Der Majoristische Streit (1552–1570)

978-3-525-56016-7Are good works necessary for salvation, or, on the contrary, even detrimental to salvation? How important is deliberate ethical action for the Christian life? What should Christians do to avoid the danger that the message of justification by grace alone might lead to moral indifference?

Over such questions the so-called Majoristic Controversy evolved (1552-1570), which caused some unanticipated confrontations on the field of scholarly disputes among the followers of Luther and Melanchthon in the second half of the sixteenth century.

An echo of this dispute can be heard in the fourth article of the Formula of Concord.  In volume 3 of the edition  “Controversia et Confessio” readers find the most important texts produced during that controversy, by authors including Georg Major, Nikolaus von Amsdorf, Matthias Flacius, Stephan Agricola, and others.

I’ve worked through this volume and will post my review tomorrow.

The Birth-iversary of Biblical Theology

You may not know this, but today’s an important day in the history of Biblical scholarship.  It’s the ‘birthday’ of Biblical Theology.  Yes, it was on the 30th of March, 1787, that Gabler delivered his epoch making speech „De iusto discrimine theologiae biblicae et dogmaticae regundisque recte utriusque finibus“!

De iusto discrimine theologiae biblicae et dogmaticae regundisque recte utriusque finibus“ („Von der rechten Unterscheidung der biblischen und der dogmatischen Theologie und der rechten Bestimmung ihrer beider Ziele“; lat. Text und deutsche Übersetzung bei Niebuhr / Böttrich 2003, 15-41; Letztere aus Merk 1972, 273-284; engl. Übersetzung bei Sandys-Wunsch / Eldredge 1980, 134-144). Darin beschrieb er die Biblische Theologie als eine von der Dogmatik unabhängige, aber zugleich auf diese ausgerichtete Wissenschaftsdisziplin. Ihre Aufgabe als eine historisch orientierte Wissenschaft sei es, die normativen Grundwahrheiten oder allgemeinen Vorstellungen (notiones universae; notiones purae) der Bibel von ihren zeitbedingten Einkleidungen abhzuheben. Dagegen müsse die Dogmatik die christliche Glaubenslehre in eine sich immerzu wandelnde Gesellschaft hinein vermitteln.

The central theme of the lecture-

„Die biblische Theologie besitzt historischen Charakter, überliefernd, was die heiligen Schriftsteller über die göttlichen Dinge gedacht haben; die dogmatische Theologie dagegen besitzt didaktischen Charakter, lehrend, was jeder Theologe kraft seiner Fähigkeit oder gemäß dem Zeitumstand, dem Zeitalter, dem Orte, der Sekte, der Schule und anderen ähnlichen Dingen dieser Art über die göttlichen Dinge philosophierte. … und [dass wir] nach Ausscheidung von dem, was in den heiligen Schriften allernächst an jene Zeiten und jene Menschen gerichtet ist, nur diese reinen Vorstellungen unserer philosophischen Betrachtung über die Religion zugrundelegen, welche die göttliche Vorsehung für alle Orte und Zeiten gelten lassen wollte“.

It’s virtually impossible to underestimate the importance of this lecture or its aftermath.  It changed the way biblical studies was done as no other single event has.

So, happy birthday Biblical Theology!

A Delightful Story about the Reformation Museum in Geneva

In the New York Times. Give it a read. It’s a great essay. It ends-

Ms. Graesslé said the museum was planning a special exhibition next year in the prelude to the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, which is usually dated to when Luther posted his 95 theses on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, in October 1517. Wittenberg, too, is in the midst of a commemoration.

The Geneva museum’s exhibition, tentatively titled “Roads to the Reformation,” will chart the progress of the movement as it spread among three principal cities, Wittenberg, Zurich and Geneva. Where those roads ultimately converge is already expressed in the museum’s culminating visitor experience: a theater on the lower level, where five large screens depict people around the world worshiping in audible prayer and song, and sometimes in silence.

Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, the 15-minute-long succession of images, presented without narration, is a testament to the power of faith, Reformed or otherwise.

Jan Hus

husThis was on Brill’s facebook page and I found it interesting- so here it is:

Jan Hus burning at the stake, next to an initial I (incipit of the book of Genesis in the so-called Martinická Bible of the 1430s). This and other remarkable images of the illustrious Czech theologian, reformer and martyr can be find in the chapter on the Iconography of Jan Hus, published in our brand-new Companion to Jan Hus.  Image courtesy of the Library of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

I love the nonchalant expression on the face of the guy next to Hus, walking off.  He’s got a little book in his hand and it’s like he’s saying “I’d love to stay and watch you roast and make s’mores and all, Jan, but this book is just un-put-downable!”

What Was Zwingli’s View of Charles V?

Ulrich Zwingli“Charles is a young prince, Spain is a grasping, restless, proud, dissolute people. Why should the Germans so inconsiderately put such a prince over them as their head? It was perfectly evident such a prince would rule the Germans to their injury, and under the cover of zeal for the faith, abuse their confidence and rob them of the Word of God.”  –  Huldrych Zwingli

So Zwingli on the eve of the election of Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor in 1519 in an appeal to the Swiss Cantons to refrain from participating in the doings of the Emperor and the Empire.

Zwingli was right to distrust Charles.

The Newest Issue of the Journal of Early Modern Christianity

Has appeared (both online and in print- I know because I have my copy in hand).  Once again it is fantastically produced, and illustrations and prints are in color.  Be sure to check it out.