publisher colophon
Reviewed by:
  • Staupitz, theologischer Lehrer Luthers. Neue Quellen—bleibende Erkenntnisse by Lothar Graf zu Dohna and Richard Wetzel
Staupitz, theologischer Lehrer Luthers. Neue Quellen—bleibende Erkenntnisse. By Lothar Graf zu Dohna and Richard Wetzel. Spätmittelalter, Humanismus, Reformation vol. 105. Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2018. xii + 392 pp.

As editors of the collected works of Staupitz (1979–2001), these two scholars have participated in the extensive examination of the theology of Luther's Augustinian superior and mentor, Johannes von Staupitz, over the past half century. In this volume they edit sources relating to the case of Stephan Agricola (Castenpawr), a follower of Luther whom Cardinal Matthaus Lang placed under arrest in Salzburg in 1522 on charges of heresy. Staupitz, as a trusted counselor of Lang and by that time abbot of a Benedictine monastery in Salzburg, composed an analysis of the charges against Agricola, in which he did not fully exonerate Agricola but placed his ideas in context. This analysis is edited with the high competence the two long-time editors bring to the task. In addition, they offer well-annotated texts from twenty-three other manuscripts that relate to [End Page 122] the case, as well as Agricola's Answer to the charges against him, published in 1523. Added to these skillfully presented texts is a collection of ten essays, almost all previously published, largely by Graf zu Dohna, that examine critical issues relating to Staupitz's theology, especially to its relationship to Luther's developing thought. Particularly valuable is the authors' extensive review of Staupitz research from 1979 to 2016. This survey demonstrates that the critical questions of this research received attention to a significant extent among the students of Heiko Oberman. Differences between Graf zu Dohna and David Steinmetz reveal something of their divergent orientations. Curious is the omission of any mention of Scott Hendrix's Martin Luther, Visionary Reformer (2015) when books up to 2016 are included. Hendrix certainly illumines Staupitz's role in Luther's personal and theological maturation. Because of the focus of the book on the Agricola affair, it is regrettable that the fine study of its impact by Marjorie Beth Plummer appeared too late to be presented ("Prison Tales. The Miraculous Escape of Stephan Agricola and the Creation of Lutheran Heroes during the Sixteenth Century," in Archeologies of Confession. Writing the German Reformation, 1517–2017, ed. Carina L. Johnson et al., New York, 2017, 262–83).

The ten essays shed light on Staupitz's approaches to reform (both institutional and theological) and on the evangelical nature of Staupitz's preaching, placing his thinking into the context of German theology in the early sixteenth century. A study of "die Reue Christi" reveals how already in 1512 Staupitz was proclaiming Christ as "victor over death and the suffering Servant of God" (151–175). In "Staupitz antibarbarus" (204–222) Graf zu Dohna demonstrates how fluid the lines between scholastic theology, monastic theology, and biblical humanism were in Luther's world. This also becomes clearer though the study of the reception of Augustine in Staupitz (223–65).

Graf zu Dohna has striven in his examinations of the relationship of Staupitz and Luther to identify key elements of Luther's maturing thought in Staupitz before they occur in Luther. The only previously unpublished piece treats the distinction of law and gospel, concluding that in Advent 1516 Staupitz used the fundamental distinction between law and gospel "almost a year before Luther's 95 [End Page 123] Theses" and other key Reformation texts (334). He fails to mention the study of Leif Grane that sees the roots of the distinction clearly in Luther's Romans lectures of 1515–1516; the essay is too brief to reveal whether Staupitz indeed captured the nature of the distinction and its practical application (331–334). Previously written essays present more extensive evidence of Luther's dependence on Staupitz's development of essential reformatory themes, sola gratia, sola scriptura, and sola fide (186). Regrettably, reference to Oswald Bayer's exploration of Luther's use of the concept of promissio is completely absent, thus avoiding a deeper assessment of whether Staupitz's concept of faith, critical for his larger concept of what it means to be Christian, truly shaped Luther's thinking or still needed to be expanded by insights that Luther reaped from Erasmus and Melanchthon on the nature of fides. The absence of Bayer's views in Weztel's essay on "Staupitz and Luther" (190-203) also renders his insights incomplete.

Nonetheless, scholars will find both in the newly edited materials relating to one of the early and prominent heresy trials of followers of Luther, Stephan Agricola, and in this gathering of essays by the two authors valuable stimulus and impetus for further study of Staupitz's writings. This volume is a helpful contribution to the discussion of late medieval Christian thinking and of the origins of Luther's reformational program. [End Page 124]

Robert Kolb
Concordia Seminary
Saint Louis, Missouri

Additional Information

Print ISSN
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.