Theologia Germanica

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The title given to an anonymous treatise written by a priest of the Teutonic Order at Sachsenhausen toward the end of the 14th century. The first printed edition was made under the direction of Martin Luther, who was influenced by it in the early phases of his career and who found its opposition to good works and its doctrine on individual religion favorable to his own convictions. The book enjoyed considerable favor among Protestants; it was paraphrased in Latin by S. Franck and later was much admired by the pietists. Its English translation by Susanna Winkworth brought it some popularity in Great Britain. Among Catholics Luther's praise of the work caused it to be viewed with some suspicion. The work is not regarded as unorthodox, its few misleading expressions susceptible of pantheistic interpretation being of a kind not uncommon in mystical literature. The treatise's 54 chapters set forth an introduction to Christian perfection; it is in the Dionysian tradition as represented by Meister eckhart and J. tauler, and proposes poverty of spirit and abandonment to God as the means of transformation into the divine nature.

Bibliography: Text. Critical ed. f. pfeiffer; Eng. tr. s. winkworth, rev. j. bernhart (New York 1949); Fr. Le livre de la vie parfaite, tr. j. paquier. Literature. f. g. lisco, Die Heilslehre der Theologia deutsch (Stuttgart 1857). m. windstosser, Étude sur la théologie germanique. j. paquier, Un Mystique allemand au XIV siècle (Paris 1922).

[p. k. meagher]