Erasmus’s egg. In a second groundbreaking essay, “Imperial Cities and the Reformation,” published three years later, Moeller argued that the success ofthe Reformation in the cities of South Germany and Switzerland was due to “the encounter ofthe peculiarly ‘urban’ theology of Zwingli and Bucer with the particularly vital communal spirit in Upper Germany.” That essay sparked a lively debate and a host ofstudies on the urban reformation in the decades after its publication.

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