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date: 26 September 2017

The Debate between Martin Luther and Erasmus

Summary and Keywords

Martin Luther and Desiderius Erasmus played somewhat significant roles in each other’s lives. Their early relationship is not free from a sense of the serious differences that divided them, but it largely reflected their common commitment to the biblical humanist ideas of “back to the sources” and effective rhetoric. Erasmus’ need to demarcate his positions from those of the heretic and outlaw after 1521 strengthened his resolve to demonstrate publicly at least one important difference between them, resulting in his Diatribe (1524), which provoked a debate with Luther over the freedom or bondage of the will, which Luther treated in his De servo arbitrio (On Bound Choice, 1525) and commentary on Ecclesiastes (1526/1532).

Keywords: Martin Luther, predestination, necessity, freedom, bondage, theodicy, election, human will

The Early Relationship

Among the most famous debates of the early modern period is that between Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam and the Wittenberg professor Martin Luther in the mid-1520s over the question of the bondage or freedom of the will in relationship to God. Their own works were largely ignored in the 16th century once the dust had settled within a few months, but echoes of their debate persisted in conflicts over synergism and double predestination between and within Lutheran and Reformed circles. Their confrontation has become a symbolic stand-off for modern students of the period. The fact that they employed the genre of medieval academic disputation makes it formidable reading that defies most 21st-century readers. They often overlook how strongly Erasmus emphasized God’s grace and the weakness of the powers he ascribed to the will, and they fail to understand Luther’s concern that Erasmus’ ascription of even limited powers in matters of the human being’s relationship to God to the human will would undercut the assurance of salvation that can come only from trust in the unconditional love of God.

On its positive side, the relationship of these two eminent scholars employed advances in philological insights; on its negative side, their confrontation over biblical interpretation focused on the bondage of human choice in the exercise of the freedom of the will.1 Their engagement with each other began in cautious admiration for the other’s concern for learning and reform and ended in sharp confrontation over significant theological issues. Both were dedicated to promoting learning and reform, but they held radically different visions of the church’s life and of God and humanity. Their paths to the pious life that both sought to promote took different courses because of their presuppositions, which grew from their contrasting ways of reading Holy Scripture.

Erasmus, almost a generation older than Luther, began his career as a monk but always lived at the edge of—though in contact with—the ecclesiastical and political establishment, often as a traveler, often as a guest. Luther lived as a monk for a quarter of his life, serving as part of the establishment, as an official of the order of the Augustinian Eremites and professor of theology at the university, and he remained intertwined in the establishment as Evangelical reform transformed the social and ecclesiastical structures around him.

Erasmus began his studies under the tutelage of the Brethren of the Common Life in Deventer, where Johann Hegius imbued him with a love for learning from the sources within a framework of devotion to Christ. The death of his father propelled him into the Augustinian order in 1489; in 1495 the bishop of Cambrai sent him to the University of Paris to study theology. Like Luther, he learned a profound distaste for both monasticism and scholastic theology from these experiences. An invitation to England drew him into humanist circles around John Colet and Thomas More there, and upon his return to Paris in 1500, he learned Greek. His facile mind quickly mastered the language, resulting in his production of his “Annotations” to the New Testament, a vital breakthrough in biblical studies at the time, as well as works that cultivated piety (Enchiridion militis Christiani) and works that criticized what he saw as abuses in the medieval ecclesiastical system (Adagiae, Encomium Moriae). Sojourns in Italy (1506–1509) and England (1509–1514), where he taught Greek at Cambridge, his only stable academic position, filled his next decade.

He abandoned that post to travel, write, and edit more freely; in the last twenty-one years of his life he found havens in England, the Low Countries, and the upper Rhineland, working particularly in cooperation with the Basel publisher Johann Froben. Froben’s report of the preparation of the Complutensian Polyglott by Francisco Cardinal Ximenes de Cisneros enticed Erasmus to edit manuscripts of the Greek New Testament that he had collected, producing the first published edition of the text in 1516. His Novum Instrumentum Omne claimed to give the church a new tool for promoting good theology and piety, which in fact it did. His own Latin translation, improving on the Vulgate on the basis of the Greek, and his annotations introduced a new level of biblical scholarship, which Luther, in his second set of biblical lectures—on Romans (1515–1516)—at Wittenberg put to use, both as a spur to learning Greek and as a source for his teaching. Erasmus had diligently read the ancient church fathers for two decades when he began to edit their works, marshalling a team of young humanists who aided him in bringing to press Jerome (1516), Cyprian (1520), Pseudo-Arnobius (1522), Hilary (1523), Irenaeus in Latin translation (1526), Ambrose (1527), Augustine (1528), Chrysostom in Latin translation (1530), Basil (1532), and Origen in Latin translation (1536).

Many theology professors objected strongly to Erasmus’ positions, for instance, his rejection of Matthew 4:17 as the basis for the sacramental practice of penance, explaining “poenitentia” or μετανοία‎ as the general state of repentance rather than the sacrament, or his finding that 1 John 5:7–8 was not found in the ancient manuscripts, thus depriving the church of the most explicit affirmation of the doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament. Luther did not share these reservations but rather was extremely grateful for Erasmus’ call for reform and his contributions to scholarship, which he was putting to use. He added the Novum Instrumentum to Erasmus’ Paraphrases and his edition of Lorenzo Valla’s In Latinam Novi Testamenti Interpretationem Annotationes (1505) as tools for his interpretation, and he used the older man’s insights for formulating his own interpretation.2

Likewise, as Erasmus began to notice Luther, he appreciated one more follower who supported the reform of the church; he intervened with Frederick the Wise in Luther’s behalf. As Luther’s exegetical works became available in print, Erasmus incorporated some Wittenberg insights into his own work. James Tracy sensed that Erasmus’ paraphrase of Galatians, which appeared in 1519, showed some impact of Luther’s view of grace.3 Robert Kleinhans saw similar evidence in Erasmus’ revisions of his paraphrases on Mark and Luke of 1523. At the same time, he ceased to repeat his claim that he had read nothing from Luther. As early as 1523, Erasmus had found a new expression of salvation through the unconditional forgiveness of sins that came from reading Luther.4 Although John Payne found the conclusions of Tracy and Kleinhans overdrawn,5 he confirmed that Erasmus’ paraphrases on Romans and Galatians did take insights from Luther and Melanchthon seriously.6 Greta Kroeker also concluded that toward the end of his life Erasmus gradually came ever closer to Luther’s position on grace without adopting his terminology and maintaining his own emphases.7

