In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt

  • Introduction
  • Editions and English Translations
  • Overviews of Karlstadt’s Life, Theology, and Legacy
  • Short Articles/Encyclopedic Biographies of Karlstadt
  • Karlstadt’s Mysticism and Late Medieval Heritage
  • Understanding the Early Reformer and His Development
  • The Wittenberg Movement (1521–1522) and Sacramental Controversy
  • Karlstadt in Relation to Thomas Müntzer, the Peasants’ War, and Early Anabaptism
  • The Later Karlstadt: Karlstadt as Swiss Reformer

Renaissance and Reformation Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt
Alyssa Lehr Evans
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 September 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0493


Andreas Rudolff Bodenstein (b. 1486–d. 1541) is usually named after his hometown Karlstadt in Franconia (sometimes spelled as Carlstadt). Karlstadt was one of the most influential early reformers in Wittenberg next to his colleague Martin Luther, and an early propagandist of a common Wittenberg theology. Karlstadt was one of the most productive Reformation writers until the mid-1520s, and he initiated and furthered key early debates and issues, including on clerical marriage, the reform of worship, the biblical canon, the question of images, infant baptism, and the understanding of the Lord’s Supper. He was the first to publicly defend and support Luther and Wittenberg’s theological ideas from early opponents and instigated the literary controversy with Eck that led to the Leipzig Disputation. As a result, Karlstadt was also named in the papal bull condemning Luther and his supporters. He was also one of the first within the movement to have a major falling out with Luther, and Luther’s resulting judgment and negative characterization of Karlstadt left his legacy uncertain in the historical narrative for a long time. While Luther was in hiding at the Wartburg after Worms, Karlstadt advanced reform in Wittenberg. He was the first to advocate clerical marriage in his 1521–1522 writings, and he led the first public evangelical mass (communion in both kinds) on Christmas Day 1521. After Karlstadt’s criticism of images was used to support iconoclasm in Wittenberg and Luther returned to reject several reforms to worship associated with what is usually called “the Wittenberg movement,” Karlstadt was censured from preaching or publishing for a time. In spring 1523, he became a minister in Orlamünde (Thuringia), where he was able to successfully implement some of his reform ideas before being expelled from Saxony in September 1524. Although no denomination originated from him, Karlstadt participated in and influenced several strands of the early Reformation in their beginnings and development. In addition to his contributions to the development of the Reformation in Wittenberg, he was also in communication with proto-Anabaptist and Anabaptist leaders (e.g., Thomas Müntzer, Melchior Hoffman) and Swiss reformers (e.g., Ulrich Zwingli, Oecolampadius), before settling down as a professor of Old Testament in Basel during the last years of his life (1534–1541) and influencing the development of a reformed Protestant curriculum. Karlstadt is a complex character that refuses simple categorization, and he has not been an easy figure for historians or theologians to understand. We continue to better understand his use of received sources (Augustine and other Church Fathers, scholastic theology, traditions of jurisprudence, mysticism, etc.), his development as a reformer in his own right, and his contributions to the development of the Reformations in Wittenberg and beyond. This is an exciting time for the advancement of Karlstadt research, as the Karlstadt-Edition in Göttingen, Germany, makes continued progress on the first complete critical edition of Karlstadt’s letters and writings (KGK).

Editions and English Translations

The realized need to collect and edit Karlstadt’s many writings has existed since the early eighteenth century. While several helpful editions, smaller collections, and English translations of Karlstadt’s works have appeared in more recent history, a complete edition of his letters and writings only began under the leadership of Thomas Kaufmann in 2012.

  • Baylor, Michael. The Radical Reformation. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511819353

    Includes English translations of Karlstadt’s “Letter from the Community of Orlamünde to the People of Allstedt” and “Whether One Should Proceed Slowly.” Places Karlstadt and these writings in the context of the 1520s “radicals,” although Baylor (and his reviewers) comment on the difficulties and problems of this terminology.

  • Burnett, Amy, trans. and ed. The Eucharistic Pamphlets of Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2011.

