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date: 28 April 2017

Martin Luther as a Polemicist

Summary and Keywords

Luther was criticized for his polemics, particularly by his humanist contemporaries, and his writing did not in fact live up to the ideal of modestia (moderation). However, personal invective such as that engaged in by some humanists under cover of an incognito was not particularly evident in Luther’s work. Once he had sharply distanced himself from scholastic theology, especially in his academic lectures and series of theses, his polemical writing increased as a result of the dispute over indulgences (autumn of 1517). In his literary skirmishes with Tetzel, Luther first switched to using the vernacular German; it became characteristic of his polemical writing that he reacted quickly to enable the reading public to follow the controversy. From spring of 1520, as the number of defenders of the old faith (Prierias, Eck, Alveldt, Emser, Murner, Catharinus, and others) steadily grew, Luther was neither willing nor able to answer every written invective directed at him. The particular historical context, the prominence of his opponent, and the importance of the theme for further advancing the Reformation all played important roles in whom he chose to respond to. Since 1522 Luther was involved in numerous controversies with inner-Reformation opponents that centered on questions regarding how to conduct the Reformation, the sacraments, the external means of their administration, and how to treat members of congregations too weak or unprepared to accept change. Luther thought it important to draw clear lines with respect to opponents in his own camp, especially Karlstadt, Müntzer, and Zwingli. Of particular importance among his other writings are polemical texts against Turks and Jews. He found polemics in service of the truth of Christ’s teachings to be unavoidable.

Keywords: Martin Luther, communications, publications, controversial theology, antipapism, Jews, swarmers, sacramentalists, Turks, Lord’s Supper dispute

Research on Martin Luther as a polemicist has been carried out in the context of his biography; none of the accounts of his life since Johannes Cochläus’s Commentaria (1549) or from the sermons of Mathesius (1564) on up to the most recent portrayals could refrain from giving the attention due the theological controversies in which Luther engaged. Research in the media studies of the Wittenberg Reformer (Edwards; Pettegree)1 has examined the quantitative, strategic and linguistic aspects of his polemical works. Study of Luther’s understanding of himself2 treats his use of polemic—as sketched out by him—only marginally.

In studies of Luther’s literary output and of the particular controversies in which he engaged, however, his specific exegetical arguments as a debater, polemicist, and strategist were examined. Works published regarding Luther’s polemic against the papacy (i.e., Hendrix; Moeller)3 clearly accentuate the polemical thrust; the same is true of his anti-Jewish (Kaufmann; Gritsch)4 and anti-Turkish (Ehmann; Francisco)5 writings; in addition, an effort has been made to work out the Christological basis and framework for the theology of justification in his polemic against the papacy, Jews, Turks and inner-Reformation opponents.

However, in studies of Luther in his literary output6 and of the particular controversies in which he engaged as a writer,7 his specific exegetical arguments as a debater, polemicist, and strategist were examined. Works published regarding Luther’s polemic against the papacy (i.e., Hendrix [1981]; Moeller) clearly accentuate the polemical thrust; the same is true of his anti-Jewish (Kaufmann; Gritsch) and anti-Turkish (Ehmann; Francisco) writings; in addition, an effort has been made to work out the Christological basis and framework for the theology of justification of his polemic against the papacy, Jews, Turks and inner-Reformation opponents.8 Vind recently published a detailed and balanced treatment of Luther’s polemic.9

Martin Luther remains one of the most disputatious theologians of his epoch. By the 16th century his polemics were often considered offensive, criticized, and taken as grounds for opposing the positions he espoused; moreover, Luther’s theological leadership was then challenged, and exaggerated opinions regarding him as a prophet of God were emphatically contested.

Since 1525 at the latest, as Luther’s views were circulating about the Peasants’ War and his conspicuous break with his one-time ally Andreas Bodenstein, aka Karlstadt, was made public and carried out in his pamphlet Wider die himmlischen Propheten,10 a similar critique of Luther’s polemics was widespread among Upper German and Swiss partisans of the Reformation. In any case, the distancing from Luther the polemicist, who on the basis of his passion had shown his human side, brought a correction of his depiction during the early Reformation as a hero, particularly by humanist authors.11

In view of the cultural norms of his time, particularly those observed by humanists, it was proper for them to criticize Luther for his polemics. Luther must have appeared to them the epitome of a quarrelsome theologian: he violated guiding ideals of literary rhetoric of antiquity, which rejected the use of invective against individuals as a mode of argument, insisting instead on a literary style marked by moderation, which favored reason to tame the emotions.

In any case, positing a barbaric Reformation polemicist in opposition to a cultivated humanist spokesman was also problematic in that it historicized both parties. Many humanists were, in fact, also rabid polemicists. They attacked the honor of individuals to an extent Luther scarcely approached.

However, in contrast with Luther, who generally fought in the open, the humanists concealed their polemics under various disguises. For instance, the “Letters of Obscure Men” (“Dunkelmännerbriefe,” or Epistolae virorum obscurorum)12, which appeared under pseudonyms, were published directly before or in tandem with early Reformation writings. In those letters, alleged proponents of the old church and of scholastic views held by those around the inquisitor Jacob Hoogstraeten and the Cologne professor of theology Ortwinus Gratius were deeply hostile to Reuchlin and the humanists and mocked them derisively. The goal of these polemics—authored by humanists such as Mutianus Rufus, Hermann von dem Busche, Crotus Rubeanus or Ulrich von Hutten—was to depict Reuchlin’s opponents and the supporters of his polar opposite, the Jewish convert Johannes Pfefferkorn, as intellectually limited, inarticulate, and morally dissolute obscurantists who unscrupulously exploited the existing church structure for their own benefit. Similarly, Eccius dedolatus, the polemic attributed to the Nuremberg patrician Willibald Pirckheimer, vilely attacked the person of Ingolstadt theologian Johannes Eck, who had clashed with Luther in the Leipzig disputation. Both the satirical dialogue Iulius exclusus, which probably stemmed from Erasmus, the prince of Dutch humanists, has the warrior-pope Julius II being barred from heaven,13 and the invective (also launched by Erasmus) directed at Hieronymus Aleander14 employed and stoked current anti-Semitic stereotypes of particular virulence. Luther did not participate in the moralizing, literary polemics characteristic of the humanists that were delivered under the cover of a penname and aimed to disqualify the morals of the person incriminated. A critique of Luther’s polemics with respect to the humanistic ideal of modestia only could be seen as suitable if one takes into account, that humanists themselves used expressly polemical strategies.

