Saturday, December 20, 2008

Johann Eck's 404 Theses, 1530

The Book of Concord website has posted Johann Eck's 404 Theses, 1530. The text is put forth in multiple page links, so make sure to hit the "next" button.

I can't promise it will be a fun read, as the website explains:

"The style of this document is a bit difficult, since what Eck is doing is recounting, with separate paragraphs, the alleged errors of his opponents, at different times, in differing circumstances, on a wide variety of topics. Eck's assertions are a mixture or rumor, myth and fact, generally asserted with no citations and nearly always taken completely out of context. This is a work of propaganda more than theology. He pauses to interject comments and then moves on to his next set of assertions, or theses."

I actually own a copy of John Eck's Enchiridion of Commonplaces: Against Luther and Other Enemies of the Church, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979).

I have found that the study of what Luther's Catholic opponents wrote gives quite a helpful and broader understanding of the Reformation. The website agrees and states,

"Reading through Eck's accusations is an illuminating exercise, since it presents the points at which Rome was disagreeing with Luther and illuminates the depth of the Roman Catholic misunderstanding of the position of the Lutherans."

Unfortunately, most of this Catholic material like Eck's was not as popular when first written, so much of it remains obscure and hard to track down. Many printers were reluctant to publish Catholic material (it just didn't sell as well, and many of them did not want to print Catholic material), and Rome did little to support (or close to nothing) in helping those writing against Luther.

The same lack of material is true of some of the other Reformers- Try locating actual volumes from Melanchthon, Zwingli, Bucer, etc. Google Books has been of great help in getting more of this material available, but before that, my searches for some of this material didn't get very far.

When compared though with Luther, one sees the impact his writings have had- as so much of them are (and have been) available for a long time.

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