The Appropriation of Wonders in Sixteenth-Century Germany

Philip M. Soergel

in Miracles and the Protestant Imagination

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199844661
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932856 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Historical Theology

The Appropriation of Wonders in Sixteenth-Century Germany

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This chapter examines the exploitation of natural wonders from the late fifteenth to the mid-sixteenth centuries, charting the changing uses made of these events by late-medieval humanists and early Protestants. Against the backdrop of a society that craved stories of God’s intervention in the world, such German humanists as Sebastian Brant came to rely on wonders to prophesy Europe’s imminent unity under the German empire but also to warn of the consequences of humankind’s moral failings. By contrast, Protestant commentators largely dismissed the political import of such accounts and instead saw in these events proof for certain key theological tenets of their movement, including the concepts of total depravity and humankind’s helplessness in the salvation process. These commentators soon came to rely more and more on nature’s wonders, aiming to harness the natural curiosity that existed about these events to teach their parishioners a proper understanding of the Reformation’s sense of sin.

Keywords: humanism; sebastian brant; broadsides; reformation; lutheranism; natural wonders

Chapter.  11858 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christianity

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