The Heidelberg Disputation ( Disputatio Heidelbergae habita ) was an academic debate that took place on April 26, 1518 in the lecture hall of the Artist Faculty of Heidelberg University , as part of the general chapter of the “Saxon” Reform Congregation of Augustinian Hermits. Luther was a participant and defended his theses as a respondent against five Heidelberg doctors
The theses of Martin Luther , which he wrote for this disputation , are considered a key text for his early Reformation theology. He contrasted - especially in theses 19 to 24 - the "theology of the cross" ( theologia crucis ) , which he represented, in pointed form with the scholastic "theology of glory" ( theologia gloriae ). How the previously written theses relate to the actual course of the disputation is not clear. A distinction is therefore useful: between the text of the theses and their justifications as a document for the development of Luther's theology - and the event on April 26, 1518 in Heidelberg, which made a strong impression on some listeners.
Heidelberg disputation in context
At the beginning of 1518, Gabriel Venetus, a new general of the Augustinian Hermits, took office in Rome. Pope Leo X wrote to him on February 3, 1518 that it was his duty to lead Martin Luther, a priest of his order, back on the right path. For example, a conversation with scholars, who should "calm and soothe him", is suitable before the flame he has just kindled can develop into a dangerous fire. Whether and how Venetus informed Luther's superior Staupitz about this is unknown. In the disputation, Luther did not address the issue of indulgences. While the rival Dominican order had denounced Luther in Rome, the Augustinian hermits endeavored to achieve a "scholarly clarification of Luther's cause"; this is what the disputation should serve.
Every three years a general convention of the German Reform Congregation of the Augustinian Hermits took place. The previous two general conventions show how Martin Luther had made a career within the order: in 1512 he was appointed subprior and study director of the Wittenberg branch in Cologne. In 1515 in Gotha he was entrusted as district vicar with the supervision of eleven monasteries in Meißen and Thuringia. Luther's trip to the general convention in Heidelberg three years later had the character of a business trip.
The disputation was not an internal matter, but shows how the university and the monastery cooperated. The theological and the philosophical faculties supported the monastery financially in hosting the general chapter. At the request of the "gentlemen seniors" (presumably faculty members who belonged to the university's senate) it was decided that the disputation should take place in the teaching building of the philosophical faculty. The reasons for this are not known, but the decision was made shortly before the beginning of the General Chapter. Luther was already in Heidelberg by then. It is therefore possible that he himself took the initiative to make his theological program known beyond Wittenberg.
Luther's trip to Heidelberg
In order for Martin Luther to be able to take part in the chapter of the order in Heidelberg, he took a leave of absence from his university duties in Wittenberg and requested a letter of protection from his Saxon Elector Friedrich the Wise , which his sovereign correspondence with the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg Friedrich von Wirsberg and the Elector of the Palatinate Ludwig V the Peaceful was assured. Friedrich wrote to Luther's superior, Johann von Staupitz , that although Luther was given leave to participate in the Heidelberg chapter, he would have to return to Wittenberg immediately afterwards.
Luther turned down the offer of a traveling wagon and set out on foot with a confrere on April 11th, as it was in accordance with the rules of the order, which turned out to be quite arduous. The two monks reached Würzburg via Coburg. There, Prince-Bishop Lorenz von Bibra invited Luther to the court and offered him escort to Heidelberg. Luther renounced because he wanted to travel from Würzburg together with his Erfurt confreres.
When he arrived in Heidelberg, Luther was received with great honor by the electoral court and invited to dinner. He was also allowed to visit the castle under construction. The reason for this good reception was not only the letter of recommendation from Frederick the Wise, but the fact that Count Palatine Wolfgang had studied in Wittenberg in the summer of 1515 and had been honorary rector of the Wittenberg University.
General Chapter of the Augustinian Hermits
On April 25, 1518, Luther took part in the general chapter of the Saxon Reform Congregation of the Augustinian Hermits as district vicar in Heidelberg. Staupitz was re-elected as vicar, Johann Lang succeeded Luther as district vicar . The fact that Luther was not re-elected is probably not a move away from him because of his conflict with the Roman Curia. Rather, the order corresponded to a wish of Luther, who had suffered from the double burden of the university and internal tasks. In this direction, the fact that Johann Lang, who was chosen as his successor, was one of Luther's closest friends.
