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Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, and Their Wittenberg Colleagues

Summary and Keywords

The German Reformation, sparked by the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses in 1517, unfolded parallel to another intellectual phenomenon then sweeping centers of higher education throughout western Europe: the development of a new way to read classic literature of the humanities, philosophy, and theology, often called Renaissance humanism. At the University of Wittenberg, this resulted in the development of a sodality of professors in the arts and theology faculties, initially including Andreas Bodenstein (Karlstadt), Nicholas von Amsdorf, Martin Luther, and the court’s university advisor, Georg Spalatin, but quickly spreading to include, by the early 1520s, Philip Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, and Johannes Bugenhagen, among others. Any attempt to understand the early phases of Wittenberg’s Reformation without taking into account this sodality will ultimately fail to catch the breadth of this movement and the commitment of these teachers to one another and to their cause. After an early skirmish over theological method resulted in Karlstadt’s distancing of himself from the university, the other faculty members remained committed to reforming the curricula of the arts and higher faculties at the university along humanist, evangelical lines. This reform influenced the theology and practice of the emerging church in Saxony and elsewhere, witnessed among other places in the 1527–1528 Visitation Articles, and led to a uniquely Wittenberg reform, one that always blended the highest regard for good letters and the most ancient sources with a developing Lutheran theology.

Keywords: Martin Luther, University of Wittenberg, Erasmus, Johann von Staupitz, Andreas Bodenstein (Karlstadt), Philip Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, Johannes Bugenhagen, Nicholas von Amsdorf, Georg Spalatin

One of the subtlest and often overlooked distortions among the historical depictions of Martin Luther arises when scholars neglect the fact that during his entire career, Luther never worked alone but, rather, always as a member of a university faculty. Not only does this oversight deform descriptions of the relation between Luther and his closest colleague, Philip Melanchthon, but it also leaves many other important Wittenberg theologians in the shadows, when in fact their contributions also helped develop the Wittenberg Reformation.

The heart of the problem stems from the low estimation of Luther’s humanism held by many scholars. As important as Luther’s late-medieval theological training was, many of his most important contacts were humanists who shared with him a deep love for letters and the most ancient sources of classical and Christian thought.1 This simple definition, which does not tie Renaissance humanism to a single philosophy or anthropology, allows historians to measure the movement, for example, not by how much scholars north of the Alps agree with Erasmus’s moral philosophy but by how much they shared a commitment to return to the sources (ad fontes) and to improve their reading and writing by using these very sources (bonae litterae).

A contributing factor comes from a form of hero worship that motivates many biographers of famous people. The complexities of daily university life are, after all, a far less inviting topic than simply a radical, sometimes outrageous portrait of Luther, whose posture at the Diet of Worms in 1521, with its “Here I stand,” makes for more interesting reading. Considering the role of Luther’s colleagues also short-circuits the other pastime of Luther biographers: the search for a “breakthrough” or “Tower experience.” Here, too, Luther’s skill as a humanist takes a backseat to the far more alluring speculation about an abrupt change in Luther’s theology—than reflective of life in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance.2

Wittenberg up to 1517

When Luther first sets foot in Wittenberg in 1508, its university is only six years old. Founded as an alternative to the University of Leipzig in neighboring ducal Saxony, the University of Wittenberg saw itself on the cutting edge of late-medieval, Renaissance training. From the very beginning, its arts faculty was populated not simply by medieval scholastic philosophers but by humanists, whose commitments lay not so much with medieval philosophical disputes as with the newest wave of interest in languages and literature.3 But in theology, the medieval schools still reigned, so that Martin Luther counts himself a nominalist and lectures in Wittenberg on Aristotle’s ethics and, later, on Peter Lombard’s Sentences in the ways expected for one trained in the via moderna. After spending some time in Erfurt, Luther returns to Wittenberg and in 1512 receives his doctorate in theology.

Even before October 31, 1517, Luther does not go it alone. First, Johann von Staupitz, the head of the German congregation of Augustinian friars and professor of theology at Wittenberg provides important guidance for Luther. Von Staupitz brings with him certain commitments gleaned from his own training at the University of Tübingen, where the two viae (nominalist and realist) had been blended together in the teaching of many of its late-medieval lecturers.4 He also eschews lectures on systematic topics in favor of biblical lectures, a practice that Luther then follows assiduously throughout his career. Von Staupitz also passes down to Luther an interest in what is now labeled mystical literature and thought, but which could perhaps better be understood as akin to a German theological humanism. Thus, Luther’s very earliest publications include editions of the anonymous Theologia Deutsch, which he understands as a summary of Johann Tauler’s thought.5 The fact that Luther develops his own theology, where faith and not love took center stage, does not gainsay the fact that at this early stage in his career. his theology arises out of his conversations with von Staupitz.6 Even his later criticisms of the older man for not understanding the depth of the Anfechtungen (assaults) on his faith point to profound conversations that assisted Luther in his theological development. Luther replaces von Staupitz as professor of theology in 1513.

A second important colleague is Andreas Bodenstein (also known as Karlstadt), whose place in Luther’s life can be easily misconstrued. Karlstadt presides at Luther’s doctoral defense and remains his colleague through 1523, when their differences become too much for Karlstadt to handle. While he brings Luther into the guild, so to speak, Luther returns the compliment by convincing Karlstadt to approach theology and its texts using a far more humanistic method than he had up until then. Thus, after initially objecting to Luther’s approach to theological sources, Karlstadt reads Augustine’s On the Spirit and the Letter and becomes Luther’s ardent, though independent, collaborator in returning theology to its scriptural and patristic roots.

One good example of their collaboration comes in two sets of theses published by them in 1517. In April, Karlstadt writes 151 or 152 theses. In September of the same year, Luther publishes 97 Theses, a frontal attack on scholastic theology, especially on the very nominalist theologians he was supposed to be teaching. Both sets announce to the world that Wittenberg’s theological method is undergoing a profound shift, as its two foremost theologians break their allegiance to scholastic authority in favor of a direct reading of biblical and patristic writers, which they use to criticize medieval teachers.

A third collaborator at this stage is Georg Spalatin [also known as Burckhardt]. Spalatin is the court official charged with responsibility for church and university in the electorate of Saxony. Even though he is not one of Luther’s colleagues at the university, he is responsible for shaping the university according to the cutting-edge humanist expectations for education, and he ends up running interference for Luther with the elector. His own training in the humanities in his hometown of Spalt and in Nuremberg, coupled with his reception of one of the first Master of Arts at Wittenberg in 1503, made him a perfect candidate as, first, educator of the elector’s children, then librarian at Wittenberg (1512), before becoming overseer for university affairs in 1517. It is especially in this position that Luther and, later, Melanchthon often correspond with him. These letters and those to Johannes Lang, Luther’s friend and fellow Augustinian in Erfurt, give helpful insights into the evolving shape of Wittenberg’s (humanist) educational program.

In Luther’s very earliest correspondence with Spalatin and Lang, the main topic is the Reuchlin affair. In a 1514 letter to Lang, mention is made of Johannes Reuchlin’s opinion on Jewish writings.7 At the same time, Spalatin writes letters to both Karlstadt and Luther for their opinions on the Reuchlin controversy. Luther expresses high praise for Reuchlin and declares himself not a neutral observer in the matter.8 By August, Luther is making great (humanist) fun of Ortwin Gratius, one of Reuchlin’s enemies, comparing him to a whole series of animals à la Ovid’s Metamorphoses.9 On August 24, 1516, Luther reveals his penchant for going ad fontes by requesting a copy of Jerome’s letters from Spalatin to find out more reliable information about St. Bartholomew than contained in medieval sources.10 A postscript warns his friend not to be surprised that he does not have a copy of Jerome’s letters, since he is awaiting Erasmus’s edition—another clear indication of his humanist bent. By September, he reports being pressured to publish his lectures on the Psalms, again a typical aspiration of an up-and-coming theologian.11 The result will finally be the German translation and commentary on the penitential psalms (based upon Reuchlin’s Latin rendering of the Hebrew).

A letter to Lang in Erfurt from the middle of October 1516 describes the disputation of Bartholomew Feldkirch, chaired by Luther on September 25.12 That dispute is an early attack on what Luther calls in the letter “Gabrielists,” that is, followers of Gabriel Biel. While theologically it represents a break with Luther’s nominalist teachers in Erfurt, methodologically it demonstrates again his commitment to returning to the purest sources of Christian theology, so that his arguments are filled with citations of Scripture and Augustine.13 This disputation, which questioned the authorship of one of Augustine’s spurious works often cited in canon law and in Peter Lombard’s Sentences, at first earns Luther hefty criticism from Karlstadt. The latter’s change of heart upon reading On the Spirit and the Letter provides Wittenberg with two theologians bent on returning ad fontes puriores.14

If Luther now feels bold enough to attack Biel (and Luther’s instructors in Erfurt), he is also courageous enough to share with Spalatin his criticisms of no less a humanist than Erasmus of Rotterdam.15 Sometimes misunderstood as Luther’s rejection of “humanism” in favor of “the Reformation” (or at least of Luther’s own theology),16 this letter demonstrates contrariwise his unflagging zeal for returning ad fontes. Erasmus follows Jerome (and thus interprets “law” in Paul as ceremonial law), whereas Luther suggests that Erasmus should read Augustine’s anti-Pelagian tracts to get his interpretation of iustitia in Paul back on track. But Luther also claims the support of Cyprian, Gregory of Nazianzus, Rheticus, Irenaeus, Hilary, Olympius, Innocent, and Ambrose (which includes the spurious commentaries on Paul’s letters by “Ambrosiaster”). And Luther smells in Erasmus the same Aristotelian rat that he found in Biel, namely, that people are made righteous by doing righteous deeds. Moreover, Luther asks Spalatin to share his opinion with Erasmus, another clear indication that Luther intended to contribute to a humanist sodality founded on the proper interpretation of Scripture, shorn of the errors of Nicholas Lyra and even Faber Stapulensis:17 “You would [be tempted to] call me heedless that I would drag such men ‘under the stripes of Aristarchus,’18 except that you know that I do this for the theological matter at stake and for the salvation of the brothers.”19