The first personal contact between the two set a bad tone for the elder, for Luther shared items to be improved in Erasmus’ Novum Instrumentum by way of his colleague and friend Georg Spalatin, who had corresponded with Erasmus for some time.8 However, Erasmus expressed his gratitude for Luther’s newly published Operationes in Psalmos in 1519, while simultaneously counseling moderation of Luther’s public utterances.9 Over the next few years, both men came ever more to recognize serious differences between them as they heard more of each other. In March 1517, Luther commented to his fellow Augustinian and friend Johannes Lang that his perception that Erasmus focused “more on the human than on the divine” was causing him to be “daily losing pleasure with Erasmus.”10 In a less than flattering way, Luther compared Erasmus’ learning, particularly his use of Jerome, with the Taulerian tradition in May 1517.11 Yet as late as November 1520, Luther told Lazarus Spengler, city secretary in Nuremberg, that he did not bear a grudge against Erasmus nor did he dislike him, despite Erasmus’ request that he not mention his name. He counted Erasmus as a defender of their common cause.12

When Froben published the first “collected works” ever gathered from a living author, Luther’s Latin publications, Erasmus’ vanity was so wounded that he protested mightily to his printer friend.13 Luther’s tendency to confront his critics boldly in the style of the university disputation, which was part and parcel of his scholarly routine, with an edge added by the desire of those critics to burn him at the stake, seemed unwise to the peace-loving Erasmus.14 Luther’s attraction for many of his younger followers also vexed Erasmus, for he feared that Luther’s abrasive and radical advocacy of change in church and society would weaken the cause of reform.15 Luther’s excommunication by the pope and his condemnation as an outlaw by the emperor in 1520 and 1521 alienated Erasmus decisively, and Luther realized that he had lost Erasmus’ support.16 By May of 1522, Luther wrote to an unnamed correspondent, someone connected to the wider humanist circle, that Erasmus’ eloquence was not mightier than God’s truth, that his genius was not stronger than the Holy Spirit, and that faith in Christ took precedence over Erasmus’ kind of learning. Nonetheless, he informed his correspondent, whose name went unnoted, that he would not challenge Erasmus and would not hasten to reply if Erasmus challenged him. Erasmus’ attacks on the French humanist Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples over the interpretation of Hebrews 2, Luther claimed, would not faze him, for he (Luther), “poor stammer that I am,” would meet his eloquence, authority, reputation, and esteem with the truth. In this letter, Luther sensed that predestination could indeed be an issue that would bring them into open conflict.17 Erasmus quickly learned of the letter. The circle of northern humanists was indeed a village,18 and soon thereafter he read the letter in a publication issued in Strasbourg, perhaps published in a misguided attempt to force Erasmus to come to Luther’s defense.19

The Confrontation

For years under attack from scholastic theologians, Erasmus could ill afford to be associated with a bona fide heretic and criminal. Although the elder man had seldom discussed the topic of the freedom of the will in his writings and although he had generally given God’s grace a prominent place in his portrayals of the Christian life,20 the indignation of the English King Henry VIII and the humanist’s long-time conversation partner Bishop John Fisher over Luther’s denial of free choice exercised by the human will in relation to God provided a topic on which Erasmus could honestly reject Luther decisively.21

Erasmus chose the topic on which his disagreement with Luther could clearly be set before the public; he also chose the field of battle. Despite his selecting the title “diatribe”—which in late medieval Latin meant “a learned exchange of ideas”—Erasmus unambiguously repudiated what he believed to be a deterministic view of God that made him responsible for evil. He used the method of the university disputation to do this even though it was not his genre. Satire was perhaps too subtle a means for the scholastic theologians he wished to convince, and his skill at disputation could not match Luther’s. Even scholars sympathetic to Erasmus and his position have recognized that Luther’s skills at this kind of academic engagement exceeded his humanist colleague’s by far. Anthony Levi speculates that Erasmus’s attempt reflects his frustration with not being able to find a formula for defending his own independence between the ever-hardening fronts. Levi blames not only the nature of the strife between Luther and his foes but also the impossibility of the topic: taking seriously the biblical view of grace along with the espousal of freedom for the human will.22 James Tracy demonstrates that Erasmus’ treatise actually tried to maintain two contradictory positions on grace and human freedom,23 an observation in line with Luther’s conclusion that Erasmus proposed three different appraisals of the will’s powers.24 Two scholars sympathetic to Luther agree. Klaus Schwarzwäller identified Erasmus’ problem as a commitment to using philosophical tools to address a theological issue.25 Bernhard Lohse concluded that Erasmus simply had not come to fathom Luther’s understanding of sin, grace, and justification.26Although Erasmus claimed that he had dashed off the Diatribe in five days,27 it had taken several months to write. He sent a copy to Duke George of Saxony when it appeared, expressing his conviction that the church had been so corrupted that it needed the strong medicine that Luther had served up but that his own intervention in this work should ameliorate the damage that Luther was causing.28

Erasmus began by pleading for a temperate debate, expressing his desire to avoid a firm dogmatic decision on the issue of the free will, which had been subject to sharp debate throughout the history of the church. A skeptical stance regarding this issue served the church best, he concluded. He regarded such issues to be unsuitable for public discussion because the common people needed simple instruction for living their lives each day. Without denying Scripture’s key role in Christian teaching, he pleaded for respect for the tradition of the church, which presented a variety of answers to questions relating to the freedom of the will. Much of the treatise was dedicated to an examination of biblical passages supporting or seeming to oppose the will’s freedom, and Erasmus took specific issue with Luther’s interpretation of some passages. Assigning God’s will the role of determining with absolute necessity what human beings do makes him the author of evil. Only recognizing some role for the free will allows the ungodly to be condemned, and it does not contradict Luther’s insistence that believers must not trust their own works but must rely alone on God and his promises.29

De libero arbitrio Diatribe appeared in September 1524; Luther acknowledged that he had seen it and would reply in November although, as he told Spalatin, “it is an unpleasant burden to respond to the unlearned book of such an erudite man.”30 By early the next year, he had not found the time to do so, and he let others know.31 A series of deluges were breaking over him. His break with his colleague Andreas von Karlstadt, the revolts of the peasants, the death of Frederick the Wise, his lectures on the minor prophets, and his marriage distracted him, as did his reluctance to display his skills at disputation against one with whom he disagreed but whose learning still commanded his respect and gratitude.

