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  • Cicero in Heaven: The Roman Rhetor and Luther's Reformationby Carl P.E. Springer
  • Neil Leroux
Cicero in Heaven: The Roman Rhetor and Luther's Reformation. By Carl P.E. Springer. St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History. Leiden: Brill, 2018. 291 pp.

Students of Luther today (and long before) have appreciated Tertullian's famous question, "What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?" Springer's latest monograph engages the question, "What does Athens have to do with Wittenberg?" As "the most significant and influential of all of the ancient Roman prose authors" (xviii), Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BC) made such an impact on Martin Luther that more than once he expressed concern about Cicero's fate in the next life. Readers hungry for more on Luther's relationship to the pagan classics, and informed by the author's previous work, including Luther's Aesop(2011), will not be disappointed by this new volume.

Luther's reputation includes: "father of the German language" and "the real German Cicero." Accordingly, Springer shows readers that Luther's contributions to the Reformation and to German culture and education often came through his writings and teachings in Latin, the language of his early schooling and university training. Springer argues for the crucial role that the Latin language—and Cicero's prominence in classical Latin prose—played in Luther's career and the development of the magisterial reformation, in early modernity and far beyond.

In his first chapter Springer succinctly narrates Cicero's prominence in Latin rhetoric and Christianity's relationship to Latin [End Page 231]eloquence. While familiar to historians of European rhetoric—the outline follows Cicero's dominance, Augustine's adaptation ("spoiling the Egyptians"), scholastic marginalizing, humanism's recovery, and the magisterial reformers' employment—this "art of speaking," in all its five canons, is not that well known.

The following chapter explores many of Luther's citations of Cicero, paying particular attention to "how deeply … he appreciated the intensely civic-minded ancient orator" (57). Now and then Springer offers brief and careful stylistic analyses of Luther's prose, which, in De servo arbitrioand Tractatus de libertate Christiana, displays ample evidence of familiarity with the elocutio(the third of the five canons, and the most prominent feature) of Renaissance rhetoric. While Luther's style was not slavishly "ciceronian," neither does it comport with his self-deprecating remark in reference to Melanchthon, Erasmus, and Karlstadt: res sine verbis Lutherus("Luther [has] substance without words" WATR 3:460). A significant hallmark of Luther's respect for Cicero lay in his example of parrhesia—candid, bold speech, which Luther saw in many Christian martyrs (e.g., Stephen and Paul) and in Cicero, and adopted himself in theological context as confessio.

Chapter three, on Cicero and Wittenberg education, not only covers the familiar ground of Luther's embrace of a humanist motto of ad fontesfor purposes of studying scripture (necessitating mastery of Greek and Hebrew), but also explicates efforts he and Melanchthon undertook to establish schools founded on the pedagogy of the liberal arts, beginning with the trivium(grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric). This chapter bolsters a growing consensus today acknowledging not only Luther's (and Melanchthon's) pedagogical programs but also Luther's kinship with humanism, which tailored liberal learning in the Latin schools and the universities for preparing young people for useful professions of all sorts, as well as in developing capable preachers of the gospel.

In chapter four, "Cicero Refused to Die," Springer reveals the depth of immersion in Latin that Johann Sturm's academy in Strasbourg maintained and the degree of influence Sturm's curriculum had in the second half of the sixteenth century. Springer discusses some of the requirements students had to meet in studying Cicero's [End Page 232]works. Springer also explains Johann Sebastian Bach's training in Latin and employment of rhetorical techniques in his music. The chapter concludes by surveying how Cicero's shadow fell upon Colonial America, including some of the Founding Fathers, and migrated there via German Lutheran homileticians such as Johann Michael Reu.

The fifth chapter investigates Luther's criticisms of Cicero, also providing important narration and analysis on reactions against Ciceronianism...


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