For fascination, influence, inspiration, and controversy, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison is unmatched by any other book of Christian reflection written in the twentieth century. A Lutheran pastor and theologian, Bonhoeffer spent two years in Nazi prisons before being executed at age thirty-nine, just a month before the German surrender, for his role in the plot to kill Hitler. The posthumous Letters and Papers from Prison has had a tremendous impact on both Christian and secular thought since it was first published in 1951, and has helped establish Bonhoeffer's reputation as one of the most important Protestant thinkers of the twentieth century. In this, the first history of the book's remarkable global career, National Book Award-winning author Martin Marty tells how and why Letters and Papers from Prison has been read and used in such dramatically different ways, from the cold war to today.
In his late letters, Bonhoeffer raised tantalizing questions about the role of Christianity and the church in an increasingly secular world. Marty tells the story of how, in the 1960s and the following decades, these provocative ideas stirred a wide range of thinkers and activists, including civil rights and antiapartheid campaigners, "death-of-God" theologians, and East German Marxists.
In the process of tracing the eventful and contested history of Bonhoeffer's book, Marty provides a compelling new perspective on religious and secular life in the postwar era.
Martin E. Marty is professor emeritus of religious history at the University of Chicago. He is the winner of the National Book Award and the author of more than fifty books. His recent books include Martin Luther: A Life (Viking) and The Christian World: A Global History (Modern Library).
"Religious scholars as well as general readers interested in theology or the history of Christianity will find this a great choice."--John Jaeger, Library Journal
"Martin E. Marty has written a simple account of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's hugely influential Letters and Papers from Prison. He explains how the work came to be collated and Bonhoeffer's moral opposition to Hitler and how he wrote until his execution days before World War II ended. There is a thorough analysis of Bonhoeffer's theology followed by a description of how those beliefs--and his influence--spread."--Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald
"In my library, there is a whole shelf devoted to Bonhoeffer, whom I began reading decades ago. What has always attracted me to his writings is not only the heroic witness of his life and death, but also his instinct in a time of crisis to 'do' theology according to the quasi-monastic model he constructed at Finkenwalde. In a course on modern spiritual writers, I usually assign not the letters but The Cost of Discipleship. Having read Marty's brilliant study, I may now go back to the letters in order to--as one of Marty's subtitles puts it--'send the book further along the way.'"--Lawrence S Cunningham, Commonweal
"Biography can be a powerful genre for theology, as Bethge's classic biography of Bonhoeffer demonstrates. Both the casual fan and the serious scholar should commend Marty for his fine account of Bonhoeffer's most famous and most enigmatic book."--Barry Harvey, Christian Century
"Essentially Marty gives us a well-informed survey of Letters and Papers from Prison's reception over the past sixty-five years."--John S. Conway, Association of Contemporary Church Historians Quarterly
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations ix
Chapter 1: The Birth of a Book 1
Chapter 2: The "Gradual" Editor 31
Chapter 3: The Decisive Turns 51
Chapter 4: Travels East 74
Chapter 5: Travels West 103
Chapter 6: The Worlds of Two Strangers 133
Chapter 7: Travels around the World 178
Chapter 8: Continuity and Change 211