Luther’s brand of returning to the earliest sources also contains a peculiarly German flair, in that he insists that such a move include Johannes Tauler, whose sermons and other texts he has read, including the anonymous Theologia Deutsch, which he just edited for publication.20 When Spalatin expresses the wish in December 1516 to translate some theological texts into German, Luther, after some hesitation, suggests: “If it pleases you to read pure, solid theology, close to what the ancients wrote and expressed in German, you may acquire for yourself the sermons of Johannes Tauler, the Dominican.”21 He bases praise for these works both on the purity of the sources and on their “consonance with the gospel.”22 As in his criticisms of Erasmus, this indicates a blending of his understanding of the Gospel with humanist methods.23

On February 8, 1517, Luther begins to express even more clearly his criticism of scholastic commentators on Lombard’s Sentences and their dependence upon Aristotle, this time to his former teachers in Erfurt (Jodocus Truttvetter and Bartholomew Arnoldi) via Johannes Lang.24 In a similar vein, Luther writes to Lang scarcely a month later but now to express his disappointment with Erasmus and Faber Stapulensis.25 While announcing his pleasure with his about-to-be published translation and commentary on the penitential psalms and with Erasmus’s erudite attacks on the “monks and priests” for their “inveterate and dull ignorance,” he insists to Lang that even such people as Erasmus prefer human things to divine: “These days are perilous times, and I see that for that reason not everyone is truly a wise Christian just from being ‘Greek’ or ‘Hebrew.’ … But there is a difference in the judgment of one who attributes something to the human will compared with another who knows nothing outside of grace.”26 Here again, Luther is not rejecting humanist method (he does not want his comments to fall in the wrong hands and provide fuel to Erasmus’s opponents) but, rather, correcting the false impression that linguistic skill is a means of obtaining God’s grace, something that contradicts Luther’s (purer) Augustinian and Pauline sources.27

Ties to another early confidant, Christopher Scheurl, and the Nuremberg humanists are revealed in a May 6, 1517, letter in which Luther asks Scheurl for a copy of von Staupitz’s sermons (containing arguments he will use in the 95 Theses). He also sends Scheurl a copy of the disputation theses, or as Luther calls them Positiones, written by Karlstadt. Even in his description he betrays his humanist sensibilities: “These are, if I am not mistaken, not just ‘Paradoxes of Cicero,’ but of our Karlstadt—nay, rather, of Saint Augustine—as much more remarkable and worthier than [those] of a Ciceronian, as Augustine—nay, rather, Christ—is worthier than Cicero.”28 Indeed, Karlstadt—now as convinced as Luther that a new way of doing theology is being developed in Wittenberg—has produced 151 theses for debate.29 Fresh from a thorough reading of Augustine, Karlstadt outlines the basics of Wittenberg’s theological program: attacks on scholastic theology regarding free will and the meriting of grace; the distinction between letter (law that shows sin) and spirit (grace); justification “by grace and the law of faith”; and the nature of all sin. Indeed, a comparison of these theses to the language of Luther’s 97 Theses against scholastic theology from September 1517 and his theses for the Heidelberg disputation of 1518 shows remarkable convergence in overall concerns, if not always in specifics.

A letter to Spalatin on May 6 reveals Luther’s excitement over Tauler and the Theologia Deutsch, which he values over “the most learned Erasmus” and his Jerome.30 At the same time, he demeans (in prose typical of humanists) his own verbose translation of the penitential psalms, praising instead the sermons of Tauler:31 “For this is a book in which you will discover how the erudition of our age is iron—nay, rather, clay—whether of Greek, Latin or Hebrew, compared to this erudition of solid piety.”32 Luther’s criticism, far from rejecting humanist ideals, actually arises from it and trumps it with the “solid piety” of Tauler.

Luther reveals this humanist bent in the oft-quoted May 17 letter to his confidant, Johannes Lang, in which he describes the transformation of Wittenberg’s theological curriculum. Rather than a declaration of some sort of “Reformation platform,” which if nothing else would be a completely anachronistic reading of the text, it shows quite clearly instead that Luther’s and Karlstadt’s intent (supported by Spalatin) is to transform theological teaching on the basis of the central cry of all humanists: “Ad fontes” (to the purest sources).33 Thus, “our theology” is precisely what Luther, Karlstadt, and Lang hold in common, the repudiation of scholastic theology by a return to the pure font of Christian theology: the Scripture and the Fathers:

Our theology and St. Augustine are continuing to succeed and they reign in our university through God’s action. Aristotle slowly is falling, headed for eternal ruin in the near future. Remarkably, lectures by the teachers of the Sentences are loathed. Nor can anyone hope to have anyone attending lectures unless they want to confess this theology, that is, the Bible, or St. Augustine or some other teacher of ecclesiastical authority.34

Ten months later, Luther also reports to Lang about progress in the curriculum for the arts faculty, which expresses even more clearly the humanist agenda to which he and others subscribe. He contrasts the incendiary attacks of Johann Tetzel and Conrad Wimpina against the 95 Theses to the enlightened life of the University of Wittenberg: “Otherwise, our curriculum [studium] advances with such hope that we expect in the very near future to have lectures in both—nay, rather, three—languages [Latin, Greek, Hebrew], Pliny, mathematics, Quintilian, and other excellent subjects, since those inept lectures of Peter Hispanus, Tartaretus and Aristotle have been rejected.”35 This humanist expansion of the curriculum in the arts faculty led, among other things, to the hiring of Philip Melanchthon to teach Greek.

In the meantime, Luther launches his own full-blown assault on scholastic theology in September 1517, using the occasion of a disputation at the promotion of Franz Günther to pen 97 Theses, all of which attack Biel and others without mercy.36 The transformation of Wittenberg’s theological perspective, heralded by Karlstadt in April, has now reached its climax. The very first thesis (also echoed in Karlstadt’s earlier work) insists on the (humanist) claim to respect older sources as purer: “To say that Augustine speaks against the heretics excessively is to say that Augustine has lied almost everywhere.”37 Such a view would give Pelagians the victory and mean that the authority of all the church’s teachers is illusory. Luther reiterates his reliance on the church’s teachers (Scripture is scarcely cited at all) at the very end of the theses: “In these statements we do not desire to say anything nor do we believe we have said anything that is not consonant with the Catholic Church and the ecclesiastical teachers.”38 Luther also sends a copy to Scheurl, requesting that he pass on a copy Johannes Eck.39

This, then, describes the network of like-minded scholars in which Luther participates on the eve of the publication of the 95 Theses: Spalatin at the court, Karlstadt at the university, Scheurl in Nuremberg (and occasionally Wittenberg), and Lang in Erfurt.40 What unites them all is a commitment, in both the arts and theology faculties, to return to the ancient languages and the original, purest sources in order to introduce a new way of viewing learning and faith. At the same time, in his fervor for the renewal of theology, Luther also attempts to initiate contact with Erasmus (via Spalatin) and Eck (via Scheurl). That Luther has blunt criticism for Erasmus arises not out of his own theology but out of commitment to the original sources (in this case the Pauline corpus), where Luther is convinced that Erasmus mistakenly trusts Jerome rather than Augustine in interpreting Paul.41

In a postscript to the letter to Lang on November 11, 1517, in which Luther vehemently complains about people attacking his approach to theology in the 97 Theses of September, he mentions the arrival of Johannes Rhagius Aesticampianus, a well-trained humanist, called “Orator and poet laureate” in his matriculation at Wittenberg on October 20, 1517.42 This represents a further step in the (humanist) reform of the university: attracting humanist scholars to the university and, in at least in the case of Melanchthon, creating new positions for them. Although it would seem that Aesticampianus was supposed to teach in the humanities, he enrolled as teacher of sacred letters and, as Luther later complained, lectured on Jerome instead of Pliny.43

The most famous addition to Wittenberg’s faculty was, of course, Philip Melanchthon. But others, including Justus Jonas, Johannes Bugenhagen, Caspar Cruciger Sr., and Georg Major—all of whom worked in Wittenberg in the 1520s—were also highly trained in the humanities (either at Wittenberg or elsewhere) before becoming Luther’s colleagues on the theological faculty. Their addition to the faculty assured that this new way of doing theology by returning to the ancient sources would continue well after Luther’s death, and it further underscores the compatibility of “humanism” and Wittenberg’s theology.44 All of these teachers, including Luther, were convinced that returning to the most ancient sources in theology and building upon a solid foundation in the humanities would provide Wittenberg’s theological program with the proper underpinnings.

Forming Wittenberg’s Humanist Theology (1518–1521)

On August 25, 1518, Wittenberg’s first professor of Greek arrives in town. After an unsuccessful attempt to lure Johannes Reuchlin to Wittenberg, the faculty and the Saxon court go after his young relative by marriage, Philip Melanchthon, who receives high praise not only from Reuchlin, who recommended him to them, but also (in annotations on 1 Thessalonians from 1516) from Erasmus. He is young (twenty-one years old), small, and completely unimposing—until, of course, he opens his mouth. Luther is absolutely head over heals upon hearing Melanchthon’s inaugural address, delivered on August 29 and published under the title On Amending Studies of the Youth, which is nothing short of a proposal to teach all subjects in accord with the best humanist methods.45

At this moment, Luther’s case with Rome has not completely unsettled the situation in Wittenberg. Outside of earlier attacks from the usual suspects (Tetzel and Konrad Wimpina), Luther’s summons to Augsburg for an interview with Cardinal Cajetan and the attack by Sylvester Prierias on the 95 Theses have just become public earlier in August 1518. Luther’s response to Prierias and the Explanations of the 95 Theses are just appearing in print.46 Luther’s reply in the Asterisks to Eck’s sharp Obelisks (circulating only in manuscript form) has also probably just been published, although Karlstadt’s lengthier reply had been out since May.

Thus, Melanchthon’s address comes at a time of relative calm for Wittenberg’s university. He calls for a rebirth of studies, beginning with the long-neglected Greek language and a renewed study of Aristotle using the original texts, rather than medieval commentators of the previous three hundred years. At the same time, he bemoans the demise of studies of mathematics and the Greek Church fathers, as well as the rise of dependence upon secondary (medieval) sources and canon law. Melanchthon levels this same criticism against medieval commentators on dialectics, using his own experience at Tübingen as an example of how bad things have become. Instead, properly understood, “dialectics … is a certain method, a compendium of all questions (governing principles and distinguishing ones).”47

After expressing (politically savvy) praise for Elector Frederick at having established such a fine institution of higher learning, Melanchthon describes Wittenberg as a place where one could study “a natural and unadulterated Aristotle,”48 along with Quintilian, Pliny, and the “progymnasmata” of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, to say nothing of history, the Latin of Virgil and Horace, and the Greek of Homer. Just to make sure his audience also realizes his commitment to Wittenberg’s new approach to theology as well, he turns to this subject in the latter part of his oration, emphasizing the need for both Greek and Hebrew and adding that the church’s teaching has gone astray, “having exchanged true and genuine piety for human traditions.”49 As a professor of Greek and other subjects in the arts faculty, Melanchthon concludes by announcing lectures on the Greek text of Titus and on Homer’s Iliad. But he will also immediately offer lectures on logic (dialectics) and rhetoric, as well as on other subjects.

