Salvation at Stake

Salvation at Stake : Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe

By (author) Brad S. Gregory

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Thousands of men and women were executed for incompatible religious views in 16th-century Europe. The meaning and significance of those deaths are studied here comparatively, providing an argument for the importance of martydom as both a window onto religious sensibilities, and a crucial component in the fomation of divergent Christian traditions and indentities. Brad Gregory explores Protestant, Catholic and Anabaptist martyrs in a sustained fashion, addressing the similarites and differences in their self-understanding. He traces the processes and impact of their memorialization by co-believers, and he reconstructs the arguments of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities responsible for their deaths. He employs a wide range of sources, including pamphlets, martyrologies, theological and devotional treatises, sermons, songs, woodcuts and engravings, correspondence and legal records. Reconstructing religious motivation, conviction and behaviour in early modern Europe, this text shows the shifting perspectives of authorities willing to kill, martyrs willing to die, martyrologists eager to memorialize and controversialists keen to dispute.

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  • Paperback | 544 pages
  • 154.94 x 233.68 x 35.56mm | 589.67g
  • 15 Nov 2001
  • HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Cambridge, Mass
  • English
  • 8 halftones, 28 line illustrations
  • 0674007042
  • 9780674007048
  • 515,448

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Author Information

Brad S. Gregory is Dorothy G. Griffin Associate Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.

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Review quote

In Salvation at Stake, Brad Gregory tries to ground the motives of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century martyrs in their sense of Christian doctrine. And though his scholarship is impeccable, Gregory's achievement lies as much in the defense of a historical method as in explaining why these believers chose to die rather than deny their faith. He rises to occasional eloquence--and more frequent elegance--while arguing for a study of martyrs which will take these individuals on their own terms, not those of modern critics. At crucial points throughout his book, Gregory properly condemns the historical arrogance that ignores religion's hold upon the faithful. -- Steven Stryer Harvard Book Review The martyrs of early modern Europe are something of an embarrassment. Men, women and even children who had the bad taste to consider religious faith, of all things, something to die for, exceptions even in their own time, are especially unpalatable to an age in which faith has become a kind of fashion accessory. Brad S. Gregory has changed all that, and perhaps more, in Salvation at Stake...His ambitious survey breaks the mould of both confessional and reductionist historiography with an even-handed and sympathetic account of Anabaptist, Catholic and Protestant martyrdom which casts fresh light on early modern Christianity as a whole as well as on the emerging denominations. It should be emphasized that this book is an analytical study of martyrdom, and not itself a martyrology. It draws on original compilations such as those of John Foxe, Thieliman van Braght and Richard Verstegan, yet it is itself historical, not hagiographical...Unlike many monographs arising from doctoral dissertations, this one has been distilled, rather than diluted, on its way to the press. The distillate is all that you might expect from Princeton-trained scholar: learned, logical, lucid. The inspiration of Peter Brown, Anthony Grafton and Heiko Oberman is not only invoked in the acknowledgements, but evident in the intellectual breadth of the achievement, which boldly transgresses confessional, national and linguistic boundaries at a time when myopic specialization has become normative. So many books are published now that it seems arrogant to define any of them as required reading. But Salvation At Stake is a book which nobody working in the field of Reformation and early modern history can afford to pass over. And it is not just required reading; it is rewarding, too, amply deserving the Harvard University Press Thomas J. Wilson Prize for the best first book of the year. Anyone who enjoyed Eamon Duffy's The Stripping of the Altars, or Diarmaid MacCulloch's Cranmer, will find this just as good. -- Richard Rex Times Literary Supplement 20010309 This book covers martyrdom in the 1500s, when thousands died for their respective Christian beliefs...Gregory also examines such contested beliefs as papal primacy, believer's baptism, and justification by faith. He draws from any and all sources, including those written by antagonists who often intended to condemn false martyrs and justify their executions. And although he often allows the martyrs to speak for themselves, he also assists us in understanding these people without judging them by our current cultural or psychological theories. This extensive, well-written, and gripping book is highly recommended. -- George Westerlund Library Journal This is undoubtedly a major achievement, particularly for a first book. Gregory has read extraordinarily widely in both primary and secondary sources, and dissects both the assurance and elan. It deserves a wide readership both for its substantial contribution to the scholarship on martyrdom, and for the vigour of its polemic about good and bad ways to write religious history. -- Peter Marshall French History Brad Gregory's important and highly original book is a social history of religion that eschew the reductionism that treats religious practices as "behaviors" having no transcendent meaning. That is welcome news, as is the forthright way in which Gregory critiques earlier scholarly approaches to his topic...Aside from enriching our understanding of how martyrdom functioned for Reformation Christians, and aside from his trenchant critique of methodologies that fail to give martyrs their due, Gregory offers something to readers seeking transhistorical insights. The very empathy, evenhandedness, and historical imagination that enable Gregory to recapture the age of religious intolerance can enable ecumenically minded Christians to listen to Christians of other persuasions, and to take their doctrines seriously while avoiding the temptation to trivialize or relativize them in aid of an easy but ultimately vacuous accommodation. By showing us where we have been, Gregory gives us intellectual tools for envisioning and shaping the kinds of destinations we may define for ourselves. -- Marcia L. Colish Commonweal 20020308 Gregory's massive research has emphasized how Protestant, Anabaptist, and Catholic martyrs rooted their actions in their understanding of the scripture...Certainly the modern reader, in our ecumenical age, is repulsed by the concept that men and women could read the same gospel and kill each other over its interpretation. This lack of comprehension, however, is a modern problem, one that those pursuing historical theology cannot ignore. Here Gregory's study returns us to the fundamental issues that both supported and created the early modern martyr and the subsequent martyrologies of the age. -- Michael W. Maher, S.J. Theological Studies This well-structured book focuses on the engagement of English Protestants with the history of the medieval church from whose rites and values they had so decidedly disengaged...This book offers a fresh, slightly provocative perspective and as such is to be warmly welcomed, not least as the debates about the periodization of church history continue. -- Peter Matheson Church History 20080301 This well-structured book focuses on the engagement of English Protestants with the history of the medieval church from whose rites and values they had so decidedly disengaged...This book offers a fresh, slightly provocative perspective and as such is to be warmly welcomed, not least as the debates about the periodization of church history continue. -- Peter Matheson Church History 20080301

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Thousands of men and women were executed for incompatible religious views in sixteenth-century Europe. The meaning and significance of those deaths are studied here comparatively for the first time, providing a compelling argument for the importance of martyrdom as both a window onto religious sensibilities and a crucial component in the formation of divergent Christian traditions and identities.Brad Gregory explores Protestant, Catholic, and Anabaptist martyrs in a sustained fashion, addressing the similarities and differences in their self-understanding. He traces the processes and impact of their memorialization by co-believers, and he reconstructs the arguments of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities responsible for their deaths. In addition, he assesses the controversy over the meaning of executions for competing views of Christian truth and the intractable dispute over the distinction between true and false martyrs. He employs a wide range of sources, including pamphlets, martyrologies, theological and devotional treatises, sermons, songs, woodcuts and engravings, correspondence, and legal records. Reconstructing religious motivation, conviction, and behavior in early modern Europe, Gregory shows us the shifting perspectives of authorities willing to kill, martyrs willing to die, martyrologists eager to memorialize, and controversialists keen to dispute.

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