Λ Newly Discovered Report of Luther's Reformation Breakthrough from Johannes Bugenhagen's 1330Jonah Commentary
Translation and Commentary by Martin Lohrmann


hen the University of Wittenberg reopened after the Smalcald War in 1547, Johannes Bugenhagen, Wittenberg's chief pastor and a professor at its university, began lecturing on the Book of Jonah. From these lectures came his 1550 Jonah Commentary. Exegetically, this work builds upon Luther's lectures on Jonah from 1525-26. Of even more interest to Luther scholars, it also contains Bugenhagen's record of how Luther first came to his evangelical theology, thus providing a new source for understanding and dating Luther's theological development.1 Bugenhagen's account adds important details to Luther's own descriptions from the 1545 Preface to the Latin Works and the Table Talk.2The imprecision of these sources has led to scholarly disputes about the moment and nature of Luther's breakthrough. Attempts to date the breakthrough generally range from 1512 to 1518.3 Bugenhagen's account appears to support an earlier dating, while also suggesting that Luther's breakthrough served as the basis for his development from 1510 to 1519. The Reformation Breakthrough4
Father Luther often told me in the presence of many others: "I used to be amazed at Pauls argument for the justification of the ungodly [Rom. 4:5] and to rejoice in Scripture when I read the exceptional consolation of the


as in Jeremiah 23[-. For I made them my mediators. which Paul wrote to us as a highest consolation against our righteousness (which we always seek in ourselves and which we can­ not find unless we Pharisees are blinded) was poison to me. but I did not understand it because I was a most righteous monk. O Lord' [Ps. that is. just as to this day all the papists are ignorant.' in the Episde to the Romans [1:17]. one of the law and another of the gospel. which is Christ in us through faith. 31:1]. but . whose merits and intercessions I could acquire with fervent fasting and sacrifice. For I understood. distinction 35: 'It is said that the righteous­ ness of God is not only that by which he [God] is righteous. "I did not know that through the preaching and the Holy Scripture in Christ's church there was a twofold judgment of God. our Lord Jesus Christ.' as it says in Book IV of De Trinitate.. which is also quoted in the Sentences of the Master. would bring about the judgment and righteousness of God through the gospel when he was upon the earth. which God imputes to us unworthy people and so justifies the ungodly freely through grace. This I did not know. in monastic vows. Book III. But then I read in Augustine: 'the righteousness of God.' as it says in the Latin.as the prophets announced . FOR THE R E C O R D 325 Holy Spirit and God's promises of grace in Christ.'5 . that what was called the righteousness of God was nothing other than certain judgment and the wrath of God against my sins.' I did not know these [mercy and righteousness] were the same and that therefore Jerome's translation was correct. but at that time through such things we imagined ourselves to be true worshipers of the true God while we condemned as heretics those who even murmured anything to the contrary. as did all those who were under the pope. one of the law and another of the gospel. "And I impatiendy put up with what Jerome rendered in the Psalm [24:5]: 'he receives blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. but it is not performed. being confident in my works and merits. deliver me. and I abhorred it and reluctandy sang from the Psalms: Ίη your righteousness. I invoked the saints.David's son. Now I know this to be true idolatry against the First Commandment. I ran after papal indulgences. but also that which he gives humans when he justifies the ungodly.TEXT. and my rules and observances.5]: 'He will make judgment and righteousness on the earth. In the world the judgment and righteousness of the law is known. The Greek has Eleemosynam: 'And mercy from the God of his salvation. and likewise a twofold righteousness of God. the righteousness of the law. that is through faith in Christ.. 'the righteousness of God. to placate the wrath of God for the forgiveness of my sins. "And therefore this phrase.'. and the mass was for me the highest righteousness and holiness and a sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead in the pope's purgatory. because they hate the gospel of the righteousness of God.

