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The Trinity and Martin Luther (Helmer)

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Lexham Press

Luther’s Trinitarian Doctrine

Martin Luther was classically orthodox.

Scholars often portray Luther as a heroic revolutionary, totally unlike his peers and forebears—as if he alone inaugurated modernity. But is this accurate? Is this even fair? At times this revolutionary model of Luther has come to some shocking conclusions, particularly concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. Some have called Luther modalist or tritheist—somehow theologically heterodox.

In The Trinity and Martin Luther Christine Helmer uncovers Luther’s trinitarian theology. The Trinity is the central doctrine of the Christian faith. It’s not enough for dusty, ivory tower academics to know and understand it. Common people need the Trinity, too. Doctrine matters.

Martin Luther knew this. But how did he communicate the doctrine of the Trinity to lay and learned listeners? And how does his trinitarian teaching relate to the medieval Christian theological and philosophical tradition?

Helmer upends stereotypes of Luther’s doctrine of the Trinity.

This definitive work has been updated with a new foreword and with fresh translations of Luther’s Latin and German texts.


Table of Contents: 

  1. Luther’s Understanding of the Trinity in the Doctoral Disputation of Georg Major and Johannes Faber (Dec. 12, 1544)
  2. Luther’s Understanding of the Trinity in the Hymn, “Nun Freut Euch, Lieben Christen Gmein” (1523)
  3. Luther’s Understanding of the Trinity in the Two Sermons On Romans 11:33–36 Preached on Trinity Sunday, May 27, 1537, and on the First Sunday After Trinity, June 3, 1537



Christine Helmer (PhD, Yale University) is Professor of Religious Studies at Northwestern University.



"All too long, Luther research has been shaped by the paradigms of the Luther Renaissance. Christine Helmer’s The Trinity and Martin Luther is a challenge for these traditional views. According to her, Luther is more medieval, more philosophical, even more catholic than usually supposed. Combining intricate text analysis in different genres of Luther’s work with a broader approach to their systematic impact, this book is a thrilling read." — Volker Leppin, Professor of Church History, Universität Tübingen

"Martin Luther never sat down to write a treatise on the Trinity in a format that modern systematic theologians would recognize, and sure enough, modern scholars have overlooked or misconstrued Luther's understanding of the Trinity as a result. But he hid it in plain sight, in the unexpected genres of medieval-style academic disputations, hymns that echoed the Psalms, and wide-ranging expository sermons keyed to the liturgical calendar. Helmer's book, ahead of its time when originally published and still on the leading edge of scholarship in this paperback edition, offers a very close reading of a handful of texts that surprise, illuminate, and suggest ways forward for theology today." — Fred Sanders, Professor of Theology, Biola University

"Christine Helmer's The Trinity and Martin Luther prompted a new interest in the classical roots of the Reformation. This new and updated edition of Helmer's seminal work discusses the most recent scholarship, offering a cutting-edge view of what we know today." — Risto Saarinen, Professor of Ecumenics, University of Helsinki