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date: 24 September 2017

Jesus Christ in Martin Luther’s Theology

Summary and Keywords

Luther’s theology is strongly Christocentric, but Christology is rarely the central focus of his writings. In some of his most considered summaries of his own faith, he presents Chalcedonian Christology alongside the church’s teaching on the Trinity as the uncontroversial foundation of the Catholic faith, which he shared with his opponents. At the same time, it is evident that Luther’s most celebrated theological innovations, including his teaching on justification by faith, his theology of the cross, his soteriology, and in particular his doctrine of the Eucharist, had considerable Christological implications that sometimes seem at variance with received orthodoxy.

Luther’s Christology must therefore be largely reconstructed from these various strands in his thought. The result is a distinctive albeit not systematic Christology that is focused on the paradoxical unity of divine and human in Christ. In this, Luther often appears close to the teaching of the Alexandrian fathers, but with a much fuller emphasis on the concrete humanity of the savior. His historical debt to late scholasticism is most evident in his few, albeit consequential, attempts to enter into the field of technical Christological doctrine, especially his affirmation in his controversy with Zwingli of the ubiquity of Christ’s human nature after the ascension.

Keywords: Christology, Martin Luther, Chalcedon, monophysitism, personal union, joyful exchange, theology of the cross, theopaschite formula, William of Ockham, Huldrych Zwingli

Lutheran Christology? Methodological problems

There can be no doubt for anyone reading Luther’s works that faith in Jesus Christ is at the very heart of his theology. Beginning from his initial protest against indulgences, his conflict with the Roman Catholic Church of his time was largely motivated by his insistence that it was faith in Jesus Christ alone that could and would save believers. Scripture was the foundation of the church’s teaching because of, and insofar as, it bore witness to Jesus Christ. Consequently, his Smalcald Articles (1536) emphasize above all the need never to “yield or surrender” the article that salvation is in and through Jesus Christ alone: “Upon this article all things depend which we teach and practice.”1

Yet while the Christocentric character of Luther’s thought is evident to all, his specific concern for the doctrine of the person of Christ, Christology, is considerably less unequivocal. The Smalcald Articles are characteristic in their strictly soteriological approach to the confession in Jesus Christ: it is the work of Christ that must be steadfastly affirmed. The famous maxim Solus Christus thus applies primarily to this insight and is consequently closely tied together with Luther’s emphasis on justification by grace alone. There cannot, of course, be salvation without a savior, and Luther evidently believed that a proper understanding of the person of Jesus was indispensable for faith and theology. Yet he found less occasion to develop in detail quite what such a proper understanding was, and students of his thought have therefore varied in their assessment of his views.

Luther’s Christology must therefore be reconstructed from many passages to be found all across his oeuvre. While there is no major treatise devoted to Christology—the only partial exception being a late academic disputation occasioned by Luther’s conflict with the Silesian nobleman Caspar von Schwenckfeld2—the number of texts in which Luther directly or indirectly touches on Christological problems is considerable. Scholarship in recent decades has made major strides in sifting these texts and analyzing their main ideas, metaphors, and arguments.

What emerges, while not a systematic Christology, is a fascinatingly distinct understanding of Christ as the person in whom believers encounter God with a human face. Like the Alexandrian fathers before him, Luther prioritized the unity of divine and human in Christ, and like them, he has consequently been accused of a tendency toward monophysitism or even docetism.3 Yet Luther is equally insistent on the full reality of Christ’s humanity, including his experience of suffering, affliction, and even abandonment on the cross. His embrace of strongly unitary language derived from his overriding concern with the personal identity of the savior both in his passion and in his exalted state. He put equal stress on Christ’s divinity and humanity, often stretching traditional language to its limits in order to express this paradoxical reality. Of particular significance in this regard became Luther’s use of the communication of idioms as arguably the central element of his Christological reflection properly speaking.

Any attempt to systematize Luther’s theology finds itself confronted with the difficulty of a sprawling oeuvre spread over several decades and using a variety of literary genres. Individual utterances, therefore, must be contextualized before being employed in support of a theological interpretation. This problem is amplified in the case of his Christology because most of these ideas were developed by way of facilitating Luther’s energetic refocusing of the doctrine of salvation or in support of other, major aspects of his theological work. It would therefore be misleading to present a “Christology” that Luther himself never had. Instead, what follows will offer the contours of Luther’s understanding of the person of Jesus Christ as it emerges from major contexts throughout his literary and personal career.

Luther and Chalcedonian Orthodoxy

More than other areas of his theology, Luther’s Christology has been controversial for its relationship with traditional orthodoxy. On a first reading, it could appear that Luther was content merely to affirm traditional, orthodox Christology as defined by the ecumenical councils and contained in the Creeds. He frequently included Christology among the topics on which there was no disagreement between himself and his theological and ecclesial opponents. In the Smalcald Articles, he laconically states that “not the Father, nor the Holy Ghost but the Son became man.”4 In more detail, he wrote in his Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper (1528):

I believe and know that Scripture teaches us that the second person in the Godhead, viz. the Son, alone became true man …

Also that God the Son assumed not a body without a soul, as certain heretics have taught, but also the soul, i.e. full, complete humanity, … in every way and form a true man, as I am myself and every other man, except that he came without sin, by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary alone.

And that this man became true God, as one eternal, indivisible person, of God and man, so that Mary the holy Virgin is a real, true mother not only of the man Christ, as the Nestorians teach, but also of the Son of God … […].5

Texts of this sort cannot be dismissed; they indicate Luther’s commitment to Chalcedonian Christology. He certainly had no intention to abolish or radically alter the terms of reference with regard to these foundations of the church’s faith. Attempts to portray him as an early critic of the two-natures formula or a forerunner of later, liberal Protestants therefore seem ill-founded.6 As will be seen in more detail below, references to Christ’s two natures in particular abound throughout Luther’s oeuvre; this doctrinal framework is unquestionably accepted by him.

And yet it is also evident how, time after time, Luther develops his own Christological insight in terms and concepts that are difficult to reconcile with his seemingly unambiguous Christological confessions. Significantly, those tendencies occur in the context of theological arguments in which Luther was heavily invested and appear to be required by them:

  • In focusing on salvation by Christ alone he emphasizes the notion of divine-human unity in the savior at the expense of the full and lasting distinction of the two natures as required by the Chalcedonian tradition.

  • For the same reason, he appears to come close to the affirmation of divine passibility and mutability.

  • In the course of the controversy with Zwingli about the Eucharist, he stretched the principle of communication of idioms to permit the ubiquity of Christ’s human nature after the ascension.

One should not resolve this evident tension by inferring that Luther in practice went beyond traditional orthodoxy, even if he deceived himself into thinking that he did not.7 Yet it would seem equally problematic simply to affirm Luther’s adherence to the Catholic tradition on the basis of his confessional statements without taking into account his conscious and meaningful transgressions. Instead, it is the task of the interpreter to acknowledge both Luther’s evident intent merely to expound traditional Christology, and the instances in which he felt he had to expand its limits and probe their theological significance.

