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A Review of Katarina Von Bora: A Reformation Life

The authors show Luther’s wife to be a wise helpmate in the use of her talents to support her husband and to confront him at points of weakness.

  • Byron Snapp,
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Katarina Von Bora was born in Saxony in 1499. When she was six, her mother died and her father remarried. That year Katarina was sent to a Benedictine boarding school. Four years later she was informed that her father had enrolled her in a nunnery. She would be expected to live out her life within those walls.

After her consecration as a nun in 1515, she and several other nuns began to learn of reformation doctrines from writings that somehow reached them from sources outside the nunnery. They studied and their hearts were gripped by the truths that they read. It was next to impossible to leave their habitation so they secretly sought Martin Luther’s aid. Through his adroit planning, they were able to secretly and safely escape in the early hours of Easter in 1523. They found refuge in Wittenberg.

Luther was unaware that one of the nuns he had rescued would, in God’s providence, would become his wife two years later. The trials Kate went through prior to her escape and those she faced after her rescue were a preparation for her life as Mrs. Martin Luther. Defending reformation theology, promoting Martin’s prolific writings, managing the household on limited funds, balancing her financial astuteness with his overtly benevolent spirit, and raising a family in the midst of sickness and death were among the trials that Kate faced. The many hardships drew the couple closer together and deepened their walk with the Lord.

The authors show Luther’s wife to be a wise helpmate in the use of her talents to support her husband and to confront him at points of weakness. She frequently saw to the publishing and distributing of his works while he was away on business. She cared for her children and entertained countless others at their table as boarders and guests, always promoting the reformation cause. When finances were tight, she often confronted her husband with their need to make changes in spending. Kate had learned a great deal about medicine in the nunnery and prevailed on her busy husband to take care of his health.

Kate lived seven years after Luther’s death. These years were quite difficult. Alone she faced flight to safety in the face of advancing armies and the necessary rebuilding that resulted from the marauding and pillaging that occurred to her home in her absence. As a widow in her culture, she faced a fight over who would be the guardian of her children, the plight of plague, and then her own death as the result of an accident. Throughout all of this Kate evidenced a dependence on God, a desire to stand for truth and a continued faithfulness to her Savior.

The authors have penned a well-written volume that needs to be read in our day. The book is carefully researched and documented. One will come away with an increased understanding of the trials of Katharina Von Bora Luther and other wives in the reformation era faced and an increased admiration for her multifaceted Christian character. One can see what a true heroine this lady was, by God’s grace.

  • Byron Snapp

Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia.  He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina.  He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren. 

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