Seen in the context of the contemporary disputes Luther was involved in, his polemics have not been uniformly condemned as unfounded. Adherents of the old doctrines with whom he traded polemical pamphlets more often took umbrage at the substance of what he taught and the claims he made than at the tone in which it was expressed. The same was true for his inner-Reformation opponents, with whom he regularly was in dispute after 1522—it was the substance and his claim of authority for his teaching that was problematic, not his polemic per se. Ultimately, however, the theology of confessional Lutheranism saw in Luther someone called by God to witness to the revelation of the Scriptures, and his polemics gave no cause to renounce him. On the contrary, Lutherans were convinced that his implacable ardor proved that the earnestness with which he carried out his God-given mission was genuine. The Lutheran orthodoxy that had been developing since the final third of the 16th century held that polemical theology was necessary to assert the truth of their own pure doctrine in the face of competing claims. Not until Pietism was a fundamental reassessment of Luther as a polemicist begun. Arising as it did from a trans-confessional religious ethos that emphasized what was common across confessions, the boundaries Luther drew, along with his condemnation of theological adversaries and opponents, were judged to be offensive, unchristian, and fanatical. During the Enlightenment and the following periods of interpretation of Luther—if one ignores Lutheran neo-confessionalism—things have remained largely unchanged; the anti-Catholic Reformer who polemicized against Jews is criticized15 as betraying his own theology and being an impediment to ecumenical understanding; the Wittenberg theologian who disputed Zwingli and the Reformers is scarcely credited with having contributed to Protestant identity. One must concede that the positions Luther took in his polemics were lucidly and unambiguously articulated. In contrast with other theologians of his time, even in his polemics, Luther’s concerns were always unequivocal. In this respect, his polemical style had as much to do with his person as with his theology. Polemics were a fundamental aspect of Luther’s makeup; a Luther without polemics would be an inauthentic Luther and fall short of a historically responsible account. Luther’s insistence on stating his positions clearly, “assertio,”16 his conviction that Scripture be clear and unmistakable regarding salvation, the intolerance of his argumentative style, are already recognizable in his earliest literary work. Hence, polemics are present in all of Luther’s writing. Many of his opponents treated the Wittenberg reformer with condescension because he found their arguments to be inadequately grounded in the Bible and knew that his knowledge of Holy Scripture was superior to theirs. As early as in his first lecture on the Psalms, Luther, like the Apostle Paul, used the term “opponents”17 to lend weight to his position. When involved in controversial discourse bordering on literary disputation, Luther could be at his best and felt called upon to be precise and pointed; words were his weapons, and he wished to convince. The intensity of his response to attacks—whether in print, letters, in the pulpit or not at all—depended mostly on the historical context, other claims on his time, and whether the theological theme in question seemed sufficiently fruitful to him. Luther frequently replied in minute detail to rebut a particular aspect of an opponent’s work and overlooked other aspects. Hence, no period of Luther’s work is free of polemic, although a series of his pamphlets for instructional purposes and others regarding piety are largely free of it.

The Polemicist Opposes the Church of Rome and Its Representatives

In his decisive speech at the Diet of Worms on April 18, 1521 (Luther had been ordered to recant his works), he distinguished between different categories of his previously published books; the first included his writings on piety, which many adherents of the papacy thought to be unobjectionable and hence above suspicion of containing inappropriate polemic. The second group consisted of those books in which he attacked the “papacy and those supporting it” (in Papatum resque Papistarum);18 to recant these would strengthen papal tyranny and open the door to unbelief. The third category, however, was his books against various “private persons and individuals who defended Roman tyranny and attacked true doctrine.”19 For these works, Luther conceded that he had been “harsher” than befitted his roles as monk and professor of theology; he certainly did not wish to imply he was a saint, however, aa dispute was not his life but rather the teachings of Christ.20 He could not recant these polemics inspired by his passion for Christ’s teaching, because doing so would result in dreadful consequences for the church of God; therefore Luther—like Christ himself—wanted to wait and see what objections were raised against his teachings.

His speech at the Diet of Worms shows that the Augustinian hermit of Wittenberg was aware of different degrees of harshness in the polemics of his writings, that he too detected the tension between his “spiritual office” and his polemics but that he considered this to be an unavoidable aspect of his dedication to Christ’s teachings. The self-awareness expressed in Worms would continue to characterize Luther as a polemicist; to the extent the teaching of Christ required it, strict lines sometimes needed to be drawn, whether or not they were incompatible with otherwise appropriate expectations for particular roles. As a teacher of the “doctrina Christi” and commissioned by God as a prophet, Luther was bound by other obligations than the widely accepted, conventional ones. He considered his polemics to be a legitimate expression of his calling as he understood it.

During the first phase of his theological arguments with the Roman church’s doctrinal tradition, Luther joined several Wittenberg faculty colleagues in taking issue with scholastic theology; in a disputation bearing the secondary title Contra scholasticam theologiam, Luther openly opposed all21 or some scholastics by name such as Johannes Duns Scotus or Gabriel Biel22 and Aristotle—along with the theological school shaped by him. The most contentious of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses were directed against this practice of the church and its theological and ecclesiastical basis backed by high church dignitaries—this, according to Luther, had perverted the biblical understanding of repentance and the spiritual meaning of the institution of confession. Because of the way Luther23 sharply reprimanded Archbishop Albrecht of Brandenburg, who was responsible for the sales of the Papal indulgences to desist from this practice,24 although Luther had not yet treated the matter in his theses, his polemic came to be examined by the theological faculty of the University of Mainz,25 triggering a heresy trial in Rome. From then on, he stood in the sights of officials and self-appointed defenders of the Roman Church, whose scathing polemics incriminated him as a heretic; for his part Luther initially reacted to their written attacks by quickly publishing his rebuttals.

The Dominican preacher of indulgences Johannes Tetzel and his supporter Frankfurt theology professor Konrad Wimpina, reacted to Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses in January of 1518 with 106 counter theses;26 Luther, who was unhappy about the rapid and broad dissemination of his Ninety-Five Theses because they were intended for academics, attacked the practice of indulgences with a brief but extremely effective sermon in the vernacular, Von Ablass und Gnade (On Indulgence and Grace),27 which in turn provoked Tetzel’s counter-thrust Vorlegung (Rebuttal).28 The fact that Tetzel, when mentioning Luther’s critique of indulgences, referred to Wycliffe and Hus, who had been condemned in Constance as heretical, contributed considerably to hardening the tone of the exchange. In the spring of 1518, Luther and his Wittenberg colleague Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt began an exchange with the Ingolstadt theologian Johannes Eck that at first remained private but soon found a lively public echo29 and was responsible for a long string of polemical writings; this fed into the Leipzig Disputation and continued afterward. The polemical pointedness of these early tracts on controversial theology lay within normal bounds. Compared to Eck, who expressly associated Luther with Hus, Luther avoided personal invective and primarily attempted to rebut Eck’s claim that he represented Roman Church tradition. Luther sought to emphasize the diversity found in early Roman Catholicism in contrast with the papal ecclesiology favored by Rome’s defenders. The style of polemic in the Dunkelmännerbriefe, which had been directed at a single Leipzig theologian, did not interest Luther, and he had no part in Fuhrwagen,30 the Latin version of the first illustrated flyer of the Reformation, which Karlstadt published.

In the summer of 1518, the first semi-official reaction from Rome to his critique of indulgences reached Luther, the Wittenberg Bible scholar; it was written by Silvester Prierias, a Dominican theologian in the Curia, and disavowed Luther as an enemy of the pope determined to destroy ecclesiastical authority. Luther’s Responsio appeared in Leipzig 31 together with a reprint of the piece by Prierias to which he was responding. The sharp tone of the polemic that henceforth characterized Luther’s work addressed the question of whether the pope or a council could err. Luther buttressed his arguments against Rome’s apostolic church theory with early canonic traditions. His tenet that definitive authority is found in Holy Scripture alone became a central feature of his writing. However, Luther avoided directly attacking the papacy; he preferred to relativize pontifical claims of which he had learned in his conversations with Thomas de Vio from Gaeta (called Cajetan, a leading Thomist from the Dominican order) at the Imperial Diet in Augsburg in October 1518 by putting them in the context of diverse strands of tradition. According to Roman church law, Luther’s appeal to a council after his negotiations with Cajetan had failed was illegitimate32 and aggravated the polemical tone of the debate. This applied as well to Luther’s Acta Augustana, a precise if unflattering account of his negotiations in Augsburg with the papal legate. This course of action, taken here for the first time, increasingly became a feature of Luther’s method of communicating in the coming years: he had documents printed to inform outsiders and invite their support; this approach to involve the public as partisans in his case had never before been used. The thoroughness and decisiveness with which Luther exploited opportunities offered by the print medium33 were unique compared to previous dealings with heresy. As the typographic infrastructure increasingly developed and became available in Wittenberg and Leipzig, publicity had polemical repercussions in itself, and Luther used it to question the structure of the church’s hierarchical authority, relativizing the validity of canon law and pointing the way to alternative structures of church life.

