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  • Medizinische Theologie: Christus Medicus und Theologia medicinalis bei Martin Luther und im Luthertum der Barockzeit
  • Winfried Schleiner
Johann Anselm Steiger . Medizinische Theologie: Christus Medicus und Theologia medicinalis bei Martin Luther und im Luthertum der Barockzeit. Studies in the History of Christian Traditions 121. Leiden and Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2005. viii + 369. index. illus. bibl. $160. ISBN: 90–04–14 156–1.

This book, dealing with what the author terms "medical theology" in Luther and the early Lutheran tradition, is divided in three parts: A first part on Luther has such sections as "The Sinner as Patient Before God — Christus Medicus," "Corporal and Spiritual Medicine," "The Proximity Between Medicine and Theology," "Sinfulness as Original Disease," "The Word of God as Medication," "Preachers and Bishops as 'Hospital Directors,'" "The Christological Coincidence of medicus and medicina," "The Law and the NT as Diagnosis and Therapy," and "Medicine and Theology as Empirical Disciplines."

The second part takes the analysis to the early post-Lutheran tradition, particularly memorial sermons by Lutheran ministers on physicians and apothecaries. The ministers include Johannes Vietor — discussed, somewhat oddly, in two separate sections — Conrad Rosbach, Johannes Wagner, Justus Söfting, Melchior Lehen, Caspar Huberinus, Johannes Mathesius, Friedrich Rothe, and Valerius Herberger, also discussed in two discontinuous sections.

A third part consists of a small group of edited works of this genre: a work against "hellish sadness" by Wilhelm Sarcerius of 1568, a denunciation of the "Devil of Melancholy" by Simon Musäus (1569), and a memorial sermon on the occasion of the death of the physician Flaminius Gasto (1618) by Valerius Herberger, discussed before. Some of the last-mentioned works relate to the feeling in Luther and the Lutheran tradition that the temptation to melancholy was immense and sometimes deadly — as I emphasized many years ago in my work on [End Page 193] Renaissance melancholy — so much so that broadsides or posters were printed against it. This is an important characteristic of the Lutheran period. Of course Steiger takes the analysis much farther. He asks the question on what understanding of medicine the notion of Christus medicus rested and arrives at the somewhat contradictory view that Luther himself took medication extremely unwillingly, kept a distance from physicians as a group, and enjoyed telling stories of patients' healing themselves by not adhering to the physicians' dietary prescriptions (10), but that on the other hand — undoubtedly because of the biblical precedent of the valorizing notion of Christus medicus — Luther shows "a high estimation of the professional rank of the physician ("eine Hochschätzung des beruflichen Amtes des Arztes" [59]): among other things, he had specific notions what the duties of a physician were at the time of plague.

Both as literary and medical historian, I sometimes felt a little uneasy about conceptual floating in this study between "vehicle" and "tenor" or imagery and referent. Does one stand for the other (as is of course true in the biblical tradition), and which is "really" being spoken about and elucidated by the other? Is it a matter of a master-trope within an individually developed "field of imagery" in the manner Harald Weinrich suggested a few decades ago? In Weinrich's terms, new diseases and remedies expanding or illustrating the central trope of Christus medicus would constitute a limited form of originality, although it would, of course, be an important recognition to see Luther talk about sanctification in terms of dietetic (11). Sometimes I would have liked the author to push his analysis a little fur-ther from moments such as when he points to the difference between medicina corporalis and medicina spiritualis — only in the latter can the physician also be medicine. The example is excellent, because it shows that spiritual medicine does not derive all its explanatory power from secular medicine. So, if there is a lack of "fit" between the two systems, what contributes this manner of speaking? In part 1, section 10, "Pharmacologia sacra," the author possibly gives a partial answer as he shows how the two discourses blend or merge. According to Luther, the trinitarian God ties himself for remedies to working through external media, even sow and horse manure and cow excrements — as Steiger says...


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