Scholastic theologian and principal representative of late medieval nominalism, sometimes referred to as Doctor profundissimus; b. Speyer, Germany, c. 1410; d. Einsiedel, Tübingen, Dec. 7, 1495. About 1460, after several years of study at the Universities of Heidelberg, Erfurt, and Cologne, he became principal preacher and vicar at Mainz. Having entered the Brothers of the Common Life c. 1468, he became propst of the brotherhouse in Butzbach (Hessen) in 1470 and in Urach (Württemberg) in 1479. In 1484 he took over the chair of theology to teach the via moderna at the University of Tübingen (founded in 1477); he was invested as its rector in 1485 and again in 1489. In theology and philosophy, Biel professed to follow the teachings of william of ockham, but he also adopted certain views of St. bonaventure, of St. thomas aquinas, of richard of middleton, and, above all, of John duns scotus. Characteristic of his thought are his logic of suppositions, his interpretation and evaluation of intuitive knowledge, and his strong emphasis on the simplicity, omnipotence, and freedom of God. Particular notice should be paid to his development of an ethics covering social and economic questions: property, commerce, a just price (he favored authorized price control, since the formation of a monopoly could endanger the maintenance of a just price), fair taxation, interest rates, monetary operations, currency fluctuation, and the like. His commentary on the Sentences serves as the classical handbook of nominalism; it reveals a thorough, systematic, practically serviceable, and Church-oriented attitude, which sets him above any other theological spokesman of his time. Luther received his scholastic orientation through Biel and reflects his influence in both a positive and a negative manner.
Bibliography: Works. Systematic Writings. (1) Collectorium super IV libros Sententiarum (Tübingen 1501 and later), bk. 4 is incomplete (to d. 23). Extracts. De potestate et utilitate monetarum (bk. 4, Sent. d. 15, q. 9; Offenbach 1516), Eng. tr. r. b. burke (Philadelphia 1930); Quaestiones de iustificatione, ed. c. feckes (Münster 1929); In primam Quaestionem Prologi, ed. p. bÖhner (Paterson, N.J. 1939). (2) Sacri canonis missae expositio (Reutlingen 1488 and later); a critical ed. (Weisbaden 1963— ), 2 v. pub. to 1965. Extracts. Epitoma expositionis sacri canonis missae (Tübingen 1499 and later); Expositio brevis et interlinearis sacri canonis missae (Tübingen c. 1500). Preaching. Sermones I–IV: De festivitatibus Christi, B.V. Mariae, de sanctis, de tempore (Tübingen 1499–1500 and later). Sermo historialis passionis dominicae (Tübingen 1489 and later). Sermones medicinales contra pestilentiam, ed. with Sermones I–IV. Shorter writings. Regula puerorum (Urach 1483). Ars grammatica (Urach c. 1483 and later). Dictata varia de dialectica (MS; Giessen), Cod. 1250, B.G. 16:86–199. Defensorium obedientiae apostolicae ad Pium papam II, ed. in Sermones III. De communi vita clericorum, ed. w. m. landeen, in Research Studies 28 (1960) 79–95. Three academic addresses (MS; Giessen) Cod. 853, fol. 285–288. Literature. c. feckes, Die Rechtfertigungslehre des Gabriel Biel (Münster 1925). j. haller, Die Anfänge der Universität Tübingen, 2 v. (Stuttgart 1927–29) 1:153–172; 2:54–64. w. m. landeen, "Gabriel Biel and the Brethren of the Common Life in Germany," Church History 20(1951) 23–36; "Gabriel Biel and the Devotio Moderna in Germany," Research Studies 27 (1959) 135–214; 28 (1960) 21–45, 61–79. l. grane, Contra Gabrielem. Luthers Auseinandersetzung mit Gabriel Biel in Disputatio contra scholasticam theologiam, 1517 (Gyldenal 1962). h. a. oberman, The Harvest of Medieval Theology: Gabriel Biel and Late Medieval Nominalism (Cambridge, Mass. 1963).