After autumn 1519 in the aftermath of the Leipzig Disputation, as the flood of Reformation literature grew, Luther came increasingly into the sights of local defenders of the Roman Church. Aside from Eck and Tetzel, both the Leipzig Franciscan Augustin von Alveldt and fellow Franciscan Thomas Murner of Strasbourg, along with Hieronymus Emser, a court chaplain in Dresden, increasingly opposed Luther in vernacular-language writings.34 It became increasingly difficult for Luther to keep up, and he began to have others respond to some texts instead. However, this practice, which he first tried in answer to Alveldt when he had his students respond,35 apparently did not satisfy him, because Luther eventually sent his own response—Vom Papsttum zu Rom (On the Papacy in Rome). It appears that after 1520 he was selective about which defenders of traditional doctrine he chose to respond to; only when on topics that had not previously been debated and required a theological position or could lead to further development of the debate over the Reformation did Luther respond directly. He used the controversy with Alveldt, for example, to present his understanding of the church that was bound to the Word and Sacrament—not to particular local traditions and authorization—in dramatically anti-Roman terms.36 Thus, in his polemic against Alveldt, Luther formulated the theological basis of a church structure independent of the pope like that which developed soon after the break with Rome.

The year 1520 saw a sharpening of anti-papal polemic, which Luther would essentially maintain. From 1519 on, his correspondence shows that Luther surmised that the pope could be the Antichrist announced in 2 Thess. 2:3–10;37 as this suspicion hardened into certainty in 1520 upon his condemnation by the pope, Luther freely incorporated it into his writings. In his pamphlet To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, which he penned in the summer of 1520,38 Luther developed a reform program that invited all Christians of both sexes to promote reform of the Christian state wherever they lived. Although a substantive contribution to church reform might be expected from a council, certainly none was to be expected from the head of the Roman Church. The polemical vehemence with which Luther rejected the Romanist church that had banned him—the papal bull Exsurge Domine threatening excommunication was promulgated on June 15, 1520—was evident in his pamphlet De captivitate Babylonica (On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church)39 published in October 1520, as well as in the burning of books of canon law, the papal bull itself, and other pamphlets of scholastics and contemporary opponents outside the Elster Gate in Wittenberg on December 10, 1520. In De captivitate Babylonica, Luther undertook a scathing critique of the seven sacraments canonized in the Latin Church, thereby undermining the unquestioned ecclesiastical certainty of them as the institution of salvation; by acknowledging solely those rituals as sacramental which Christ himself had established with words of promise, Luther undercut the church’s exclusive power over marriage, priestly ordination, confession, confirmation, and the last rites. His judgement that the Roman Church had overreached Christ’s authority in perverting the enjoyment of bread and wine from a gift of the Lord into a Sacrificial rite was meant to cast doubt on and even destroy the basis of the papal church. Luther’s act of burning documents on December 10, 1520, the day upon which the period granted him in Exsurge Domine to recant ended, can be similarly interpreted: as a prophet called by God who had been banned without opportunity for rebuttal, Luther excommunicated in the name of the true church the church led by the Roman pope of the Antichrist. If polemic is ultimately directed at annihilation of the opponent, then Luther’s battle with the papal church and its representatives, which had robbed him of his means of survival, came to its unambiguous conclusion near the end of 1520.

The papal bull threatening excommunication prompted Luther to comment in detail upon the theses condemning him and to publish his reply;40 he claimed they had been taken out of context and misquoted. He treated later condemnation by the Universities of Leuven and Paris similarly.41 Here too, where he publically attacked the papal church’s established and valued institutions, such as monasticism or celibacy, he took a sharply polemical public stance.42 Occasionally, disputes with the Roman Church and those representing it arose in the course of Luther’s writing; however, he responded directly to very few of those who wrote against him. In the case of Ambrosius Catharinus, who was not particularly erudite and who, like Prierias, defended papal primacy, scholastic theology, and indulgences from the point of view of apostolic ecclesiology, Luther wrote a reply,43 probably only because this was an appropriate opportunity to deal with the papal church in general. In the case of the theologian Jacobus Latomus of Leuven, to whom Luther referred in retrospect as “feinst scriptor contra me (the best writer against me),”44 it may show a degree of regard for the care evident in this interpretation of Scripture. In any case, Latomus provided the occasion for a particularly compact and theologically sophisticated exposition of sin and mercy by the reformer.

Luther agreed to the debate with Erasmus45 because of his opponent’s prominence, and he believed he faced an opponent who was a religious intellectual tending toward indifference and who, in accord with common sense, proposed that the cooperation of God and mankind was a socially workable and civilized form of religion that presumably was biblically legitimized. By contrast, Luther insisted on the radicalism especially of the Pauline and Augustinian doctrines of sin and grace and on the clear and unmistakable meaning of Holy Scripture. Luther’s theological passion contrasted sharply with the rhetorically brilliant but essentially lukewarm attitude of a scholar who had come to terms with the church. For their contemporaries, this confrontation served as quintessential for the times.

Other authors who continued to rail against him, such as e.g., Eck and Johannes Cochläus, who had become the Catholic Luther expert and polemical biographer, received either no response from Luther or a very terse one.46 Occasionally he contributed brief, combative forewords to pamphlets published by close colleagues in defense against attacks by Roman Catholic sources.47 Luther also entered into public controversies involving important representatives of worldly power (such as Duke Georg of Saxony,48 King Henry VIII of England,49 or Duke Heinrich of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel50) because it seemed important to him to make an example of abuses of political power and to show the necessity of distinguishing appropriately between spiritual and secular matters. The harshest anti-papal publications that Luther had a part in were created together with Lucas Cranach the Elder: Passional Christi und Antichristi (Passional of Christ and Antichrist)51 and Abbildung des Papsttums (Depiction of the Papacy),52 two works that pilloried the papacy as the spawn of hell using text and illustrations. Although these works were only of peripheral relevance to Luther’s dispute with the Roman Church, the impact on the public of these defamatory polemical images was exceptionally strong and lasting. Their negativity and destructiveness corresponded no doubt to Luther’s profound disdain for the church that had branded him a heretic. An exceptionally widely disseminated polemical saying in which the prophet of Wittenberg predicted the end of the papacy soon after his own passing states: “Pestis eram vivens, moriens ero mors tua, Papa” (While alive, Pope, I was your plague; dead, I will be your death);53 it came to have a deep and lasting impact on Lutheran anti-Catholicism.

Opponents within the Reformation

After his stay at the Wartburg (May 1521 to early March 1522), Luther began to enter into disputes with individuals and groups who referred to him and claimed to belong to the side of the Reformation; however, Luther spurned their company and dismissed them as not genuine. His opinion of them was no less harsh than of those in the Roman Church or of Turks and Jews; as a rule he considered the devil to be at work in them. The first group of these opponents from his own camp were the Zwickau Prophets, a small group of handworkers and academics grouped around the journeyman cloth-maker Nikolaus Storch, who came together at the end of December 1521;54 they had been members of Thomas Müntzer’s earlier congregation and may have been Waldensian, a heretical tradition prior to the Reformation, appeared to possess prophetic powers, questioned the legitimacy of infant baptism, and, in Melanchton and Amsdorf’s opinion, were possibly witnesses of an apocalyptic outpouring of the spirit according to Joel 3:1. Luther doubted the pneumatological immediacy of their relationship to God and insisted, in connection with a personal meeting with them after he returned from the Wartburg, on the significance of the external Word and the ability of the sacramental sign to transmit salvation. This confrontational meeting with the Zwickau figures became symptomatic of his disagreements with inner-Reformation opponents, whom he termed Schwärmer (“swarmers” or “enthusiasts”)55 from the summer of 1522 on.

