The Revolt of Martin Luther

By Robert Herndon Fife | Go to book overview
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18
THE LEIPZIG DISPUTATION THE PRELUDE

THEtt Leipzig disputation throws full light on Luther's personality for the first time, so that it is possible to see the man in action as viewed by his contemporaries1. It also brings to the front of the stage other men whose rôles in his life were to be of importance for years to come. His companion in arms on this occasion, Carlstadt, has already claimed our attention more than once. Later on he became one of Martin's most deter- mined opponents, remaining a troublous element in the latter's life and work throughout the crucial years of the Reformation. Andreas Bodenstein of Carlstadt2 is one of those contemporaries with whom Luther's biographers have dealt no more gently than with others who opposed the ideas and obstructed the purposes of the Wittenberg reformer. Like Thomas Miinzer and the Catholic opponents, Carlstadt has had to wait until the twentieth century for a fair judgment of his part in the struggle against the scholastic ideals and his attempt to find new formulas for the future. Some of his unpopularity with the witnesses of his period was certainly due to tempera-mental difficulties of the man, whose character bears marks of self-seeking and a certain unsteadiness of purpose.

Andreas was several years Luther's senior3. He was a son of the chief official of the quiet little town of Carlstadt in Franconia, and like Luther began his studies at Erfurt. After receiving his bachelor's degree in 1502, Carlstadt went to Cologne to continue his studies4. Here he entered the

____________________
1
The sources for the Leipzig disputation are, in addition to Luther's letters, those of Carlstadt, Melanchthon, Eck, Johann Cellarius, Nikolaus von Amsdorf, Peter Mosellanus, and Johann Rubeus, all in the year 1519; and the recollections of Sebastian Fröschel, written nearly half a century later.
2
See Barge, who in his Andreas Bodenstein draws on rich source material.
3
His birth date cannot be fixed definitely. Seeibid., I, 2.
4
The facts have been carefully collated by Gustav Bauch, "Andreas Karlstadt als Scholastiker," ZKG, XVIII ( 1898), 37 ff.

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