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Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe (Harvard Historical Studies) Paperback – December 15, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0674007048 ISBN-10: 0674007042

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Product Details

  • Series: Harvard Historical Studies (Book 134)
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (December 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674007042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674007048
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Awarded this year's Thomas J. Wilson Prize, this book by Gregory (history, Stanford Univ.) covers martyrdom in the 1500s, when thousands died for their respective Christian beliefs. Separate chapters look at Protestant, Anabaptist, and Catholic martyrs. Strikingly, he suggests, martyrs believed that prolonging their lives was secondary to the absolute value of fidelity to God. As members of their religious communities, they were the living embodiment of what they believed; they showed a purposeful clarity and articulate resolve startling to modern readers. Gregory also examines such contested beliefs as papal primacy, believer's baptism, and justification by faith. He draws from any and all sources, including those written by antagonists who often intended to condemn false martyrs and justify their executions. And although he often allows the martyrs to speak for themselves, he also assists us in understanding these people without judging them by our current cultural or psychological theories. This extensive, well-written, and gripping book is highly recommended for both history and theological collections.
-George Westerlund, Providence P.L., Palmyra, VA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

In Salvation at Stake, Brad Gregory tries to ground the motives of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century martyrs in their sense of Christian doctrine. And though his scholarship is impeccable, Gregory's achievement lies as much in the defense of a historical method as in explaining why these believers chose to die rather than deny their faith. He rises to occasional eloquence--and more frequent elegance--while arguing for a study of martyrs which will take these individuals on their own terms, not those of modern critics. At crucial points throughout his book, Gregory properly condemns the historical arrogance that ignores religion's hold upon the faithful. (Steven Stryer Harvard Book Review)

The martyrs of early modern Europe are something of an embarrassment. Men, women and even children who had the bad taste to consider religious faith, of all things, something to die for, exceptions even in their own time, are especially unpalatable to an age in which faith has become a kind of fashion accessory. Brad S. Gregory has changed all that, and perhaps more, in Salvation at Stake...His ambitious survey breaks the mould of both confessional and reductionist historiography with an even-handed and sympathetic account of Anabaptist, Catholic and Protestant martyrdom which casts fresh light on early modern Christianity as a whole as well as on the emerging denominations. It should be emphasized that this book is an analytical study of martyrdom, and not itself a martyrology. It draws on original compilations such as those of John Foxe, Thieliman van Braght and Richard Verstegan, yet it is itself historical, not hagiographical...Unlike many monographs arising from doctoral dissertations, this one has been distilled, rather than diluted, on its way to the press. The distillate is all that you might expect from Princeton-trained scholar: learned, logical, lucid. The inspiration of Peter Brown, Anthony Grafton and Heiko Oberman is not only invoked in the acknowledgements, but evident in the intellectual breadth of the achievement, which boldly transgresses confessional, national and linguistic boundaries at a time when myopic specialization has become normative. So many books are published now that it seems arrogant to define any of them as required reading. But Salvation At Stake is a book which nobody working in the field of Reformation and early modern history can afford to pass over. And it is not just required reading; it is rewarding, too, amply deserving the Harvard University Press Thomas J. Wilson Prize for the best first book of the year. Anyone who enjoyed Eamon Duffy's The Stripping of the Altars, or Diarmaid MacCulloch's Cranmer, will find this just as good. (Richard Rex Times Literary Supplement 2001-03-09)

This book covers martyrdom in the 1500s, when thousands died for their respective Christian beliefs...Gregory also examines such contested beliefs as papal primacy, believer's baptism, and justification by faith. He draws from any and all sources, including those written by antagonists who often intended to condemn false martyrs and justify their executions. And although he often allows the martyrs to speak for themselves, he also assists us in understanding these people without judging them by our current cultural or psychological theories. This extensive, well-written, and gripping book is highly recommended. (George Westerlund Library Journal)

As learned, sympathetic, and deeply penetrating a treatment of the period's religious history as will ever be written. It is the definitive study of its subject in solid, tried and true, traditional historical terms. (Steven Ozment, Harvard University)

This is a genuinely impressive piece of work. Brad Gregory has really defined a completely new subfield of Reformation studies, the cross-confessional study of martyrologies. (William Monter, Northwestern University)

This is undoubtedly a major achievement, particularly for a first book. Gregory has read extraordinarily widely in both primary and secondary sources, and dissects both the assurance and élan. It deserves a wide readership both for its substantial contribution to the scholarship on martyrdom, and for the vigour of its polemic about good and bad ways to write religious history. (Peter Marshall French History)