    Burnett faithfully translates Karlstadt’s thirteen pamphlets on the Eucharist from 1521–1524 for an English audience, showing Karlstadt’s important contribution to the Reformation debate over the Eucharist. Each text contains a helpful introduction and context. This work provides the sources behind Burnett’s Karlstadt and the Origins of the Eucharistic Controversy: A Study in the Circulation of Ideas, cited under The Wittenberg Movement (1521–1522) and Sacramental Controversy.

  • Furcha, Edward. The Essential Carlstadt. Fifteen Tracts by Andreas Bodenstein (Carlstadt) from Karlstadt. Classics of the Radical Reformation 8. Waterloo, ON: Herald Press, 1995.

    This volume contains English translations of fifteen of Karlstadt’s German tracts published from 1520 to 1534. While an important text for providing Karlstadt texts in English, the editorial choices and loose translations have been criticized by several scholars, so users should be mindful of potential errors and serious scholars should avoid using them alone. The brief prefaces to each tract have also been referred to as questionable by scholars like Carter Lindberg.

  • Hendrix, Scott, ed. Early Protestant Spirituality. Classics of Western Spirituality. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2009.

    In this collection, Hendrix adapts Furcha’s translation of Karlstadt’s Orlamünde sermon “Regarding the Two Greatest Commandments: Love of God and Love of Neighbor” (preached 1523, published 1524). In his short introduction before the text, Hendrix explains that he has included this piece out of Karlstadt’s many publications because he finds it “one of the best expressions of his spirituality,” and because it demonstrates Karlstadt’s debt to medieval mystical theology. See pp. 151–167.

  • Hertzsch, Erich, ed. Karlstadts Schriften aus den Jahren 1523–1525. 2 vols. Halle/Saale, Germany: M. Niemeyer, 1956–1957.

    Well-respected collection of Karlstadt’s writings in these significant years. Included here as the KGK has not yet reached the years 1523–1525.

  • Karlstadt edition.

    English language website for KGK. Access to the digital edition as well as other Karlstadt resources, including a timeline and a few English translations. Updated with new sources when available. Also includes a more detailed bibliography of Karlstadt research.

  • Kaufmann, Thomas, et al., eds. Kritische Gesamtausgabe der Schriften und Briefe Andreas Bodensteins von Karlstadt (KGK). Göttingen, Germany: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2017–2025.

    The KGK is the new standard of Karlstadt primary sources and promises to be the basis of exciting new scholarship on Karlstadt. Karlstadt’s letters and writings through 1521 have been published thus far, with the goal of completing the rest of Karlstadt’s corpus by 2025. The edition is available in both a print and online format. Each entry contains helpful scholarly introductions written by a strong team of editor-scholars that provide the latest in Karlstadt research.

  • Mangrum, Bryan, and Giuseppe Scavizzi, eds. and trans. A Reformation Debate: Karlstadt, Emser and Eck on Sacred Images: Three Treatises in Translation. 2d ed. Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 1998.

    First edition printed in 1991. Includes Karlstadt’s On the Removal of Images, but unfortunately leaves out the second half of Karlstadt’s book, Und das keyn Betdler unther den Christen seyn soll. The editors place the text alongside and, therefore, in comparison with two Catholic treatises by Emser and Eck also addressing the 1520s debate over religious images and iconoclasm. A useful English translation for students interested in this topic, but with a warning that Karlstadt’s text is best understood as a whole.

  • Sider, Ronald. Karlstadt’s Battle with Luther: Documents in a Liberal-Radical Debate. Reprint. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2001.

    Original edition published by Fortress Press in 1978. Sider presents selected documents in a back and forth between Karlstadt and Luther from 1522 to 1525 as an example of “liberal” and “radical” approaches to change; reader should keep this structure in mind. Includes Karlstadt’s “Sermon for the First Evangelical Eucharist,” Whether One Should Proceed Slowly, Concerning the Anti-Christian Misuse of the Lord’s Bread and Cup, and Review of Some of the Chief Articles of Christian Doctrine.

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