Theology, ritual, and confessionalization: the making and meaning of Lutheran baptism in reformation Germany, 1520-1618
How should the identity and religious behavior of 16 th century Protestants be investigated and understood? This dissertation uses Lutheran baptism as a vehicle for assessing the religious, political, and cultural values of German Lutherans during the Protestant Reformation, from the publication of Martin Luther's Babylonian Captivity of the Christian Church (1520) to the beginning of the Thirty Years' War (1618). Baptismal ritual can be fruitfully evaluated as 'rite of passage', using the anthropological language of Arnold van Gennep, and it can be analyzed through the study of theological and liturgical texts dating back to late antiquity and the New Testament. During the Reformation period, Lutheran baptism acted as both a public ritual of incorporation into the Christian Church, and as a 'sociological' sacrament that identified the newly baptized person as a member of the local political community (Gemeinde). This dissertation places Lutheran baptism in a theological, political, and cultural context, describing how Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed (Calvinist), and Anabaptist groups interpreted the ritual, and how baptism became an important marker of confessional identity. The geographic center of this study is Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), a territory in Northern Germany. In this region, baptism was used as an ecclesiastical tool to reform urban and rural areas, and the sacrament contributed to the institutional process of state building known as confessionalization, a development in which religious, social, and political forces worked collectively to integrate and control German cities and territorial states. Baptism was also shaped by, and contributed to, several cultural and intellectual discourses in early modern Germany, including discussions about gender and rank, childbirth, godparentage, witchcraft and magic, exorcism, adiaphora, social discipline, and the display and patronage of powerful German princes. This dissertation is supported by evidence from a variety of sources, including archival records, Lutheran church orders, visitation reports, sermons, letters written by parents and godparents, contemporary printed books and chronicles, and artistic evidence from early modern paintings, fonts, and church architecture. A comprehensive analysis of these elements shows that baptism ranks among the core social and religious institutions of the early modern period.
- History