Little else is known about the negotiations of the congregation. Luther lived in the Augustinian monastery in Heidelberg, and this is where the General Chapter's negotiations took place.
The theses that Luther had prepared for the disputation represent a settlement with scholastic theology as a whole. Luther's novel doctrine of sin and grace is presented in a very pointed form:
- “People's works, however beautiful they may be and however good they appear to be, are surely deadly sins . The works of God, however misshapen and how bad they appear to be, are nevertheless truly immortal merits. ”(Theses 3 and 4)
- “ After the fall of man, free will is only a mere concept ( res est de solo titulo ); He who does what he can ( facit, quod in se est ) commits a mortal sin. ”(Thesis 13) The formula Facere quod in se est is central to the nominalistic doctrine of grace in which Luther was trained. It dates from the 13th century, was coined by Alexander von Hales and developed by Bonaventure : Whoever does what he can, God will not withhold his grace. "This famous thesis 13 is the classic formulation of the basic approach of Luther's theology, a rejection of the scholastic doctrine of salvation ... as well as the humanistic image of man."
Thesis 21 contrasts the “theologians of glory” ( Theologus gloriae ) and the “theologians of the cross” ( Theologis crucis ) and thus introduces two concepts that are central to Luther's thinking.
Place and participants
On April 26, 1518, the disputation took place in the lecture hall of the artist faculty ( Schola Artistarum ). The location of the event was the main building of the university at that time, east of today's Augustinergasse. The presence of the pedell Johannes Negelin underlined the university character of the event. These framework conditions represented an honor for Luther and fit into the image of his friendly reception in the city. In the audience there were not only Augustinian monks and university members, but also some Heidelberg citizens and representatives of the Palatinate court.
The announcements in the foreword to the printed edition of the Heidelberg Theses from 1545 do not match what is known about the course of the event: Obviously Luther did not preside at the disputation, but was a participant and defended his theses as a respondent against five Heidelberg doctors, who opposed it . The Augustinian Leonhard Beyer from Wittenberg, who was announced as the respondent in the foreword to the Heidelberg theses, did not appear at all; Luther neither mentioned his contribution in the letter to Spalatin, nor did Bucer take any notice of him.
According to Heinz Scheible , Luther disputed with the following doctors from the Heidelberg theological faculty:
- Jodocus Brechtel alias Sartoris from Rohrbach;
- Daniel Zangenried from Memmingen ;
- Markus Stieß from Ittlingen ;
- Peter Scheibenhart from Deidesheim ;
- Lorenz Wolf from Speyer .
The masters of the artist faculty were more open to Luther's theology. Its dean was the otherwise unknown Hieronymus Frentzlin, other members of the faculty council were the canonist Franz Heckmann from Landau, the lawyer Hartmann Hartmanni from Eppingen , the theologian Gabriel Stelin (Steyll) from Dillingen and the doctor Theobald Billican .
Information about the course of the event
Martin Luther to Georg Spalatin
Looking back, on May 18, 1518, Luther wrote to Georg Spalatin good news about the course of the disputation:
“Furthermore, the doctors willingly admitted my disputation and argued against me with such modesty that they are very valuable to me for their sake. For although theology seemed alien to them, they nonetheless fought astutely and beautifully against it, with the exception of the one who was the fifth and youngest doctor ... "
This disputation participant, Georg Schwarz alias Nigri from Löwenstein, said to the amusement of the audience that the peasants would stone Luther if they learned about his theses. This probably meant that the “work righteousness” criticized by Luther was deeply rooted in the people.
Count Palatine Wolfgang to Frederick the Wise
Count Palatine Wolfgang replied to the letter of recommendation that Frederick the Wise had sent him, also by letter, and gave him his impression of the event:
Luther "also acted so skilfully here with his disputes that he had not given a little praise to your love university, it was said by well-trained people in the also great Preyss that we did Lovers don't want to be restrained as a summer cheerful message. "
Martin Bucer to Beatus Rhenanus
Johannes Brenz , 19 years old and shortly before the master’s examination, wrote down the disputation, as did Martin Frecht and the young Dominican monk Martin Bucer . Of these three transcripts, only that of Bucer's has survived. It is therefore the most important source for the course of the disputation. (It is possible, but less likely, that the transcript was a co-production of the three named students.)
