Luther’s Revolution: The Political Dimensions of Martin Luther’s Universal Priesthood

By Nathan Montover

A revision of the traditional image of Luther as a reactionary political figure, revealing the radical social implications of his theological revolution.

ISBN: 9780227680148


In this eloquent and informative work, Nathan Montover challenges the widespread assumption that Martin Luther was a conservative and politically naive figure. Montover uses the prism of Luther’s doctrine of Universal Priesthood to reveal a politically aware individual determined not only to reform the Christian ministry, but also to radically challenge the temporal power structures of his day.

The concept of a priesthood of all baptised Christians attacked the authority of the Catholic Church which maintained a strict division between lay and cleric; this division legitimised the Church’s power in both the earthly and spiritual realms. Montover draws conclusions from a careful analysis of Luther’s seminal writings, with emphasis on his treatise To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Betterment of the Christian Estate (1520). He undertakes a thorough examination of existing scholarship which reveals important silences regarding Luther’s political aims. Luther’s critique is elegantly contextualized within early modern structures of Church and state which grew from the fabric of medieval cosmology.

An excellent addition to Lutheran scholarship, this book is suitable for any reader interested in Luther’s life and aims or the fascinating political ferment of the Reformation.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Nathan Montover serves as Pastor at St. James Lutheran Church in Iowa. He also teaches Religion at Augustana College in Illinois, and is an Adjunct Instructor of Reformation Studies at Wartburg Theological Seminary in Iowa.



1. Historiographical Assumptions
2. Biographical Appraisals of the Political Dimensions of Luther’s Universal Priesthood
3. A Consideration of Luther’s Body of Work on the Topic of the Universal Priesthood
4. The Social and Political Context of Papal Claims of Temporal Authority
5. Luther’s Response to Claims of Papal Authority in “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation”
6. Conclusions and Trajectories for Further Studies



Endorsements and Reviews

Nathan Montover deftly probes the silences in and conventions of Luther research to unveil an alternative figure … Luther emerges from this excellent study as a thoroughly political, prophetic, and revolutionary Christian engaged in the struggle for liberation, drawing radical political consequences from foundational theological claims.
Craig L. Nessan, Professor of Contextual Theology, Wartburg Theological Seminary

… the author fairly commends Martin Luther as a political visionary whose contextual theology raises a challenge to contemporary Christians as they live out their own faith in the modern world.
Brian Talbot, in Baptist Quarterly, Vol 45, No 5

Luther’s Revolution is a book which examines a significant theological doctrine within Protestant theology, that of the universal priesthood, and suggests that its intended implications go beyond what might be termed ‘merely’ the theological. The ideas presented within are offered in a clear prose and the scope of the book is quite expansive despite its short length. A recommended read for any interested in the theology of Luther more generally, as well as for those particulary interested in an exploration into the implications his theology had for the temporal/political realms.
Kris Hiuser, University of Chester, in Theological Book Review, Vol 25, No 2

[Luther’s Revolution] would be a good introduction for candidates studying for ordination in the Lutheran Church seeking to understand this aspect of Luther’s writings. The text, however, is certainly not simply a ‘primer’ on the basic points about the ‘universal priesthood’, as Montover does seek to make some original and provocative points in contradistinction to other scholars in this field. … this is a usefully concise restatement of the theological contribution to demands for political and economic reform in the sixteenth century.
Marcus Harmes, University of Southern Queensland, in Journal of Religious History, Vol 38, No 1

… Montover guides the reader through an issue-oriented discussion of the political discontent of Germany to contextualise the political ramifications covering the major issues like indulgences, the titular obligation of the Holy Roman Empire and foreign taxation schemes. Montover is most insightful in the frequently neglected discussion on the gravinum, the mechanisms of German grievances towards the papacy. … Montover’s work adds yet another voice to the debate on the political ramifications of Luther’s theology and to what extent they governed his doctrinal positions. … This book will lend itself to students of Luther and the reformation in conjunction with other studies in Luther’s political thought.
B. Brodie, in The Expository Times, Vol 126, Issue 4