Two initial reflections may facilitate this task. First, Luther’s allegiance to the Chalcedonian formula does not in itself settle the question about the character of his Christology simply because an affirmation of the formula “one Person in two natures” as defined by the Council of Chalcedon, is in a way no more than the bare minimum of a Christology. It is a rejection of errors more than the affirmation of a specific understanding of the person of the God-man. Practically all Western and many Eastern theologians since the 5th century accepted the Chalcedonian formula but went on to produce Christologies differing fundamentally in their understanding of the precise relationship between divinity and humanity, as well as their unity and duality in the person of Christ. To describe Luther’s Christology as Chalcedonian is, therefore, in itself insufficient as a full characterization.

But if Chalcedon offers, so to speak, too little by way of defining Christology, it also specifies in a way too much. The enormous resistance across Eastern Christianity against this conciliar decision, which resulted in the first major schism of the church, indicates deep-seated problems with its attempt to define the person of the savior as in two natures “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” Some of those historic protests, notably the sense that Chalcedon stood in the way of a full appreciation of the personal, hypostatic union as put forward by Cyril of Alexandria, resonate in Luther’s thought. At the same time, the eventual Neo-Chalcedonian solution to that problem—the notion that Christ’s person was divine but assumed within itself (enhypostaton) an anhypostatic human nature—could appear as upsetting Chalcedon’s divine-human balance in favor of the divine side: this too, as we shall see, was a concern for Luther.

Chalcedon alone, therefore, and the ensuing, increasingly technical tradition of Christological reflection may be insufficient as the sole benchmark by which to measure Luther’s thought on this topic. Ultimately, his theology sought to do justice to the witness of scripture, for which conciliar decisions had important guidance to offer but whose unique weight they could never equal or replace.

Encountering the Suffering Jesus

Luther’s Christology was ultimately based on his deep experience that in hearing the word of scripture, Jesus’ presence as the one person who can and will offer salvation became undeniably obvious to the believer. This particular character of Luther’s exegesis is evident already in his early commentaries on the Psalms.8 To read the Psalter Christologically was not, of course, Luther’s innovation, but had been taken for granted by Western theologians since Augustine’s seminal Enarrationes in Psalmos. Yet Luther went further than anyone prior to him in his willingness to identify the voice of Christ even in the Psalms of individual lament.9 Characteristic is his interpretation of Psalm 22 in his Operationes in Psalmos (1519–1521). Luther explicitly criticized church fathers, even Augustine, for their refusal to apply certain verses to Christ’s own experience, and he instead aimed to apply the whole psalm like a frame to his person (omnia in propriam personam volo quadrare).10

For Luther, Christ suffered not merely in his body, but in his soul as well. It is a cliché that Luther read scripture in a Christological key, but he found there something many earlier theologians had not seen, or at least not with the same intensity or to the same degree. He detected Christ identifying with human angst, with despair, and even with a sense of alienation from God. Christ in his passion really was afflicted, and he experienced the pangs of divine wrath as much as any human being could ever feel them: “The strikes of God with which he [Christ] is struck for our sins are not only the fear of death but also the anxiety and the horror of an afflicted conscience that feels the eternal wrath …”11 He was “forsaken by God” (derelictum a deo),12 and “carried within himself God’s wrath on our behalf” (portans in seipso iram patris pro nobis).13

To see the significance of this step, we must recall that the Western tradition had found it extremely difficult to come to terms with the psychological aspect of Christ’s human suffering.14 In the 4th century, Hilary of Poitiers had influentially argued that in his incarnation Christ did not experience pain. Christ, according to Hilary, “felt the force of passion, but without its pain” (Adferrent quidem haec impetum passionis, non tamen dolorem passionis inferrent).15 By pushing this claim against his Arian opponents, Hilary set the tone for the medieval debate, not so much because later authors agreed with his extreme position—they did not—but by focusing their discussion on the question of the psychosomatic reality of the passion. Throughout the Middle Ages, authors for whom Hilary was an authority grappled with the task of explaining the reality and limits of Christ’s psychological experience in his suffering. In this attempt they drew mainly on Augustine and John of Damascus, whose stance was at variance with Hilary’s. Both Patristic authorities acknowledged the reality of Jesus’ “feelings of weakness” (Augustine16) and indeed his participation in all human affections (Damascene17), but also gave clear indications that an unbridled affirmation of Christ’s suffering was problematic because it could endanger divine impassibility. Thus Augustine opined that Christ “exercised these passions when he judged they should be exercised”; he experienced them only “when it pleased him.”18 And John of Damascus read Jesus’ cry of dereliction (“My God, my God, why have thou forsaken me?”) as appropriating the experience of humanity as a whole rather than representing his own.19

Medieval authors largely adopted the arguments of Augustine (Peter Lombard20) or John of Damascus (Aquinas21) but acknowledged Hilary’s weight as an authority.22 In this trajectory, Luther can be seen as standing at the extreme end of a development that led from Hilary’s viewpoint, according to which Christ’s humanity did not permit the experience of pain, to qualifications of this premise, and finally reaching a position that accepted Christ’s human suffering as the starting point of any Christological reflection. Luther was absolutely insistent that Christ’s experiences were equal to those of human beings. He clearly saw the danger inherent in a high Christology of losing sight of the truly human Jesus, and he accuses his Ockhamist teachers of implicit monophysitism23; its consequences were evident in the popular piety of his day, for which the saints had often assumed the role of those close enough to stand in solidarity with the rest of humankind. His protest against veneration of saints, therefore, as well as against indulgences and the myriad other pious practices of the day, had its own implicit Christological dimension; those were abuses stemming from theological failure to give expression to the full humanity of Jesus as witnessed by the scriptures.

Encountering God in Jesus Christ

Luther’s emphasis on the reality of Christ’s human experience did not mean, however, that Jesus for him was primarily a human being. On the contrary, he believed that Christian faith in its entirety depended on the truth that in Jesus Christ we truly encounter God (cf. Col. 2,9) and that everything that happened to the savior can also be said to have affected God as well.24 If his affirmation of Christ’s human agony was radical, his insistence that in this man, and only in him, God revealed himself fully was equally radical and, once again, driven by the uncompromisingly soteriological emphasis of his theology.

Theology of the Cross

In the first instance, mention must be made here of Luther’s so-called theology of the cross. Until the early 20th century, this particular doctrine was routinely considered marginal to Luther’s thought or even as belonging to his monastic, pre-Reformation period. Things changed radically, however, with Walther von Loewenich’s 1929 study on the subject,25 and ever since the idea has found widespread acceptance that the theology of the cross embodies the core of Luther’s Christocentric theory of revelation.

