Theologia Germanica proposes that God and man can be wholly united by following a path of perfection, as exemplified by the life of Christ, renouncing sin and selfishness, ultimately allowing God’s will to replace human will. The book influenced Martin Luther who published editions in 1516 and 1518, before his full break with the Catholic faith. It was Luther who gave the treatise its modern name; in the manuscripts it is known as "Der Franckforter", i.e. "the Frankfurter". Luther wrote,
"Next to the Bible and St. Augustine, no book has ever come into my hands from which I have learned more of God and Christ, and man and all things that are."
Another goal of Luther in the publication was supporting his thesis that the German language was just as well-suited for expressing theological ideas as the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages. The treatise itself does not discuss or reflect on the fact that it is written in German.
The first English translation of the Theologia Germanica dates from 1648.
A text from 1497, the Wuerzburg or Bronnbach manuscript, was discovered in 1843 and contained text not included in Luther's editions. This text forms the basis of most subsequent English translations.
In 1528, Ludwig Haetzer republished Theologia Germanica with interpretive "Propositions" by Hans Denck. Towards the end of his life (1541-42), Sebastian Franck produced a Latin paraphrase of the Haetzer version. Sebastian Castellio published Latin (1557) and French (1558) translations, after his break with John Calvin over the execution of Michael Servetus (1553). Just over a decade later, Valentin Weigel provided a "Short Account and Introduction to the German Theology" (1571). Johann Arndt published an edition endorsed by Philipp Jakob Spener. In 1980, Bengt Hoffman brought out an English translation of Luther's 1518 edition. David Blamires’ 2003 translation is based on Wolfgang von Hinten’s 1982 critical edition.