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The year 2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Many events have been organized all over the world to celebrate this milestone. For the most part, these celebrations focus on Martin Luther’s innovations, particularly his contributions to worldwide Protestantism and the period known as “modernity.” Yet another perspective is required, namely the recognition that Martin Luther was a reformer of medieval Catholicism. Luther’s spirituality, theology, and ideas were steeped in late medieval thought.

The famous Luther scholar Heiko Oberman opened a new avenue in 1968 with the publication of his award-winning book Harvest of Medieval Theology for understanding Luther’s Reformation in relation to its “forerunners.” Oberman’s work inspired scholars to study Luther’s reformation theology in continuity with, rather than as a break from, the middle ages. Recent scholarship in Luther studies, medieval theology, and Jewish studies, has developed this research perspective, with new insights into the considerable debt Luther owed the theologians, philosophers, members of religious orders, and mystics who were his forerunners.

The conference, “Beyond Oberman: Luther and the Middle Ages,” aims to explicitly address new research on the question of Luther’s continuity with medieval religious life and thought. Important topics will be the religious dimensions of Luther’s thought, particularly the connection to late medieval mystics; specific medieval thinkers who are relatively obscure but who profoundly shaped Luther’s thinking, such as Gabriel Biel and Giles of Rome; historical considerations of specific ideas, for example the plague and biblical interpretation; and specific doctrines that demonstrate continuity between Luther and medieval philosophical thought, for example Christology and theological anthropology. Some of the most important scholars in the world in the areas of Luther scholarship and medieval philosophy will present their research. The conference will provide opportunities for bringing different research perspectives into conversation in addition to charting out new trajectories for future scholarship.

Although the conference is free and open to the public, please register before Nov. 1, 2016 by submitting your name and institutional affiliation to religion@northwestern.edu

This conference is made possible thanks to the support of the Dean’s Office of the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences of Northwestern University, and the Departments of Religious Studies and German. The conference is also co-sponsored by the Alumnae of Northwestern University, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the Kaplan Institute for the Humanities at Northwestern University.