Although they did not express their differences in terms of the concept of “responsibility,” the two scholars represented two approaches to the paradox of the Bible’s assertion of the complete responsibility of the Creator for all his creation and its assertion of the total responsibility of the human creatures created “in his image” for all that he has assigned them to be and do.32 Like most Christian theologians, Erasmus tried to work out some way for these two axioms to share the same logical space; most, like Erasmus, assigned more responsibility to God than to human beings, but they struggled to find some way to insure public morality by placing some burden of responsibility for their standing before God on them. Luther lived with the tension of regarding both “responsibilities” as total and complete. He dealt with this tension on a practical level through his distinction of law and gospel. God’s law holds human beings responsible for conforming to his plan for life, which is set down in laws or commands, while at the same time affirming that God alone creates and re-creates the relationship between himself and his creatures. This re-creation takes place through the death and resurrection of Christ and the restoring power of God’s Word of gospel, which the Holy Spirit brings to his chosen people.

Luther therefore began by addressing the question of authority that Erasmus had gingerly moderated by retreating to a skeptical stance that refused to commit itself fully on the issue of the freedom of the will. Luther had had a different experience with Scripture than had Erasmus, whose dispassionate analysis of the words of the text had for him rendered the true meaning conveyed by the biblical writers. Luther’s intensely personal view of God framed a different kind of relationship with the biblical text. In 1519, publishing his revision of his Galatians lectures of 1516, Luther warned readers that they would not find in these pages their predecessors’ kind of commentary; it was instead his “testimony.”33 He felt that the Holy Spirit had arisen from the text to confront him with Christ’s death and resurrection that had happened “for me.” When God speaks, doubt or skepticism is precisely the wrong approach. Thus, the Diatribe had set the discussion of the issue, from Luther’s perspective, on the wrong basis. Luther believed that when God has spoken through Scripture, his human hearers confess what he has said. On the basis of late medieval usage, Luther understood assertio to be “a constant adhering, affirming, confessing, maintaining, and an invincible persevering” of a life-embracing trust in Christ.34 His confidence in what he asserted or confessed grew out of his trust in God’s promise. It was the necessary expression of what God had done to him through this promise; it was the obligatory public declaration of what God has done to save his people from their sins.35 Klaus Schwarzwäller captures Luther’s state of mind in his De servo arbitrio when he states that the treatise focuses on what Luther would later label the center of theology: “the human creature guilty of sin and condemned, and the God who justifies, the savior of this human sinner.”36 Schwarzwäller views Luther’s opening assertion as another expression of this central concern: “If we believe that Christ has redeemed human creatures by his blood, we are bound to confess that the whole human being was lost. Otherwise, we should make Christ either superfluous or the redeemer of only the lowest part of humanity [in Aristotelian anthropology the appetites or sensual desires], and that would be blasphemy and sacrilege.”37

Because Luther believed that God was present and speaking in the words of Scripture, he believed that Scripture is clear in its conveyance of God’s will and ways. He admitted that God has hidden his mysteries from human comprehension, even at times as he sets them forth in Scripture, and he also conceded that human ignorance of the vocabulary and usage of the biblical writers rendered some passages obscure and perplexing. He distinguished between the Bible’s external clarity—its subject matter is “quite accessible”—from its internal clarity, which is dependent on the aid of the Holy Spirit.38 Just as he explicitly refused to attempt to solve the theodical question of why some are saved and others are not in philosophical terms but looked simply to God’s saving actions in Christ,39 so he implicitly did not venture into the theodical dilemma of why the Holy Spirit permits some believers to misinterpret Scripture.

Erasmus had chosen the topic of the freedom of the will as his means of distancing himself from Luther. Luther took up the challenge but actually changed the topic. His De servo arbitrio does present part of his understanding of what it means to be human, but it concentrates on the person of God, not the topic of anthropology. Luther had learned from Ockhamist-oriented instructors that God is, above all, the Almighty and that he exercises his power only within the bounds of his covenants that ensure order in his world. His study of Psalms and Paul’s letters, along with his more extensive reading of Augustine, developed and confirmed his understanding of the gracious nature of the Almighty Creator. Thus, Luther found Erasmus’ attempt to balance divine and human responsibility inadequate, particularly for the comfort of sinners. Only if all depended on God and nothing on his own frail and failing efforts to please God could Luther find the peace that enables a person to live for God and other human creatures. (Like his instructors, Luther mixed and matched from his scholastic inheritance; Augustine’s synthesis of God’s power, wisdom, and love shaped his perception of how God uses his power within his world.)

In the style of the university disputation, Luther set down his axioms regarding God. “He is God, and for his will there is no cause or reason that can be laid down as a rule or measure for it since there is nothing equal or superior to it, but it is itself the measure of all things. For if there were any rule or measure or cause or reason for it, it could no longer be the will of God.”40 From that understanding of the absolute power of God and his therefore unchallengeable will, Luther deduced that “Free choice is plainly a term for God and can be properly applied to no one but the Divine Majesty alone; for he alone can do and does (as the psalmist says [Ps. 115:3]) whatever he pleases in heaven and on earth.”41 Therefore, “God foreknows nothing contingently, but foresees and purposes and does all things by his immutable, eternal, and infallible will.”42 Luther presumed that the promise that believers receive through the oral, written, and sacramental—“external”—forms of God’s Word directly from him, and he concluded that the confidence of salvation he had tried to find in himself was never attainable. Therefore, it “is the one supreme consolation of Christians in all adversities to know that God does not lie, but does all things immutably, and that his will can neither be resisted nor changed nor hindered.”43