Its classical expression is to be found in the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518.26 In this antischolastic work, Luther confronts two ways of thinking about God. The wrong-headed theology of glory, which “calls evil good and good evil,” is juxtaposed to the true theology of the cross, which “calls the thing what it is” (Th. 21).27 The immediate context is an argument about the task of theology, which, Luther argues, is missed where the “invisible” things of God are looked upon as though they were “clearly perceptible” (Th. 19).28 Instead, God reveals himself “through suffering and the cross,” and it is there that the true theologian must seek him (Th. 20).29 Knowledge of God is here tied together with a religious and ultimately an existential attitude. Luther demands that God must be approached in the lowliness of Christ’s incarnation rather than in the seemingly apparent glory of his historical actions, because only the former is compatible with human faith in God’s grace. The latter, Luther claims, stems from pride and therefore leads to damnation, not salvation.30

Consequently, the incarnation in lowliness, and particularly the cross, is not even potentially a blemish on God’s glory, but rather the proper way Christ’s being is revealed to human beings under the condition of sin. Human beings must not search for God elsewhere; he shows himself sub contrario specie, hidden in suffering humanity. “He who does not know Christ, does not know God in suffering” (Proof of Th. 21).31 Luther links the notion of the “hidden God” from Isaiah (45:15) with Saint Paul’s injunction against the “wisdom of this world” in 1 Corinthians, and—importantly—Johannine Christology as expressed in Jesus’ words to Philip, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8) into a paradoxical conjunction of opposites: the supreme God is recognized in his abasement, and the virtuous one in his exposure to evil; the omnipotent being is found in utter weakness.32

Luther’s insistence on the reality of Christ’s human experience, then, had nothing to do with a reduction of Christ to a purely or largely human Jesus. Instead, the weakness of the suffering Jesus becomes the exclusive locus in which the almighty God has chosen to approach sinful humanity. Jesus therefore is fully divine; but in and through him, God also became fully and truly human. As much as it is the case, according to Luther, that he who sees the Son sees the Father, as much is it also true and inevitable that we encounter God in this human being: “Whoever does not find or receive God in Christ shall nevermore and nowhere have or find God outside of Christ, even though he should go beyond heaven, below hell, or outside of the world.”33

With these ideas, Luther harks back to some of the earliest Christian texts dealing with the incarnation. At the end of the 1st century, Ignatius of Antioch called Jesus “both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible.”34 Melito of Sardis (died ca. 180) employed even more strikingly paradoxical language in his famous Paschal Homily:

The one who hung the earth in space, is himself hanged; the one who fixed the heavens in place, is himself impaled; the one who firmly fixed all things, is himself firmly fixed to the tree. The Lord is insulted; God has been murdered …35

Still, it would be as facile simply to identify Luther’s theology of the cross with this early Christian tradition as it would be wrong to align him without qualification with the later, mystical tradition emphasizing the paradoxical nature of God’s being.36 The recognition of God in the lowliness of Jesus’ humanity, in the passion and on the cross, is wondrous and evidence of God’s might and love, but it also indicates the enormous power that sin, death, and the devil have in the world, such that they could be overcome only in this particular manner. And it is a sign of how deeply implicated human beings are in the fallenness of creation that any attempt to approach God through the “theology of glory” falls foul of their sinful tendency of self-justification and self-aggrandizement. More abstractly, Luther’s theology of the cross represents, and is faithful to, the overall soteriological cast of his thought. Neither God’s incarnation nor his revelation can be properly understood apart from his intention to save the world, and apart from the world’s need to be saved.

The Theopaschite Formula

If Christ’s suffering is key for human salvation, and if God specifically reveals himself in and through the lowliness of this experience, the question arises of whether and how it can be said that God suffers on the cross. For Luther it was of crucial importance that the passion was not only that of a human being, since no such suffering could be salvific: “For if I believe that only the human nature suffered for me, then Christ would be a poor Savior for me, in fact, he himself would need a Savior.”37 Luther has therefore often been seen as a forerunner of theologies of the suffering God, for better or worse.

It is, however, doubtful that such a characterization is ultimately helpful. Luther stood in the tradition of early Christian authors such as Melito (“God has been murdered”), whose intent was not to predicate suffering of God but to emphasize the unity of the divine and human in the person of Christ. In Christ, God became human, and everything, therefore, that was true of humanity could also be said of God. Equally, everything that was true of the Godhead could be said of the human person, Jesus. Not only did this view not require a suffering divinity; on the contrary, the paradoxical character of the Christ event would arguably be lost if the divinity itself was like humanity. Instead, two utterly distinct and different beings, divine and human, became one person in such a way that no separation between them was conceivable, even though each also remained what it was.38

In this sense, Cyril of Alexandria included denial of divine suffering in the flesh in his anathemas against Nestorius.39 In the later Christological debate, the insistence on God’s suffering in the incarnation became associated with the so-called theopaschite formula (“One of the holy Trinity was crucified”: unum ex sancta trinitate crucifixus est), which under the influence of Emperor Justinian became acknowledged as part of orthodox teaching and was, as such, included in the decisions of the Fifth Ecumenical Council of 553.40 Yet its use by many Patristic and medieval authors was so guarded against the potential implication that God was passible that the Christological potential contained in the idea that in Christ God truly suffered in the flesh was often lost.41

Luther’s position must therefore be described as an attempt to recover the full, subversive potential of theopaschite language. First of all, he is clear that it is not “divinity” that suffers, but God united with humanity in the incarnation. Thus he wrote in his controversy with Zwingli:

You must say that the person (pointing to Christ) suffers, and dies. But this person is truly God, and therefore it is correct to say: the Son of God suffers. Although, so to speak, the one part (namely, the divinity) does not suffer, nevertheless the person, who is God, suffers in the other part (namely, in the humanity).42

Nevertheless, there is no denying that Luther’s use of the theopaschite formula went further than did the previous tradition. He was less concerned by its potential to vitiate the notion of God’s impassibility than Patristic and medieval authorities had generally been, as is clear, for example, from his willingness fully to embrace the theological consequences of Jesus’ cry of dereliction (Mt. 27:46).43 Yes, God suffered “only” in the flesh, but he really suffered in the flesh. Unless both sides of the paradox were equally emphasized, the full truth of Christology was not preserved. Undoubtedly, this tendency derived once again from Luther’s soteriological approach to Christology; in fact, Werner Elert saw the very purpose of the theopaschite formula in its alignment of the soteriological and the Christological perspectives.44 God reveals himself in Christ’s suffering because of his will to save humanity. Understanding Christ’s unique divine-human person, therefore, could not ever be separated from the salvific work Christ was sent to do. This work, one might say, was an article of faith, while the impassibility of God was not, and for this reason Luther was willing to push theopaschite language to its limits. If, on the other hand, he occasionally came close to accepting suffering divinity, this was not because he was concerned with a doctrine of divine passibility; instead, such language should be understood as part of his attempt to do justice to the paradoxical unity of divine and human that made salvation possible.

If Luther’s view of God’s suffering went further than that of the tradition, however, it is equally noticeable that he stood apart from the late medieval fascination with the human suffering of Christ as such, let alone the idea that Christian existence should consist in the imitation of Christ’s passion.45 Instead, Luther is firmly within the tradition of Cyril’s twelfth anathema (“the Word of God suffered in the flesh, that he was crucified in the flesh, and that likewise in that same flesh he tasted death and that he is become the first-begotten of the dead”) in his affirmation of the connection between Christ’s death and his resurrection. After all, the importance of God’s presence on the cross was that this particular death led to victory over death, sin, and the devil. Luther never neglected the insight that the paradoxical lowliness of God in the incarnation ultimately led not to the abasement of God but to the glorification of humanity. Good Friday and Easter for him belonged together in the drama of human salvation. The major theory underwriting this assumption became his account of the “joyful exchange” as found classically in his On Christian Freedom.

