Dr Sabine Hiebsch

foto Sabine Hiebsch
W.J. Kooiman-J.P. Boendermaker Scholar for Luther Research


Dr Hiebsch was born in Germany, where she spent her childhood and graduated from catholic St. Lioba-Gymnasium Bad Nauheim in 1983. 

Dr Hiebsch has studied Catholic and Protestant theology at the following universities:

  • France: Institut Catholique de Paris (1983-1984)
  • Germany: Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen (1984-1986),
    Friedrich-Wilhelm Universität Bonn (1988-1991)
  • The Netherlands: Universiteit van Amsterdam / Katholieke Theologische Hogeschool Amsterdam / B. Folkertsma Stichting voor Talmudica (1986-1988).

Luther portait
She also spent periods of time for her doctoral research in the United States, at Luther Seminary, St. Paul/MN (in 1992 and in 1993), in the United Kingdom, at the British Library, London (1992) and in Germany, at the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel (1993) and at the Institut für Spätmittelalter und Reformation, Tübingen (1998).

After finishing her studies in Germany Dr Hiebsch returned to the Netherlands for her doctoral dissertation on biblical female figures: Figura ecclesiae: Lea und Rachel in Martin Luthers Genesispredigten. She worked as a post-doc Luther researcher at Evangelical-Lutheran Seminary (affiliated with University of Utrecht 2005-2007) and at Protestant Theological University (2007-2010).

Since January 1, 2011 Dr Hiebsch is the W.J. Kooiman-J.P. Boendermaker Scholar for Luther Research at VU University.

On the initiative of Dr Hiebsch, thanks to the generosity of some of the sponsors of her W.J. Kooiman-J.P. Boendermaker Luther Research Position, in May 2014 the VU-Luther Award has been established.


In her research Dr Hiebsch wants to contribute to the studying of Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) writings and the traditions that were important to the development of Luther’s theology.

Placing Luther in the broader context of reform movements, both in the (late) middle ages and in the early modern period, helps her to understand and emphasize the impact Luther and the Lutheran Reformation came to have on theology, church practice, politics and the distribution of power.

International exchange is crucial in Luther research. Dr Hiebsch is part of that international research community by participating in various projects, speaking regularly at conferences and symposia, and by publishing the results of her research in four languages. 

Considering the predominantly reformed context of the Netherlands the Luther-Calvin dialogue and the dialogue with the various reformed Dutch traditions is also an important aspect of Dr Hiebsch’s research.

Her goal is to get students who mainly associate the reformation with Calvin, interested and enthusiastic for Luther and his theology, primarily by getting them acquainted with Luther’s struggles in faith and theology, through reading the different genres of his writings, instead of starting with the vast amount of secondary literature.

It is essential for Dr Hiebsch to make her research accessible for a broader audience. She does this by giving lectures for congregations and church institutes, by teaching a theological course on Luther and his theology for interested laypeople and by writing columns and articles for popular magazines and newspapers.

Through these activities Dr Hiebsch also hopes to promote and broaden the knowledge of Luther and his theology in the Netherlands, where Lutherans have always been a religious minority.


M. Luther, Supputatio annorum mundi
M. Luther, Supputatio annorum mundi
The main focus of Dr Hiebsch‘s research is Martin Luther and his theology. This includes late-medieval traditions such as monastic theology as a key for understanding and positioning Luther, hermeneutics and homiletic traditions.

Another focus is the history of the Lutherans in the Low Countries, including the reception of Luther’s theology, and religious life in Lutheran communities and congregations.

In her interdisciplenary approach to Luther research and the study of religious Lutheran life in the Low Countries, pivotal impact comes from the fields of general and social history, the history of art and literature and gender studies.

Some of the recent research topics are:
‘The heart as hermeneutical and theological key to Luther’s understanding of the experience of faith’, ‘The Wittenberg-Antwerp connection’, ‘Preparing for death: a matter of the heart? Martin Luther’s approach of ars moriendi‘, ‘Martin Luther and the religious identity of the Saints’, ‘Concepts of Sainthood in Early Modern Christianity’, ‘Cinderella: A Lutheran Fairy Tale?’, ‘Communion Tokens in Lutheran congregations in the Netherlands’.

Symposium 425 years Lutheran Congregation in Amsterdam

In 2013 the Evangelical-Lutheran Congregation Amsterdam celebrated its 425th anniversary. To mark this special occasion Dr Sabine Hiebsch organized a symposium: Van pakhuis tot preekhuis(report in Dutch)/Van pakhuis tot preekhuis (report in English).