Crotus Rubianus (Johannes Jäger)

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German humanist; b. Dornheim (near Arnstadt, Thuringia), c. 1480; d. Halle, Saxony, c. 1545. At the University of Erfurt (B.A. 1500, M.A. 1507) he at first accepted scholastic teachings, but came in touch with humanist circles and soon became an outspoken advocate of the new learning. He knew Martin Luther before Luther's entry into the Augustinian Order and met Ulrich von Hutten at Fulda, Hesse-Nassau (1505) and was his fellow student at Cologne and Erfurt. He associated also with the anticlerical humanistic circle of Mutianus Rufus at Gotha in Thuringia. In 1510 he became head of the monastery school at Fulda. His humanist sympathies and anticlerical tendencies made him an enthusiastic supporter of Johann reuchlin in his controversy with the Cologne scholastics. He probably originated the idea of producing a series of satirical letters supposedly written by the enemies of Reuchlin. The result was Epistolae obscurorum virorum (1515), and although Hutten was active from the beginning, Crotus produced most of the original collection. In 1517 Crotus went to Italy and remained there three years, studying at Bologna and taking a doctorate in theology. At first he was indifferent to news of Luther's teachings, but eventually he became a warm partisan and while accompanying Eobanus Hessus to Rome (1519), he spoke out for Luther. In Germany in 1520 he was elected rector of the University of Erfurt, and gave a warm official welcome to Luther, en route to the Diet of Worms (1521). In subsequent years, increasingly dismayed by the popular violence and narrow fanaticism that accompanied the Reformation, he (like many humanists) gradually retreated. He was still friendly to Luther and Melanchthon in 1524, when he went to serve Duke Albrecht of Prussia in Königsberg. His duties there included authorship of treatises defending the secularization of this ecclesiastical principality and the introduction of Lutheranism. But his letters expressed growing distaste for the Reformation. In 1530 he went to Halle, where the archbishopelector of Mainz, Albrecht of Brandenburg, made him canon (1531). That same year he published Apologia, which publicly affirmed his return to Catholicism and rebutted Lutheran charges that he had been bought. His later years were darkened by such slanders, but after his Apologia he refused to be dragged back into public controversy. His silence stemmed partly from his awkward position: his ultimate decision to stick by the Roman church did not make him any less painfully aware of its need for true reform. His later years are obscure.

Bibliography: a. h. horawitz, Allgemeine deutsche Biograhie, (Leipzig 18751910) 4:612614. f. w. kampschulte, De J. Croto Rubiano commentatio (Bonn 1862). w. reindell, Luther, Crotus und Hutten (Marburg 1890). u. von hutten et al., On the Eve of the Reformation , tr. f. g. stokes (New York 1964), introd. h. holborn. r. klauser, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 3:100101.

[c. g. nauert, jr.]