Encountering the Victorious Christ

Luther’s view of the atonement has led to radically divergent assessments, but the overall consensus that has emerged since the work of Gustaf Aulén is that Luther’s view shares much more with the early Patristic notion that Christ’s redemptive act was a battle with the forces of evil than with Anselm of Canterbury’s theory, according to which atonement at its heart was the satisfaction of God’s justice by means of a propitiatory sacrifice.46

There can be no doubt that Luther speaks about God’s wrath, not only because this was an idea he found in the Bible but also because the drama of salvation, as he saw it, was inscribed into the dialectic of human sin and God’s anger in its face.47 For all the early Patristic leanings in Luther’s soteriology, his notion of sin follows the forensic logic of Pauline theology and the Western medieval, especially the later nominalist, tradition: sin is the violation of God’s law, and its consequence, therefore, is the impending punishment by eternal damnation. Any account of the atonement, therefore, had to include an explanation of how God’s justice could be restored. It could not, in other words, be only or mainly directed, as in most of the Greek fathers, at overcoming human mortality and corruptibility, but had to be construed in legal and ethical categories as well.

Yet for Luther the solution to this problem lay in a focus on Jesus Christ as divine gift (sacramentum) to humankind, much more than on the objective justice of the Father. In this sense, his soteriology is Christocentric. If therefore his Christology must be seen through the prism of his soteriology, it may equally be said that the latter can only be understood on the basis of his Christology. Luther’s own contribution thus was to reconstruct the “objective” atonement theory of the Middle Ages by focusing essentially on the agency and the experience of Jesus Christ as God and man. This led directly to the idea of the admirabile commercium as described in On Christian Freedom (1520):

Here we have a most pleasing vision not only of communion but of a blessed struggle and victory and salvation and redemption. Christ is God and man in one person. He has neither sinned nor died, and is not condemned, and he cannot sin, die, or be condemned; his righteousness, life, and salvation are unconquerable, eternal, omnipotent … Now since it was such a one who did all this, and death and hell could not swallow him up, these were necessarily swallowed up by him in a mighty duel; for his righteousness is greater than the sins of all men, his life stronger than death, his salvation more invincible than hell.48

The Christological foundation of the “stupendous duel” that leads to the overcoming of sin and death is the coexistence in Christ of the two natures, divine and human. This duality of natures united in one person enables human and ultimately cosmic redemption: Christ’s sinless and immortal divinity takes on and defeats the vices and the sins of humanity. Luther’s thinking here is concrete and close to the dramatic approach of the Greek Fathers. The incarnation is the battlefield on which the combat between God and the devil is played out. Luther freely uses the metaphors employed by Patristic authors: Christ’s sinless humanity, for example, is a bait given to the devil, who is deceived into believing he has a right to all men and is thus overcome (Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa).49 Ultimately, Christ is victorious because he is the God-man, but this takes nothing away from the serious nature of the battle during which he really is afflicted, anxious, and agonized.

The same line of thought underlies some of Luther’s most powerful poetic texts. In his Easter hymn “Death Held our Lord in Prison” (Christ lag in Todesbanden), Easter is presented as the outcome of a “right wondrous strife” between Jesus Christ and the opposing powers, sin, devil, and death, who previously “held us all in his kingdom.” “Up victorious came life / Death he was quite swallowed up,” but only after Christ had been given over to death “for our offenses.”50 Similarly, the hymn “Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice” (Nun freut euch lieben Christen g’mein) describes the incarnation in these words: “Secret he bore his strength enorm, / He went about in my poor form, / For he would catch the devil.”51

Luther’s view of the atonement firmly rests on his unitary Christology, and references to Christ’s two natures are therefore foundational for its establishment. The dynamic of the divine-human union in the savior is here given a further dimension by being inscribed into the temporal sequence of Good Friday and Easter. However important the reality of divine and human suffering may have been for Luther, the ultimate significance of the incarnation is the outcome of that struggle, the defeat of sin, death, and hell by virtue of Christ’s divine power.

Encountering Christ in the Eucharist

Concern about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist was close to Luther’s heart from early on.52 Yet while it would be wrong to think that the controversy with Huldrych Zwingli, Johannes Oecolampadius, and others in the latter half of the 1520s was the trigger for a novel development in Luther’s thought, it is nevertheless true that this debate led to the most explicit reflections on Christology in Luther’s works thus far, as well as to his arguably most radical and controversial doctrinal innovation: the ubiquity of Christ’s human nature.

The controversy broke out over the problem of the real presence of the body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Zwingli and his allies argued that this was impossible: after the ascension, Christ was “by the right hand of the Father,” a passage Augustine had read literally,53 and this interpretation had been adopted by canon law.54 If, then, Christ’s body was in heaven, he could not also be on earth and, by implication, not in the host either. Consequently, according to the Zurich Reformer, the word of institution had to be understood non-literally, and the Lord’s Supper was a spiritual memorial of the savior’s death.55

Luther’s unwillingness to compromise on this point was closely bound up with his Christology. Faith in Christ, after all, was based on a true encounter with the savior, and such an encounter with Christ was the gateway to any knowledge of God. But Christ, for Luther, was conceivable only in his divine-human unity. As he said at the Marburg Colloquy, he “did not know or worship any God except him who was made man; nor did he want to have another God besides him. And besides him there was no other God who could save us.”56 In other words, Christ was the foundation of the Christian faith precisely because God had committed in him to an insoluble union with humanity. Before Luther even entered into any technicalities, he was emphatic that denying the real presence was tantamount to severing the hypostatic union and thus took away the ground for the hope of salvation:

If you could show me one place where God is and not the man, then the person is already divided and I could at once say truthfully, “Here is God who is not man and has never become man.” But no God like that for me! For it would follow from this that space and place had separated the two natures from one another and thus had divided the person, even though death and all the devils had been unable to separate and tear them apart.57

In the course of the controversy, Luther’s opponents accused him of a failure to distinguish properly the two natures in Christ. To this, Luther retorted that he kept divinity and humanity distinct, but at the same time believed in the unity of the person and therefore confessed that “God is man and man is God.”58 Luther’s wording was careful and closely aligned to the rules accepted for the so-called communication of idioms at least since John of Damascus.59 Throughout the Middle Ages, the rule was usually given in the words of Bonaventure as saying that in abstracto the natures had to be kept distinct, but in concreto properties could be mutually predicated.60 Luther initially seemed to follow the principle to the letter:

You must say that the person (pointing to Christ) suffers, and dies. But this person is truly God, and therefore it is correct to say: the Son of God suffers. Although, so to speak, the one part (namely, the divinity) does not suffer, nevertheless the person, who is God, suffers in the other part (namely, in the humanity).61

This rule, however, did not yet explain the real presence, as Christ’s human nature does not partake of divine properties and would therefore appear unable be in two places at the same time. This problem was not, of course, new to Zwingli and Luther, although explicit reflection on it had been rare. It is impossible to know, for example, what precisely the Church Fathers meant when they spoke of the “life-giving flesh” of the glorified savior as present in the Eucharist,62 but it would seem plausible to assume that they implicitly considered Christ’s humanity to share the ubiquity of the Godhead after the ascension. Some medieval authors simply appealed to God’s omnipotence to explain real presence. A more specific solution was attempted by William of Ockham, who distinguished between senses of being in a place.63 According to Ockham, a substance could be in a place in two ways: either as being whole in the whole, but only partially in the parts, or by being whole in the whole and also whole in each part. The former he called “circumscriptive,” and the latter “definitive” presence. He then suggested such a definitive presence of Christ’s humanity in the elements of the Eucharist, arguing that this did not vitiate the need for the body of Christ to be whole in one place.