Luther’s letters to Spalatin and Lang immediately after the oration best exemplify his response to this new colleague. To Spalatin, he calls the speech “plainly absolutely erudite and completely error free,” well received by everyone, and he warns him and the prince not to let Melanchthon go to another school due to his meager pay in Wittenberg:50 “I clearly do not desire another Greek instructor while he lives.”51 In another letter to Spalatin written a few days later, Luther adds a postscript about Philip, “the most Greek, erudite and humane person,” whose lectures are filled with students, so that even theologians want to study Greek.52 In the middle of September he writes to Lang about the “Most erudite and most Greek Philip Melanchthon,” a youth according to age but a master of letters, both languages (Latin and Greek), and even Hebrew.53

While in Augsburg in October, Luther sends Melanchthon a letter, not so much in order to recount the events there (he had recently described everything in a letter to Karlstadt) but to recommend the letter carrier, Johann Böschenstein, as Wittenberg’s new teacher of Hebrew (who stayed there only three months) and to encourage Melanchthon in his work (especially against “the enemies of letters and studies”), even should Luther die.54 When Melanchthon neglects to show up at the feast for a new doctor of theology, Johannes Frosch, Luther invites him to a supper that includes Karlstadt, von Amsdorf, and the rector, Bartholomew Bernhardi, among others.55 Melanchthon himself very quickly has become part of Luther’s inner circle, exchanging between August and December 1518 a spate of letters with Spalatin and Scheurl regarding university affairs.56

By December 1518, Luther can report to Spalatin on further changes in teaching duties for the arts faculty: replacing a course on Thomistic commentary on Aristotle’s Physics with the direct reading of Aristotle and suggesting a shift in the duties of the teacher of Thomistic logic to lectures on Ovid’s Metamorphoses.57 He longs for the day when courses of the Scotists would also be eliminated, “and pure philosophy and theology and all fields of learning may be drawn from their sources.”58 At nearly the same time, Luther sends a congratulatory letter to Reuchlin, and a month later Melanchthon initiates correspondence with Erasmus.59 No wonder that in the preface to De rhetorica libri tres, addressed to Bernhard Maurus and written in January 1519, Melanchthon could refer to Erasmus, Reuchlin, and Luther in the same breath. In his (and Luther’s) view, all were interested in returning theology to its very purest sources.60

A year after arriving, Melanchthon defends theses for the degree of Bachelor of Bible, which gives him license to lecture on the Latin text and theology of any biblical book.61 The theses themselves sound like a summary of Luther’s arguments in the Heidelberg Disputation or of Melanchthon’s in the 1521 Loci communes: Human nature loves itself and cannot love God; thus, because natural and divine law demands love of God, human nature hates God instead; as a result, righteousness is a benefit of Christ graciously imputed to us; this is beyond human reason unless seized by divine love. A second set of theses touches on authority: Only articles of faith witnessed in Scripture must be believed; the authority of councils is under Scripture; thus, questioning (scholastic) terms (such as “character,” “transubstantiation,” or “acquired faith”) is not heretical. These theses demonstrate the very blending of Wittenberg theology with humanist methodology. Questioning scholastic terminology is precisely what any good humanist does in relying on the oldest and purest sources (in the case of theology: the Bible). Arguing for the centrality of God’s grace and the weakness of human will and reason summarizes the heart of Wittenberg’s theology (held in common by both Luther and Karlstadt).

Thus, as Luther’s case with Rome heats up from 1519 to 1521, Wittenberg’s curriculum becomes ever more infused with humanist learning, now in the service of its developing theology. For all of these figures, the results seem clear: When one returns to the purest sources, now shorn of medieval Aristotelian accretions and understood instead using the best linguistic tools, one discovers not a program for moral betterment that contributes to righteousness before God but the depth of human sin that only the deeper mercy of God in Christ rectifies.

An interesting case of this method’s effect upon Luther comes in his understanding of the term gratia in Scripture.62 In his Annotations on the New Testament from 1516, Erasmus insists that the Greek charis should not be translated gratia (grace) but favor, as in the “favor of God.” In his 1519 commentary on Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Luther is still somewhat skeptical and insists upon using both terms, where, in addition to understanding gratia as God’s mercy (favor Dei) it must be construed (in line with the scholastics) as an infused habit that affects the soul. Then, beginning in 1520, Melanchthon begins exclusively to follow Erasmus, and by 1521, Luther follows suit in his attack on Latomus.

A second example of this collaboration comes with the famous 1522 preface to Romans, prepared by Luther for publication in the September Testament, the first German translation of the New Testament based upon the original Greek. When one compares the language, outline of Romans’ and explanations of Pauline terms in the preface with etc. with Melanchthon’s Annotations on Romans, lectures given in 1520–1521 and published by Luther in a November 1522 edition, the convergences are striking.63 Indeed, this may represent one of the most important early joint works of their careers.

The very humanist method found in Melanchthon’s first (of five) commentary on Romans is also on display in Luther’s work. The point is clear: When one returns ad fontes, the results will reflect Wittenberg’s theological program.

Luther at the Wartburg and in Wittenberg (1521–1523)

The group of reform-minded, humanist-trained Wittenberg professors continues to function during Luther’s prolonged absence at the Wartburg Castle from April 1521 to March 1522. There are many examples of how they continued to build a faculty and work together on theological and educational challenges. There is also indication that two of the main participants, Luther and Karlstadt, are drifting apart, not simply with respect to the practical aspects of reform but also and, for humanists, most importantly in method.

As Heinz Scheible has pointed out, during Luther’s absence at the Wartburg, Melanchthon is not Luther’s surrogate in Wittenberg.64 Luther’s exaggerated rhetoric in private letters to his younger colleague, in which he calls him a doctor of theology and a preacher, and even his suggestion that Melanchthon find a venue in which to preach (something first realized in the 1530s) have more to do with Luther’s unique brand of comfort and support than with the situation on the ground. During Luther’s protective custody in the Saxon elector’s Wartburg, agitation for change arises from various quarters. The Augustinian cloister slowly empties of its occupants, and one of the brothers, Gabriel Zwilling, begins preaching stirring sermons against medieval practices and in favor of reform. At the same time, Karlstadt continues his important role at the university as leader of a reforming party that includes von Amsdorf, Melanchthon, and others. One of the first visible acts of reform comes in late September 1521, when Melanchthon and other (lay) students receive communion in both kinds.

Simultaneously, however, there is a party opposed to change, composed to a large extent of canons from the All Saints’ Foundation. These priests and their supporters on the university faculty and among the populace reject any break with Rome or changes in worship practices, especially suspending private masses, allowing communion in both kinds, or removing images from the churches. As matters come to a head in the winter of 1521–1522, both sides appeal to the elector for support. And both sides evince a way of doing theology and conceiving reform that was typically late medieval, namely, mixing the regulation of worship practices with the Gospel itself.

Alongside his enormous literary output, Luther, as well as his colleagues, wear out messengers between Wittenberg and the Wartburg, bearing messages that adumbrate Luther’s relations with the colleagues and students that comprise Wittenberg’s reforming humanist sodality. Letters survive to Melanchthon, von Amsdorf, and Johannes Agricola (Luther’s student since 1515) in Wittenberg, and to Spalatin (in Altenburg), Lang (in Erfurt), and Wenceslas Link (in Nuremberg). But Luther also expands his correspondence to include Nicholas Gerbel (in Strasbourg), and he dedicates his tract against Latomus to Justus Jonas (in Wittenberg).65 Luther may also have written to others, but conspicuous by its absence are any surviving letters to Karlstadt, who is not even named in the greetings that close some of Luther’s letters.66

The epistle dedicatory to Jonas for Luther’s tract against Latomus, dated June but first published in September 1521, again reveals the contours of Wittenberg’s humanist sodality. Latomus had first come to the Wittenbergers’ attention in a 1519 attack on the use of the three languages in theology, a fact to which Luther refers in his opening lines.67 He dedicates the tract to Jonas to celebrate the younger man’s accession to positions of provost and professor of canon law in Wittenberg and contrasts the Philistine Latomus (“Ishbi-benob”) to Erasmus (“our Abishai” [cf. 2 Sam. 21:16–17]).

As Luther’s time at the Wartburg stretches into October, changes begin to occur in Wittenberg, led by a reform party consisting of Jonas (provost of the All Saints’ Foundation), Karlstadt, von Amsdorf, Melanchthon, and the professor of law Jerome Schurff, along with (in the beginning) Johannes Dölsch and Tilemann Plettener.68 Throughout this time, the sodality is still functioning. Melanchthon writes epistles dedicatory for a printing of the Greek text of Romans to Bugenhagen (the new arrival from Pomerania who will soon become Wittenberg’s chief pastor), for the Greek text of Apostolic Canons to Spalatin, and for his own second work on rhetoric (Institutiones rhetoricae) to Johann Agricola.69 Even a Latin translation of Luther’s treatise on good works receives Melanchthon’s preface to the reader.70 Similarly, Andreas Karlstadt dedicates his De legis litera sive carne, et spiritu to Melanchthon.71

But now a new problem is brewing. At issue is the refusal by the Augustinian friars in Wittenberg to celebrate private masses. On October 9, 1521, Melanchthon writes to the head of the Augustinian order in Germany, Wenzeslaus Linck, and mentions communion in both kinds as well as the celebration of private masses.72 In October, the Elector Frederick requests an opinion about these masses, communion in both kinds, and the preaching of Gabriel Zwilling, to which the aforementioned Wittenberg teachers respond on October 20.73 On October 25, the elector responds somewhat warily, desiring to uphold the Gospel but questioning the legal and financial responsibility involved in abolishing private masses.74 In the meantime, Melanchthon formulates theses on the Mass, which (he writes to Spalatin), were they displeasing to the elector he would be forced to leave Wittenberg.75 At nearly the same time, Luther writes a tract on the abrogation of private masses, prefaced by an open letter to his Augustinian brothers.76 At the same time, he is nearly done preparing his “Judgment” on monastic vows.77 In December, Luther even makes a secret visit to Wittenberg, reporting to Spalatin: “Everything I see and hear pleases me very much.”78

