Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jared Poley

Second Advisor

Gregory Moore

Third Advisor

Nick Wilding


Many historians acknowledge the presence of apocalyptic thinking in the early years of the German Protestant Reformation, but the content and use of apocalypticism is rarely explored. This dissertation will investigate the presence and instrumentalization of apocalyptic thinking and rhetoric in the early phase of the German Protestant Reformation (1517-1525). We will begin by investigating the history of apocalypticism from ancient traditions up to the sixteenth century. We will also consider important apocalyptic themes, which help us appreciate how the early Reformers understood eschatological ideas and used them both to interpret political and ecclesiastical events in their time and also to motivate piety and loyalty from their audiences. This dissertation will explore many of the writings of Martin Luther between his posting of the Ninety-five Theses in 1517 and the German Peasants’ War in 1525. We will also consider the writings of Thomas Müntzer and Andreas Karlstadt, both of whom had different roles in the early Reformation movement and both understood and deployed apocalyptic themes for different purposes. We will discuss the apocalyptic motivations of peasants, burghers, and religious leaders who participated in the German Peasants’ War. While the peasant grievance documents discuss rights and material issues, they also demonstrate a desire to establish a society of justice and peace similar to what is described in apocalyptic passages by the Old Testament prophets. We will conclude this dissertation by noting the ongoing pervasiveness of apocalypticism in our politics and media today.


File Upload Confirmation


Available for download on Saturday, December 06, 2025