Soon, Karlstadt, the most prominent representative of the initial town Reformation in Wittenberg56 (which failed and ended upon Luther’s return from the Wartburg), refused to submit to Luther’s direction and was counted as one of the swarmers. Like swirling and swarming bees, they set upon Luther to press for immediate, statutory implementation of biblical guidelines with no consideration for those Luther deemed still too weak. Upon his return in his famous Invocavit sermons the first eight days of Lent, he saw himself as an advocate of the weak57 and criticized the swarmers who claimed to have direct, prophetic truth; destroyed icons;58 and denigrated the value of confession.59 Luther’s polemical view of the hostile swarmers was closely connected with the charge of insurrection; his purpose was to bring about a complete break with them and make them the target of discipline by the authorities. Just as with the peasants’ rebellion, he considered the devil to be at work in them.60

Among those theologians who originated in the Wittenberg camp and from whom he had distanced himself from 1523 to 1525 were Thomas Müntzer and Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt. In view of Müntzer’s advocacy of physical force to correct unjust government, Luther rightly labelled him a “seditious spirit”61 against whom the worldly power (the Dukes of Saxony) were justified in taking all available measures. Luther’s perception of the peasant revolts was affected by his view of Müntzer, but unjustly so; Luther’s writing on the peasants’ revolt was based in part on questionable and tendentious information arising from the milieu of central German nobility; the harsh tone of his Wider die räuberischen und mörderischen Rotten der Bauern (Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants),62 in which he advocated merciless slaughter of peasants as a form of worship, appeared to justify brutal justice by the victor. In fact, events unfolded so swiftly that they overtook him; the political judgement that influenced the sharpness of his polemic was especially marked by the fact that he was not willing to grant members of the status oeconomicus any political participation in decision-making. Moreover, he was angry that the peasants had cited him as well as the gospel in support of their goals.

At times, Luther saw Karlstadt as being close to Müntzer, which was problematic because both Karlstadt and his congregation were clearly pacifistic.63 What remained in dispute between the two was which party should deal as the actor of the Reformation–the congregation, as Karlstadt saw it, or the state sovereign, as Luther saw it—and how the sacrament was to be understood. After their public exchange of opinions in the Black Bear Tavern in Jena, Luther invited Karlstadt to oppose him and “write freely about these matters.”64 In September 1524 Karlstadt, who had been exiled from Saxony, began to publish a series as the quarrel over the Lord’s Supper broke out. Luther’s Wider die himmlischen Propheten (Against the Heavenly Prophets)65 appeared, which sowed long-term discord between the two rival camps of the Reformation. This completed Luther’s separation from the direction taken by the reformed church, which held the removal of images as a necessary consequence of the biblical commandment and understood the altar sacrament to be a commemorative meal of the congregation. The charismatic Zurich pastor Ulrich Zwingli had grown in prominence since 1524 as the most important proponent of the reformed wing of Protestantism, which essentially adhered to the views of Karlstadt and which, with the help of the city magistrates, achieved their adoption but kept its distance from the Lutheran apostate. Luther referred to these upper-German and Swiss German representatives of a symbolic interpretation of the Eucharist who supported a Reformation process directed by public authorities as “sacramentarians.”66

Between 1526 and 1528 Zwingli, Luther, the Reformers of Strasbourg, and a series of other actors published a plethora sometimes sharply polemical pamphlets on the doctrine of the Eucharist; this came to be known as the Reformation argument over the Lord’s Supper.67

The polemics68 Luther contributed to this controversy had characteristic theological scopes. On the one hand he outlined the hermeneutic consequences of a particular interpretation of Scripture that undercut clear wording and postulated figurative elements: in the “est” which was taken to mean “significat,” as with Cornelis Hendrix Hoen of Holland and Zwingli, one of his followers, or in “corpus” which was taken to mean “figura corporis,” as with Johannes Oecolampadius of Basel or Martin Bucer of Strasbourg. On the other hand he argued to show the consequences of his understanding of the presence of Christ in, with, and under the form of bread and wine to interpret the meaning of the person of the God-man and the presence of God in the world. Luther’s explication of the Lord’s Supper in 1527/1528 produced key texts of his Christology. Hardly any other material of his so thoroughly treats the question of how God is present in the world and in Christ, or to what extent this inner communion of God and man in the inseparable person of Christ brings hope of salvation to believers. Luther’s writings stemming from controversies about the Eucharist are thoroughly polemical and do not refrain from derogatory overtones toward his inner-Reformation opponents; they have become nuclei of Lutheran confessional dogma on Christology and have been widely cited, such as in the Formula of Concord.69

In the course of the Marburg Colloquy on religion arranged by Landgrave Philipp of Hesse in October 1529, the leaders of the Swiss and the German Reformation met for the first and only time. Luther opened by debating Oecolampadius of Basel, then Zwingli and Oecolampadius together, with the sole intention of convincing them that his interpretation of the words of institution was correct and theirs in error. When no consensus was reached on the nature of the Lord’s Supper, despite broad consensus elsewhere, as seen in the Marburg Articles,70 Luther refused to consider his dissenting colleagues as brothers or to grant them church fellowship. That he refused to take up this polemic again until shortly before his death71 was characteristic of Luther’s writing in general: he fought as long as he hoped to convince others of his convictions or until he had made his position entirely clear. He wanted to prevent his critics and opponents from making any reference to him that might contradict his definitive teachings. In the controversy over the Lord’s Supper Luther was also occupied with the problem that individual authors made reference to some of his earlier writing. The literary finale to the controversy with Zwingli with which he concluded his Bekenntnis (Confession)72 of 1528 had a confessional tone: he defined the faith to which he would hold “until his death”73—not in a heated polemic, but with a calm confession that Satan, who would “misconstrue and confound”74 Luther’s words and writing, must be opposed. With this confession, Luther’s polemic revealed its target and its limit.

Other inner-Reformation controversies that Luther promoted as a polemicist, such as the dispute with his student Johann Agricola about the validity of the law (Erster Antinomerstreit, or First Antinomian Dispute) or the controversy with the Anabaptists, in particular the Anabaptist Kingdom of Münster, did not gain the wide public attention with dramatic consequences that had characterized his quarrels with Müntzer, Karlstadt, and Zwingli. It speaks for itself that Luther thought that the devil had come for Karlstadt75 and that God had spoken his judgement over Zwingli and Müntzer, who had taken up the sword against God’s will.76

Against Turks and Jews

Polemical pamphlets against Jews and Turks constitute a significant portion of Luther’s writing, although critical examination of both of these other religions is found throughout Luther’s literary work in various forms.77 Like Roman Catholicism, the Wittenberg Reformer found Judaism and Islam both in their own way to be legalistic religions based on works of human piety; this clashed sharply with his fundamental theological doctrines based on the Pauline doctrine of justification sola fide propter Christum. For Luther the crucial difference of Evangelical Christianity from Judaism, Islam, and Catholicism was in the confession of faith in the second article of the Creed upon which “life and blessedness” depend;78 these “foreign religions” did not profess to believe in Christ and the doctrine of justification79 derived from it. To him, Judaism and Islam were irreversibly and fundamentally contradictory to the gospel as revealed by Christ in the Bible. Jews, like Turks, were possessed by the devil80 and served him and could even be described as “devils incarnate” (diaboli incarnati).81 They were bound to serve their lord and master and blaspheme the true God and Christ; Mohammed was the firstborn son of Satan.82 In contrast to the Turkish heathen, the sacred texts of Judaism (the Old Testament) witnessed to Christ, but guilt-induced stubbornness blinded Jews to this. His critique of Judaism granted this much, but Luther denied any legitimacy to post-biblical, Talmudic Judaism. Despite shifts in Luther’s fundamental position regarding Judaism between early 1520 and 1530,83 the opinions sketched out here remained largely unchanged. Luther’s pointed pamphlets evidencing deep hostility in his late work toward Judaism were no longer concerned with winning Jews as converts to Christianity; instead, they were solely meant to protect Christian society from the alleged constant and dangerous threat from Jews. They argued from the model of a closed community; just as God announced his judgement of blasphemous places (Deut. 4:12–13), so too will he destroy all those sites in which Jews reviled Christians. Based on reports such as one from the convert Antonius Margaritha84 that in their synagogues Jews reviled the God of Christians and thereby provoked heavenly wrath, Luther believed himself well-informed. To tolerate Jews among Christians would mean the same to Luther as stripping Christianity of its blessedness. Hence his hostile, hate-filled pamphlet On the Jews and Their Lies85 contained a host of reasons to prohibit Jews living among Christians and to expel them.