Thus the door was first opened to me and I entered into all Holy Scriptures and the gospel of Christ. he surely could have taken exact quotations from the books he cited. The fact that Bugenhagen was engaged in a very public argument suggests that he would be careful about accuracy here. Had Bugenhagen wanted.we call God's righteousness not only that by which God is himself righteous but also . Bugenhagen had been Luther's colleague in Wittenberg for over twenty years. This account also shares a similar style with Luther's own reminiscences.. For my righteousness perished by knowing the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Bugenhagen's Account in Historical Perspective Bugenhagen began and ended this account with the assurance that it was received from Luther's mouth in the presence of others. who justifies the ungodly") as Bugenhagen mentioned. by understanding this phrase alone: the righteousness of God. especially Luther's descriptions of how the scriptural phrase iustitia Dei troubled him until it became a gate to a new and heavenly understanding. De Trinitate Book IV does refer to Romans 4:5 ("God. Bugenhagen wrote the Jonah Commentary amid controversies with Rome and with other Lutherans. of which Peter spoke in Acts io[:43]:'To this all the prophets [bear witness.326 L U T H E R A N QUARTERLY "And I found in Paul. that Augustine also had gotten this from Paul's words. yet these may actually argue in favor of the claim that this presentation was received orally from Luther and not reformulated by Bugenhagen. Instead.. Father Luther often spoke to us. Bugenhagen's citations of Augustine and Lombard contain some errors. Romans 3 etc.']" In this and similar ways. For example. However. Although this retelling was published over four years after Luther's death. the sentence that matches the line cited in Lombard comes from De Trinitate Book XIV: ".. The peculiar way of speaking in the first person singular as Luther's ipsissima verba and the fact that Bugenhagen follows Luther's narrative style of describing the breakthrough may indicate that this account came from reliable notes on conversations with Luther or from Bugenhagen's personal reminiscences. slight inaccuracies remain. that all who believe in him receive forgiveness of sins through his name.

Bugenhagen's account also adds to Luther's 1545 Preface to the Latin Writings and the Table Talk. but they also point to the heart of Luther's evangelical theology. Both passages from Augustine explain the centrality of God's righteousness in justifying sinners." 6 The common theme is that God's righteousness justifies sinners. and in this mortal body the renewal of life is begun by faith that believes in him who justifies the ungodly!'7 This short passage contains three words that became central to Luther's evangelical theology: poenitentia." "Deus imputât nobis. it can appear as if Luther may have had several breakthroughs as he developed his theology piece by piece. finding a "Lutheran" Luther in the 1509 Randbemerkungen and other early sources has proven difficult. Luther was reading the texts Bugenhagen cited (Augustine's De Trinitate and Lombard's Sentences) in 1509 as preparation for his first lectures at the University of Erfurt. "For the soul is resuscitated through repentance. Because scholars have struggled to identify clear moments of major change in the young Luther's theology. present a holistic way to interpret Luther's budding theology. in which key Reformation concepts were closely related to each other from the beginning. These inaccuracies may further validate Bugenhagen's claim that his account was built upon Luther's direct testimony. The quotation from De Trinitate Book IV reads. Bugenhagen (or Luther himself) embellished the text with evangelical phrases such as "per fidem Christi. the critical historical question is whether iusititia Dei played a central role in Luther's early thought and was not imposed later by a more established Luther or Lutheranism. the quotations are different enough to stand as two sources for Luther's theological development. Not only do these inconsistencies potentially support Bugenhagen's reception of this account.fides. because it identifies Luther's early teaching career as a time in which he was already struggling to understand tustitia Dei and justification by faith. Although this similarity makes the difference between the De Trinitate quotations appear negligible." and "gratis per gratiam" that are in neither Lombard nor Augustine.TEXT.and iustificatio. FOR THE RECORD 327 that which God gives to a person when he justifies the ungodly.9 To be sure. . however. 8 These two sources from Augustine. For this study. But even in the more direct citation.

