Thursday, January 31, 2013

People You’ve Probably Never Heard of But Should: Bertold of Regensburg

I have decided to resurrect an old series, giving a brief biography of people from church history that deserve a wider audience. Today I’m tackling a dude that I had never heard of before.

Bertold of Regensburg (also known as Berthold of Regensburg or Bertold von Regensburg or just plain ol’ Bertie) was a passionate preacher during the high Middle Ages. He was born sometime around 1220 in a town called Regensburg—hence the name von Regensburg.

Bertold was a Franciscan monk. In his twenties he set about as a preacher. He often preached against the excesses of his day. He was commissioned by Pope Urban IV to embark on a preaching journey to call heretics back to the faith. It was a sort of preaching crusade.

Some estimates have Bertold preaching to over 200,000 people at times even being called to preach in the open fields. Because his audience was so vast and diverse he spoke of contemporary matters in the common tongue.

He died in 1272, having retired from his preaching tours and living out the rest of his days in his Franciscan monastery.

Why You Should Know Him:

I cannot read German and I have only been able to get my hands on a few snippets from his sermons. I cannot commend his theology because I do not know it. I am not in a position to comment on whether he was an evangelical or not. Nor can I say whether we would benefit from his sermons.

Yet, I am intrigued by Bertold. He has been called by some the “Whitefield” of his day. One has to wonder if the simplicity and earthiness of his preaching did not in some way plant seeds of the Reformation. Certainly his wide appeal and methodology of calling common folk to repentance and confession would have influenced others. It is not a stretch of the imagination to envision those that he shaped being influential in the lives of some men like Wycliffe or Hus a couple centuries later. 

Further Reading:

There isn’t much out there. There is a 620 page book including his sermons that is edited by Franz Pfeiffer.

You can listen to an audio recording of one of his sermons in Middle High German. (This shows his influence. The fact that someone was able to time-travel to record him and decided to record him instead of others is telling).

There is a homepage of Berthold von Regensburg but it is in German. You can do the Google Translate and it helps some.

There are a few books out there on the social impact of Bertold. But again they are in German.

Nerd Assignment:

Do any of my readers know German? Can you get your hands on a few of these free books on Google (like this one) and tell me about this dude’s preaching. What can we learn from him? Did he plant any seeds of the Reformation?

Come back next Thursday to learn about Basil the Great…

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