The Christological witness of the Old Testament was of central importance to Luther’s anti-Jewish polemic; on the basis of Old Testament verses (Gen. 3:15, 22:18 49:10; 2 Sam. 7:12, 23:2–3; Isa. 7:14; Jer. 33:17–26; Hag. 2:6–9; Dan. 9:24–27) he “proved” that the Messiah promised to the Jews had come as Jesus of Nazareth. His argument was also directed at Christian Hebraists like Sebastian Münster of Basel who did not accept Luther’s arguments. To that extent, the extreme harshness characterizing his late writings against Jews also part of a battle about Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament. Moreover, the Wittenberg reformer was virtually driven by pathological fear for his life at the hands of Jews;86 in keeping with the predominant anti-Semitism of the time, he was ready to pass along the stereotype of usury and to lend credence to every imaginable rumor of Jewish atrocities, such as ritual murder or the accusation of blood-guilt, of which he had once been accused.87

Luther’s perception of the Turks and their religion was decisively influenced by his experience of the threat posed by the Ottoman Kingdom as its armies lay before Vienna in the fall of 1529. He considered the advances of the Turkish armies to be punishment by God for the sins of Christendom; this view fed into an apocalyptic view of history based upon the “small horn” in Daniel 7, which Wittenberg theologians identified with the Turks.88 As a whole, the threat of the Turks was seen as a call to repentance and penance. An additional source of Luther’s knowledge of the Turks and their religion consisted of ethnographic literature—travel diaries and descriptions of countries. Luther published the report of a Transylvanian man who had been abducted to Turkey as a youth and reported on the experience after he fled to Rome as an adult.89 In it, he read that the Islamic ascetic practice of orthodoxy and semblance of religious beauty were felt to make the Turkish religion markedly superior to Catholicism. Luther knew the Qurʾan in a Latin version and promoted its dissemination as a way to fight Islam;90 from it, he gathered that Islam sought to destroy Christianity and enlist worldly authority as a source of discipline by eliminating separation of the spiritual and the secular realms.91 The religio-cultural achievements such as the magnificent mosques, the amount of prayer, and the disciplining of Turkish women were to be judged according to the words of the apostle that the devil tends to transform himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).92

The Qurʾan’s statements about Christ and Christianity provided Luther with the evidence he needed to form a judgement: the Quran only reproduced what human reason could comprehend; “that which it found in the Gospel to be too difficult and lofty, it left out, especially that Christ is God and redeemed us with his death.”93

Final Perspectives on Controversy and Polemic

Controversy over theological doctrine was unavoidable throughout Luther’s life; it was an aspect of the fallenness of the world, because faith must stand in contrast to the world and has to show its rationality through “struggle and strife.”94 In Luther’s view the enmity proclaimed in Genesis 3:15 between Christ and the devil will last until the end of the world,95 “but a Christian could be certain that the Holy Spirit … stands by him in his struggle and strife (against the Devil and the world).”96 In this sense, the battles that Luther had to withstand were specific examples of what a Christian pilgrim faces. Since the devil was always working in many disguises to sabotage Christ’s teachings, Luther, as God’s witness, had to remain alert. It was second nature for Luther the polemicist to react to real or imagined attacks rather than seeking confrontation. The increased volume of his writing toward the end of his life97 was primarily due to the prophetic need to provide once again a definitive testimony of his faith and oppose all the powers and forces he considered hostile to true doctrine and prevent any questionable misappropriation of his witness. Throughout his life, he was occupied with explicating the truth of his faith in contrast to error; this was the case even in his final sermon.98 Hence, Luther’s theology was indeed polemical.

Although polemics were present in all of Luther’s work, they vary in intensity, no matter the genre or period. Additional research might consider in particular the contexts of his polemic to systematically examine and reconstruct the micro-context of the circumstances in which he reacted most vehemently. Comparisons with other authors, taking account of the particular genre of writing, would also be of interest. It is striking that Luther only resorted to graphic means of polemic in his controversies with the pope—although he did utilize the (anti-Semitic) motif of the “Jewish sow.”99 Moreover, Wittenberg was noticeably uninvolved in the production of illustrated leaflets. Why should that be? Luther’s polemics directed at those in his own ranks appear to be no less vitriolic than those directed at non-Christians or Roman Catholics. What significance does that have for understanding the communion of the churches and for his ecclesiology? In many instances, Luther’s polemics are based on interpretation of Scripture that has not withstood the test of historical criticism. What consequences might that have for a Lutheran theology relevant for the present day?

Further Reading

Bagchi, David V. N. Luther’s Earliest Opponents: Catholic Controversialists, 1518–1525. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991.Find this resource:

Beutel, Albrecht, ed. Luther Handbuch. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2016.Find this resource:

Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. 3 vols. Stuttgart: Calwer, 1981–1990.Find this resource:

Bubenheimer, Ulrich, and Stefan Oehmig, eds. Querdenker der Reformation: Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt und seine frühe Wirkung. Würzburg, Germany: Religion & Kultur Verlag, 2001.Find this resource:

Buchholz, Armin. Schrift Gottes im Lehrstreit: Luthers Schriftverständnis und Schriftauslegung in seinen drei großen Lehrstreitigkeiten der Jahre 1521–1528. Gießen, Germany: Brunnen Verlag, 2007.Find this resource:

Büttgen, Philippe. Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Büttgen, Philippe. Luther et la philosophie. Paris: Vrin, 2011.Find this resource:

Büttgen, Philippe. Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Edwards, Mark U., Jr. Luther’s Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531–46. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1983.Find this resource:

Ehmann, Johannes. Luther, Türken und Islam. Gütersloh, Germany: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2015.Find this resource:

Francisco, Adam S. Martin Luther and Islam: A Study in Sixteenth-Century Polemics and Apologetics. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007.Find this resource:

Grötzinger, Eberhard. Luther und Zwingli: Die Kritik an der mittelalterlichen Lehre von der Messe als Wurzel des Abendmahlsstreits. Zurich, Switzerland: Benziger, 1980.Find this resource:

Hamann, Konrad. Ecclesia spiritualis: Luthers Kirchenverständnis in den Kontroversen mit Augustin von Alveldt und Ambrosius Catharinus. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989.Find this resource:

Hendrix, Scott H. Luther and the Papacy. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981.Find this resource:

Hinrichs, Carl. Luther und Müntzer: Ihre Auseinandersetzung über Obrigkeit und Widerstandsrecht. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1962.Find this resource:

Iserloh, Erwin, ed. Katholische Kontroverstheologen und Reformer des 16. Jahrhunderts. Münster, Germany: Aschendorffsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1978.Find this resource:

Junghans, Helmar, ed. Leben und Werk Martin Luthers von 1526 bis 1646. 2 vols. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983.Find this resource:

Kaufmann, Thomas. „Türckenbüchlein“. Zur christlichen Wahrnehmung „türkischer Religion“ in Spätmittelalter und Reformation. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008.Find this resource:

Kaufmann, Thomas. Luthers „Judenschriften“. Ein Beitrag zu ihrer historischen Kontextualisierung. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2013.Find this resource:

Kaufmann, Thomas. Luthers Juden. Stuttgart: Reclam, 2017.Find this resource:

Kaufmann, Thomas. Luther’s Jews. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.Find this resource:

