Karlstadt, Andreas Rudolf Bodenstein von

views updated


German theologian and reformer; b. Karlstadt am Main, c. 1480; d. Basel, Switzerland, Dec. 24, 1541. Karlstadt (or Carlstadt), one of Luther's earliest supporters, was educated at the Universities of Erfurt and Cologne. In 1505 he was professor of Thomistic philosophy at the University of Wittenberg; three years later he was made a canon at the collegiate church. His initial work, De Intentionibus, Distinctiones sive Formalitates Thomistae, marks him as one of the strongest adversaries of the via moderna in this university. After obtaining the doctorate in theology in 1510, he was made professor ordinarius of sacred theology. Two years later, at the insistence of Frederick the Wise, he was sent to Rome, where within a few months he obtained a doctorate in canon law and civil law. Upon returning from Rome, he published an attack on the abuses of the papal court entitled Concerning Papal Sanctity. He also launched an attack on scholastic theology. In September of 1516 he published 151 theses that repudiated the traditional Catholic doctrine on grace and free will. In 1518 he replied to Johann eck's attack on Martin Luther by maintaining the supremacy of Scripture over tradition and patristic writings. He later engaged the Ingolstadt professor in the famous Leipzig debate. Karlstadt was mentioned in Leo X's bull of excommunication Exsurge Domine (June 15, 1520) against Luther. During this early period of the Reformation, Karlstadt became one of the most prominent of the early Lutheran exegetes. He denied the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and divided the Scripture into three categories based upon relative certainty of authorship, De Canonicis Scripturis (1520). Unlike Luther, he did not reject the authorship of the Epistle of St. James. In 1521 he was invited by King Christian II of Denmark to introduce the reform into that country, but the hostility of the nobility and the clergy forced him to return to Wittenberg, where he continued his polemical writings, denouncing monastic vows, celibacy, and the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist. He anticipated Luther in rejecting much of the liturgy of the Mass, and he was the first of the early reformers to marry. The iconoclastic disturbance that occurred in Wittenberg during Luther's absence and that was instigated by the Zwickau prophets, can be traced indirectly to his attacks on the externals of divine worship (see mÜnzer, thomas; anabaptists).

When expelled from Wittenberg in 1524, he wandered throughout Germany associating himself for a time with the Anabaptists in Holstein and Friesland. After 1530 he settled in Zurich and was later recommended by Heinrich bullinger to a position at the University of Basel. Here he was directly involved in a struggle with the humanists in an attempt to raise the academic standards of the university. In 1536 at the invitation of Martin bucer, he represented the city council at Strassburg in a final attempt to reconcile the Lutheran and Zwinglian factions on the question of the Real Presence. Karlstadt's importance lies in the fact that he was the real author of the Eucharistic controversy that later divided the Protestant movement. It was a result largely of his influence that the Swiss reform movement was converted to the Sacramentarian position. His role was more that of a nonviolent visionary, a spiritualist, rather than a man of affairs. Although opposed to the ancient Church, he had nothing substantial to put in its place.

Bibliography: Karlstadts Schriften aus den Jahren 152325, ed. e. hertzsch, 2 v. (Heidelberg 195657). e. hertzsch, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 195765) 3:115455; Karlstadt und seine Bedeutung für san Luthertum (Gotha 1932). k. schottenloher, Bibliographie zur deutschen Geschichte im Zeitalter der Glaubensspaltung, 151785, 6 v. (Leipzig 193340; repr. Stuttgart 195658, v. 7 1962) 961649. t. frey, Das Rheintal zur Zeit der Glaubensspaltung (Altstätten 1947). o. vasella, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 5:136364. h. barge, Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, 2 v. (Leipzig 1905). f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 237.

[j. p. dolan]