Something in what Luther sees or hears (or perhaps hears from Spalatin and the electoral court) causes him to write an admonition to all Christians (including, of course, Wittenberg’s citizens) against rebellion.79 Here, however, one must not simply interpret this as Luther’s kowtowing to governmental authorities, since others in the sodality also seem undecided about how to move forward. Thus, Melanchthon’s letters to the court regarding the so-called Zwickau prophets, often mistakenly construed as a sign of his indecision, show rather that he simply wants to urge the authorities to be careful and to rely on Luther’s advice.80 Similarly, Melanchthon insists that he has been begging Karlstadt and Zwilling to be more moderate, while supporting the new church order.81 A letter from the court a few days later names Karlstadt in particular as the cause of the changes and commands him to behave more cautiously and to cease fomenting unrest through his (and Zwilling’s) preaching.82 Johannes Dölsch also breaks ranks with the reform party over changes in the Mass. At the same time, the reform party’s opponent, Otto Beckmann of the All Saints’ Foundation, rejects all such proposals.83

While Luther and Melanchthon are collaborating more closely, however, the relation between Luther and Karlstadt begins to show signs of strain. Unfortunately, some accounts blame Luther, who in his supposedly megalomaniacal way finally drives poor Karlstadt out of Wittenberg.84 Such a view, already proposed by Johannes Cochlaeus in his biography of Luther from 1549, misses the chief developments at Wittenberg during Luther’s absence. The level of Luther’s collaboration with his colleagues actually increases in the 1520s. The lone exception is Karlstadt, who finally rejects the theological method and practice of Wittenberg’s sodality in favor of a quite different approach to exegesis and church reform.

How one understands the differences between Luther and his colleagues at this juncture is crucial. Although Luther and Karlstadt are both threatened with excommunication in the 1520 papal bull, Exsurge Domini, Luther alone appears in Worms; Luther alone is condemned in the Edict of Worms; and Luther alone is whisked away into the protective custody of the Wartburg Castle. Thus, when he on occasion calls the movement his own, it accurately reflects his immediate situation rather than hubris on his part. The first thing Luther does in the aftermath of Worms is to produce a translation and commentary on Psalm 68 nearly absent of any polemic against his immediate opponents. On verse 23 (“Therefore You will bathe Your feet in blood”), he states unequivocally, “In sum, Christ’s foot is the office of the ministry, by means of which alone, apart from any other weapon, Christ attacked the world, walked over it and preached to it.”85 Thus, Luther’s continued forays into the purest sources for theology reveal to him a way of doing theology bound to God’s Word and not to legislation. Here, the fundamental difference between him and Karlstadt may be found.

Letters between Luther and Melanchthon and also between them both and Spalatin reveal some irritations with Karlstadt, based not on his theological positions but on his method of argumentation, which does not, in Luther’s view, return ad fontes Scripturae. One issue arises over Karlstadt’s approach to the question of celibacy.86 On June 21, Karlstadt defends theses on the marriage of younger priests for a circular disputation.87 On July 18, 1521, Karlstadt, Agricola, and Melanchthon write a letter to the bishop of Meissen on behalf of a priest, Father Jacob Seidel, imprisoned because he married (and supported Luther).88 Their brief arguments against rigorously enforcing rules of celibacy include comments on the nature of vows and human weakness, warnings about the danger of church laws burdening believers, and references to (recent) German history in Cologne and Constance. Karlstadt (perhaps with Melanchthon’s help) then writes a Latin and German defense of the marriage of priests, this time with reference to the recent marriage of Bartholomew Bernhardi.89

Luther’s response to Melanchthon, however, is divided between supporting Bernhardi and criticizing Karlstadt’s arguments.90 He writes to Melanchthon that he is not at all persuaded about the arguments for monks, as opposed to priests who are free from such vows. Only young oblates could be said to have taken vows under duress. Luther seems at this point to be leaning toward Paul’s association of the prohibition of marriage with the teaching of demons (1 Timothy 4:1). Thus, despite Karlstadt’s arguments from 1 Timothy 5:3–16 about younger widows, Luther claims that this authority is too weak. Luther is demanding a “manifest Scripture for us” (manifesta Scriptura pro nobis) and a “testimony of the divine will” (testimonium divinae voluntatis), which Karlstadt’s arguments do not provide.91 Not even Paul’s directives in 1 Corinthians 7 about marrying instead of burning assuage Luther’s concerns. In the same letter, Luther worries about Karlstadt’s arguments in another set of theses about receiving both kinds in the Supper, in that to those under the tyranny of Rome, one can say that receiving only one kind is a sin.

This was only Luther’s first response. A second, written two days later after having come into possession of Karlstadt’s Latin and German tracts, complains directly about his interpretations of Leviticus 18:21 and 20:2, where the “seed sacrificed to Moloch” is taken to mean the emission of semen: “The adversaries will ridicule the distortion of this passage.”92 He praises Karlstadt’s effort and diligence but not his work, especially since Karlstadt also misconstrues 1 Timothy 5, a passage aimed at widows and not celibates.93 Luther goes on for several paragraphs trying to decipher Paul’s meaning. Then he turns to the problem of vows and rejects using passages from the “Old Law,” since they, too, did not apply to the vow of chastity. All in all, Luther seems perplexed by the problem (about which he will finally write at length months later in Judgment of Martin Luther against Monastic Vows) and makes several suggestions to Melanchthon: the freedom of the Spirit and the impossibility of making a lifelong vow, among others. A passing remark about Spalatin’s request for an order of a Christian school demonstrates that the Wittenbergers and their supporters were still working on reforming the university.94

Luther’s later letter to Spalatin shows the same kind of frustration with Karlstadt’s arguments, wishing that his colleague would write with more clarity.95 Ten days later he is still troubled by Karlstadt’s scriptural arguments:96 “I fear that he will stir up untrue rumors [fabula] about him and us,”97 as if the Wittenbergers did not know that the word “seed” means offspring! This is precisely the kind of complaint one expects from a humanist like Luther, for whom accurate reading of ancient texts is paramount for good theological arguments. He only compliments Karlstadt for trying (optimus conatus), “but I also hope for an outstanding, correct and successful [approach].”98 More importantly, Luther worries that acting on the basis of uncertain arguments will, in the end, result in a crisis of conscience for those who are so misled. He also expresses to Spalatin his fear that Karlstadt cannot be dissuaded.99 Karlstadt, not Luther, appears to be intransigent.

It is precisely in this context that Luther’s Admonition may be understood.100 He returns to the Wartburg in December after his secret visit to Wittenberg, having heard of the plans of the reform party and the arguments of Karlstadt, Melanchthon, Zwilling, and others. He has also heard of the spontaneous actions (in Erfurt and Wittenberg) against priests, private masses, and images.

Luther frames the tract as a Pauline letter (starting with “grace and peace”). He states the problem of papal religion and the commoners’ increasing agitation against it. If the threat of attack might bring an end to papal tyranny, Luther would support it. All of this is simply a result of God’s promise to maintain God’s own word and reveal all evil. Luther would give ten lives to continue to attack the anti-Christian papacy and protect the common folk. While Scripture predicts an end to the papal Antichrist, it will only happen through the Word:

As I have stated: because I am certain from these passages that the papacy and spiritual estate cannot be destroyed by human hand or unrest, since its evil is so awful that no punishment is enough save for the divine wrath itself without using any intermediate means, I have never let myself be driven to defend who threaten with hand and flail.101

He goes on to counsel governmental authorities to take action and to reject any uprising among the commoners.102 He concludes, “Those who read and understand my teaching correctly will not foment rebellion.”103 If the government refuses to act, Luther counsels subjects to repent of their own sins, prayer, and speaking against the evil as “a mouth of Christ’s Spirit”:104 “Look, here! Advocate for and help others to advocate for the holy Gospel. Teach, speak, write and preach that human regulations are nothing … and on the contrary say that a Christian life consists of faith and love.”105 But Luther has one other worry, and that relates directly to the educational underpinnings of the Wittenberg movement:

There are some who, upon reading a page or two or hearing a single sermon, quickly jump up pell-mell and do nothing more than ride roughshod over [the Gospel] and with their own self-importance shout down others for not being Evangelical—despite the fact that these others are sometimes merely simple people who probably want to learn the truth if someone would just tell them.106

Luther never taught this; Paul specifically forbids it. He then goes on to describe the special responsibility Christians have for the weak in faith, citing Romans 14 and 1 Peter 3:16.

What is most striking about this tract, however, is not simply its content but Luther’s method of arguing. Throughout, he calls upon Paul’s and Peter’s examples of arguing harshly with the stiff-necked tyrants but gently with the ignorant and weak. He insists that only the Word of God itself can change hearts and create faith, that only God can punish his anti-Christian opponents, and that only the government has the right to wield the sword. This will remain his steadfast position against Karlstadt in 1522 and against the peasants in 1525, and it arises out of his commitment to return to the purest sources (in this case, Scripture) and to argue not from one’s own case or rights but, rather, from the authoritative statements of those sources.

When Luther returns from the Wartburg in 1522, much is made of the fact that he attacks Karlstadt in his famous Invocavit sermons. This, too, is inaccurate. In the offending passage from the third sermon, delivered on March 11, 1522, Luther asks what his hearers will do when under attack from the devil, especially at death: “It is not enough that you intend to say, ‘This or that one did it, so I followed the common crowd, as the Provost [Jonas], Doctor Karlstadt, Gabriel [Zwilling] or [another archangel] Michael preached.’”107 Luther is not attacking these preachers for what they said but, rather, is admonishing his flock for trusting them and their authority rather than the certainty of their own conscience.

