Skip to main content

Biel, Gabriel


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 IIV: De festivitatibus Christi, B.V. Mariae, de sanctis, de tempore (Tübingen 14991500 and later). Sermo historialis passionis dominicae (Tübingen 1489 and later). Sermones medicinales contra pestilentiam, ed. with Sermones IIV. Shorter writings. Regula puerorum (Urach 1483). Ars grammatica (Urach c. 1483 and later). Dictata varia de dialectica (MS; Giessen), Cod. 1250, B.G. 16:86199. Defensorium obedientiae apostolicae ad Pium papam II, ed. in Sermones III. De communi vita clericorum, ed. w. m. landeen, in Research Studies 28 (1960) 7995. Three academic addresses (MS; Giessen) Cod. 853, fol. 285288. Literature. c. feckes, Die Rechtfertigungslehre des Gabriel Biel (Münster 1925). j. haller, Die Anfänge der Universität Tübingen, 2 v. (Stuttgart 192729) 1:153172; 2:5464. w. m. landeen, "Gabriel Biel and the Brethren of the Common Life in Germany," Church History 20(1951) 2336; "Gabriel Biel and the Devotio Moderna in Germany," Research Studies 27 (1959) 135214; 28 (1960) 2145, 6179. 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).

[v. heynck]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Biel, Gabriel." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 16 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Biel, Gabriel." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (February 16, 2019).

"Biel, Gabriel." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved February 16, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.