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Philipp of Hesse: Unlikely Hero of the Reformation

by Helmke, John

Item #: 124570 / 2018 / Paperback / 232 Pages


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Just five months after Martin Luther published his Ninety-Five Theses, thirteen-year-old Philipp was declared Landgrave of Hesse, ruler of one of the most powerful principalities of the Holy Roman Empire.

During his forty- nine-year reign, he proved a divisive leader—he boldly promoted the Reformation but was openly married to two wives at the same time, against the advice of Luther and other theologians. He ruled his land well but ignored sage advice from friends.

Some people admired Philipp as a hero. Others despised him as scandalous. However he was viewed, one thing was for sure: God was able to use Philipp’s leadership skills to unite the Reformation movement and allow it to grow.

This comprehensive look at the life and role of Philipp invites readers to take a deeper look at the intertwining history of the Church, the Reformation, and politics.

Listen to Pastor John Helmke's interview on Issues, Etc. >>

Praise for Philipp of Hesse

“A fascinating and multifaceted biographical study.”

—Kurt K. Hendel, Bernard, Fischer, Westberg Distinguished Ministry Professor Emeritus of Reformation History, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago


“John Helmke has found a hole in the record concerning one of that century’s major players, Philipp of Hesse. That said, we might expect a dusty tome replete with obscure details and foreign language footnotes. Helmke, though, has provided an accessible story that will engage all sorts of readers and reward them for the time spent.”

—Leonard Payton, Pastor, St. John Lutheran Church, Forest Park, Illinois


“Along with Luther’s noble protector, Frederick the Wise, Philipp of Hesse looms large. In sixtythree years crowded with passionate living, Philipp had a significant impact on the Reformation’s development. It’s a story worth telling, and here it is well told.”

—The Rev. Fred Reklau (retired), Author of Partners in Care: Medicine and Ministry Together (Wipf & Stock, 2010)


About the Author

John E. Helmke is a pastor emeritus at St. John Lutheran Church in Forest Park, Illinois. He has conducted extensive research on Philipp of Hesse in the JKM Library of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), a short walk from the University of Chicago and its Regenstein Library.

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Philipp of Hesse: Unlikely Hero of the Reformation

by Helmke, John

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It is a very good thing to know the other "players" of the Reformation. We know it wasn't all Luther, but the other men and women of the Reformation should not be neglected since without them the Reformation movement probably would have gotten stopped before it ever got going.

A Must Read!

Until now, there have been few English texts written about the signers of the Augsburg Confession. John E. Helmke has successfully given readers an in-depth and accessible view into the life story of one of these signors, Philipp of Hesse. Philipp of Hesse was a young and prominent Lutheran Prince in the reformation. He was the head of the mighty Lutheran Smalkaldic League and the Landgrave of Hesse which gave him control over the Rhine river. While often remembered for his scandals, people often dismiss this Lutheran Prince. After reading this text It is my humble opinion that students of the protestant reformation are doing themselves a disservice by looking over and ignoring Philipp of Hesse. After reading Helmke's book, I have been rewarded with more knowledge on the great reformer Martin Luther, Luther's relationship to the German Princes, and the Smalkaldic League. This is a must read for all reformation scholars and I recommend it to all of my colleagues. Thank you John Helmke and Concordia Publishing House for this resource!

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