Hjalti Hugason: The Semantic Freedom of Names: Reflections on Names and Concepts in Reformation Studies
The article deals with the need to scrutinize the terms used in the study of religious changes in Iceland and northern Europe in the 16th century, mainly those that can be attributed to Martin Luther. It is noted how umbrella terms like “sið(a)skipti” and “sið(a)bót” are used even to this day to describe these changes and how specialized historical research in modern times calls for a more diverse vocabulary. The development of the terms that have been used in this context is traced and their use connected to shifts in the academic world, like the search for neutrality and objectivity, and shifts in the temperament of the nation such as the development of the independence movement. It is also noted how some academics have attempted to create more space for analysis and interpretation with a more diverse vocabulary. Finally the approach employed in the writing of the summary work Kristni á Íslandi (2000) is broadly recommended. There the identity and policy of the reformers was distinguished from political policies enacted by the Danish government with the aim of fixing the Lutheran church by law and from the long term development that led to the nation in fact becoming Lutheran by the use of specialized terms such as: siðbót, siðaskipti and siðbreyting.
Keywords: Reformation, reformation studies, semantics, analytical concepts, history