Professor Lyndal Roper’s biography of Martin Luther was a brilliant read. Published in 2017, it looked at this remarkable,strange, brave and conflicted character from 500 years ago through a different, psychological, lens.

Now Roper has published a follow-up series of lectures and it is illuminating, disturbing, challenging and a great read. Like me (but for different reasons) she was present in Wittenberg in 2017 when Germany and the Church was celebrating the quincentenary of the birth of the Reformation in 1517 when Luther allegedly nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Schloßkirche.

So, she introduces the book with a glimpse into how this was celebrated – exhibitions, new studies and kitsch. The substance of the book is vivid. Roper digs deeply into the way Luther’s ‘brand’ was created and shaped in a way that looks terribly modern.

However, the chapter on Luther’s anti-Semitism is a hard read. I first went to Wittenberg with Rowan Williams in 2006 – it was freezing – and was shocked to be taken outside the Stadtkirche to see the depiction of the Judensau under the eaves. Luther’s anti-Semitism cannot be avoided, and Roper spares no mitigation.

If you thought Twitter invented the sheer nastiness of undisciplined and inhumane language in media, think again. What Luther published – and the language he used to attack his opponents – should surprise and shock, even today. The book gives lots of examples, but they are alarming, shaming and often very funny. Luther was not for the faint hearted.

Luther, like all of us, was complex and contradictory. Understanding him matters because his legacy – the theme of the book’s exploration – has made such an impact on the world. You can’t understand Europe, Germany, the development of world politics, Christianity or history without understanding Luther and his legacy.

This is a great, stimulating, illuminating and very accessible book.

And, if you put “Wittenberg” into the search on this blog, you’ll get a number of entries over the last decade or more and some photos. (You will also admire the fact that if you stand to one side of Luther’s statue outside the Marktkirche in Hannover and look back, it looks like he is doing Scottish country dancing.)