Luther eventually adopted this line of argument as well and has therefore been said to have “called in the aid of Occam’s scholasticism” (Harnack64) in his dispute with Zwingli. This, however, is true only to an extent. Luther’s position ultimately derived from his tenet of the irrevocable nature of God’s union with humanity in the incarnation. The “right hand of the Father,” he suggested, must be everywhere, like the divinity itself. If therefore Christ was at the right hand of the Father, he must be everywhere too, for the simple reason that to suggest otherwise would be to split up the unity of his divine-human person:

Here you must take your stand and say that wherever Christ is according to his divinity, he is there as a natural, divine person and he is also naturally and personally there … But if he is present naturally and personally wherever he is, then he must be man there, too, since he is not two separate persons but a single person. Wherever this person is, it is the single, indivisible person, and if you can say, “Here is God,” then you must also say, “Christ the man is present too.”65

Still, Luther also employed a more technical argument by distinguishing between three ways something can be in a place: “locally or circumscriptively, definitively, repletively.”66 The first was physical presence of an object in space; the second, a presence within a limited space but in a non-physical manner. The third manner belongs to the Godhead, which is everywhere whole but not contained by any local circumscription. Christ, Luther argued, partook of all three types, notably after the ascension in the third:

Since he is a man who is supernaturally one person with God, and apart from this man there is no God, it must follow that according to the third supernatural mode, he is and can be wherever God is and that everything is full of Christ through and through, even according to his humanity.67

This is the fateful notion of the ubiquity of Christ’s human nature after the resurrection, a view not only sharply repudiated by Zwingli and later by Calvin, but deeply controversial and divisive even within the Lutheran camp itself. It has been called the “new dogma” of Lutheranism (Heinrich Bullinger68), and this was not meant as a compliment. The controversy pertains directly to Christology. By arguing that Christ is everywhere “even according to his humanity,” Luther apparently overstepped the limits of the classical communication of idioms as he himself had earlier spelled them out: predicates can be mutually applied in concreto but not in abstracto. By calling Christ’s human nature ubiquitous, he seems to have pandered to a view of Jesus Christ in which the two natures are no longer united “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation,” as stipulated by the Council of Chalcedon, but instead undergo some kind of transformation in and through the incarnation.

Overall, Luther’s dependence on Ockham and Biel in his Eucharistic theology should not be exaggerated. He did not share Ockham’s definition of “definitive presence,” and for his own argument the “repletive presence” was more important anyway. It is also doubtful that a theory of the ubiquity of Christ’s human nature can be attributed to Luther; as has been seen, this claim for him was never more than a prop to sustain a belief he held for rather different reasons. And yet Luther’s willingness to embrace this notion at all sheds light on an important aspect of his Christology. As we have seen previously with the theopaschite formula, Luther was willing to push traditional doctrine to its limits in his zeal to press home the reality of the divine-human union in the savior. While he was aware that for good reasons the church had sought to establish an equilibrium between the need to distinguish divinity and humanity in Christ and the necessity to confess their unity in one person, he was willing to upset that equilibrium where the gospel required it. This tendency is also apparent in his most systematic reflections on this topic.

Contours of a Systematic Christology: Luther’s Late Disputations

Throughout much of his life, Luther’s evident concern for Christological problems was not matched by a willingness to engage in detail with the technicalities of this doctrine as they had developed over at least one thousand years. Yet from 1533 academic disputations resumed at the University of Wittenberg, and several of those gave Luther the opportunity to express himself more clearly about this matter. While it would be wrong to consider these texts as Luther’s most authentic statements on Christology, they are invaluable for any attempt to inscribe his thought into previous doctrinal developments and to gauge the extent to which his Christology is compatible with earlier traditions.

Importantly, the overall tendency of Luther’s Christological arguments in these disputations conforms with his occasional references as well as the implications gathered from his pronouncements on other theological topics throughout his career. Luther’s main concern is with the personal union of divine and human in Jesus Christ. He is uncompromising in his rejection of any attempts to mitigate or tone down the radical and paradoxical consequences this union has. In Jesus we encounter both God and man; we encounter the eternal, impassible God suffering and mortal. And we encounter the man Jesus who can equally be called the creator of the world.

Luther is scathing in his rejection of the Ockhamists and their theory of suppositional union (Th. 46–48).69 William of Ockham had been concerned that the traditional hypostatic union seemed to imply that, in the assumption, Christ’s human nature was merged with the divine person of the Word. On the one hand, this could jettison the lasting independence of Christ’s humanity; on the other, it was unclear how a “personal union” was even possible given the radical distinction between divine and human natures. Ockham therefore introduced the notion of a “supposite,” an ontological foundation of concrete existence, and stipulated a union of divine and human natures at that level rather than the personal level. In the incarnation, consequently, the divinity provides such a “suppositional,” existential basis for Christ’s humanity, but does not assume it into its own personality.70

Ockhamist Christology has often been seen as a seeking a quasi-Nestorian corrective to the Christologies of the high scholastic period by emphasizing more strongly the reality of Christ’s humanity.71 Luther, however, fastened on their rejection of the “personal union” and consequently accused the Ockhamists of denying Christ’s true humanity.72 Yet even more than the details of their theory, it was its philosophical cast that worried Luther. Where scripture teaches us to speak of the Word becoming flesh (John 1:14), and the councils developed this into the language of two natures in one person, the rigor of their logical and grammatical theories forced the Ockhamists, in Luther’s view, to develop doctrines that were as artificial as they were remote from the foundations of the Christian faith. This animus finds expression in categorical statements about the irreconcilability of theology and philosophy.73

Yet it would be facile to overlook Luther’s dependence on this same tradition within which, after all, he had been raised.74 First, there is his concern with the language of Christology. In the disputation about Christ’s divinity and humanity he includes several theses about the need to acknowledge that in Christology, theologians speak a “new language” which is different from the language of philosophy (Th. 20–24).75 This demand might seem to jar with his concurrent criticism of the scholastics’ tendency to take refuge in equivocation in order to explain the mystery of the incarnation.76 Yet Luther’s distinction between old and new language is driven not by the ontological chasm between infinite God and finite creation, but by the logic of the history of salvation. Calling Christ a creature is wrong and indeed heretical (Arian) according to the “old” language because it detaches him from God (Th. 27–28).77 The same statement, however, is correct and significant in the “new” language because it denotes the outcome of God’s salvific act: the theologian has to affirm that in Christ creator and creature have become reconciled (Th. 22).78

