There are only two substantial eyewitness accounts of the life of Martin Luther. Best known is a 9,000-word Latin memoir by Philip Melanchthon published in Latin at Heidelberg in 1548, two years after the Reformer's death. But the other substantial vita of Luther—at 175,000 words by far the longest and most detailed eyewitness account of the Reformer—has never been published in English. Recorded contemporaneously over the first twenty-five years of the Reformation by Luther's lifelong antagonist Johannes Cochlaeus, the Commentaria de Actis et Scriptis Martini Lutheri was published in Latin at Mainz in 1549. This chapter introduces this confrontation between Melanchthon's vita and Cochlaeus's Commentary read against each other, the rival texts rekindle the colossal crossfire of faith-against-faith that animated and illuminated the Reformation.
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