The Eucharistic Pamphlets of Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt
Translated by Amy Nelson Burnett
Publication date:01 March 2011
Length of book:312 pages
PublisherTruman State University Press
Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt played a key role in the development of the evangelical understanding of the Lord's Supper. In 1521 he wrote several pamphlets urging a reform of the Mass. In 1524 he broke with Martin Luther and published a second group of pamphlets rejecting the traditional belief in Christ's corporeal presence in the Eucharist. Despite the importance of Karlstadt's tracts, they are little known today, and his understanding of the Lord's Supper is often reduced to a caricature. For the first time, Amy Nelson Burnett translates his thirteen pamphlets into English, illuminating Karlstadt's importance for the Reformation debate over the Eucharist and his contribution to what would become Reformed sacramental theology.
Karlstadt’s cardinal sin was to have opposed Luther—and that at the critical initial stage of the Reformation, and Luther’s judgment has dominated the scholarly assessments of Karlstadt’s theology ever since. More recently, however, a more detached perspective has pointed out how Karlstadt was in many ways a trailblazer: he understood the theological and ecclesiastical implications of the new “Wittenberg Theology” better than most. And modified it. That certainly was the case with respect to the implications of Luther’s redefinition of the sacrament and his repudiation of the scholastic notion of transubstantiation.
Professor Nelson’s English translation of several Karlstadt tracts is therefore a superb and most welcome contribution. The translation is accurate, the scholarly apparatus appropriate, the bibliography helpful. The book will allow English speaking students of the Reformation to study firsthand the theological details of the early stage of the controversy in the reformers’ ranks over Communion from Karlstadt’s perspective, and thereby understand better the early dynamics of the broader movement of reform.”