Brad Gregory's important and highly original book is a social history of religion that eschew the reductionism that treats religious practices as "behaviors" having no transcendent meaning. That is welcome news, as is the forthright way in which Gregory critiques earlier scholarly approaches to his topic...Aside from enriching our understanding of how martyrdom functioned for Reformation Christians, and aside from his trenchant critique of methodologies that fail to give martyrs their due, Gregory offers something to readers seeking transhistorical insights. The very empathy, evenhandedness, and historical imagination that enable Gregory to recapture the age of religious intolerance can enable ecumenically minded Christians to listen to Christians of other persuasions, and to take their doctrines seriously while avoiding the temptation to trivialize or relativize them in aid of an easy but ultimately vacuous accommodation. By showing us where we have been, Gregory gives us intellectual tools for envisioning and shaping the kinds of destinations we may define for ourselves. (Marcia L. Colish Commonweal 2002-03-08)

Gregory's massive research has emphasized how Protestant, Anabaptist, and Catholic martyrs rooted their actions in their understanding of the scripture…Certainly the modern reader, in our ecumenical age, is repulsed by the concept that men and women could read the same gospel and kill each other over its interpretation. This lack of comprehension, however, is a modern problem, one that those pursuing historical theology cannot ignore. Here Gregory's study returns us to the fundamental issues that both supported and created the early modern martyr and the subsequent martyrologies of the age. (Michael W. Maher, S.J. Theological Studies)

This well-structured book focuses on the engagement of English Protestants with the history of the medieval church from whose rites and values they had so decidedly disengaged...This book offers a fresh, slightly provocative perspective and as such is to be warmly welcomed, not least as the debates about the periodization of church history continue. (Peter Matheson Church History 2008-03-01)

More About the Author

Brad S. Gregory is Professor of Early Modern European History at the University of Notre Dame. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University (1996) and was a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows (1994-96). Before joining the faculty at Notre Dame in 2003, Gregory taught at Stanford University, where he received early tenure in 2001. Gregory has two degrees in philosophy as well, both earned at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. He has received multiple teaching awards at Stanford and Notre Dame, and in 2005 was named the inaugural winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities from the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture as the outstanding mid-career humanities scholar in the United States. Gregory's research focuses on Christianity in the Reformation era, the long-term effects of the Reformation, secularization in early modern and modern Western history, and methodology in the study of religion.

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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By C. Jenkins on October 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
Brad Gregory argues that the collective dynamic of martyrdom helped shape the character of early modern Christianity (Brad S. Gregory, Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001), p. 6). Therefore, Gregory attempts to explore the meaning and significance of Christian martyrdom among Protestants, Anabaptists, and Roman Catholics during the Reformation era. Gregory's book aims at analyzing (utilizing both nominalist and essentialist categories) martyrdom during the Reform era (cross-confessionally) in order to arrive at a better understanding of early modern Christianity.

Gregory begins by examining the conceptual prerequisites which provide the framework for the significance of martyrdom in the early modern era, beginning with the idea of martyrdom itself in late medieval Europe. Although the Western church was essentially free from the opportunity for martyrdom during this period, Gregory argues that the concept had been preserved especially through the canonization of the more ancient martyrs and the popular devotion to the passion of Christ (in addition to the execution of those deemed heterodox by the institutional church).

Gregory next turns to examine the readiness of authorities to kill those they deemed heretical. He argues that the civic and ecclesiastical authorities viewed religious heterodoxy as a danger not only to the soul of the individual, but a serious threat to the eternal destinies of others as well. Therefore, although Gregory argues that the goal of the enforcement of orthodoxy was corrective, the danger was viewed as substantive enough to warrant the death penalty for the recalcitrant (and Scripture itself was brought to bear to justify this extreme penalty).
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By rodboomboom HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 28, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This quote makes the point of this fine historical investigation into 16thC martyrdom: "Eternal salvation was at stake even without martyrdom." 21stC culture (even those who would identify "themselves" as Christian) cannot idenity with this at all. Neither could 16thC saints with ours, as Gregory writes: "The prospect of doctrinal pluralism horrified and disgusted them. They preferred a world in which truth did battle, come what may, to one swarming with ever-proliferating heresies."

This very fine written account of Protestant, Anabaptist and Roman martyology in the early modern period gives one great insight into this very different world of committed believers in a time when governing rulers held orthodox vs. heterodox seriously, even at times serious to the point of captial punishment for non-repudiation of false doctrine. What strikes the careful reader is the amazing research and documentation that is here presented at a reasonable price for such a record. Thanks to the publisher for the notes tied to page number for those of us who like to see the documentation as we're reading easily, conveniently.

His introduction and challenges to modern mind and academia is outstanding and worthwhile just for this beginning which this reviewer amens!

One will grasp much more about this time by this read. Neat to learn that Luther wrote first hymn in honor of martyr.

One of the best reads for me in quite some time.
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22 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Katherine R Harris on April 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
First rate analysis of martyrdom in early modern Europe. One of the few historians who are comfortable with issues of faith. A welcome breath of fresh air in the academy that often just doesn't get it when it comes to relgion.
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