Monday, September 08, 2014

Early Years in Wittenberg – Hendrix on Luther

So apparently I’m in a bit of a Luther mood these months. After reading (and blogging) on Kittelson, I’ve picked up Scott Hendrix’s book Luther and the Papacy: Stages in a Reformation Conflict (Fortress, 1981). This is mildly perplexing to me as a staunchly Reformed theologian (although my best friend is a Lutheran…), but I assuage my conscience by telling myself that it’s merely background reading for the Reformation class that I’m teaching (again) in the Fall.

In any case, I found the below to be one of those engaging passages filled with interesting historical detail, and I thought that I would share it with you, gentle reader. As always, bold is mine.

Scott Hendrix, Luther and the Papacy, 11–12:
On October 19, 1512, the degree of doctor of theology was conferred on Luther by his “promoter” in the theological faculty at Wittenberg, Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt. In his doctoral oath Luther pledged not to teach strange doctrines which had been condemned by the Roman Church and, consequently, were “offensive to pious ears.” In addition, as one who had received the licentiate in theology, he had to swear obedience to the Roman Church. There is every reason to think that Luther took the full oath with a clear conscience, although in later years he would interpret the oath as binding him to Holy Scripture rather than to the Roman Church. Regardless of this change in the object of his allegiance, Luther always regarded his doctorate as the official sanction for his reforming work: “I have often said and still say, I would not exchange my doctor’s degree for all the world’s gold. . . . God and the whole world bear me testimony that I entered into this work publically and by virtue of my office as teacher and preacher and have carried it hitherto by the grace of God.”

Three days later Luther was formally inducted into the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg and began to prepare the lectures that he would deliver as the successor to Johannes von Staupitz in the chair of biblical studies. From 1513 to 1515 he taught his first lecture course on the Psalms. These lectures were followed by courses on Romans (1515–1516), Galatians (1516–1517), and Hebrews (1517–1518). From this earliest phase of his teaching career we also possess sermons Luther delivered, marginal notes to medieval theological works, letters, and theses prepared for academic debate. Luther was a busy man.



J. Scott Jackson said...

Why do you Presbyterians always feel the need to apologize for liking Luther. Didn't your ecumenical agreement with the ELCA settle that feud for good? ;)

W. Travis McMaken said...

Playing rhetorical games is fun. :-)