Academic journal article German Quarterly

Valentin Weigel (1533-1588). German Religious Dissenter, Speculative Theorist, and Advocate of Tolerance

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Valentin Weigel (1533-1588). German Religious Dissenter, Speculative Theorist, and Advocate of Tolerance

Article excerpt

BOOK REVIEWS

Weeks, Andrew. Valentin Weigel (1533-- 1588). German Religious Dissenter, Speculative Theorist, and Advocate of Tolerance. Albany: State U New York P, 2000. 227 pp. $19.95 paperback.

Anyone working in the field of early modern German-language literary culture needs to be especially open to issues of religion and theology. "Literarischer Glaubenskampf," a term used by Hans-Georg Kemper as a chapter heading (see Harald Steinhagen, ed., Deutsche Literatur. Eine Sozialgeschichte. Vol. 3 [1985] 138-71), defines the phenomenon of literature engaged in the struggle between Orthodoxie and Frommigkeit (see Winfried Zeller's so titled essay collection [1971]). By the late sixteenth century, Lutheran Protestantism had developed a strain of strict orthodoxy, literally "right teaching," as best documented in the Konkordienformel, an oath of confessional allegiance to Lutheran orthodoxy on which pastors and other civil servants were required to sign off if they wanted to keep their job. Nikodemus Frischlin, for example, refused to do so and suffered the consequences, even though his posthumous play Phasma argued against Anabaptism and unorthodoxies of that ilk.

In this atmosphere personal piety, Frommigkeit, rather than adherence to top-down authority, was suspect, for it was essentially non-institutional, perhaps even revolutionary (see Steven E. Ozment, Mysticism and Dissent [1973]). Not that young man Luther was completely averse to the mystical strains of religiosity; he published the medieval Theologia Germanica, after all. Yet Frommigkeit was never really an admissible option, especially in view of the excesses of the so-called Radical Reformers, persons and followers who made an ideology out of their brand of individual piety. It is here that Valentin Weigel fits in: "Sowohl Kaspar von Schwenckfeld [...] als auch Valentin Weigel (1533 his 1588), Urheber der von den Lutheranern im 17. Jahrhundert am meisten gefurchteten and bekampften Haresie, knupften an Luthers Anthropologie and Rechtfertigungslehre an, zogen aber radikalere Konsequenzen" (Kemper 139). Or as Andrew Weeks puts it: "Weigel's relation to the history of German mysticism is an object of particular interest in this study; however, pursuit of this object is guided by a rational interest in the relationship of mysticism to authority in its institutional and individual poles" (xiii). …

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