Theological Poets

Peter Leithart once said in an issue of Credenda/ Agenda: “We are devotees of the Word, people of the book. Yet we can’t write stories or poetry. This is a scandal.” It is a scandal! And, while stories get some attention, poetry rarely does. So I’d like to take this opportunity to call to mind theological poets ranging through history up to the times of the mid-20th century. Let’s read them, learn from them, and develop our own!

Caveat: The list will be pretty heavy on English-speakers since poetry rarely translates. I’ll mark otherwise where I am able.

Theological Poets through the Mid-20th Century

Lutheran Poets

(I haven’t been able to read yet. Often apparently in Latin.)

  • Johann Heinrich Ernesti (Latin? German?)
  • Johann Heermann (I believe he wrote in Latin & German.)
  • Johann Walter (Latin? German?)


Lutheran Liturgical Hymn-Writers

(This list has its origins here. I don’t know much about that site.)

  • Hermanus Bonnus (1504-48):  From the 1540s, revised the sequences and hymns for saints’ days to reflect Evangelical theology;
  • Philip Melanchthon, from 1544 onward, composed a few “replacement” hymns for saints’ days.  Given his prominence as a theologian, Moss notes that “Latin hymn-writing could hardly have had a more spectacular seal of approval;”
  • Johannes Spangenberg (1484-1550):  Edited a large 1545 collection of Latin and German hymns for church use, apparently at the urging of Luther himself;
  • Reinhardus Lorichius translated into Latin twenty of Spangenberg’s own German hymns (1555), with theological commentaries.  (Discussing Spangenberg and Lorichius, Moss speaks of “Lutheranism’s bilingual culture”);
  • Mattheus Collinus: A Czech poet whose hymns (1545 et. seq.) are “engagingly confidential … [and take] a rumbustious approach to feast-days, with an emphasis on the feasting;”
  • Georgius Fabricius (1516-71): “the most accomplished of Lutheran Latin hymn-writers [and] a humanist of the first rank;” his hymns range over “Christ’s Passion, the canonical hours, the whole of the Church’s calendar, and various occasions in the religious life;”
  • Matthias Flacius Illyricus, the most despicable of all major Lutheran theologians prior to the 1930s, also assembled a collection of Latin hymns, although one gathers that, rather than recommending them for worship, his intent was to hold them up as bad examples of the unregenerate past.
  • Perhaps the most interesting book described by Moss is the 1561 second edition of Lucas Lossius’ Psalmodia hoc est Cantica sacra Veteris Ecclsiae selecta 

Modern Poetry Collections to Consider

Martin Luther’s Poetry

Look at this great find from! Copied exactly from the Martin Luther page.

1. All Praise To Thee, Eternal Lord 9/17/2010
2. Let God Arise, And Let His Foes 9/17/2010
3. Nun Bitten Wir Den Heiligen Geist 9/17/2010
4. O Lord, Look Down From Heaven, Behold 9/17/2010
5. The Mouth Of Fools Doth God Confess 9/17/2010
6. We Now Implore God The Holy Ghost 9/17/2010
7. To Jordan Came Our Lord The Christ 9/17/2010
8. To Shepherds As They Watched By Night 9/17/2010
9. Savior Of The Nations, Come 9/17/2010
10. Lord, Keep Us Steadfast In Thy Word 9/17/2010
11. Luther’s Hymn, In Eight Practical Rules 9/17/2010
12. Lutzen 9/17/2010
13. God Is A Stronghold And A Tower 9/17/2010
14. Come, Holy Ghost, God And Lord! 9/17/2010
15. Flung To The Heedless Winds 9/17/2010
16. From Heaven Above To Earth I Come 9/17/2010
17. That Man A Godly Life Might Live 9/17/2010
18. In The Midst Of Earthly Life 9/17/2010
19. Cradle Hymn 12/15/2014
20. Christ Jesus Lay In Death’s Strong Bands 9/17/2010
21. May God Bestow On Us His Grace 9/17/2010
22. Dear Christians, One And All Rejoice 9/17/2010
23. From Depths Of Woe I Raise To Thee 9/17/2010
24. Old Hundred 9/17/2010
25. In The Bonds Of Death He Lay 9/17/2010
26. In Peace And Joy I Now Depart 9/17/2010
27. If God Had Not Been On Our Side 9/17/2010
28. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God 9/17/2010
29. God Is Our Refuge In Distress 9/17/2010
30. O Lord, We Praise Thee, Bless Thee, And Adore Thee 9/17/2010


Lutheran Poetry Books or Related Topics*

* By all means, check the authors listed above for published books of poetry. Otherwise, some of these Lutheran poetic finds are pretty pricey. You might want to Interlibrary loan!

Living Lutheran Theological Poets

I haven’t read all of them, but you can also go here and scroll down to see a list of Lutheran poets & hymnists. I just haven’t read them all to know whether they are especially theological.
Also, for your reading pleasure, check out Dream of the RoodRood, in this context, is another way to say crucifix.
Care to bring more to my attention? Please do so! Let’s get a great big list of theological poets all in one place so we can bookmark it and check these poets out at our liesure!


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