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Kirchengeschichte: Reformationszeit


Grane, Leif


Reformationsstudien. Beiträge zu Luther und zur dänischen Reformation. Hrsg. von R. Decot.


Mainz: von Zabern 1999. VIII, 261 S. gr.8 = Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für europäische Geschichte Mainz, 49. Kart. DM 68,-. ISBN 3-8053-2599-1.


Scott Hendrix

This collection of thirteen essays by the late Danish church historian Leif Grane (1928-2000) contains some of his most interesting work on Martin Luther and the Reformation in Denmark. The collection covers a period of twenty-three years; the earliest essay reprinted here was published in 1968 and the last in 1991. Eight of the essays treat Luther, three of them deal with Denmark, and one essay entitled "Luther in Dänemark" appropriately connects the two themes. All the essays bear the hallmark of Grane's historical method: a close reading and analysis of primary texts and sober conclusions that not infrequently challenged the hypotheses of other scholars. Unusual for such collections, the bibliography contains not only the works of G. but also a list of all primary and secondary sources cited in these essays. An index of persons also makes this volume a very useful tool.

The first five essays were written in the late 1960s and early 1970s after G. had published Contra Gabrielem (1962), his account of Luther's rejection of late medieval Nominalist so-teriology as taught by Gabriel Biel. Grane then proceeded to an analysis of Luther's Romans lectures, the results of which appeared first in these essays and then more fully in Modus loquendi theologicus (1975). Its main conclusion was anticipated in the first essay of this collection (No. 1, 1972) which examines the use of Augustine's Expositio quarundam propositionum ex epistola ad Romanos (394) by Luther: "Luthers Interesse an Augustin scheint nicht nur primär, sondern ausschließlich an den Umstand geknüpft zu sein, daß er bei ihm Hilfe zur Interpretation von Paulus zu finden meint" (23).

The second essay (No. 2, 1975), on Luther's exposition of Romans 2:12-15, demonstrated that Luther was by no means beholden to Augustine on every point or needed to avoid what seems in hindsight to have been semi-Pelagian tendencies. Before Heiko Oberman argued publicly for Luther's dependence on an Augustinian school represented by Gregory of Rimini and Johannes von Staupitz, G. had already indicated (No. 3, 1968) how the Wittenbergers' failure to respond to Eck's reference to Gregory at the Leipzig Debate suggested they were not well-acquainted with Gregory's work.

G. also examined Luther's criticism of Thomas Aquinas, with whom Luther was confronted during the indulgence controversy, and concluded that Luther had no interest, unlike modern ecumenical scholars, in discerning how Thomas might have differed from the Nominalists on questions of soteriology. By the time of his encounter with Dominican theologians Luther had rejected scholasticism in general and placed their opinions far below the authority of scripture and the church fathers (No. 4, 1970). When Luther, in De captivitate Babylonica, appealed to Pierre d'Ailly in his attack on transubstantiation and on Thomas' use of Aristotle, Grane saw (No. 5, 1969) in Luther's identification with the via moderna only a utilitarian application of its superior understanding of Aristotle with no further implications for his independent development as a theologian.

The remaining essays on Luther reinforce G.s argument for this independent development. Delineating Luther's "cause" at the 1983 Luther Congress in Erfurt (No. 6, 1985), G. emphasized that Luther's first public activity was the antischolastic campaign in which he came forward not as a reformer of the church but as a reformer of theology. This dedication to theological reform prevented him from submitting to church authorities who wanted to stop the reform and impelled him to carry his case to the people. Luther's cause also gave a fundamentally historical shape to his theology as a whole (97). The public course and impact of Luther's cause were presented in more detail in an essay published two years earlier (No. 7, 1983) and they would be traced later by G. in Martinus Noster (1994); but the theological essence of Luther's cause was succinctly mapped in the 1985 essay. In connection with the presence of Christ in the sacrament, G. had also reflected on Luther's ontology (No. 10, 1971) long before this issue was revived by Finnish Luther research.

While Luther's cause was clear and pursued with consistency by the reformer himself, G. gives the impression in the remainder of this collection that Luther's impact was mixed. Twice he maintains that as a church organizer Luther was a failure (No.7, 1983, 108; No. 8, 1978, 125) and, in the essay entitled "Luther und das Luthertum" (No. 8, 1978), G. notes how Luther's refusal to play it safe inside humanist intellectual circles led to a popular image which had heavy consequences for later Lutherans. Nevertheless, in nineteenth-century Denmark, with his emphasis on the living word of God in the church, N. F. S. Grundtvig understood Luther very well (No. 9, 1983: "Luther in Dänemark"), in spite of the fact that the planting of the Reformation in Denmark eventually led, in G.s opinion, to a bookish version of Christianity which he attributed to "Melanchthonian reductionism" (No. 11, 1990: "Teaching the People", 176). Except for this old-fashioned tendency to blame Melanchthon, the last three essays (No. 11-13) provide rich surveys of reform in Denmark and specifically at the university in Copenhagen. They even pay tribute to the influence of Melanchthon through the reform model introduced at Wittenberg in 1536 (No. 12, 1987: "Studia humanitatis und Theologie") that established the environment in which late humanism could flourish (No. 13, 1991: "Späthumanismus in Dänemark").

G.s essays present Luther as a dedicated and persistent theological reformer forced to step into the public spotlight and then to grapple with the unforeseen practical consequences of his actions. By elucidating Luther's cause and describing in detail its impact on church and university life in Denmark, G.s essays provide a rich supplement to his monographs and a broader sample of his scholarly legacy.