Luther did confront the mystery of the continuation of sin and evil in general, as well as specifically in the lives of the baptized. In De servo arbitrio he emphasized that God Hidden (Deus absconditus) lies beyond the grasp of the human mind; sin has only intensified the gap between the creature’s limited ability to understand the Creator and the reality of his being. In 1525, Luther discouraged seeking comprehension of God Hidden, urging readers to flee to the revelation God has provided in Jesus Christ (Deus revelatus). Schwarzwäller’s insistence that Christ’s cross is the key to understanding Luther’s argument in De servo arbitrio is supported by the reformer’s closing oratorical flourish that expressed his fear that Erasmus’ position makes “Christ either superfluous or the redeemer of only the lowest part of humanity [the appetites or sensual desires],” which he found to be “blasphemy and sacrilege.”44 As he had confessed a few pages earlier, apart from Christ, the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6),“there is nothing but Satan, apart from grace nothing but wrath, apart from light only darkness, apart from the Way only error, apart from the Truth only a lie, apart from Life only death.”45 Fifteen years later, as he lectured on Genesis, Luther recognized that he had not sufficiently clarified his practical application of the distinction between Deus absconditus and Deus revelatus. He broke into one of his dialog presentations of his message, with God addressing the students: “From an unrevealed God I will become a revealed God. Nevertheless, I will remain the same God. I will be made flesh, or send My Son. He shall die for your sins and shall rise again from the dead. And in this way I will fulfill your desire, in order that you may be able to know whether you are predestined or not. Behold, this is my Son; listen to him (cf. Matt. 17:5). Look at him as he lies in the manger and on the lap of his mother, as he hangs on the cross. Observe what he does and what he says. There you will surely take hold of me.” … “He who sees me,” says Christ, “also sees the Father himself” (cf. John 14:9). “If you listen to him, are baptized in his name, and love his Word, then you are certainly predestined and are certain of your salvation.”46

In De servo arbitrio, the tension between God Hidden and God Revealed remains unresolved. The same is true in Luther’s commentary on Jonah, delivered in lecture form in March 1525 and revised for print the following year.47 In De servo arbitrio, Luther admits his own despair over the question of why some are saved and not others. “I myself experienced this offense more than once, and it brought me to the very depth and abyss of despair, so that I wished I had never been created a human being, before I realized how salutary that despair was, and how near to grace.”48 In concluding his debate with Erasmus, he turns to his description of the three lights, one of which can provide an answer in this life. The light of nature reveals the arbitrariness of good and evil in this world and concludes that God is unjust. The light of grace demonstrates that He is indeed merciful to his chosen people but then asks why He did not choose all for salvation. Believers await the light of glory and are content to rely on the person and promises of God, whom they know through his incarnation as Jesus Christ.49 “God must be left to himself in his own majesty, for in that regard we have nothing to do with him, nor has he willed that we should have anything to do with him.” Seeking God in his Word is appropriate and sufficient.50 Thus, the philosophical dilemma of theodicy is not solved; the theological justification of God that Paul offers in Romans 3:25–26 sufficed for Luther. In Christ’s cross and resurrection both God and sinners are “justified.”

In his lecture on Genesis 26, Luther asserts that there is no dissonance between God Hidden and God Revealed, lest believers be led away from relying totally on the promise in God’s Word. “If you believe in the revealed God and accept his Word, he will gradually also reveal the hidden God, for ‘he who sees me also sees the Father,’ as John 14[:9] says. He who rejects the Son also loses the unrevealed God along with the revealed God. But if you cling to the revealed God with a firm faith, so that your heart is so minded that you will not lose Christ even if you are deprived of everything, then you are most assuredly predestined, and you will understand the hidden God. Indeed, you understand him even now if you acknowledge the Son and his will, namely, that he wants to reveal himself to you, that he wants to be your Lord and your Savior. Therefore you are sure that God is also your Lord and Father.”51

In balancing human responsibility to conform to God’s law with God’s responsibility for restoring sinners to be children of God, Luther insisted throughout De servo arbitrio that God is not the cause of evil. His notorious adaptation of Pseudo-Augustine’s metaphor of the beast of burden being ridden by either God or Satan, designed to assert God’s nature as almighty Creator, did not prevent him from placing full responsibility for sin and evil on both the devil and sinful human creatures as he struggled to maintain the tension while not giving Erasmus’ view of human responsibility the grounds for casting doubt on the absolute assurance of God’s promise of the benefits of Christ. Striving to make his metaphor work, he pointed out that the rider is not responsible for the lame foot of the animal he is riding, just as the carpenter cannot be held responsible for the crude cuts of a damaged ax.52 “Although God does not make sin, yet he does not cease to fashion and multiply the nature that has been vitiated by sin through the withdrawal of the Spirit, as a wood-carver might make statues out of rotten wood.”53 Thus, “You must not imagine God is like an evil-minded innkeeper, full of wickedness himself, who pours or mixes poison into a vessel that is not bad, which itself does nothing but receive or suffer what is bad from the one who is doing the mixing.… In us, that is, through us, God is at work when evil takes place, but he is not at fault. The defect lies in us since we are by nature evil and he is good. But as he carries us along by his own activity in accordance with the nature of his omnipotence, good as he is himself, he cannot help but do evil with an evil instrument though he makes good use of this evil in accordance with his wisdom for his own glory and our salvation.”54 To support this affirmation of God’s almighty power, Luther argued against contingency in human affairs and taught the absolute necessity of everything happening according to God’s willing,55 an argument that subsequently disappeared from his writings.56

Luther did not deny that the will (voluntas) acts freely, even in De servo arbitrio; therefore, the common translation of the title of the treatise, “on the bondage of the will,” obscures Luther’s understanding of what it means to be human. What is bound is human choice (arbitrium) in relationship to God; “we know there are things free choice does by nature, such as eating, drinking, begetting, ruling.…”57 The believer also willingly lives the life of repentance and faith that leads to new obedience and the practice of good works toward others,58 but apart from the Holy Spirit, the will is incapable of even the feeblest moves toward God.

