Concordia Theological Seminary
Mack P. Holt
George Mason University
This site is devoted to the life and works of the 16th-century German reformer, Martin Luther. It contains the largest online collection of Luther’s writings in English, including more than 100 hymns, as well as writings about Luther by many of his contemporaries and later Lutheran scholars. Many of these texts are also available in the original German and other European languages. But English-speakers are the site’s target audience, and the bulk of the resources are in English translation. In short, if copies of key Reformation texts and primary sources are what you need, then Project Wittenberg is a site you need to discover.
Nearly all the more well-known writings of Luther are here in their entirety: The 95 Theses (1517), On the Liberty of a Christian (1520), the Open Letter to the German Nobility (1520), various Bible commentaries, Larger and Smaller Catechisms, and scores of sermons and prayers. While the complete texts of all these sources translated into English are all very useful, they are not searchable. You have to cut and paste the texts into a word processing program in order to make them searchable. Nevertheless, it is extremely valuable to have so many primary texts available in English translation on one site.
There are a number of other features, however, that more than make up for the lack of technological sophistication. The site offers more than a dozen links to related sites, such as the Christian Classics Ethereal Library and the Gutenberg Project. Moreover, there are a few links to online chat rooms and discussion lists where scholarly discussion and conversation about Luther is available, such as the “Wittenberg” email list. So even though the site is visually plain and unexciting, and there are few technological bells and whistles, it provides access to most of the sources one could want for studying Martin Luther. While they are no substitute for the published collection of Luther’s works, these are more accessible than the printed edition in more than 50 volumes.
Although not as useful to students of the Reformation, the site offers information on the history of the Lutheran church in the United States, as well as a number of 19th- and 20th-century commentators on Luther and Lutheran theology since the Reformation. A link to the Missouri Synod of the American Lutheran Church outlines the basic doctrines of the Lutheran church today; a few links provide information on Lutheran sites in Europe. For historians of the Reformation and history students at all levels, having Luther’s writings available in full English translation—with a biography of Luther and bibliographies indicating other scholarly work on Luther—provides a very useful and informative source for the study of the Reformation.