Kjeldgaard-Pedersen, Steffen. Gesetz, Evangelium und Buße: Theologiegeschichtliche Studien zum Verhältnis zwischen dem jungen Johann Agricola (Eisleben) und Martin Luther. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1983.Find this resource:

Köhler, Walther. Zwingli und Luther: Ihr Streit über das Abendmahl nach seinen politischen und religiösen Beziehungen. vol. 1. Leipzig: Verein für Reformationsgeschichte, Vermittlungsverlag von M. Heinsius Nachfolge, 1924. vol. 2. Gütersloh, Germany: C. Bertelsmann Verlag, 1953.Find this resource:

Kohls, Ernst Wilhelm. Luther oder Erasmus: Luthers Theologie in der Auseinandersetzung mit Erasmus. 2 vols. Basel, Switzerland: Freidrich Reinhardt, 1972–1978.Find this resource:

Medick, Hans, and Peer Schmidt, eds. Luther zwischen den Kulturen. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2004.Find this resource:

Moeller, Bernd. “Luther und das Papsttum.” In Luther Handbuch. Edited by Albrecht Beutel, 106–115. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2010.Find this resource:

Pettegree, Andrew. Brand Luther: 1517, Printing, and the Making of the Reformation. New York: Penguin, 2015.Find this resource:

Schilling, Heinz, ed. Der Reformator Martin Luther 2017: Eine wissenschaftliche und gedenkpolitische Bestandsaufnahme. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015.Find this resource:

Schwarz, Reinhard. Martin Luther Lehrer der christlichen Religion. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2016.Find this resource:

Skottene, Ragnar. Grace and Gift: An Analysis of a Central Motif in Martin Luther’s Rationis Latomianae Confutatio. Frankfurt: Peter, Lang, 2008.Find this resource:

Spehr, Christopher. Luther und das Konzil: Zur Entwicklung eines zentralen Themas in der Reformationszeit. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2010.Find this resource:

Stolt, Birgit. Wortkampf: Frühneuhochdeutsche Beispiele zur rhetorischen Praxis. Frankfurt: Athenäum, 1974.Find this resource:

Vind, Anna. “Luther’s Thought Assumed Form in Polemics.” In The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology. Edited by Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomír Batka, 471–480. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.Find this resource:


(1.) Mark U. Edwards Jr., Luther’s Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531–1546 (Leiden, The Netherland: Brill, 1983); and Andrew Pettegree, Brand Luther: 1517, Printing, and the Making of the Reformation (New York: Penguin, 2015).

(2.) Karl Holl, “Luthers Urteile über sich selbst,” in Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kirchengeschichte, vol. 1, by Karl Holl (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1923), 381–419; Bernd Moeller and Karl Stackmann, Luder, Luther—Eleuteherius: Erwägungen zu Luthers Namen, Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Phil.-hist. Kl. 1981 no. 7 (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1981); and Bernhard Lohse, “Luthers Selbsteinschätzung,” in Evangelium in der Geschichte, by Bernhard Lohse, eds. von Leif Grane, Bernd Moeller, and Otto Hermann Pesch (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1988), 158–175; Heiko A. Oberman, “Martin Luther: Vorläufer der Reformation,” in Die Reformation, Von Wittenberg nach Genf, by Heiko A. Oberman (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1986), 162–188; Martin Brecht, “Der Streiter Martin Luther,” Wartburg-Jahrbuch special volume, 1996, 120–148; Thomas Kaufmann, Martin Luther (Munich: Beck, 2016), 15–24; and Johannes Schilling, “Geschichtsbild und Selbstverständnis,” in Luther Handbuch, ed. Albrecht Beutel (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 97–106.

(3.) Scott H. Hendrix, Luther and the Papacy (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981); and Bernd Moeller, “Luther und das Papsttum,” in Beutel, Luther Handbuch, 106–115.

(4.) Eric. W. Gritsch, Martin Luther’s Anti-Semitism: Against His Better Judgement (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 2012).

(5.) Johannes Ehmann, Luther, Türken und Islam (Gütersloh, Germany: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2015); and Adam S. Francisco, Martin Luther and Islam: A Study in Sixteenth-Century Polemics and Apologetics (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007).

(6.) Cf. Hellmut Zschoch, “Streitschriften,” in Beutel, Luther Handbuch, 277–294; Martin Brecht, Luther als Schriftsteller (Stuttgart: Calwer Verlag, 1990); cf. Birgit Stolt, Wortkampf: Frühneuhochdeutsche Beispiele zur rhetorischen Praxis (Frankfurt: Athenäum, 1974); Johannes Schwitalla, “Martin Luthers argumentative Polemik mündlich und schriftlich,” in Formen und Formgeschichte des Streitens: Der Literaturstreit, eds. Franz-Joseph Worstbrock and Helmut Koopman (Tübingen, Germany: Niemeyer, 1986), 41–54; Andrea Grün-Oesterreich and Peter L. Oesterreich, “Dialectica docet, rhetrica movet: Luthers Reformation der Rhetorik,” in Rhetorica movet: Studies in Historical and Modern Rhetoric in honor of Heinrich F. Plett (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1999), 25–41; Heiko A. Oberman, “Teufelsdreck: Eschatology and Scatology in the ‘Old’ Luther,” in The Impact of the Reformation: Essays (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1994), 51–68.

(7.) For representative examples see Armin Buchholz, Schrift Gottes im Lehrstreit: Luthers Schriftverständnis und Schriftauslegung in seinen drei großen Lehrstreitigkeiten der Jahre 1521–1528 (Gießen, Germany: Brunnen Verlag, 2007); Steffen, Kjeldgaard-Pedersen, Gesetz, Evangelium und Buße: Theologiegeschichtliche Studien zum Verhältnis zwischen dem jungen Johann Agricola (Eisleben) und Martin Luther (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1983); Walther Köhler, Zwingli und Luther: Ihr Streit über das Abendmahl nach seinen politischen und religiösen Beziehungen, vol. 1 (Leipzig: Verein für Reformationsgeschichte, Vermittlungsverlag von M. Heinsius Nachfolge, 1924), vol. 2 (Gütersloh, Germany: C. Bertelsmann Verlag, 1953); and Kohls, Luther oder Erasmus: Luthers Theologie in der Auseinandersetzung mit Erasmus, 2 vols. (Basel, Switzerland: Freidrich Reinhardt, 1972–1978).

(8.) Thomas Kaufmann, “Luthers Sicht auf Judentum und Islam,” in Der Reformator Martin Luther 2017: Eine wissenschaftliche und gedenkpolitische Bestandsaufnahme, ed. Heinz Schilling (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014), 53–84.

(9.) Anna Vind, “Luther’s Thought Assumed Form in Polemics,” in The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, eds. Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomír Batka (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 471–480.

(10.) For example: Martin Bucer, “Instructio ad Wittenbergenses,” in Deutsche Schriften, ed. Robert Stupperich, vol. 3 (Gütersloh, Germany: G. Mohn, 1969), 448, 6ff; regarding context: Thomas Kaufmann, “Zwei unerkannte Schriften Bucers und Capitos zur Abendmahlsfrage aus dem Herbst 1525,” Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 81 (1990): 158–188, esp. 176; regarding critique of Luther’s as authoritarian after the dispute over the Lord’s Supper cf. Thomas Kaufmann, Die Abendmahlstheologie der Straßburger Reformatoren bis 1528 (Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr, 1992).

(11.) Literary and graphic examples are collected and analyzed in Thomas Kaufmann, Der Anfang der Reformation: Studien zur Kontextualität der Theologie, Publizistik und Inszenierung Luthers und der reformatorischen Bewegung (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2012), § 6: “Die Heroisierung Luthers in Wort und Bild,” 266–333.