Most significant was Luther’s adaptation of the communication of idioms, another topic that attracted much attention in the Ockhamist school.79 In On the Councils and the Church (1539) Luther intimates that the proper understanding of this principle was the underlying constant of the Christological controversy in the early church.80 This emphasis is borne out by his own use of the communication of idioms already in his controversy with Zwingli. Against Zwingli’s theory of “alloiosis,” the purely notional cross-application of human and divine predicates, he insisted on the real communication of idioms: that God can be said to have suffered on the cross or that Jesus can be called creator of the world is not a mere figure of speech but indicates the deep and paradoxical truth of the incarnation.81

The communication of idioms is also at the center of Luther’s disputation On the Divinity and the Humanity of Christ (1540). Right after his affirmation of the fides catholica that there is “one Lord Christ, truly God and man” (Th. 1), he claims that the communication of idioms “follows” from this fundamental truth (Th. 2).82 He goes on to spell out the specifics of the doctrine: it is right to say “This man created the world” and “This God suffered, died, was buried etc.” (Th. 4).83 But we cannot exchange the idioms of the abstract natures, only of the concrete person (Th. 5).84 This traditional rule may sound somewhat formalistic, but the reason for the distinction is simple enough: the hypostatic union is in the person, but the two natures are retained in their distinction. Applying the communication of idioms to the natures would seem to vitiate the latter principle; it is clear that Luther does not want that. For that reason, he polemicized against Caspar von Schwenckfeld, who taught that Christ’s humanity was spiritualized in and through the incarnation. Luther’s affirmation of Chalcedonian orthodoxy in that context was no formality: he fully held that the paradox of the incarnation was possible only if both notions—the distinction of divine and human and their union—were asserted with equal firmness.

At the same time, however, we find Luther transgressing the limits of the traditional communication of idioms. He did so in his dispute with Zwingli by gesturing at the ubiquity of Christ’s human nature on the basis of the communication of idioms, and he does so again in his late disputations:

God gives us figures of speech according to which Christ is God and man in one person. There are not two persons, but two natures united in one person in such a way that what applies to human nature, can be said to apply to the divine nature, and vice versa” (Dedit Deus nobis formulas loquendi, quod Christus sit Deus et homo in una persona, et non sunt duae personae, sed duae naturae unitae sunt in una persona sic, ut, quod ab humana natura fit, dicatur etiam fieri a divina, et e contra.).85

This is not a slip of his pen. For Luther, the communication of idioms between the two natures ultimately confirms the reality of the union. The distinction between nature and person, while valid and important up to a point, is also problematical because it can appear as a caveat, a qualification of the personal union. While many of his predecessors accepted the theopaschite formula only by adding immediately “according to his humanity,” Luther’s viewpoint is the reverse: “God himself has truly suffered” for him is indubitably, albeit paradoxically, true, and the qualification “according to the humanity which he assumed,” while formally correct, is ultimately of secondary importance.86

If Luther thus relativizes the strict dichotomy of “nature” and “person” in Christological theory in the interest of a strong emphasis on the personal union, we find a countervailing tendency in his references to the character of the union. Neo-Chalcedonian orthodoxy had decreed that the one person of the God-man was the divine hypostasis within which the human nature subsisted (enhypostaton) without a hypostasis of its own (anhypostaton). Once again, we find Luther affirming this tenet without qualification: “Christ is man, that is a divine person taking on human nature” (Arg. 27).87 At the same time, however, he is using language that sounds very different, emphasizing much more a symmetrical relationship between God and man in the one person: “that person is God and man” (illa persona est deus et homo: Arg. 2);88 or even more provocatively, “humanity and divinity constitute one person in Christ” (humanitas et divinitas in Christo constituunt unam personam: Arg. 1).89 Luther, who had accused the Ockhamists of being Eutychians, evidently felt it important to give due weight to the human element in Christ’s single person, but in doing so he pushed again against the limits of established (Neo-)Chalcedonian orthodoxy.90

There is, then, a tension at the heart of Luther’s Christology: on the one hand, he willingly and explicitly follows the path trodden by Catholic Christianity since the Patristic period, for which the communication of idioms was aligned with the distinction between the duality of natures and the singularity of the person, and the one person of Christ was the hypostasis of the Logos. On the other hand, he pushes against the limits drawn in this process or even transgresses them. Both liberal and more conservative readers have concluded from this observation that ultimately Luther’s Christology cannot be reconciled with received orthodoxy, whatever his own intentions may have been.91 More plausible, however, is another interpretation. Luther situated his Christology within the Chalcedonian tradition, but his attitude toward this tradition was more flexible because he perceived doctrinal decisions as ultimately deriving from scripture and therefore in need of justification in light of the biblical testimony.92 Luther had no reason to think that Chalcedon had falsified the Bible’s witness to Jesus Christ, but it did have the potential to curtail it, as the formally orthodox Christologies of the “scholastics” showed. Its teaching therefore had to be adapted to the apparent truths revealed in scripture. For Luther these were, as has been seen throughout this article, the reality of human and divine in Christ, their personal unity, and the resulting communication of idioms. Only on this basis, he knew, was salvation possible, and any Christology worth its salt had fully to account for these facts.

Given the historic controversies over Chalcedon, Luther’s ambivalence may not be altogether surprising. Like 5th- and 6th-century opponents of the council, he may have felt that its language endangered the personal union of the savior.93 And like the Latin opponents of the Fifth Ecumenical Council,94 he may have sensed that Cyril’s view of the hypostatic union without an Antiochene counterweight jettisoned Christ’s true humanity. In his classical history of Christology, the German theologian Isaak August Dorner opined that the pre-Chalcedonian period witnessed Christologies that were often more faithful to the Christusbild (image of Christ) of the Bible than were later, more sophisticated accounts.95 In this sense, Luther’s Christology can be understood as reaching back to an early period of doctrinal development to recover insights that had been lost or neglected later under more rigid, technical requirements.

But if his doctrine is in that way truly re-forming the teaching of the church, his teaching also points ahead by marking out a new path of biblical theology conducted in dialogue with the witnesses of the church’s tradition. For these developments, it admittedly remains a problem that he never worked his insights into a full Christology but was content with excursions based on his fundamental claim that he was in agreement with the Catholic tradition on this question. Consequently, his support could be claimed by various and very different later theologians and other thinkers, from the various schools of Lutheran Orthodoxy with their extensive Christologies, to Hegel’s philosophy of the “speculative Good Friday,” to Gottfried Thomasius’ kenoticism and even more recent theologies of the death of God. While it may be impossible to identify any one of those later thinkers as the one genuine follower of Luther’s Christology, their respective faithfulness to his thought should primarily be measured not by their adherence to the letter of his teaching, but by their attentiveness to the “cloud” of biblical and later Christian witnesses to the revelation of Jesus Christ, which Luther himself sought to articulate in his own teaching.