After the disputation there was a private conversation between Bucer and Luther, and on the following day a dinner party came together in which Staupitz and Luther as well as Bucer, Brenz and other students took part. About this table talk, Bucer said enthusiastically that Luther completely agreed with Erasmus, but what he only hinted at, Luther said openly and frankly. So after the disputation, Bucer had two opportunities to clarify points that he had not understood when he was taking notes.
Bucer wrote a report dated May 1, 1518 on the disputation for Beatus Rhenanus , in which he conspicuously ignored the theological center of Luther's series of theses. Numerous church historians ( Martin Brecht , Heiko A. Oberman , Bernd Moeller , Leif Grane ) understood this to mean that the young Bucer did not simply write down what took place in Heidelberg, but instead set his own theological priorities. He was a supporter of Erasmus of Rotterdam , and either he also assessed Luther as an Erasmian or personally had no use for Luther's theology of the cross - either way he left out what did not fit into his image of Luther.
Thomas Kaufmann, on the other hand, would like to use Bucer's report as a historical source for the course of the Heidelberg disputation. Bucer emphasized that he was sending Rhenanus his complete transcript. Apparently Luther's theses were not available in print at the disputation, and Bucer wrote them down as he heard them during the event. "Since there is nothing to suggest that all the theses we received were the subject of the Heidelberg disputation, rather Bucer, as the only reporter, is against this view, one has to assume that only the theses mentioned by Bucer were disputed." Theses 1 to 16 and Thesis 25) makes sense and means concentrating on the subject of fairness to work . Bucer wrote down the thirteenth thesis in which Luther settled with the nominalistic concept of free will ( facere quod in se est ) as Luther had worked out this point in his prepared materials. Thesis 13 is therefore the consequence of all the previous theses. Theses 14 to 16 were only briefly discussed, probably due to lack of time, and thesis 25 was possibly the end of the disputation, for which its content was well suited.
Luther's return trip
On his return trip, Luther probably visited his former teacher Jodocus Trutfetter on May 9, 1518 in Erfurt , who was one of the most important scholastic theologians of his time. At first he was not admitted because of Trutfetter's illness; then the former student met the teacher after all. Luther tried to come to an agreement with Trutfetter at least so far that he could not prove his own position and refute Luther's position. But Trutfetter did not respond; Luther felt as if he was talking to a deaf. Luther regretted this very much because he valued Trutfetter personally. When his former teacher died a year later, he wrote to Spalatin on May 24, 1519 that he feared that he had contributed to his untimely death: “He was so grieved because of my so-called profanations and boldnesses caused by scholastic theology had fallen into incredible contempt for his pain. The Lord have mercy on his soul, Amen! "
As they returned in a traveling car that Luther shared with another former teacher, Bartholomäus von Usingen , the two had plenty of time to discuss the topics of the Heidelberg disputation. Unlike Trutfetter, Usingen did not reject Luther's request brusquely, but remained hesitant (incomprehensible to Luther) about the new.
Effects in southwest Germany
Luther did not find approval from the doctors of the theological faculty who took part in the disputation, but he won many followers among the students and masters of the artist faculty. Later reformers were among the audience. The participation of Johannes Brenz, Theobald Billican, Franz Irenicus , Erhard Schnepf and Martin Frecht is certain ; Participation is possible in the case of Johannes Isenmann, Paul Fagius and Sebastian Franck. Fagius was only 14 years old at the time and was attending Latin school; he probably experienced the event of the Heidelberg disputation more indirectly. Franck was not enrolled, but lived in the Collegium Jacobitarum.
The Heidelberg disputation gained great importance for the spread of Luther's Reformation teaching. Many of his listeners became carriers of the Reformation in southwest Germany. Above all, Johannes Brenz had a great influence on the Reformation in Kraichgau , and Erhard Schnepf preached according to Lutheran doctrine as early as 1520. Most of the pastors and preachers in the predicatures who were later active in the Kraichgau had studied in Heidelberg in 1518 and were won over to the Reformation through the disputation.
