Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation, 1483-1521

By Martin Brecht; James L. Schaaf | Go to book overview

VIII

Reform of University and
Scholarship in League
with Humanism

We might logically turn directly from the account of Miltitz's mission to a presentation of the Leipzig debate. There is both an external and an internal reason, however, that argue against proceeding that way. In Leipzig people come upon the scene who must first be introduced. After the Leipzig debate arose a reaction, which we must be prepared to understand. Moreover, in no way was it true that Luther was completely absorbed in his trial after 1518. Just as before, he was working as a theologian and continuing to teach. In a certain sense, his theological professorship was his base. The Saxon electors interest in Luther was in him as a professor, and it was as a theologian that he had gained a reputation far beyond Wittenberg. Luther was also constantly concerned that the University of Wittenberg might possibly become involved in his quarrels. On the other hand, Luther believed that he was also defending in his cause the Wittenberg theology. There was, in fact, a close connection. Luther had first distinguished himself by his sharp critique of traditional theology, and he had demanded its reform. Thus it is really not surprising that the first reforms the reformer was able to undertake were those affecting the university and the theological discipline. They were already an integral part of his life's work which cannot be ignored, and thus they were in no way merely an interlude during Luther's trial. The academic reforms increased the attractiveness of the Wittenberg university by leaps and bounds. Most important, it was here where the followers of Luther were educated, who themselves at once went to work to spread the new movement.


1. REFORM OF THE
WITTENBERG UNIVERSITY, 1518–211

It is well known that Frederick the Wise had been very concerned for the welfare of his Wittenberg university ever since its establishment. He worked constantly for the improvement of academic instruction. The university visitations in the spring of 1516 and in September 1517 served this end. More and more, Frederick's secretary Spalatin became his competent ad-

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