The godly life of trust and devotion is possible, Luther believed, only when believers have the assurance that their relationship with God rests solely upon his initiative, without any self-centered, self-directed concern that may cause doubt about their salvation because of the inadequacy of their deeds. Late medieval theologians had discussed the topic of predestination, treating it as a subdivision of the question of God’s general providence, and for the most part allowing for human contribution and placing value on human performance.59 Luther had found no peace and certainty in this approach. He emphasized God’s almighty power to underscore the unconditional nature of his delivery of sinners from their sin. His “Disputation against Scholastic Theology” (1517) posited that “the best, infallible preparation for grace, and the only disposing factor for its reception, is God’s eternal choosing and predestination.” He rejected the scholastic teaching that predestination was necessary by a necessitas consequentiae (“conditional necessity”) but not by a necessitas consequentis (“absolute necessity”).60 He held to this position in De servo arbitrio, placing it within the context of the reliability of God as he promises in his Word.61 Citing Romans 3:4, 9:6, 2 Timothy 2:19, Titus 1:2, and Hebrews 11:6, he insisted “when God promises anything, you ought to be certain that he knows and is able and willing to perform what he promises.” He concluded, “Therefore, Christian faith is entirely extinguished, the promises of God and the whole gospel are completely destroyed, if we teach and believe that it is not for us to know the necessary foreknowledge of God and the necessity of the things that are to come to pass. For this is the one supreme consolation of Christians in all adversities, to know that God does not lie, but does all things immutably, and that his will can neither be resisted nor changed nor hindered.”62 In some places, Luther’s argumentation seems to point to a belief in the predestination of the damned,63 but in general, Martin Doerne is correct when he concludes, “we look in vain in De servo arbitrio for sentences in which Luther expressly asserts an election to damnation. He speaks thereof only in the negative and indirectly.”64 Almost always, Luther places the understanding of God’s choosing of his own within his distinguishing law and gospel, preserving the tension between his insistence that God alone has planned and executed the salvation of his chosen people in Christ and through the work of the Holy Spirit, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, his insistence that human beings bear total responsibility for their condemnation because of their sin.

The Aftermath

Luther took a year to reply to Erasmus’ Diatribe, and therefore, despite the many distractions he encountered in 1525, he had time to consider how to respond to Erasmus. Luther believed that Erasmus had raised the very heart of the Christian faith in addressing biblical anthropology and thus the Scriptural presentation of God. Therefore, it can be presumed that Luther said what he wanted to say in the genre of disputation, which Erasmus had chosen as the field of engagement, and according to its rules. Luther subsequently shifted his argument from the determinative nature of the absolute necessity proceeding from God’s will to his actual delivery of faith and forgiveness for his chosen people through the promise given in oral, written, and sacramental forms, but this did not alter the heart of his proclamation. God remains God, almighty and sovereign, and the human creature remains human, with life centered in the trust in Christ that permeates the entire person of the believer.

Erasmus reacted immediately to Luther’s criticism, complaining bitterly of its sharp tone in a letter to Luther65 and defending his defense of limited freedom of the will as necessary for maintaining civil order and Christian morality. The first half of his two-part disquisition that repeated his arguments from the Diatribe, his Hyperaspistes [Shield-Bearing Protector], which is twice as long as the Diatribe, shows many signs of his anger and some signs of the haste in which he prepared the manuscript so that it could be purchased at the Frankfurt book fair in 1526. The second half, three times as long as the Diatribe, appeared in 1527 and echoed the arguments of the earlier works.66 Although it is usually stated that Luther did not reply to Erasmus’ Hyperaspites, this is not the case. His reply took form in lectures on Ecclesiastes, delivered in the months after the publication of Erasmus’ response (between late July and early November 1526); notes on these lectures were published in 1532.67 The text of Ecclesiastes offered Luther the opportunity to examine the impact of a view of human freedom and the necessity of its exercise for a saving relationship with God on the horizontal realm of life. Luther argued that the love for neighbor is channeled from a focus on the neighbor’s actual needs to the individual’s need to please God, thus instrumentalizing the neighbor in the service of one’s own salvation.68 Robert Rosin has demonstrated that these lectures carry Luther’s argument into the mundane realm of daily life and seek to demonstrate that Erasmus’ position weakens (if not destroys) not only faith’s reliance on God but also its ability to produce truly good works.69 Luther defined the biblical author’s argument “as the wise reflection of a believer, trusting in God’s larger, constant control.” Thus, the Wittenberg exegete labeled the book “a humbling lesson in man’s limitations while directing attention instead to the proper relationship between God and man.”70

The outcome of the debate cannot be measured in any scientific way, but the examples of a number of prominent humanist followers of Erasmus suggest that for the public both disputants sought to convince, Erasmus lost. Philip Melanchthon continued to defend Luther, albeit in gentler tones than the older Wittenberg professor himself had used, which is not surprising.71 But others from humanistic backgrounds also supported him. Johannes Oecolampadius had not yet begun to criticize Luther’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper when he took issue with Erasmus’ teaching of the freedom of the will about the time the Diatribe appeared.72 Similarly, Wolfgang Capito,73 Urbanus Rhegius,74 and Johannes Brenz75 came to Luther’s defense. Particularly interesting is the case of the cantor in Joachimsthal, Nikolaus Hermann, who translated the Diatribe into German. Although some scholars believe that he did this to provide support for Erasmus within the Wittenberg circle,76 this seems unlikely in view of marginal notations and his comparison of Luther with Augustine and Erasmus with Pelagius.77 Luther’s position made more sense to those who had grasped his proclamation of the all-sufficiency of God’s action in Christ for the salvation of sinners. John Calvin claimed that Albert Pighius, his Roman Catholic critic, sought to thrust “his spear through my side into Luther,” in his attack on Calvin’s teaching on predestination. Calvin did not cite the De servo arbitrio by name, but he used its arguments in his own writings.78 While Luther’s own students largely ignored the De servo arbitrio, Calvin’s followers did not. Their challenges, along with disputes over the use of the work by one of Luther’s most ardent followers, Cyriakus Spangenberg, evoked the solution proposed by the Formula of Concord to questions regarding divine election. There, Jakob Andreae and Martin Chemnitz formulated a pastoral approach framed within Luther’s distinction of law and gospel, insisting that God’s unconditioned choice of his own can only properly serve the gospel.79

Luther continued to use and to criticize Erasmus’ biblical works in the following years. Only once did he place a disagreement with the Dutch humanist into print. The appearance of Erasmus’ De sarcienda ecclesiae concordia,80 a plea for setting aside disputes for the sake of peace within the church, provoked Luther’s friend Nikolaus von Amsdorf to provoke Luther to comment in epistolary form on Erasmus’ ecclesiology.81 Luther noted that Erasmus had taken over expressions from Georg Witzel, whose recent apostasy from the Wittenberg movement rankled Luther and his colleagues. He accused Erasmus of preferring the favor of others more than proper teaching and of tolerating false teaching. He defended the clarity of Paul’s writing, echoing his insistence on the clarity of Scripture from a decade earlier and citing examples of what he regarded as the Dutch humanist’s shallow and frivolous engagement with the text of Scripture.