Text of the theses
Luther wrote 40 theses for the Heidelberg disputation: 28 theological and 12 philosophical. The 28 theological theses were printed in both Zwolle and Paris around 1520. All 40 theses were not printed until 1530 in Wittenberg. The introductory sentence was still general here; Only the version of the Heidelberg Theses in the Wittenberg Complete Edition from 1545 provides the information that is important for the historical classification of the text: "Brother Martin Luther, Magister of Holy Theology, will preside, Brother Leonhard Beyer, Master of Fine Arts and Philosophy, will answer in front of the Augustinians of the well-known city of Heidelberg at their usual place, on April 26th 1518. "
- Disputatio Heidelbergae habita , in: Weimar Edition , Volume 1, pp. 353–374; therein: Theological Theses p. 353 f .; philosophical theses p. 355; “Evidence of the theses that were disputed in the Heidelberg chapter of our salvation in 1518” pp. 355–365; Explanation of the sixth thesis, pp. 365–374.
- Martin Bucer's report to Beatus Rhenanus ( Beato Rhenano Literatorum humanissimo Martinus Bucerus SP ), in: Weimarer Ausgabe, Volume 9, pp. 161-169.
- Karl-Heinz zur Mühlen : Martin Luther's Heidelberg disputation on April 26, 1518 . In: Semper Apertus. 600 years of Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg 1386–1986. Vol. 1, ed. by W. Doerr u. a., Berlin a. a. 1985, pp. 188-212.
- Heinz Scheible : The University of Heidelberg and Luther's disputation. In: ZGO 131 (1983) pp. 309-329. Reprinted in: Gerhard May, Rolf Decot (eds.): Melanchthon and the Reformation . Philipp von Zabern, Mainz 1996, pp. 371-391.
- Michael Plathow : Martin Luther in Heidelberg. The Heidelberg disputation. In: Luther Bulletin 1998, 7, pp. 76-93.
- Harald Pfeiffer: Martin Luther's journey to the Heidelberg disputation 1518. Verlag Dr. Harald Pfeiffer, Heidelberg 2016
- Thomas Kaufmann : The beginning of the Reformation. Studies on the contextuality of theology, journalism and staging of Luther and the Reformation movement. 2nd, revised and corrected edition. Mohr, Tübingen 2018, ISBN 3-16-156327-1 .
- Martin Brecht : Martin Bucer and the Heidelberg disputation . In: Collected essays , Volume 1: Reformation , Stuttgart 1995, pp. 48–61.
- Karl-Heinz zur Mühlen : Martin Luther's Heidelberg disputation on April 26, 1518. Program and effect . In: Wilhelm Doerr (Ed.): Semper apertus: 600 years of Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg . Volume 1: Middle Ages and Early Modern Times: 1386–1803 , Springer Verlag, Berlin / Heidelberg 1985, pp. 188–212.
- Gottfried Seebaß : The Heidelberg Disputation . In: Heidelberger Jahrbücher 27 (1983), pp. 77-88.
- Martin Luther: The Heidelberg disputation and its broad impact (PDF; 5.2 MB), poster for the 625th anniversary of Heidelberg University. With map by R. Baar-Cantoni, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography 2010: Southwest Germany and adjacent areas. Participant in Martin Luther's disputation on April 26, 1518 and its subsequent effects .
- German translation of the Heidelberg disputation theses and Luther's reasons. Source: Martin Luther pocket edition. Selection in five volumes. Edited by Horst Beintker , Helmer Junghans and Hubert Kirchner, Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Berlin (East) 1981 ff. 
- "Saxon" here in the sense of German.
- Karl-Heinz zur Mühlen: Martin Luther's Heidelberg disputation of April 26, 1518 , p. 189 f.
- Karl-Heinz zur Mühlen: Martin Luther's Heidelberg Disputation of April 26, 1518 , p. 189.
- Karl-Heinz zur Mühlen: Martin Luther's Heidelberg Disputation of April 26, 1518 , p. 190.
- Heinz Scheible: The University of Heidelberg and Luther's Disputation , p. 322.
- Gottfried Seebaß: The Heidelberg Disputation , p. 81.
- Andrew Pettegree : The Luther brand. How an unknown monk made a small German town the center of the printing industry and himself the most famous man in Europe - and kicked off the Protestant Reformation. Insel, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-458-17691-6 , p. 107
- Gottfried Seebaß: The Heidelberg Disputation , p. 80.