(12.) A. Bömer, Epistolae obscurorum virorum, 2 Bde, Heidelberg: Weissbach 1924 [Stachelschrfiten I, 1-2] Neudruck Aalen: Scientia 1978; Eduard Böcking, Ulrichi Hutteni equitis operum supplementum. Epistolae obscurorum virorum, vol. I–II; Leipzig: Teubner 1864–69; Nachdruck Osnabrück: Zeller 1966.

(13.) Luther passed on a handwritten version of the des Eccius dedolatus that he had received from Nurnberg to Spalatin with the comment that he did not like the indirect polemic against Eck or backstabbing; he preferred a direct attack (WA BR 2:59, 7–9; March 2, 1520). The pamphlets (of Oecolampad) against Eck titled Canonici indocti Lutherani, which Luther judged to be more positive, were soon reprinted in Wittenberg; it may mark the first activity of the Wittenberg branch of the Lotter’s print shop; cf. VD 16 O 299; cf. VD 16 ZV 11927; regarding the historical context of the pamphlet as the beginning of anonymous publishing cf. Kaufmann, Anfang der Reformation (see note 11) 367ff. (VD 16 means: Verzeichnis der im deutschen Sprachgebiet erschienenen Drucke des 16. Jahrhunderts[]). About the “dialogus Iulii et Petri” (WA BR 1:346, 7; February 20, 1519) Luther reacted more favorably for the most part—if it were read seriously (“serio,” ibid.) and not taken simply as grounds for scorn. As such, it should be made known in Rome and might help combat the tyranny of the papacy. WA BR 1:346, 8–12. Regarding various attributions of works to authors (which did not question those of Erasmus) see Silvana Seidel Menchi, ed., IULIVS EXCLVSVS, Opera Omnia Desiderii Erasmi 1.8 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2013), esp. 5ff.

(14.) Acta Academiae Lovaniensis contra Lutherum (Basel, Switzerland: A. Cratander, 1520); VD 16 A 137, A 1v; regarding the mistaken attribution of the preface to Luther in Eduard Böcking, ed., Opera, vol. 3 (1862, repr. Aalen, Germany: Zeller, 1963), 468n. The corresponding passage is identical with the poster printed at the end of Hoogstratus ovans, ed. in Böcking, Opera, suppl. vol. 1, 463ff); I consider Erasmus to be the author of the original version in Acta … Lovaniensis.

(15.) Characteristic of this position is Gritsch, Martin Luther’s Anti-Semitism; for a more substantial argument in this direction see also Dorothea Wendebourg, “Ein Lehrer, der Unterscheidung verlangt: Martin Luthers Haltung zu den Juden im Zusammenhang seiner Theologie,” Theologische Literaturzeitung 140 (2015): 1034–1059.

(16.) Regarding the controversy with Erasmus see “Tolle assertiones et Christianismum tulisti.” WA 18:603, 28–29. Regarding Assertio as a theological expression cf. Leif Grane, Modus loquendi theologicus: Luthers Kampf um die Erneuerung der Theologie (1515–1518) (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1975); Günter Bader, Drei fortlaufende Lektüren zu Skepsis, Narrheit und Sünde bei Erasmus und Luther (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr, 1985); and Dietrich Kerlen, Assertio: Die Entwicklung von Luthers theologischem Anspruch und der Streit mit Erasmus (Wiesbaden, Germany: F. Steiner, 1976).

(17.) Cf. Tarald Rasmussen, Inimici Ecclesiae: Das ekklesiologische Feindbild in Luthers “Dictata super Psalterium” (1513–1515) im Horizont der theologischen Tradition (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1989).

(18.) WA 7:833, 8; cf. Bernd Moeller, “Luthers Bücher auf dem Wormser Reichstatg von 1521,” in Luther-Rezeption, by Bernd Moeller, ed. Johannes Schilling (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001), 121–140.

(19.) WA 7:834, 3–5.

(20.) “In hos [i.e., the polemic pamphlets against individual defenders of the Roman Church] confiteor [i.e., Luther] me fuisse acerbiorem quam pro religione aut professione: Neque enim me sanctum aliquem facio, neque de vita mea, sed de doctrina Christi disputo.” WA 7:834, 5–7.

(21.) E.g., WA 1:225, 32–39.

(22.) E.g., WA 1:224, 24–29.

(23.) Cf. Kaufmann, Anfang der Reformation (see note 11), 166–184.

(24.) WA BR 1:48, 108–115.

(25.) Publication of the corresponding document in Peter Fabisch and Erwin Iserloh, eds., Dokumente zur Causa Lutheri (1517–1521) (Münster, Germany: Aschendorff, 1988–1991), 1.293–303.

(26.) Fabisch and Iserloh, Dokumente zur Causa Lutheri, 1.310ff.

(27.) WA 1:239–246.

(28.) In Fabisch and Iserloh, Dokumente zur Causa Lutheri, 1.337ff.

(29.) Ibid., 376ff; WA 1:278ff; cf. Karlstadt, Kritische Gesamtausgabe, ed. Thomas Kaufmann, (digit.), in print: vol. 1 (Gütersloh, Germany: 2017); and Fabisch and Iserloh, Dokumente zur Causa Lutheri, 2.241ff.

(30.) Cf. Hans Georg Thümmel, “Karlstadts und Cranachs ‘Wagen’ von 1519,” in Reformation und Katholizismus: Beiträge zu Geschichte, Leben und Verhältnis der Konfessionen; Festschrift für Gottfried Maron zum 75. Geburtstag, ed. Jörg Haustein and Harry Oelke (Hanover, Germany: Lutherisches Verlagshaus, 2003), 66–96.

(31.) Regarding Luther’s Responsio to Prierias, it is certain according to a letter to Spalatin (August 8, 1518) that he required that they publish “una cum ipso Dialogo” (WA BR 1:190, 33f) in Leipzig, and they could send it to him shortly thereafter. From the publication done in Lotter’s print shop (VD 16 L 4458; Fabisch and Iserloh, Dokumente zur Causa Lutheri, 1.45, 48; for the historical context see 19ff), it is clear that it does not differ in its layout (cover trim, etc.) from the Responsio (VD 16 L 3670) of Luther. The expression “una cum” may indicate that Luther, in his agreement with Lotter, understood it to mean a collected edition including both was being considered; correspondingly, Prierias’s Dialogus did appear shortly afterward in Froben’s collected edition. Cf. Thomas Kaufmann, “Capito als heimlicher Propagandist der frühen Wittenberger Theologie: Zur Verfasserfrage einer anonymen Vorrede zu Thesen Karlstadts in der ersten Sammelausgabe von Schriften Luthers (Oktober 1518),” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 103 (1992), 81–86; see also Fabisch and Iserloh, Dokumente zur Causa Lutheri, 51. Whether attributing the decision to reprint the Dialogus to Luther is correct (“That the Reformer reprinted his opponent’s pamphlet without any commentary was a sharp rebuke”; WA 1:645) is, in my opinion, not entirely clear.

(32.) Fabisch and Iserloh, Dokumente zur Causa Lutheri, 2.215ff.

(33.) Pettegree, Brand Luther.

(34.) The most important German texts are available in Adolf Laube, ed., Flugschriften gegen die Reformation (1518–1524) (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1997).

(35.) Cf. WA 6:279f; Lonicer’s pamphlet bore the title Contra Romanistam fratrem Augustinum Alvelden: Franciscanum Lipsicum … (Wittenberg, Grunenberg 1520); VD 16 L 2437; 22 Bl.; the preface to Kaspar Güttel was dated May 12, 1520. Johannes Feldkirch’s Anti-Alveldt pamphlet was entitled Confutatio inepti et impii Libelli F. August. Alveld … (Wittenberg, M. Lotter 1520); VD 16 B 2037; 14 Bl.

(36.) WA 6:285–324.

(37.) WA BR 1:351, 15–17, Luther to Spalatin, February 1519.

(38.) Cf. Thomas Kaufmann, An den christlichen Adel deutscher Nation (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2014).