Despite significant similarities, including recognition of the need for serious reform in the church, commitment to the humanist ideals of clear communication, and the need to return to original sources, Luther and Eramus represented two radically different visions of the church, of Scripture, of God, and of the human creature. In deciding to break openly with the Wittenberg reformer, Erasmus decided to use the genre of the disputation, a literary form that put him at a disadvantage. Many of his own devoted disciples shared Luther’s view of God and of the sinful human creature, so Erasmus lost support among them without their repudiating him personally. In any case, his debate has attracted far more attention in the 20th and 21st centuries than it did in the 16th, but his chosen topic nonetheless remains as Luther asserted, the very heart of the Wittenberg reformer’s concern: to bring liberation from sin to those alienated from God and to comfort troubled consciences.82

Review of the Litertature

The best overall theological assessments of the debate over the freedom or bondage of the will are those of Klaus Schwarzwäller and Gerhard Forde. A briefer summary is found in Robert Kolb’s Bound Choice. Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle provides insights from the study of humanist rhetoric without sufficient theological grounding to weigh Luther’s pastoral concerns fully, understood better by Thomas Reinhuber. James Tracy’s assessment of Erasmus’ own theological presentation in the Diatribe is also most helpful. Important parts of the full picture are filled in, in regard to the relationship of the two in regard to biblical studies are provided by Robert Kleinhans, Greta Kroker, Johannes Kunze, John Payne, and James Tracy. Robert Rosin effectively presents how Luther did actually continue the debate in his Ecclessiastes lectures and commentary.

Further Reading

Boyle, Marjorie O’Rourke. Rhetoric and Reform: Erasmus’ Civil Dispute with Luther. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983.Find this resource:

Doerne, Martin. “Gottes Ehre am gebundenen Willen. Evangelische Grundlagen und theologische Spitzensätze in De servo arbitrio.” Lutherjahrbuch 20 (1938): 45–92.Find this resource:

Forde, Gerhard O.The Captivation of the Will. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005.Find this resource:

Grane, Leif. “Erasmus und Luther vor dem Streit 1524/25.” In Widerspruch, Luthers Auseinandersetzung mit Erasmus von Rotterdam. Edited by Kari Kopperi, 9–25. Helsinki: Luther-Agricola-Gesellschaft, 1997.Find this resource:

Kroeker, Greta. Erasmus in the Footsteps of Paul. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Kunze, Johannes. Erasmus und Luther. Der Einfluss des Erasmus auf die Kommentierung des Galaterbriefes und der Psalmen durch Luther 1519–1521. Münster, Germany: LIT, 2000.Find this resource:

Reinhuber, Thomas. Kämpfender Glaube. Studien zu Luthers Bekenntnis am Ende von De servo arbitrio. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2000.Find this resource:

Rosin, Robert. Reformers, the Preacher, and Skepticism. Luther, Brenz, Melanchthon, and Ecclesiastes. Mainz, Germany: Zabern, 1997.Find this resource:

Schwarzwäller, Klaus. sibboleth. Die Interpretation von Luthers Schrift de servo arbitrio seit Theodosius Harnack. Ein systematisch.kritischer Überblick. Munich: Kaiser, 1969.Find this resource:

Schwarzwäller, Klaus. Theologia crucis. Luthers Lehre von Prädestination nach De servo arbitrio, 1525. Munich: Kaiser, 1970.Find this resource:

Tracy, James D. “Two Erasmuses, Two Luthers: Erasmus’ Strategy in Defense of De libero arbitrio.” Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 78 (1987): 37–60.Find this resource:

Wengert, Timothy J.Human Freedom, Christian Righteousness. Philip Melanchthon’s Exegetical Dispute with Erasmus of Rotterdam. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

Zickendraht, Karl. Der Streit zwischen Erasmus und Luther über die Willensfreiheit. Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1909.Find this resource:


(1.) This essay is derived to a large extent from chapter 1 of Robert Kolb, Bound Choice, Election, and Wittenberg Theological Method From Martin Luther to the Formula of Concord (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005); readers may consult it for expanded discussions of relevant topics. It offers references to earlier secondary studies. Among more recent overviews are Scott H. Hendrix, “Too Little Too Late: the Erasmus – Luther Debate,” in Collaboration, Conflict, and Continuity in the Reformation. Essays in Honour of James M. Estes on his Eightieth Birthday, ed. Konrad Eisenbichler (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2014), 255–274; and James M. Estes, “Erasmus of Rotterdam,” in The Dictionary of Luther and the Lutheran Traditions, ed. Timothy J. Wengert (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, forthcoming).

(2.) Erik Herrmann, “Luther’s Absorption of Medieval Biblical Interpretation and His Use of the Church Fathers,” in The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, eds. Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel and L’ubomír Batka (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 74; cf. e.g., Johannes Kunze, Erasmus und Luther. Der Einfluss des Erasmus auf die Kommentierung des Galaterbriefes und der Psalmen durch Luther 1519–1521 (Münster, Germany: LIT, 2000).

(3.) James D. Tracy, Erasmus, the Growth of a Mind (Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1972), 182.

(4.) Cf. Robert G. Kleinhans, “Luther and Erasmus, Another Perspective,” Church History 39 (1970): 459–469.

(5.) John B. Payne, “Erasmus and Lefèvre d’Étaples as Interpreters of Paul,” Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 65 (1974): 79–80, 135.

(6.) John B. Payne, “The Significance of Lutheranizing Changes in Erasmus’ Interpretation of Paul’s Letters to the Romans and the Galatians in His Annotations (1527) and Paraphrases (1532),” in Histoire de l’exégèse au XVIe siècle. Textes du Colloque International tenu à Genève en 1976 (Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 1978), 312–330.

(7.) Greta Grace Kroeker, Erasmus in the Footsteps of Paul (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011), 90–132, 137–140.