Moreover, once Luther delivers these sermons, all of his other colleagues, including Gabriel Zwilling, acknowledge the necessity of practicing far more patience with the weak and therefore agree with Luther’s position. Despite the recent interpretation by Jens-Martin Kruse, the Wittenberg sodality is intact after Luther’s return and continues to operate with a common front.108 Luther publishes several of Melanchthon’s lectures on the New Testament and reedits his own commentary on Galatians. Work on the New Testament translation is completed, and the translation of the Old Testament begun. Melanchthon takes on the responsibility of rector of the university and ushers in a curriculum purged now completely of medieval lectureships, with required times for public orations.109 Justus Jonas and Johannes Bugenhagen, now head pastor at St. Mary’s in Wittenberg, also publish annotations of portions of the New Testament.110 Much to the surprise of the Saxon court, Luther immediately nominates Zwilling for a position in Altenburg.111

According to a letter by Schurff to the Elector Frederick, only Karlstadt “is not very satisfied, but I hope to God that he will not start or cause any trouble.”112 Most of Luther’s own letters from this period refer to the unrest without naming names. Only confidential letters to the head of Luther’s order in Germany, Wenzeslaus Link, and to Spalatin indicate specifically where the trouble lies. To Link, Luther writes that “Karlstadt and Gabriel [Zwilling] were the authors of this colossal mess [monstra].”113 Already he can report that Gabriel has changed completely, but he remains unsure of Karlstadt’s response. At least Karlstadt will no longer be allowed to preach at St. Mary’s.114 To Caspar Güttel, prior of the Augustinian friary in Eisleben, Luther writes that he has offended Karlstadt “because I shattered his ordinances, although I did not condemn the teaching, except that it is displeasing that he only worked on ceremonies and outward appearances to the neglect in the meantime of true Christian teaching, that is, faith and love.”115

Karlstadt responds by attempting to write publicly against Luther and the faculty senate, something that the senate prevents through censorship.116 Luther, contrariwise, in a private meeting, tries to convince Karlstadt not to write against him, although in this matter, Luther tells Spalatin, he would not fear an angel from heaven (Galatians 1:8–9), let alone Karlstadt.117 Nevertheless, the two continue to coexist on the faculty, with Karlstadt as dean of the theological faculty in 1522. On January 2, 1523, Luther reports to Spalatin about the state of the university, begging for a reform of the All Saints’ Foundation, praising the now married Bugenhagen’s lectures (for which he has to demand payment from students, given that he is not salaried), and adding this about the others: “Although the lectures of Philip [Melanchthon on John] and Karlstadt [on Zechariah], because they are the very best, are overflowing, nevertheless I do not want those of the Pomeranian [Bugenhagen] to be lacking, since the lectures of Karlstadt take place sporadically.”118

This inconsistency in lecturing may be due to the fact that Karlstadt and a few others in Wittenberg (e.g., the schoolmaster Georg Mohr and the newly arrived French Franciscan and professor, François Lambert) are calling higher education itself into question. Even Melanchthon had raised questions about secular education in a speech delivered on the Feast of St. Paul’s Conversion (January 25, 1520), a position Luther already corrects in his Wartburg correspondence with his younger colleague.119 Things come to a head when Eobanus Hessus, a well-known poet and professor at the University of Erfurt, writes a Latin elegy, addressed to Luther, about the sad state of education in the church.120 It provides both Luther and Melanchthon opportunity to underscore Wittenberg’s commitment to the humanities (good letters drawn from the most ancient sources). They dismiss any question about the school’s deep devotion to learning of all kinds.121 Their dedication is further proved when Melanchthon becomes rector of the university later that year and reforms the arts curriculum in line with humanist and Reformation sensibilities, and Luther writes a tract addressed to city councilmen to maintain and establish schools. Melanchthon addresses Luther’s concern directly when he helps establish such a school in Nuremberg and delivers an inaugural oration.122

Karlstadt does not agree with such an approach to reform, however. Instead, he becomes more and more disillusioned with Wittenberg. In a shocking refusal to attend to his calling at the university, Karlstadt finally abandons his post and moves to Orlamünde, a town whose parish income supported his position as archdeacon of the All Saints’ Foundation.123 He eschews the formal gowns of a professor or pastor and occasionally retires to his farm in Wörlitz, where he starts dressing like a peasant and working the land himself. But the first inkling of renewed trouble comes in the doctoral promotion of two former Augustinians on February 3, 1523, at which Karlstadt rails against the practice of calling Christ’s disciples “masters” (cf. Matthew 23:10 in the Vulgate: “Let no one call you master”). To the original entry in the dean’s book of the theological faculty noting the official action (where Karlstadt calls it a mortal sin, claiming he did it only for the money and vowing never to participate in such ceremonies again), Luther later adds:

And I witness with my own hand to have been present at the same act and also to have heard these sacrileges from his blasphemous mouth (but which he plainly dare not contradict): “I knowingly am acting impiously, because I am promoting [them] for two florins.” And he contended from Matthew 23[:9–10] that no one should be called “father” or “Master” on earth, but that there is one Master and Father in heaven, etc. From these things it may be understood from what spirit he undertook his theology.124

Clearly the origin of the break between Karlstadt and Luther is not a supposed power grab on Luther’s part but, rather, Karlstadt’s explicit rejection of humanist values and the educational processes at the heart of Wittenberg’s theology and practice.

This anti-intellectualism, which also marks others who finally leave Wittenberg in the 1520s (e.g., François Lambert), undermines the Wittenberg sodality that Luther, Spalatin, and others have been trying so hard to build for nearly ten years.125 Those who stay in Wittenberg are committed to this very approach to theology—one that equates neither humanism with Erasmus nor Reformation with Luther but, rather, one that insists on a return to the earliest sources in each area of study and on the basic compatibility of learning and letters with the theological enterprise.

The Wittenberg Sodality after 1523

One of the reasons that scholars have ignored Wittenberg’s deep and continued commitment to humanism arises from the false identification of Erasmus with humanism (over against Luther’s commitment to Reformation).126 Other Wittenbergers, especially Melanchthon, are then thought to have had to choose between the two.127 Although this division arises from 19th- and 20th- century debates over the relation of Renaissance and Reformation, they are also part of a continuing struggle by Christian scholars in Germany against the Enlightenment, heightened by Karl Barth’s attacks on German liberalism. None of these tensions obtained in the 16th century, and to import them from later debates obscures Wittenberg’s deep and continuing commitment to good letters and careful examination of the purest sources for theology.

When Erasmus begins his attack on Luther in Discussion of Free Will with a long discourse on method and proclaims himself a skeptic (methodologically speaking), Luther’s response in On the Bondage of the Will does not deny humanist methods. Instead, Luther takes on the role of an assertor, the very person in ancient Rome who declared a person slave or free, a term reflecting Luther’s Hellenized name (Eleutherius/Luther [the free one] as opposed to his original name, Ludher).128 Moreover, Luther’s Latin is so sophisticated that in Erasmus’s reply, the Hyperaspistes, the older man accuses Luther of having used ghostwriters, whom he identifies with nicknames easily understood to be Melanchthon and Justus Jonas. Moreover, Luther’s counterarguments, while somewhat tinged with scholastic methods of argumentation, are also completely saturated with the humanist method of returning ad fontes. Since Luther realizes that an appeal to Augustine will simply result in Erasmus citing Jerome, he must rely especially on careful interpretation of the texts of Scripture, the ultimate source of pure theology.

Seen in this light, Melanchthon’s objections to Luther’s harsh reply have nothing to do with being torn between humanism and Reformation but with his conviction that Luther will never achieve his goal of convincing (let alone converting) Erasmus. Melanchthon realizes far better than Luther that the Dutch humanist’s mercurial personality will never admit to having erred. After Luther’s initial response only garners another salvo from Erasmus, Melanchthon convinces Luther not to respond, given that his (Melanchthon’s) own treatment of the issue in his recently published 1528 commentary on Colossians suffices. Jonas, who then translates this commentary into German, clearly agrees and even adds direct references to the human will only hinted at in the Latin original. Luther reveals his agreement with Melanchthon’s form of support by writing a preface to this German version, likening himself to a rugged woodsman who has to hack away at the undergrowth so that Philip, the happy farmer, can come afterwards, sowing and planting to his heart’s content.

In addition to this remarkable piece of collaboration within Wittenberg’s sodality, there are still others, including the visitation articles of 1527–1528. By this time, Luther and Melanchthon have extraordinary positions on the faculty, with Melanchthon able to teach in both the arts and theology faculties.129 Bugenhagen and Jonas are the other chief lecturers. With the visitation articles, what begins as Melanchthon’s Latin instructions to Saxony’s pastors and preachers is translated and reviewed by Luther and Bugenhagen and, after answering some objections from Johann Agricola, published as Instructions by the Visitors for the Parish Pastors of Saxony under the seals of Luther and Melanchthon, so that even today it is difficult to identify each man’s individual contribution.130 Similarly, in the fight of Wittenberg and its allies with Johannes Oecolampadius, Ulrich Zwingli, and their supporters, Melanchthon and Luther both use all of the humanist tools at their disposal to combat what they both view as an unfortunate misinterpretation of biblical texts, where Erasmus (called by them an Arian) has influenced these Swiss theologians to their detriment.131 Melanchthon’s collection of patristic sources and Luther’s and Bugenhagen’s tracts serve as the most important contributions to this paper war.

Thus, on the eve of the 1530 Diet of Augsburg, Wittenberg’s sodality is still functioning smoothly. Not only the arguments and method reflected in the Augsburg Confession and Apology but also the subsequent publications from Wittenberg show their commitment to careful exposition of the oldest sources of theology. In 1533, Melanchthon authors new regulations for the theology faculty (especially concentrating on the granting of doctoral degrees), as a result of which Bugenhagen and Caspar Cruciger, Sr., both receive doctorates. No wonder that in the next printing of the Visitation Articles in 1538, the coats of arms of Bugenhagen, Cruciger, and Jonas are joined to those of Melanchthon and Luther! In 1539, in one of the most remarkable examples of collaboration, Melanchthon and Luther both write tracts on the nature of the church, drawing on their extensive study of church history, the ancient fathers, and the councils. Jonas translates Luther’s original into Latin and Melanchthon’s original into German.

