Theologia Germanica  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Theologia Germanica, also known as Theologia Deutsch or Teutsch, is a mystical treatise believed to have been written in the mid 14th century by an anonymous author, usually associated with the Friends of God. According to the introduction of the Theologia the author was a priest and a member of the Teutonic Order living in Frankfurt, Germany. The language usage and practical psychological approach point to Meister Eckhart as a possible author.Template:Citation needed One of the most prominent mystics of the 14th century, he disappeared in 1327 after being brought to trial by the Inquisition for heresy. The Theologia was written during the disruptive reign of the Avignon Papacy when many clerics were forbidden to perform Catholic rites, because of the power struggle between the Pope and Holy Roman Emperor. Lay groups of pious individuals like the Friends of God became prominent during this time.


Luther's view

Theologia Germanica proposes that God and man can be wholly united by following a path of perfection, as exemplified by the life of Christ, renouncing sin and selfishness, ultimately allowing God’s will to replace human will. The book influenced Martin Luther who published editions in 1516 and 1518, before his full break with the Catholic faith. It was Luther who gave the treatise its modern name; in the manuscripts it is known as "Der Franckforter", i.e. "the Frankfurter". Luther wrote,

"Next to the Bible and St. Augustine, no book has ever come into my hands from which I have learned more of God and Christ, and man and all things that are."

Another goal of Luther in the publication was supporting his thesis that the German language was just as well-suited for expressing theological ideas as the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages. The treatise itself does not discuss or reflect on the fact that it is written in German.

Theologia Germanica became a staple of the Radical Reformation and of Pietism.

Opposing views

John Calvin declared it “poison supplied by the Devil.” Pope Paul V placed it on the Catholic Church’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum where it remained into the second half of the twentieth century.


The first English translation of the Theologia Germanica dates from 1648.

A text from 1497, the Wuerzburg or Bronnbach manuscript, was discovered in 1843 and contained text not included in Luther's editions. This text forms the basis of most subsequent English translations.

In 1528, Ludwig Haetzer republished Theologia Germanica with interpretive "Propositions" by Hans Denck. Towards the end of his life (1541–42), Sebastian Franck produced a Latin paraphrase of the Haetzer version. Sebastian Castellio published Latin (1557) and French (1558) translations, after his break with John Calvin over the execution of Michael Servetus (1553). Just over a decade later, Valentin Weigel provided a "Short Account and Introduction to the German Theology" (1571). Johann Arndt published an edition endorsed by Philipp Jakob Spener.

In 1980, Bengt R. Hoffman brought out an English translation of Luther's 1518 edition. David Blamires’ 2003 translation is based on Wolfgang von Hinten’s 1982 critical edition.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Theologia Germanica" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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