(8.) D. Martin Luthers Werke (Weimar: Böhlau, 1883–1993 [henceforth WA]), Briefe 1: 70–71; Luther’s Works (Saint Louis/Philadelphia: Concordia/Fortress, 1958–1986 [henceforth LW]) 48: 23–26; cf. Heinz Holeczek, “Erasmus’ Stellung zur Reformation: Studia humanitatis und Kirchenreform,” in Renaissance—Reform, Gegensätze und Gemeinsamkeiten, ed. August Buck (Wiesbaden, Germany: Harassowitz, 1984), 136; and Leif Grane, “Erasmus und Luther vor dem Streit 1524/25,” in Widerspruch, Luthers Auseinandersetzung mit Erasmus von Rotterdam, ed. Kari Kopperi (Helsinki: Luther-Agricola-Gesellschaft, 1997), 9–25, esp. 13.

(9.) Opvs epistolarvm Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. P. S. Allen 3 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1913), 3: 606, §980.

(10.) WA BR 1:90, 14–16, no. 35.

(11.) In a letter to Georg Spalatin, WA BR 1:96; cf. Ingo Klitzsch, “Autoritätenverwendung in der ‘Disputatio contra scholasticam theologiam’,” in Reformatorische Theologie und Autoritaten. Studien zur Genese des Schriftprinzips beim jungen Luther, ed. Volker Leppin (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2015), 80–81.

(12.) WA BR 2:217–218; and LW 48:185.

(13.) Allen, Opvs 3 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1913), 445–446, a letter to Lambert Hollonius, December 5, 1518.

(14.) Allen, Opvs 3, 605–607, a letter to Luther, May 30, 1519.

(15.) Heinrich Bornkamm, “Erasmus und Luther,” Lutherjahrbuch 25 (1958): 13; cf. Holeczek, “Erasmus’ Stellung,” 142–143.

(16.) Luther noted this writing to Spalatin, September 9, 1521, WA BR, 2:387–390.

(17.) WA BR 2:544; and LW 49:6–8.

(18.) See Erasmus’ complaint to Spalatin, March 11, 1523, Allen 5, no. 1348.

(19.) WA BR 2:429.

(20.) Ernst-Wilehlm Kohls, Die Theologie des Erasmus, 2 vols. (Basel: Reinhardt, 1966), 61–77, demonstrates how seldom Erasmus discussed the topic of the free will.

(21.) Karl Zickendraht, Der Streit zwischen Erasmus und Luther über die Willensfreiheit (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1909), 15–17, 43–44, 50–51.

(22.) Renaissance and Reformation, the Intellectual Genesis (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), 299–300. Levi is unable to fathom how Luther’s law- and gospel-oriented, cross-focused approach to the problem functioned.

(23.) “Two Erasmuses, Two Luthers: Erasmus’ Strategy in Defense of De libero arbitrio,” Archiv für Reformationsgeschicht 78 (1987): 37–60.

(24.) WA 18:667–671; and LW 33:112–117.

(25.) Theologia crucis. Luthers Lehre von Prädestination nach De servo arbitrio, 1525 (Munich: Kaiser, 1970), 111, 86–87.

(26.) “Dogma und Bekenntnis in der Reformation: Von Luther bis zum Konkordienbuch,” in Handbuch der Dogmen- und Theologiegeschichte, Zweiter Band: Die Lehrentwicklung im Rahmen der Konfessionalität, ed. Carl Andresen (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1980), 36.

(27.) Allen 5:399–400, §1419; Collected Works of Erasmus [henceforth CWE] 10, ed. Charles Trinkaus (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), 180.

(28.) Allen 5:543–544,§ 1495; CWE 10:376–377.

(29.) Erasmus, Opera omnia, ed. Jean Leclerc (Leiden, The Netherlands, 1703–1706), 9: 1215–1248; CWE 76, 5–89.

(30.) To Nicholaus Hausmann, November 17, 1524A Br 3:373; LW 49:88; cf. to Spalatin November 1, 1524, WA BR 3:368.

(31.) WA BR 3:418, 439.

(32.) The use of the term “responsibility” is anachronistic; with it I endeavor to express Luther’s convictions that God is indeed Creator and Sustainer of all that goes on in the world and that God holds human creatures accountable for the obedience his law expects from them. Luther’s expression of his doctrine of God within the scholastic framework he had learned and was using pointed to his belief in God’s reliability and sovereignty with the terminology of immutability. At the same time he continued to insist that human obedience is demanded by God’s design of humanity.

(33.) WA 2:449, 16–19; LW 27:159.

(34.) WA 18:603, 12–14; LW 33:20; on the contrast between Luther’s and Erasmus’ views of the confrontation of opposing points of view; see Jun Matsuura, “Duo Cherubim adversis vultibus. Zur Herausbildung und texthermeneutischen Bedeutung des Grundsatzes Scriptura sui ipsius interpres,” in Reformatorische Theologie, 171–173.

(35.) Thomas Reinhuber, Kämpfender Glaube. Studien zu Luthers Bekenntnis am Ende von De servo arbitrio (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2000), 12–17; cf. Thomas Wabel, Sprache als Grenze in Luthers theologischer Hermeneutik und Wittgensteins Sprachphilosophie (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1998), 232–235; and Ulrich Asendorf, Luther und Hegel: Untersuchungen zur Grundlegung einer neuen systematischen Theologie (Wiesbaden, Germany: Steiner, 1982), 106.

(36.) WA 40, 2:328, 17–20; Klaus Schwarzwäller, Theologia crucis. Luthers Lehre von Prädestination nach De servo arbitrio, 1525 (Munich: Kaiser, 1970), 47–52.

(37.) WA 18:786, 18–20; LW 33:293.

(38.) WA 18:608, 12–609, 14:652, 23–659; LW 33:25–28, 89–100.

(39.) WA 18:719, 9–12; LW 33:190.

(40.) WA 18:712, 32–38; WA 33:181.

(41.) WA 18:636, 27–30; LW 33:68; cf. WA 18:662, 7–26; LW 33:103.

(42.) WA 18:615, 11–14; LW 33:37.

(43.) WA 18:619, 19–21; LW 33:43.