Only in the 1540s do serious differences between the chief protagonists, Luther and Melanchthon, appear, especially over the Lord’s Supper, where Luther worries more about Christ’s absence from the meal and Melanchthon more over the worship of bread outside the sacramental action. But even these theological differences do not destroy their relationship or their commitment to good letters and ancient sources.132 When in June 1546, only four months after Luther’s death, Melanchthon writes the preface to the second volume of Luther’s Latin works, he describes Luther’s humanist commitments. This and Melanchthon’s funeral oration are not examples of Erasmus at Luther’s funeral but, as we have now seen, surprisingly accurate depictions of the Wittenberg way of doing theology.133

The subject of Wittenberg’s sodality of humanist-trained, Evangelical theologians has only recently become an object of Luther studies. More needs to be done to identify specific aspects of Luther’s own approach to the humanities and the scope and limits of their role in his theology. The issue of collaboration—not only between Luther and Melanchthon but between Luther and other teachers in Wittenberg—needs far more research, now shorn from certain 19th- and 20th-century biases regarding the incompatibility of Evangelical theology and humanist methods. Work on Wittenberg’s students, especially those who studied there during Luther’s tenure, also needs more attention. This final area of study has the potential to demonstrate even more clearly just how the second generation of reformers blended Renaissance commitments to the ancient sources and good letters with Wittenberg’s witness to the Gospel.

Further Reading

Bauer, Karl. Die Wittenberger Universitätstheologie und die Anfänge der deutschen Reformation. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr, 1928.Find this resource:

    Burnett, Amy. Karlstadt and the Origins of the Eucharistic Controversy: A Study in the Circulation of Ideas. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

      Friedensberg, Walter. Geschichte der Universität Wittenberg. Halle: Niemeyer, 1917.Find this resource:

        Hamm, Berndt. The Early Luther: Stages in a Reformation Reorientation. Translated by Martin Lohrmann. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014.Find this resource:

          Junghans, Helmar. “Martin Luthers Einfluss auf die Wittenberger Universitätsreform.” In Die Theologische Fakultät Wittenberg 1502 bis 1602: Beiträge zur 500: Wiederkehr des Gründungsjahres der Leucorea. Edited by Irene Dingel and Günther Wartenberg, 55–70. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2002.Find this resource:

            Krentz, Natalie. Ritualwandel und Deutungshoheit. Die frühe Reformation in der Residenzstadt Wittenberg (1500–1533). Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck 2014.Find this resource:

              Kristeller, Paul Oskar. Renaissance Thought and Its Sources. Edited by Michael Mooney. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979.Find this resource:

                Kruse, Jens-Martin. Universitätstheologie und Kirchenreform: Die Anfänge der Reformation in Wittenberg 1516–1522. Mainz: von Zabern, 2002.Find this resource:

                  Rummel, Erika. The Confessionalization of Humanism in Reformation Germany. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.Find this resource:

                    Scheible, Heinz. “Luther and Melanchthon.” Lutheran Quarterly 4 (1990): 317–339.Find this resource:

                      Steinmetz, David C. Luther and Staupitz: An Essay in the Intellectual Origins of the Protestant Reformation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1980.Find this resource:

                        Wengert, Timothy J. “Luther and Melanchthon—Melanchthon and Luther.” Luther-Jahrbuch 66 (1999): 55–88.Find this resource:

                          Wengert, Timothy J. Philip Melanchthon’s “Annotationes in Johannem” of 1523 in Relation to Its Predecessors and Contemporaries. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 1987.Find this resource:

                            Wengert, Timothy J. “The Wittenberg Circle.” In The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology. Edited by Robert Kolb et al., 491–501. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.Find this resource:


                              (1.) Paul Oskar Kristeller, Renaissance Thought and Its Sources, ed. Michael Mooney (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), 21–28.

                              (2.) For a fine solution to this problem, see Berndt Hamm, The Early Luther: Stages in a Reformation Reorientation, translated by Martin Lohrmann (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014).

                              (3.) Maria Grossmann, Humanism in Wittenberg, 1485–1517 (Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 1975).

                              (4.) Heiko Oberman, Masters of the Reformation: The Emergence of a New Intellectual Climate in Europe, translated by Dennis Martin (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981).

                              (5.) WA 1:152–153; 1:375–379; 1:711; 9:768; 9:779–780. His glossed copy of Tauler’s sermons also survives (WA 9:95–104). See Berndt Hamm and Volker Leppin, eds., Gottes Nähe unmittelbar erfahren: Mystik im Mittelalter und bei Martin Luther (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), especially Volker Leppin, “Transformationen spätmittelalterlicher Mystik bei Luther,” 165–186; and Berndt Hamm, “Wie mystisch war der Glaube Luthers?,” 237–288, and the literature cited there.

                              (6.) David C. Steinmetz, Luther and Staupitz: An Essay in the Intellectual Origins of the Protestant Reformation (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1980).

                              (7.) WA BR 1:20, 16–18, dated February 1514.

                              (8.) WA BR 1:23, 5–7.

                              (9.) WA BR 1:28–29.

                              (10.) WA BR 1:50–51, where he refers to Peter de Natalibus, Catalogus sanctorum, and James of Voragine, Legenda aurea. Luther’s sermon is published in WA 1:79 ff. and 4:686.

                              (11.) WA BR 1:56, dated [September 9] 1516.

                              (12.) WA BR 1:64–69. For the disputation, see WA 1:142–151.

                              (13.) By this time, as Leif Grane has shown, Luther has thoroughly read Augustine’s On the Spirit and the Letter. See Grane’s Modus loquendi theologicus: Luthers Kampf um die Erneuerung der Theologie (1515–1518) (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1975). Luther also quotes a well-known line from Ambrose, Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam Libris X (II.19; in PL [Patrologia Latina] 15: 1560; hereafter PL).

                              (14.) See Martin Brecht, Martin Luther, translated by James A. Schaaf, 3 vols. (Philadelphia and Minneapolis: Fortress, 1985–1999), 1: 166–170. The very fact that both men are reading whole tracts of Augustine rather than relying on medieval florilegia points to the humanist side to their collaboration.

                              (15.) WA BR 1:69–72, dated October 19, 1516. For more on Luther’s connections to the Erfurt circle of humanists, see Scott Hendrix, Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015), 27–33.

                              (16.) See Brecht, Martin Luther, 1: 161–174.

                              (17.) WA BR 1:70, 36–40. In early 1517, another humanist, Christoph Scheurl, sends a letter introducing himself to Luther and requesting that they begin correspondence as fellow members of what could be called a sodalitas Staupitziana. See WA BR 1:84–87 (letters dated January 2 and 27, 1517), for their initial exchange of letters, and WA BR 1:91–92 (letters dated April 1, 1517), for the attempt to establish a correspondence between John Eck and Luther. In a later letter from Luther (WA BR 1:93–95; here 94, 30), he extends greetings from Amsdorff and “all the friendly sodality” (omnis amica sodalitas).

                              (18.) An indication that Luther was familiar with Erasmus’s Adages 1, 5, 57, where he describes at length Aristarchus’s work in editing Homer with a red pencil.

                              (19.) WA BR 1:70, 41–71, 43.

                              (20.) WA 9:95–104, 804; WA 1:375–379, 711; and 9:779–780.

                              (21.) WA BR 1:79, 58–60. He encloses a copy of his recently published Theologia Deutsch, which Luther takes to be a good summary of Tauler’s work.

                              (22.) WA BR 1:79, 61–63: “Neque enim ego vel in Latina vel nostra lingua theologiam vidi salubriorem et cum Euangelio consonantiorem.”

                              (23.) Letter 31 (WA BR 1:81–83), dated by WA BR to December 31, 1516 is more likely at least a year later. See Brecht 1: 508, n. 35.

                              (24.) WA BR 1:88–89. See LW 48:37, where the word Sententiarios is mistranslated as Peter Lombard rather than his commentators.

                              (25.) WA BR 1:89–91, dated March 1, 1517.

                              (26.) WA BR 1:90, 19–26. Luther may be reacting to Erasmus’s lengthy remarks on 1 Thessalonians 2:7 in his Annotationes in Novum Instrumentum (Basel: Froben, 1516), 553–556.

                              (27.) Of course, this also implies that he was reading Erasmus, who was especially helpful in explaining Matthew 4:17 (cf. theses 1–4 of the 95 Theses).

                              (28.) WA BR 1:94, 17–19.

                              (29.) See Theodor Kolde, “Wittenberger Disputationsthesen aus den Jahren 1516–1522,” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 11 (1890): 448–471 (here 450–456).

                              (30.) WA BR 1:96, 10–11.

                              (31.) WA BR 1:96, 13–20. He expresses a similar opinion to Scheurl (WA BR 1:93, 5–94, 12).

                              (32.) WA BR 1:96, 23–25.

                              (33.) See especially Heinz Scheible, “Die Reform von Schule und Universität in der Reformationszeit,” Luther-Jahrbuch 66 (1999): 237–262, now in ibid., Aufsätze zu Melanchthon (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 152–172.

                              (34.) WA BR 1:99, 8–13. For a nuanced understanding of Luther’s relation to Aristotle, see Theodor Dieter, Der junge Luther und Aristoteles: Eine historisch-systematische Untersuchung zum Verhältnis von Theologie und Philosophie (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2001).

                              (35.) WA BR 1:155, 41–45, dated March 21, 1518. LW 48:42, n. 7, translated “reiectis” as “dropped,” but the lectures were only finally removed from the curriculum in 1524. Luther’s point is that no one is attending such lectures. (Hispanus wrote a central book on scholastic logic, and Tartaretus, a Parisian Scotist, wrote a compendium of Hispanus, both based upon Aristotle.)

                              (36.) WA BR 1:103–105, a letter to Lang dated September 4, 1517, and containing a copy of the theses (WA 1:224–228).

                              (37.) WA 1:224, 7–8. This is, strictly speaking, a humanist line of argument, which insists upon understanding not simply Augustine’s words but their context—defending the Gospel against Pelagius.

                              (38.) WA 1:228, 34–36.

                              (39.) WA BR 1:106, 37–38, dated September 11, 1517: “to our [Johannes] Eck, that most learned and intelligent man.” Luther also calls these positionesparadoxae” and then, in jest, kacistodoxae [i.e., kakisto, superlative of the Greek kakos—the worst possible statements]. Scheurl’s reply of September 30 (WA BR 1:107–108) promises to send them not only to Eck but also to the theology faculties of Heidelberg and Cologne. On November 3, 1517, Scheurl reports that these theses have been well received by Erhard Truchsess and others (WA BR 1:115–116). Luther reports to Lang on November 11, however, that “all” are offended by his theology, presumably in these September theses. See WA BR 1:121–122. Using references to Momus (the god whose parents were Sleep and Night and who was full of bad ideas) and Aristarchus from Erasmus’s Adages (1.5.74 and 1.5.57), Luther shows his disdain for these followers of Aristotle, who are contemptuous of the ancients, and accuses them of novelty.