(39.) Regarding the historical context of the pamphlet and its significance in the context of Luther’s doctrine of the sacrament see Thomas Kaufmann, introduction to Martin Luther, La Captivité babylonienne de l’Eglise: Prélude (Geneva, Switzerland: Labor et Fides, 2015), 7–27; Latin text in WA 6:497–573, and German translation in Martin Luther, Schriften, vol. 1: Aufbruch der Reformation, ed. Thomas Kaufmann (Berlin: Verlag der Weltreligionen, 2014), 189–310.

(40.) WA 7:91–151; 299–457.

(41.) WA 6:181–195; WA 8:67–312; cf. WA 9:717–761.

(42.) Cf. esp. De votis monasticis, WA 8:573–669; see also WA 15:86–94.

(43.) WA 7:705–778.

(44.) WA TR 1:202, 5.

(45.) WA 18:600–787.

(46.) Thus, in reference to Cochläus, WA 11:295–306.

(47.) Thus, in the case of a pamphlet by Justus Jonas against Fabri (WA 12:85–86) or of a pamphlet by Brießmann against Schatzgeyer, WA 11:284–291.

(48.) WA 11:245–281; WA BR 3:641–643, 646–651; WA 38:96–127, 141–170.

(49.) WA 10/II:180–222, 227–262; WA 23:26–37.

(50.) WA 51:469–572.

(51.) WA 9:701–715.

(52.) WA 54:361–373 in connection with Wider das Papsttum zu Rom, vom Teufel gestiftet (1545), WA 54:206–299.

(53.) WA TR 1:390, 18; WA 30/III:279, 18–19; WA 48:280; RN 115; further references in Thomas Kaufmann, Konfession und Kultur (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2006), 210.10.

(54.) Martin Kessler, “Art. Zwickauer Propheten,” in Das Luther-Lexikon, eds. Volker Leppin and Gury Schneider-Ludorff (Regensburg, Germany: Bückle & Böhm, 2014), 794–795; and Thomas Kaufmann, Thomas Müntzer, “Zwickauer Propheten” und sächsische Radikale (Mühlhausen, Germany: Thomas-Müntzer-Gesellschaft, 2010).

(55.) WA 10/II:243, 3; cf. WA 11:42, 37; WA 12:503, 20; 505, 25, and an overview of the references in WA 72:482–485.

(56.) Cf. Thomas Kaufmann, Geschichte der Reformation in Deutschland (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2016), 379ff; and Natalie Krentz, Ritualwandel und Deutungshoheit: Die frühe Reformation in der Residenzstadt Wittenberg (1500–1533) (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2014), 141ff.

(57.) Ed. in Martin Luther, Studienausgabe, vol. 2, ed. Hans-Ulrich Delius (Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1982), 520–558.

(58.) Cf. WA 28:573, 22; WA 15:345, 20; WA 18:79, 22; WA 30/III:570, 29.

(59.) WA 30/III:568, 25, and 569, 35.

(60.) Cf. WA 18:387, 20ff., 33ff; WA 34/II:265, 17ff; WA 17/II:155, 6; WA 26:9, 11.

(61.) WA 15:210–221, 238–240; WA 18:367–374.

(62.) WA 18:357–361.

(63.) Ed. in Siegfried Bräuer and Manfred Kobusch, eds., Thomas Müntzer, Briefwechsel, vol. 2 of Thomas-Müntzer-Ausgabe (Leipzig: Verlag der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, 2010), no. 87, 292–296.

(64.) WA 15:339, 26.

(65.) WA 18:62–125, 134–214.

(66.) Further sources: WA 69:7–8.

(67.) Köhler, Zwingli und Luther; and Kaufmann, Abendmahlstheologie.

(68.) WA 19:482–523; WA 23:64–320; WA 26:261–509.

(69.) Cf. for example, the numerous long quotes, esp. from Vom Abendmahl Christi. Bekenntnis in FC 7 and 8, newly edited in Irene Dingel, ed., Die Bekenntnisschriften der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014), 1454ff.

(70.) WA 30/III:160–171.

(71.) Kurzes Bekenntnis vom heiligen Sakrament (1544), WA 54:141–167.

(72.) WA 26:499–509.

(73.) WA 26:499.21.

(74.) WA 26:500, 25.

(75.) WA BR 10, nos. 3725, 3728, 3730, 3732; see Hermann Barge, Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, 2d ed., vol. 1 (Nieuwkoop, The Netherlands: De Graaf, 1968), 509ff.

(76.) WA BR 6:246, 16; 244, 4–5; cf. also WA TR 1:436, 13–16; WA TR 2:103, 14–17; 216, 17–19.

(77.) For comprehensive compilations and analyses of texts about Jews and Turks, see Ehmann, Luther, Türken und Islam, and Walther Bienert, Martin Luther und die Juden (Frankfurt: Evangelisches Verlagswerk, 1982); for analysis of perspectives of comparisons see Kaufmann, “Luthers Sicht auf Judentum und Islam.”

(78.) WA 30/II:186, 27; cf. 186, 15ff.

(79.) “Ergo eadem fides Turcae et papae et Iudaeorum. Nam quando dicitur: homo per opera fit salvus, est contra hoc ec. Nisi quod papa servat den deckel und lests Evangelium predigen, Turcam palam impugnat.” WA 29:612, 17–20.

(80.) WA 53:601, 18–20; 468, 30ff, and 479, 24ff; WA 30/II:116, 32ff.

(81.) WA 53:528, 11ff; 530, 24ff, and 531, 3–4; WA 30/II:126, 2; cf. 120, 26–28; WA 62:348–349.

(82.) WA 53:276, 31.

(83.) Cf. Thomas Kaufmann, Luthers “Judenschriften”: Ein Beitrag zu ihrer historischen Kontextualisierung (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2013); and Kaufmann, Luthers Juden (Stuttgart: Reclam, 2017).

(84.) Cf. Peter von der Osten-Sacken, Martin Luther und die Juden: Neu untersucht anhand von Anton Margarithas “Der gantz Jüdisch glaub” (1530/31) (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2002); Maria Diemling, “Anthonius Margartitha on the ‘Whole Jewish Faith’: A Sixteenth-Century Convert from Judaism and his Depiction of the Jewish Religion,” in Jews, Judaism, and the Reformation in Sixteenth-Century Germany, eds. Dean Bell and Stephen Burnett (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2006), 303–333.

(85.) WA 53:417–552.

(86.) Cf. Anselm Schubert, Luther töten: Der ‘jüdische’ Mordanschlag auf Martin Luther von 1525, Luther Jahrbuch 82 (2015): 44–65.

(87.) Cf. WA 53:482, 8–18; 520, 12–14, 522.3ff; 526, 35; 530, 18ff; 538, 28–29; in 1523, Luther referred to the accusation of ritual murder as "lies," cf. WA 11:336, 25–26.

(88.) Cf. the references WA DB 11/II:31–32, 49ff; and Arno Seifert, Der Rückzug der biblischen Prophetie von der neueren Geschichte (Cologne: Böhlau, 1990), 11ff.

(89.) Georgius de Hungaria, Tractatus de moribus, conditionisnus et nequicia Turcorum, ed. Reinhard Klockow (Cologne: Böhlau, 1994); and Luther’s preface in: WA 30/II:205–208.

(90.) Cf. Hartmut Bobzin, Der Koran im Zeitalter der Reformation (Beirut: Orient-Institut der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 1995), 159ff.

(91.) WA 30/II:128, 25–28, 123.19ff.

(92.) WA 30/II:127, 24–25, 206.1.

(93.) WA 30/II:168, 19–21.

(94.) WA 21:337, 4.

(95.) WA 21:430, 27–28.

(96.) WA 21:446, 36–38.

(97.) Edwards, Luther’s Last Battles.

(98.) WA 51:195–196.

(99.) Cf. WA 53:600, 23–35.