- Heinz Scheible: The University of Heidelberg and Luther's Disputation , p. 312.
- Gottfried Seebaß: The Heidelberg Disputation , p. 80 f.
- Thomas Kaufmann: The beginning of the Reformation , Tübingen 2018, p. 334.
- Bernhard Lohse : Luther's Theology in its historical development and in its systematic context , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1996, p. 123.
- Charles P. Carlson Jr .: Justification in Earlier Medieval Theology , Den Haag 1975, p. 126.
- Heinz Scheible: The University of Heidelberg and Luther's Disputation , p. 314.
- On the dating, see Heinz Scheible: Die Universität Heidelberg and Luther's Disputation , p. 317.
- Heinz Scheible: The University of Heidelberg and Luther's Disputation , p. 309, note 3.
- Heinz Scheible: The University of Heidelberg and Luther's Disputation , p. 322 f.
- Thomas Kaufmann: The beginning of the Reformation , Tübingen 2018, p. 342 f.
- Heinz Scheible: The University of Heidelberg and Luther's disputation , p. 327 f.
- Heinz Scheible: The University of Heidelberg and Luther's Disputation , p. 326.
- Martin Luther: Letter to Spalatin, May 18, 1518. In: Kurt Aland (Hrsg.): Luther deutsch. The works of Martin Luther in a new selection for the present . Volume 10: The Letters . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2nd edition Göttingen 1983, p. 42.
- Karl-Heinz zur Mühlen: Martin Luther's Heidelberg disputation of April 26, 1518 , p. 199.
- Salutation by princes for princes of the same or lower rank (see curials ).
- Johann Friedrich Hautz: History of the University of Heidelberg: based on handwritten sources together with the most important documents , Volume 1, Mannheim 1862. P. 385, note 82. Cf. Thomas Kaufmann: The beginning of the Reformation , Tübingen 2018, p. 339.
- Karl-Heinz zur Mühlen: Martin Luther's Heidelberg disputation of April 26, 1518 , p. 200.
- After a considerable amount of time, Frecht remembered in 1556 that Luther had put “his entire theology” up for discussion in the artist school and that this had been written down by Brenz, Bucer and himself. See Heinz Scheible: The University of Heidelberg and Luther's Disputation , p. 320 f.
- Thomas Kaufmann: The beginning of the Reformation , Tübingen 2018, p. 354.
- Thomas Kaufmann: The beginning of the Reformation , Tübingen 2018, pp. 339–341.
- Thomas Kaufmann: The beginning of the Reformation , Tübingen 2018, p. 334.
- Thomas Kaufmann: The beginning of the Reformation , Tübingen 2018, p. 344.
- Thomas Kaufmann: The beginning of the Reformation , Tübingen 2018, p. 342.
- Thomas Kaufmann: The Beginning of the Reformation , Tübingen 2018, p. 353.
- Joseph Pilvousek : Jodocus Trutvetter (1460-1519) and the Erfurt nominalism . In: Dietmar von der Pfordten (ed.): Great thinkers of Erfurt and the Erfurt University. Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2002, ISBN 978-3-89244-510-4 , pp. 96–117, here p. 105.
- Josef Pilvousek: Asceticism, brotherhood and science: the ideals of the Erfurt Augustinian hermits and their efforts to innovate . In: Volker Leppin et al. (Ed.): Luther and the monastic heritage , Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2007, pp. 39–55, here p. 53.
- See Scheible, pp. 324–329.
- Map by R. Baar-Cantoni, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography 2010: Southwest Germany and adjacent areas. Participant in Martin Luther's disputation on April 26, 1518 and its subsequent effects. uni-heidelberg.de, accessed on February 10, 2018 
- Thomas Kaufmann: The Beginning of the Reformation , Tübingen 2018, p. 354, note 162.
- Heinz Scheible: The University of Heidelberg and Luther's disputation , p. 326 f.
- Frater Martinus Luther Sacrae Theologiae Magister praesidebit, Frater Leonardus Bayer artium et Philosophiae magister respondebit apud Augustinianos huius inclytae civitatis Heidelbergensis, loco solito, VI. Cal. Maii, MDXVIII.