                              (40.) Von Amsdorf, a licentiate in Wittenberg, was also close to Luther by this time, but the correspondence and publications of the time include only incidental mention of him.

                              (41.) See also the similar arguments in Luther’s January 18, 1518, letter to Spalatin (WA BR 1:132–134, especially lines 9–32). He expresses worries about Spalatin publicizing his opinion using humanist buzzwords (lines 27–28): “There are many (as you know) who are eagerly seeking an occasion to slander good letters [bonis literis].”

                              (42.) WA BR 1:122, 58–59, with n. 7 on pp. 122–123. See also MBW (Melanchthons Briefwechsel: Kritische und kommentierte Gesamtausgabe: Regesten, edited by Heinz Scheible, 12+ vols. [Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 1977–]), Regesten 12: 39; hereafter MBW.

                              (43.) WA BR 1:407, 7–9, in a letter to Spalatin dated May 24, 1519. He died a year later.

                              (44.) See Erika Rummel, The Confessionalization of Humanism in Reformation Germany (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).

                              (45.) MSA (Melanchthons Werke in Auswahl [Studienausgabe], ed. Robert Stupperich, 7 vols. [Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1951–1975]) 3: 29–42; hereafter MSA. For Helmar Junghans’s assessment of Wittenberg’s humanism, see his “Martin Luthers Einfluss auf die Wittenberger Universitätsreform,” in Die Theologische Fakultät Wittenberg 1502 bis 1602: Beiträge zur 500: Wiederkehr des Gründungsjahres der Leucorea, ed. Irene Dingel and Günther Wartenberg, 55–70 (Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2002).

                              (46.) WA BR 1:189–191, here 190, 31–35, a letter to Spalatin dated August 28, 1518.

                              (47.) MSA 3: 35, 4–6.

                              (48.) MSA 3: 38, 20.

                              (49.) MSA 3: 41, 5–6.

                              (50.) WA BR 1:191–193, a letter dated August 31, 1518.

                              (51.) WA BR 1:192, 18–19.

                              (52.) WA BR 1:196, 40, in a letter dated September 2, 1518.

                              (53.) WA BR 1:202–204 (here 203, 11), dated September 16, 1518.

                              (54.) WA BR 1:212–213, dated October 11, 1518 (cf. MBW 28 [T (Melanchthons Briefwechsel: Kritische und kommentierte Gesamtausgabe: Texte, ed. Richard Wetzel et al., 16+ vols. (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog, 1991–; see also MBW) 1: 80–82; hereafter T]). For letters from Augsburg to Spalatin and Karlstadt, dated October 14, 1518, see WA BR 1:213–217. For Luther’s biting criticism of Böschenstein, see his November 12, 1518, letter to Spalatin (WA BR 1:228, 30–36): “We care for the power of the letters and words,” not simply the prosody. Despite this, Melanchthon provided an afterword for Böschenstein’s Hebraicae grammaticae institutions (Wittenberg: Grunenberg, 1518). Luther also sent a more general letter to Wittenberg’s faculty (Karlstadt, von Amsdorf, Melanchthon, and Beckmann) on October 4, (WA BR 1:208; cf. MBW 27 [T 1: 78–79]). Matthias Aurogallus will finally fill the Hebrew chair permanently.

                              (55.) WA BR 1:251–253, dated November 22, 1518 (cf. MBW 33 [T 1: 89–90]. It is addressed “To Philip Melanchthon Swartzerd, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, German but never Uncultivated [Barbaro].”

                              (56.) MBW 21–22 [T 1: 69–72]; MBW 24–26 [T 1: 75–78]; MBW 29 [T 1: 82–84]; MBW 31–32 [T 1: 86–89]; and MBW 35–36 [T 1: 91–93].

                              (57.) WA BR 1:262–263, dated December 9, 1518.

                              (58.) WA BR 1:262, 12–13, where philosophia means basic knowledge of method (as opposed to metaphysics) and matheses means all of the arts or even all fields of knowledge. “Drawing from the fountains,” while also a biblical term, here arises directly from Luther’s humanist sensibilities.

                              (59.) WA BR 1:268–289 (dated December 14, 1518) and MBW 38 (dated January 5 or 9, 1519 [T 1: 95–97]), respectively. See Timothy J. Wengert, “‘Qui vigilantissimis oculis veterum omnium commentarios excusserit’: Philip Melanchthon’s Patristic Exegesis,” in Die Patristik in der Bibelexegese des 16. Jahrhunderts, ed. David C. Steinmetz, 115–134 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1999).

                              (60.) MBW 40 [T 1: 99–103, here 101, 43–48]. He will mention Erasmus and Reuchlin in his preface to Luther’s Operationes in Psalmos of 1519 (MBW 47, dated around March 27, 1519 [T 1: 110–113, here 111, 17–112, 26]), and include Wolfgang Fabricius, Johann Oecolampadius, and Karlstadt as well.

                              (61.) MSA 1: 23–25. In short order, he lectured on Matthew, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and John before taking a break from lecturing in theology to become the rector of the university. There were also others whom Luther supported, including Johannes Frosch, who received his doctorate in Wittenberg in 1518, and, upon his return to Augsburg, later helped Urbanus Rhegius with the reform there. His outspoken opposition to Zwinglians caused him to move to Nuremberg. See WA BR 1:227–229.

                              (62.) Rolf Schäfer, “Melanchthon’s Interpretation of Romans 5.15: His Departure from the Augustinian Concept of Grace Compared to Luther’s,” in Philip Melanchthon (1497–1560) and the Commentary, ed. M. Patrick Graham and Timothy J. Wengert, 70–104 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997).

                              (63.) See Timothy J. Wengert, “Philip Melanchthon’s 1522 Annotations on Romans and the Lutheran Origins of Rhetorical Criticism,” in Biblical Interpretation in the Era of the Reformation, ed. Richard A. Muller and John L. Thompson, 118–140 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996).

                              (64.) Heinz Scheible, “Luther and Melanchthon,” Lutheran Quarterly 4 (1990): 317–339.

                              (65.) For Latomus, see Hannegreth Grundmann, Gratia Christi: Die theologische Begründung des Ablasses durch Jacobus Latomus in der Kontroverse mit Martin Luther (Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2012).

                              (66.) See, for example, MBW 141 (T 1: 291, 93–98; = WA BR 2:349, 95–100).

                              (67.) WA 8:43, 7–10.

                              (68.) They are all members of the theology faculty, with one exception. Jonas is the provost of the All Saints’ Foundation, Dölsch a new (July 23, 1521) professor of theology and dean of the theology faculty, Karlstadt professor in theology, Plettener [also known as Platner] another new professor of theology (October 14, 1521) and vice rector of the university (until October 18), Schurff professor of Roman law, von Amsdorf licentiate in theology, and Melanchthon, a bachelor of Bible. In later letters from the elector, Plettener’s name is lacking, replaced by the new rector, Johannes Eisermann.

                              (69.) MBW 142 (T 1: 292–293), dated around May 1521; MBW 156 (T 1: 321–322), dated around July 1521; and MBW 161 (T 1: 334–336), dated before September 1521. Melanchthon had already dedicated the first edition of the Loci communes rerum theologicarum seu hypotyposes theologicae to another colleague, Tilemann Plettener, in March 1521 (MBW 132; T 1: 267–272).

                              (70.) MBW 199 (T 1: 424–425).

                              (71.) MBW 170 (T 1: 352–353), dated September 30, 1521.

                              (72.) MBW 173 (T 1: 358–360). Already in a postscript to a letter for Spalatin dated October 7, 1521 (WA BR 2:394–396), Luther complains about the private Masses said by a priest at the Wartburg and contrasts them to the institution of Christ and Paul.

                              (73.) MBW 174 (T 1: 360–370). See n. 69 for the list of signatories, in order of rank within the University of Wittenberg, with the four doctors of theology first, then Schurff, followed by von Amsdorf (a licentiate) and Melanchthon (a bachelor of Bible). This underscores the secondary importance of Melanchthon’s voice.

                              (74.) MBW 176 (T 1: 375–380). Private Masses for the dead were always tied to specific bequests, the stipulations of which could not be changed without the permission of church authorities. For Frederick the Wise’s role as Wittenberg’s religious leader, see, most recently, Natalie Krentz, Ritualwandel und Deutungshoheit. Die frühe Reformation in der Residenzstadt Wittenberg (1500–1533) (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2014).

                              (75.) MSA 1: 163–167. See the letter to Spalatin, dated c. November 7, 1521 (MBW 180; T 1: 383–384).

                              (76.) WA BR 2:399–401 and WA 8:398–476 and the German translation, WA 8:477–563. Luther sends the completed Latin manuscript to Spalatin on November 11, 1521 (cf. WA BR 2:402–404).

                              (77.) See WA BR 2:402–404, dated November 11, 1521, to Spalatin and WA 8:564–669.

                              (78.) WA BR 2:410, 18, in a letter dated c. December 5, 1521.

                              (79.) He sends a copy to Spalatin around December 12, 1521 (WA BR 2:412, 31–32). It is published in early 1522 (WA 8:670–687). WA 8:673 and WA BR 2:413 argue for a publication date of March 27, 1522, but the Jena edition has the date January 19, 1522, which seems far more likely in part because Luther’s other writings were published in January (On Abrogating Private Masses in January and Judgment on Monastic Vows at the end of the month or early February), after having been held up by Spalatin since November. See WA 8:410 A. The idea proposed in WA BR 2:410, n. 5, that this was not written in connection with issues in Wittenberg is based upon a misreading of Luther’s use of the term “vehementer,” as if he could not then also find fault with what was going on. Luther used this term throughout his correspondence in what could seem to be exaggerated ways, unless translated simply as “very much” (sehr viel). At this point in time, he wants to shield his colleagues from attack.

                              (80.) MBW 192 (T 1: 415–417) to Elector Frederick, dated December 27, 1521. See also his December 27 note to Spalatin (MBW 193; T 1: 417–418) and the exchanges with Hugold von Einsiedel and Georg Spalatin (MBW 201–204; T 1: 426–433), dated January 1–2, 1522. Luther’s own brash response (MBW 205; T 1: 433–439, dated January 13, 1522) calls Melanchthon’s carefulness timidity but only on the basis of his (Melanchthon’s) great learning. Moreover, Luther’s responses, while rejecting his younger colleague’s arguments, clearly take Melanchthon’s positions seriously.

