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Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe (Harvard Historical Studies) [Hardcover]

By Brad S. Gregory (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   544
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.56" Width: 6.63" Height: 1.59"
Weight:   1.83 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Dec 31, 1999
Publisher   Harvard University Press
ISBN  0674785517  
EAN  9780674785519  

Availability  0 units.

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Item Description...

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.

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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More About Brad S. Gregory

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! BRAD S. GREGORY is Assistant Professor of History, Stanford University.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Very educational and interesting  Jun 8, 2007
I find Mr Gregory's Salvation at Stake to be a fair and fresh look at early modern christianity. This book is thoroughly researched and the author's conclusions are backed up with volumonous historical data. Mr Gregory invites the reader to view the martyr's perspective from the inside as he guides us to explore the deep religious convictions and unmatched faith of the many christians who made the ultimate sacrifice. He fairly challenges other historical points of view and presents his arguments in a clear and easily followed manner.
Impressive Read about What Is Really at Stake  Mar 1, 2005
This quote makes the point of this fine historical investigation into 16thC martyrdom: "Eternal salvation was at stake even without martyrdom." 21stC culture (even those who would identify "themselves" as Christian) cannot idenity with this at all. Neither could 16thC saints with ours, as Gregory writes: "The prospect of doctrinal pluralism horrified and disgusted them. They preferred a world in which truth did battle, come what may, to one swarming with ever-proliferating heresies."

This very fine written account of Protestant, Anabaptist and Roman martyology in the early modern period gives one great insight into this very different world of committed believers in a time when governing rulers held orthodox vs. heterodox seriously, even at times serious to the point of captial punishment for non-repudiation of false doctrine. What strikes the careful reader is the amazing research and documentation that is here presented at a reasonable price for such a record. Thanks to the publisher for the notes tied to page number for those of us who like to see the documentation as we're reading easily, conveniently.

His introduction and challenges to modern mind and academia is outstanding and worthwhile just for this beginning which this reviewer amens!

One will grasp much more about this time by this read. Neat to learn that Luther wrote first hymn in honor of martyr.

One of the best reads for me in quite some time.
Impressive analysis of martyrological source material   Oct 19, 2004
Brad Gregory argues that the collective dynamic of martyrdom helped shape the character of early modern Christianity (Brad S. Gregory, Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001), p. 6). Therefore, Gregory attempts to explore the meaning and significance of Christian martyrdom among Protestants, Anabaptists, and Roman Catholics during the Reformation era. Gregory's book aims at analyzing (utilizing both nominalist and essentialist categories) martyrdom during the Reform era (cross-confessionally) in order to arrive at a better understanding of early modern Christianity.

Gregory begins by examining the conceptual prerequisites which provide the framework for the significance of martyrdom in the early modern era, beginning with the idea of martyrdom itself in late medieval Europe. Although the Western church was essentially free from the opportunity for martyrdom during this period, Gregory argues that the concept had been preserved especially through the canonization of the more ancient martyrs and the popular devotion to the passion of Christ (in addition to the execution of those deemed heterodox by the institutional church).

Gregory next turns to examine the readiness of authorities to kill those they deemed heretical. He argues that the civic and ecclesiastical authorities viewed religious heterodoxy as a danger not only to the soul of the individual, but a serious threat to the eternal destinies of others as well. Therefore, although Gregory argues that the goal of the enforcement of orthodoxy was corrective, the danger was viewed as substantive enough to warrant the death penalty for the recalcitrant (and Scripture itself was brought to bear to justify this extreme penalty).

Why were people willing to suffer death for their beliefs? Gregory analyzes the motivation of Catholic, Protestant, and Anabaptist martyrdom by carefully examining both the words and deeds of the martyrs (Gregory, p. 97). How does Gregory reconstruct the religious sentiments of the martyrs he examines? Gregory turns to the published prison letters, songs, and confessions of faith authored by the martyrs. He concludes that these people suffered death willingly because they believed in the ultimate veracity of their beliefs (i.e., they believed they were divinely revealed). Further, because they were truths with eternal ramifications, the temporal consequences (including the penalty of execution) for holding them were relativized by the martyrs (Gregory, p. 105). The martyrs of all three traditions saw themselves in historical continuity with the martyrs of the biblical record and the early church, and they identified with the plight of the unjustly persecuted, and most especially with Christ. The social context for the readiness to die was formed by friends, family members, and fellow partisans who encouraged the condemned and exhorted them to steadfastness.

Gregory then examines the final conceptual prerequisite for martyrdom by examining the way in which the various ecclesiastical traditions interpreted, memorialized, and publicized their martyrs. Although there were some differences among the different Protestant traditions (especially among the mid-century martyrologists), the Protestant traditions closely associated martyrdom with the doctrinal beliefs of the persecuted. They also interpreted their afflictions as one of the principle marks of the true church, which flowed from their conviction that preaching the true Gospel attracted persecution (and they offered an alternative reading of the Christian past in this regard). The Protestant martyrologies were the primary means of memorialization, and they effectively "put a human face on doctrinal controversy," and thus, they integrated abstract theological debates into the popular arena (Gregory, p. 176). The various Anabaptists groups interpreted martyrdom as the expected result of one's commitment to Christian discipleship (Gregory, p. 249). Unlike the widespread Protestant tendency to memorialize through the written publication, Anabaptist groups memorialized their martyrs principally through lyrical verse (although their tradition is not devoid of published martyrologies - but even in these, songs were often central). In contrast to both of the previous ecclesiastical traditions, Roman Catholics tended to interpret their martyrs (Gregory primarily examines the Henrician Catholic martyrs) as defenders of what early Christian martyrs had helped to establish (Gregory, p. 267). Additionally, they looked to these recent and "unofficial" saints for intercession and moral guidance. Roman Catholics memorializations also tended to emphasize visual representations of their martyrs more so than their Protestant or Anabaptist counterparts.

Gregory concludes his book with an examination of the controversialists - those who concerned themselves with the denunciation of rival martyrological claims (although this phenomena was limited primarily to the Catholic and Protestant communities). Because there was such a close connection between doctrine and death, the criteria employed by the Controversialists to discern true from false martyrs was fidelity to Christian truth.

Gregory's book represents an impressive achievement in bringing together the martyrological source material of the Reform era for an extensive analysis. He does not shirk the difficult problem of the competing martyrological claims of the era, but rather analyses each on its own terms, in its own context, and as each developed. Additionally, he offers an able (if somewhat limited) refutation of poststructuralist metaphysical and epistemological theories, and he rightly dismisses reductionistic historical methodologies that vitiate the very possibility of understanding historical difference - lucid insights that were much appreciated from his introduction. On the other hand, this reviewer would like to suggest that Gregory's optimism concerning the general historical reliability of highly charged ideological documents may be unwarranted. This reviewer was not convinced of the general historical reliability of these highly partisan sources - although Gregory's argumentation was clever (if ultimately unpersuasive) in this regard. It seems difficult to avoid the conclusion that early modern martyrologists did, in fact, use religion in deliberately manipulative ways, especially since there are contradictory accounts of martyrdom from divergent traditions (and this seems true even if Gregory's claim is true that this is the exception rather than the rule). It seems to this reviewer that the only time the reliability of these documents can be taken for granted is when divergent traditions agree in their accounts - and Gregory admits that documentation of this type of agreement is scarce (Gregory, pp. 20-21).
martyrs and history  Apr 28, 2000
First rate analysis of martyrdom in early modern Europe. One of the few historians who are comfortable with issues of faith. A welcome breath of fresh air in the academy that often just doesn't get it when it comes to relgion.

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