(44.) WA 18:786, 18–20; LW 33:293; on a modern treatment of Luther’s distinction of Deus absconditus and Deus revelatus, see Joshua Miller, Hanging by a Promise. The Hidden God in the Theology of Oswald Bayer (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2015); and Vitor Westhelle, The Scandalous God, The Use and Abuse of the Cross (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006), 55–58.

(45.) WA 18:778,38–779,21; LW 33:281–282.

(46.) WA 43:459,24–32; LW 5:45.

(47.) WA 13:241–258 (Latin), WA 19:185–251 (German); LW 19:3–104.

(48.) WA 18:719,9–12; LW 33:190.

(49.) WA 18:784, 35–785, 38; LW 33:291–292; cf. WA 18:784, 1–15; LW 33:289–290.

(50.) WA 18:685, 14–15; LW 33:139; cf. WA 18:717, 25–39; LW 33:188.

(51.) WA 43:460, 26–35; LW 5:46.

(52.) WA 18:709, 28–710, 8; LW 33:176–177.

(53.) WA 18:708, 31–33; LW 33:174–175.

(54.) WA 18:710, 31–711, 7; LW 33:178–179.

(55.) WA 18:614, 27–620, 37, 634, 14–638, 11, 720, 28–722, 29; LW 33:36–44, 64–70, 192–195.

(56.) Kolb, Bound Choice, 52–55.

(57.) WA 18:752, 7–8; LW 33:240.

(58.) WA 18:694, 17–20; LW 33:153.

(59.) Karl Zickendraht, Der Streit zwischen Erasmus und Luther über die Willensfreiheit (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1909), 1–3.

(60.) WA 1; 225, 27–34, theses 29–32.

(61.) WA 18:719, 4–35; LW 33:190.

(62.) WA 18:619, 3–21; LW 33:42–43.

(63.) E.g., WA 18:686, 4–10; LW 33:140; WA 719:7–8; LW 33:190.

(64.) “Gottes Ehre am gebundenen Willen. Evangelische Grundlagen und theologische Spitzensätze in De servo arbitrio,” Lutherjahrbuch 20 (1938): 72; cf. Reinhuber, Kämpfender Glaube, 210–214.

(65.) WA BR 4:47; CWE 12:135–138.

(66.) CWE 76:93–297; CWE 77 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), 335–749.

(67.) WA 20:7–203; LW 15:3–187; cf. Rosin, Reformers, 79–150.

(68.) Ibid., 127–147.

(69.) Ibid., 107; and Rosin’s treatment of the commentary is found on pp. 79–150.

(70.) Ibid., 124.

(71.) Timothy J. Wengert, Human Freedom, Christian Righteousness: Philip Melanchthon’s Exegetical Dispute with Erasmus of Rotterdam (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998); cf. Kolb, Bound Choice, 70–102; and Gregory B. Graybill, Evangelical Free Will. Philipp Melanchthon’s Doctrinal Journey on the Origins of Faith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), correctly notes developments in Melanchthon’s thought, including his abandonment of speaking of individual predestination, but he fails to capture the tension in which Melanchthon continued to hold divine and human responsibility which recognized that the Holy Spirit does work on the will as he converts it in such a way that the human being experiences the psychological changes which the Spirit is producing.

(72.) De libero arbitrio Divorum Prosperi, Augustini et Ambrosii opuscula perquam erudita (Basel, Switzerland: Wolff, 1524).

(73.) James M. Kittelson, Wolfgang Capito. From Humanist to Reformer (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1975), 78–80, 110–111, 221; cf. Capito’s critique of Erasmus’ position: In Hoseam prophetam V. F. Capitonis Commentarius … (Strasbourg, Germany: Ioannes Hervagius, 1528), 57a, 94b (=104b), 197b.

(74.) Hellmut Zschoch, Reformatorische Existenz und konfessionelle Identität. Urbanus Rhegius als evangelischer Theologe in den Jahren 1520 bis 1530 (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1995), 154–157; cf. Rhegius‘ later teaching on bound choice, Formvlae qvaedam cavte et citra Scandalum loquendi de praecipuis Christianae doctrinae locis, pro iunioribus Verbi Ministris in Ducatu Luneburgensi (Wittenberg, Germany: Hans Lufft, 1535), C7a–C8b “de libero arbitrio,” C8b–D3a “de Praedestinationis mysterio,” translated in Preaching the Reformation, The Homiletical Handbook of Urbanus Rhegius, trans. and ed. Scott Hendrix (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2003), 62–69.

(75.) Martin Brecht, Die frühe Theologie des Johannes Brenz (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1966), 9, 10.

(76.) Holeczek, “Erasmus’ Stellung,” 147.

(77.) Eyn Vergleychung oder Zusamenhaltung der spruche vom freyen wyllen/Erasmi von Roterodam/durch Nicolaum Herman von Altdorff yns teutsch gebracht/von ersten ließ/darnach vrteyls (Leipzig: Jacob Thanner, 1525), A2a; cf. Christopher B. Brown, Singing the Gospel: Lutheran Hymns and the Success of the Reformation in Joachimsthal (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 36.

(78.) Matthew C. Heckel, “‘His Spear through my side into Luther.’ Calvin’s relationship to Luther’s Doctrine of the Will,” PhD diss., Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, Missouri, 2005.

(79.) Die Bekenntnisschrfiten der Evangelische-Lutherischen Kirche, ed. Irene Dingel (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014), 1286–1293, 1560–1597; The Book of Concord, eds. Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), 517–520, 640–656; cf. Kolb, Bound Choice, 198–270.

(80.) Opera omnia Desiderii Erasmi Roterodami, 5, 3 (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1986): 245–313.

(81.) Epistolae Domini Nicolai Amsdorfii et D. Martini Lvtheri de Erasmo Roterodamo (Wittenberg, Germany: Hans Lufft, 1534, also published by Michael Lotther in Magdeburg, 1534); cf. Amsdorf’s letter to Luther of January 28, 1534, and Luther’s response of March 11, 1534, the bulk of the published pamphlet, WA BR 7:16–17 and 28–39; Melanchthon’s regret and the dismissal of Luther’s views by several Roman Catholic supporters are noted in WA BR 7:17, 39–40; Luther also took note of these supporters in a letter to Amsdorf, March 31, 1534, WA BR 7:53.

(82.) WA 18:614, 3–6; LW 33:35.