                              (81.) MBW 209 (T 1: 443–444), to Hugold von Einsiedel, dated February 5, 1522. See also his memorandum from January–February 1522, which reacts to the Wittenberg church order of January 24, 1522 (communion in both kinds) and the removal of images (MBW 206; T 1: 440–441), and his c. February 20 letter to Spalatin (MBW 216; T 1: 454–455). Luther, who had originally sent Zwilling to Erfurt for theological training under Johannes Lang, does not mention Zwilling in his correspondence at all.

                              (82.) MBW 211 (T 1: 445–448), dated before February 13, 1522.

                              (83.) See MBW 186 (T 1: 399–403), dated c. December 7, 1521. For a complete rejection of the reform party’s proposals, see MBW 187 (T 1: 404–409), from Otto Beckmann, dated after December 7, 1521. At about the same time, the professor of medicine, Thomas Eschaus, insists on unanimity among the faculty members (in line with canon law) before any steps may be taken (MBW 188; T 1: 410).

                              (84.) For a description of the problem, see Martin Kessler, Das Karlstadt-Bild in der Forschung (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2014). For other work on Karlstadt, see, among others, Amy Burnett, Karlstadt and the Origins of the Eucharistic Controversy: A Study in the Circulation of Ideas (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Ronald J. Sider, Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt: The Development of His Thought, 1517–1525 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1974); James S. Preus, Carlstadt’s ordinaciones and Luther’s Liberty: A Study of the Wittenberg Movement, 1521–22 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974); Hermann Barge, Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, 2 vols. (Leipzig: Brandstetter, 1905–1906); and Nikolaus Müller, Die Wittenberger Bewegung, 1521 und 1522: Die Vorgänge in und um Wittenberg während Luthers Wartburgaufenthalt, 2d ed. (Leipzig: Heinsius, 1911).

                              (85.) WA 8:24, 13–15 (LW 13:24). He mentions this work in his May 26, 1521, letter to Melanchthon (MBW 144 [T 1: 286–292]). He will write a second commentary, on Psalm 37, with a preface addressed to Christ’s poor flock in Wittenberg, stressing Paul’s witness to the Word of God and his own. See WA 8:205–240.

                              (86.) MBW 153 (T 1: 315–316), dated after July 18, 1521, to Spalatin.

                              (87.) In Christianissimi Wittenbergensis gymnasii … paradoxa (Basel: Adam Petri, September 1521), b 1v–b 2r.

                              (88.) MBW 152 (T 1: 312–315).

                              (89.) MBW T 1: 316, “Q” note to lines 10 and 11: Apologia pro M. Barptolomeo praeposito qui uxorem in sacerdotio duxit (Erfurt: Maler, 1521), with a preface dated December 21 by Johannes Lang, and Das die Priester Ee weyber nemen mögen und sollen (Wittenberg: Schirlentz, 1522).

                              (90.) MBW 157 (T 1: 322–326; WA BR 2:370–373), dated August 1, 1521.

                              (91.) MBW 157 (T 1: 324, 33 and 41–42).

                              (92.) MBW 158 (T 1: 326–331), dated August 3, 1521.

                              (93.) In his Annotationes in Novum Testamentum, Erasmus never mentions celibacy but only widowhood.

                              (94.) MBW 158 (T 1: 331, 112–114) and WA BR 2:368, 13 (a letter to Spalatin dated July 31, 1521).

                              (95.) WA BR 2:377–379, dated August 6, 1521.

                              (96.) WA BR 2:379–382, to Spalatin, dated August 15, 1521.

                              (97.) WA BR 2:380, 22.

                              (98.) WA BR 2:380, 28–29. The adjectives (insigne, dextra, and felix) reflect Renaissance sensibilities.

                              (99.) The importance of conversation over theological and practical matters, a mark of the Wittenberg movement, is demonstrated in Luther’s September 9, 1521, letter to Melanchthon, which again deals with the question of celibacy and states Luther’s desire to meet with Melanchthon face-to-face to discuss the matter. See MBW 165 (T 1: 339–346), dated September 9, 1521.

                              (100.) WA 8:676–687.

                              (101.) WA 8:679, 9–14.

                              (102.) His reasons are as follows: God wants to be judge; rebellion never achieves its goal; God has forbidden rebellion; rebellion in this matter comes from the devil.

                              (103.) WA 8:681, 19–20.

                              (104.) WA 8:682, 31–32.

                              (105.) WA 8:683, 34–684, 2.

                              (106.) WA 8: 684, 31–36.

                              (107.) WA 10/III:22, 8–10. The printed version (WA 10/III:22, 32–33) avoids naming names: “That you want to say, ‘this or that preacher preached it,’ also makes no difference.”

                              (108.) Jens-Martin Kruse, Universitätstheologie und Kirchenreform: Die Anfänge der Reformation in Wittenberg 1516–1522 (Mainz: von Zabern, 2002), 375–389.

                              (109.) Heinz Scheible, “Die Philosophische Fakultät der Universität Wittenberg von der Gründung bis zur Vertreibung der Philippisten,” in ibid., Aufsätze, 91–124.

                              (110.) For the reconstruction of the Wittenberg commentary on the New Testament, see Timothy J. Wengert, Philip Melanchthon’s “Annotationes in Johannem” of 1523 in Relation to Its Predecessors and Contemporaries (Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 1987), 31–42.

                              (111.) See, among others, WA BR 2:517–524, letters dated May 6–8, 1522, and WA BR 2:538–542, letters dated May 22–27, 1522.

                              (112.) WA BR 2:472, 32–33, a letter dated March 15, 1522. Luther also criticizes Johann Lang for leaving the Augustinian monastery, a further indication that he was not singling out Karlstadt. See WA BR 2:494–496.

                              (113.) WA BR 2:478, 5, in a letter dated March 19, 1522.

                              (114.) WA BR 2:478, 7–12 with p. 480, n. 4: “It is certain to prohibit him from the pulpit, which he climbed into on his own temerity, without a call against the will of God and the people. Therefore as he did not come from God, he did not teach from God, and the fruit itself proves that he spoke his own word and sought his own glory. ‘Whom God has sent, speaks God’s words,’ and again ‘whoever seeks the glory of the one who sent him is true.’” Against WA BR 2, the notion that Karlstadt would be prevented from all preaching (including at the Castle Church) seems unlikely, especially since the preachers were very often invited by the elector and his court.

                              (115.) WA BR 2:491, 6–8, in a letter dated March 30, 1522.

                              (116.) WA BR 2:509–510, n. 4. See also Barge, Karlstadt, 1: 453 ff. and 2: 562 ff.

                              (117.) WA BR 2:509, 11–17, in a letter to Spalatin dated April 21, 1522. See also WA BR 2:511, 12–13, a letter to Spalatin dated April 24, 1522, where Luther also agrees to the compromise regarding the semiannual display of the elector’s relics on May 1.

                              (118.) WA BR 3:2, 43–45, accepting the reading suggested in n. 13 on p. 4, reading with Walch. See Martin Brecht, Martin Luther, 2: 64–65.

                              (119.) See Timothy J. Wengert, “Philip Melanchthon and a Christian Politics,” Lutheran Quarterly 17 (2003): 29–62, especially 40–44.

                              (120.) Brecht, 2: 138–139. It was titled Ecclesiae afflicate epistola ad Lutherum [letter of an afflicted church to Luther] and published early in 1523.

                              (121.) See, in the first place, their letters to Hessus, published shortly thereafter: WA BR 3:48–51 and MBW 233 (T 1: 480–482, a letter to Hessus dated c. August 1522) and MBW 273 (T 2: 63–64). The May 31, 1523, publication, De non contemnendis studiij humanioribus futuro Theologo maxime necessariis aliquot clarorum virorum ad Eobanum Hessum Epistolae (Erfurt: Maler, 1523), also includes letters by Peter Mosellanus, professor of Greek at Leipzig (dated August 5, 1520) and Justus Jonas (dated July 26, 1521), and two by Johann Draconites, who studied in Erfurt and Wittenberg, where he received his doctorate (both dated 1521 from Erfurt).

                              (122.) See WA 15:9–53 and MSA 3: 63–69. Melanchthon provides a preface for the Latin translation of Luther’s tract. See MBW 330 (T 2: 144–145), dated second half of June 1524.

                              (123.) See Brecht, 2: 157–172.

                              (124.) WA BR 12:444, 5–10. Luther referred to this sacrilege in different settings throughout his later career. See WA 42:417, 1–5 (lectures on Genesis); WA 47:448, 3–33 (a sermon on the Matthean text); WA TR 1:75, no. 159; 152–153, no. 361; 5:539, no. 6207; 550, no. 6226 [all table talk]; and WA BR 3:2 (a letter to Spalatin, dated January 2, 1523). In the last case, the editor of WA BR 3:3–4, n. 11, misconstrues Luther’s argument. Luther is not talking about the evil of receiving doctorates but about the necessity of the elector providing food for the feast afterwards (the so-called Aristotelicum), just as he had for Bugenhagen’s wedding. Later regulations of doctoral promotions also criticize frivolous ceremonies, connected in the past to what they had come to recognize as a serious moment in the life of the church.

                              (125.) For Lambert, see Gerhard Müller, Franz Lambert von Avignon und die Reformation in Hessen (Marburg: Elwert, 1958).

                              (126.) See Timothy J. Wengert, “The Wittenberg Circle,” in The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, ed. Robert Kolb et al., 491–501 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

                              (127.) For a particularly bad example of this argument, see Wilhelm Maurer, “Melanchthons Anteil am Streit zwischen Luther und Erasmus,” in ibid., Melanchthon-Studien (Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1964), 137–162.

                              (128.) Many of the uses of this title are associated with advocacy, defense and proper argumentation. See Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short, comps., A Latin Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon, 1879), q.v.

                              (129.) Scheible, “Die Philosophische Fakultät,” 111–116.

                              (130.) See Timothy J. Wengert, “Luther and Melanchthon—Melanchthon and Luther,” Luther-Jahrbuch 66 (1999): 55–88.

                              (131.) MBW 807 (T 3: 549–552), a letter to Joachim Camerarius, dated July 24, 1529. See especially lines 28–39.

                              (132.) See Timothy J. Wengert, “Luther and Melanchthon,” 70–84.

                              (133.) See Timothy J. Wengert, “The First Biography of Martin Luther, Compiled by Johannes Pollicarius,” in Memoria—theologische Synthese—Autoritätenkonflikt, ed. Irene Dingel, 14–44 (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2015).