Review of the Literature

With only a little exaggeration, it can be said that modern scholarship on Luther’s Christology was prompted by some rather cursory comments by the giant of early 20th century German Luther scholarship, Karl Holl, and the severe criticism of the major Catholic theologian Yves Congar. In a paper of 1917, Was verstand Luther unter Religion (What did Luther Understand by Religion?), Holl opined that Luther’s own sense of being in agreement with the Christological dogma of the early church was ultimately untenable: “In truth, Luther … developed the ancient dogma in such a way that from the perspective of the early church, he everywhere came close to heretical positions.”96 From Holl’s own theological point of view, admittedly, this fact merely highlighted the problems of traditional doctrine with its inflexible, metaphysical concepts of nature and substance, but the fact remained that he diagnosed self-deception close to the heart of Luther’s theology. In 1951, Yves Congar reiterated Holl’s conclusions from a more critical angle in a study published in the landmark collection Das Konzil von Chalkedon.97 Luther’s theology, according to the Dominican, was so focused on soteriology, on the divine-human event of salvation, that he failed to do justice to the ontology of the person of the savior. Even worse, Luther’s notion of salvation by divine grace alone led to a “Christology of the efficacy of God alone” and so neglected the cooperation of his humanity as championed by Thomas Aquinas.

Important scholarly works on Luther’s Christology have appeared since the 1960s; many of them were written to mitigate or at least contextualize those judgments. In the first instance, mention must be made of Marc Lienhard’s major study on Luther’s Christology, Luther: Témoin de Jesus Christ (Luther: Witness to Jesus Christ, 1982), arguably the most significant, comprehensive treatment of the topic until this day. Lienhard accepts that the only way to a better understanding of Luther’s Christology is a careful investigation of all relevant texts, taking into account their genre and historical context. In this way, he achieves a much richer and more nuanced picture of Luther’s utterances on the person of Christ without losing sight of theological questions. Overall, he can show how throughout his career the Reformer stayed close to the church’s Christological traditions, even though Lienhard too finds Luther pandering to monophysitism and even docetism, just as Holl and Congar had done before him. A more radical position is advanced in David J. Luy’s study Dominus Mortis: Martin Luther on the Incorruptibility of God in Christ.98 While acknowledging the impact of the view that Luther’s Christology cannot be reconciled with the Catholic tradition, Luy aims at disowning this view tout court and instead showing Luther as essentially aligned with the Christological tradition.

Attempts to systematize Luther’s Christology have often drawn on his notion of the communication of idioms (Kjell Ove Nilsson99, Oswald Bayer and Benjamin Gleede100). This has in turn led to increased interest in Luther’s late Christological disputations, which deal most explicitly with that doctrine, as well as their historical background in the Christology of the Ockhamist school (Reinhard Schwarz,101 Axel Schmidt,102 Paul Hinlicky103).

Important contributions to Luther’s Christology have been made by scholars studying related aspects of Luther’s theology or work, for example his concept of the “joyful exchange” (Theobald Beer,104 Uwe Rieske-Braun105), his ethics (Dietmar Lage106), his sermons (Ulrich Asendorf107), and his use of metaphor (Jens Wolff108). By comparison, detailed investigations into the relationship between Luther’s Christology and its Patristic and early medieval predecessors are still lacking, but would be enormously important for further clarification of his position within the tradition.

Further Reading

Lienhard, Marc. Luther: Witness to Jesus Christ; Stages and Themes of the Reformer’s Christology. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1982.Find this resource:

Lage, Dietmar. Martin Luther’s Christology and Ethics. Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 1990.Find this resource:

Luy, David J.Dominus Mortis: Martin Luther on the Incorruptibility of God in Christ. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014.Find this resource:

Hinlicky, Paul R.Luther and the Beloved Community: A Path for Christianity after Christendom. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010. Esp. chap. 2.Find this resource:

Lohse, Bernhard. Martin Luther’s Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011. Esp. Part 3, chap. 4.Find this resource:


(1.) The Smalcald Articles, BC.

(2.) WA 39/II:92–121.

(3.) Marc Lienhard, Martin Luthers Christologisches Zeugnis: Entwicklung und Grundzüge seiner Christologie, translated by Robert Wolff (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1979), 133–134, 259–260.

(4.) Smalcald Articles.

(5.) LW 37:361–362. Cf. LW 34:207–209.

(6.) E.g., Adolf von Harnack, History of Dogma, translated by Neil Buchanan, vol. 7 (London: Williams & Norgate, 1899), 227.

(7.) Karl Holl, “Was verstand Luther unter Religion?,” in Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kirchengeschichte, ed. Karl Holl, vol. 1 (6th ed.; Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1932), 71.

(8.) For what follows see Lienhard, Martin Luthers Christologisches Zeugnis, 37–44, 88–97.

(10.) WA 5:610, 20. Cf. Lienhard, Martin Luthers Christologisches Zeugnis, 89–93.

(11.) WA 5:603, 14.

(12.) WA 5:237, 38.

(13.) WA 5:271, 25.

(14.) For what follows see Paul Gondreau, The Passions of Christ’s Soul in the Theology of St Thomas Aquinas (Münster, Germany: Aschendorff, 2002), 47–66.

(15.) Hilary of Poitiers, De Trinitate 10, 23.

(16.) Augustine, Enarrationes in Ps. 87, 3.

(17.) John of Damascus, De fide orthodoxa 3, 20.

(18.) Augustine, De civitate Dei 14, 9.

(19.) John of Damascus, De fide orthodoxa 3, 24.

(20.) Gondreau, Passions, 58.

(22.) Ibid., 50–51.

(23.) WA 39/II 95:34–36.

(24.) Cf. LW 34:207.

(25.) Walther von Loewenich, Luthers Theologia Crucis (4th ed.; Munich: Kaiser, 1954).

(26.) LW 31:35–70.

(27.) LW 31:40.

(28.) LW 31:40.

(29.) LW 31:40.

(30.) LW 31:53.

(31.) LW 31:53.

(32.) LW 31:52–53.

(33.) LW 34, 207.

(34.) Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Ephesians 7, 2.

(35.) Melito of Sardis, Paschal Homily 96.

(36.) On the complex relationship of Luther and mysticism see Bernd Hamm, “How Mystical Was Luther’s Faith?” in The Early Luther: Stages in a Reformation Reorientation, ed. Bernd Hamm, translated by Martin J. Lohrmann (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010), 190–231.

(37.) LW 37:210.

(38.) Cf. WA 39/II:101, 15–16: Ab aeterno non est passus, sed cum factus est homo, est passibilis.

(39.) Cyril of Alexandria, Third Letter to Nestorius, ACO 1, 1, 1, 42, 2–5.

(40.) Alois Grillmeier and Theresia Hainthaler, Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. 2 pt. 2, translated by Pauline Allen and John Cawte (London: Mowbray, 1995), 317–343.

(41.) Oswald Bayer, “Das Wort ward Fleisch: Luthers Christologie als Lehre von der Idiomenkommunikation,” in Creator est Creatura: Luthers Christologie als Lehre von der Idiomenkommunikation, eds. Oswald Bayer and Benjamin Gleede (Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 2007), 5–34, here 13. Cf. Werner Elert, “Die theopaschitische Formel,” Theologische Literaturzeitung 4/5 (1950): 44–55.

(42.) LW 37:210.

(43.) Lienhard, Martin Luthers Christologisches Zeugnis, 90.

(44.) Elert, “Die theopaschitische Formel,” 200.

(45.) Uwe Rieske-Braun, Duellum mirabile: Studien zum Kampfmotiv in Martin Luthers Theologie (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999), 100–103.

(46.) Gustaf Aulén, Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Atonement, translated by A. G. Hebert (New York: Macmillan, 1969), 101–122. For a recent assessment cf. Rieske-Braun, Duellum mirabile, 182–201.

(47.) E.g., WA 50:471, 1–8.

(48.) LW 31:351–352.

(49.) WA 9:661, 10–35. Augustine, De trinitate XIII 10; Gregory of Nyssa, Oratio Catechetica XXIV; Rieske-Braun, Duellum mirabile, 171–188.

(50.) LW 53:256–257.

(51.) LW 53:220.

(52.) Gottfried Seebass, “Zum Hintergrund der christologischen Disputation Luthers von 1540/43,” Creator est Creatura: Luthers Christologie als Lehre von der Idiomenkommunikation, eds. Oswald Bayer and Benjamin Gleede (Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 2007), 125–138.

(53.) Augustine, In Johannis Evangelium Tractatus 30, 1, 17.

(54.) Decretum of Gratian, part 3, de Consecratione, dist. 2, c. 44, c. 1, in Corpus Iuris Canonici I (Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1959), 1330: “Corpus enim, in quo resurrexit, uno loco esse oportet.”

(55.) Huldrych Zwingli, De vera et falsa religione Commentarius, CR 90:807, 11–14.

(56.) LW 38:46.

(57.) LW 37:218.

(58.) LW 37:212.

(59.) John of Damascus, De fide orthodoxa 48.

(60.) Bonaventure, In Sententiarum I, dist. 33, a. 1, qu. 3, ad 4.

(61.) LW 37:210.

(62.) Cf. for Cyril of Alexandria, Henry Chadwick, “Christology and Eucharist in the Nestorian Controversy,” Journal of Theological Studies, n.s., 11 (1951): 145–164, here 153–157.

(63.) William of Ockham, Quodlibet 4, qu. 31, in Quodlibetal Questions, translated by Alfred Freddoso and Francis E. Kelly (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991), 371–375. Cf. Stephen E. Lahey, “Late Medieval Eucharistic Theology,” in A Companion to the Eucharist in the Middle Ages, ed. Ian Levy et al. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012), 499–540, here 510–511.

(64.) Von Harnack, History of Dogma, 262.

(65.) LW 37:218.

(66.) LW 37:215.

(67.) LW 37:218.

(68.) Cf. Theodor Mahlmann, Das neue Dogma der lutherischen Christologie: Problem und Geschichte seiner Begründung (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1969), 9.

(69.) WA 39/II: 95, 32–36.

(70.) Reinhard Schwarz, “Gott und Mensch: Zur Lehre von der Person Christi bei den Ockhamisten und bei Luther,” Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche 63 (1966): 289–351, here 293–301.

(71.) Heiko A. Oberman, Harvest of Medieval Theology: Gabriel Biel and Late Medieval Nominalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 258.

(72.) WA 39/II: 95, 34–36; cf. Schwarz, “Gott und Mensch,” 301–302.

(73.) Cf. WA 39/II:3, 3, 7.

(74.) Theodor Dieter, “Luther as a Late Medieval Theologian,” in The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, ed. Robert Kolb et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 31–48, here 34–35.

(75.) WA 39/II:94, 17–25.

(76.) E.g. WA 39/II:10, 25–32c; 17, 2–7a.

(77.) WA 39/II:94, 31–33.

(78.) WA 39/II:94, 21.

(79.) Schwarz, “Gott und Mensch,” 313–318.

(80.) LW 41:100–119.

(81.) LW 37:209–210.

(82.) WA 39/II:93, 2–4.

(83.) WA 39/II:93, 8.

(84.) WA 39/II:93, 10.

(85.) WA 98:14–17.

(86.) Cf. Schwarz, “Gott und Mensch,” 312.

(87.) WA 39/II:117, 35–36b.

(88.) WA 39/II:101, 10b.

(89.) WA 39/II:100, 18b.

(90.) Axel Schmidt, Die Christologie in Martin Luthers späten Disputationen (St. Ottilien: EOS Verlag, 1990), 246–247.

(91.) Holl, “Was verstand Luther unter Religion?” 71; Yves Congar, “Regards et réflexions sur la christologie de Luther,” in Das Konzil von Chalkedon: Geschichte und Gegenwart, eds. Aloys Grillmeier and Heinrich Bacht (Freiburg: Herder, 1951), vol. 3, 458–486.

(92.) Cf. LW 41:119.

(93.) Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. 2 pt. 2, translated by Pauline Allen and John Cawte (London: Mowbray, 1995), 33. Cf. Robert W. Jenson, “Luther’s Contemporary Significance,” in The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther, ed. Donald K. McKim (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 272–288, here 274.

(94.) Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, 425–427.

(95.) Isaak August Dorner, Entwicklungsgeschichte der Lehre von der Person Christi (Stuttgart: Liesching, 1845), vol. 1, xxvii–xxviii.

(96.) Holl, Was verstand Luther, 71.

(97.) Congar, “Régards et réflexions.”

(98.) David J. Luy, Dominus Mortis: Martin Luther on the Incorruptibility of God in Christ (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014).

(99.) Kjell Ove Nilsson, Simul: Das Miteinander von Göttlichem und Menschlichem in Luther Theologie (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1966).

(100.) Oswald Bayer and Benjamin Gleede, eds., Creator est Creatura: Luthers Christologie als Lehre von der Idiomenkommunikation (Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 2007).

(101.) Schwarz, “Gott und Mensch.”

(102.) Schmidt, Die Christologie.

(103.) Paul R. Hinlicky, “Luther’s Anti-Docetism in the Disputatio de divinitate et humanitate Christi (1540),” in Creator est Creatura: Luthers Christologie als Lehre von der Idiomenkommunikation, eds. Oswald Bayer and Benjamin Gleede (Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 2007), 139–185.

(104.) Theobald Beer, Der fröhliche Wechsel und Streit (Leipzig: Benno, 1974).

(105.) Rieske-Braun, Duellum mirabile.

(106.) Dietmar Lage, Martin Luther’s Christology and Ethics (Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 1990).

(107.) Ulrich Asendorf, Die Theologie Martin Luthers nach seinen Predigten (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1988).

(108.) Jens Wolff, Metapher und Kreuz: Studien zu Luthers Christusbild (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005).