a righteousness received by faith in Christ. but that Luther had Paul in mind while he was reading Augustine. "For [Christ] himself is our life. This is not to say that Augustine was more important than Paul in Luther's early thought. Bugenhagen's account presents a new source in Luther research that describes how Luther may have been coming to significant evangelical discoveries about tustitia Dei and justification by faith already as a young teacher. there is evidence that tustitia Dei was on Luther's mind as early as 1509."10 While this quotation by no means presumes a fully developed evangelical theology in Luther. one sees how Luther could then approach the challenges that arose with the confidence that became typical of him. and our resurrection through faith in his incarnation. uncertain about the meaning of tustitia Dei in Romans and the Psalms. Bugenhagen's account of this breakthrough shows Luther deeply engaging the Bible and the tradition and emerging with an understanding of the Christian faith grounded in tradition. it reveals that "the youngest Luther" (as Oberman put it) was already beginning to connect the knowledge of God to justification by faith early in his teaching career. preacher and monk and as he began publicly confronting the questionable sacramental practices of his day.328 L U T H E R A N QUARTERLY Although Luther and Bugenhagen's recollections came decades after the event described. Looking for resolution. This concern could then grow into the central doctrine of the Reformation as Luther engaged the Bible and the tradition as a professor. Luther noted. It suggests that Luther. studied the Bible and the tradition with that specific problem in mind. Luther found in Augustine and Lombard that God's righteousness is the righteousness with which God justifies the ungodly. From this strong foundation built upon the Bible and traditional church authorities. Commenting on Augustine's treatment of John 5:26 in De Trinitate. By pointing to the 1509 readings in Augustine and Lombard. our righteousness. yet ground-breaking for his day and beyond. .

et al. alterum Legis. legis iusticiam. confisus sum eorum mentis & intercessionibus. Accipiet benedictionem a Domino & iusticiam a Deo salutari suo. & sacrificium pro peccatis viuorum & mortuorum in Papae pugatiorio. quia eram Iusticiarus Monachus. Johannes Bugenhagen. quam certum iudicium & iram Dei contra mea peccata. American Edition. belong to the author himself. Hi. 1988) and Martin Luther's Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development. Kritische Gesamtsausgabe. & tarnen tunc per taita somniabamus nos esse veros veri Dei cultores. Lohse. qui oderunt Euangelium de iusticia Dei. J. Sententiarum magistri dist. (Minneapolis: Fortress. Wengert of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia for his invaluable suggestions and editorial work. Cucurri ad indulgentias Papales. & promissiones Dei de Gratia in Christo. alteram Euangelii.24 and Luther's Works. que est perfidem Christi. & non inuenimus. xxiii. Knaake. & ita iustificat impium gratis per gratiam. vt 1ère. quae est Christus perfidem in nobis. FOR THE RECORD 329 NOTES 1. Et inueni in Paulo Rom. Two works by Bernhard Lohse offer qual­ ity summaries of recent research: Der Durchbruch der Reformatorischen Erkenntnis bei Luther: Neuere Untersuchungen. ita & duplicem iusticiam Dei.K. Harrisville. 4. trans. quibus &feruiui ieiuniis &feriis. ed.12-186. contra iusticiam nostram (qua perpetuo querimus in nobis. de Trinitate. alteram legis. sed non intelligebam. Missatio erat mihi summa iusticia & sanctitas. et gaudere in Scripturis. que omnia nunc agnosco esse ueram idololatriam contra primum preceptum. 3$.The microfilm copy used for this study is part of the collection of the Thrivent Reformation Research Program of Luther Seminary Library. quando legebam egregias consolationes Spiritus sancii. quam dat homini cum iustificat impium. Abhorrebam & inuitus canebam ex Psalmo. lonas Propheta Expositus (Wittenberg: Creutzer. sed etiam ilia. The Latin text: Pater Lutherus sepe dixit mihi coram multis. Graecus dixit Eleemosynam. Pelikan and Lehmann. LW 54:193-194. quemadmodum adhuc hodie omnes Papiste ignorant. of course. (St. Non noram haec idem esse. Faciei iudicium & iusticiam in terra &c. nisi sumus excecati Pharisei) erat mihi venenum. T h e author thanks Dr. (Stuttgart. For the 1545 Preface to the Latin Works see Luthers Werke. Iudicium & iusticia legis cognoscebatur in mundo. Eds. Intelligebam enim. Paul. St. LW 54:308-09 andWA Tischreden 3:228. Louis and Philadelphia. regulas & obseruationes meas. quam Deus imputât nobis indignis. Ideoque hoc vocabulum Iusticia Dei. sed non praestabatur. vt duplex iudicium Dei. Dicitur iusticia Dei non sola ilia qua ipse iustus est. in Epistola ad Romanos. id est. Iusticiam Dei. Wolfenbüttel. alterum Euangelii. Mirari solebam Pauli disputationem de iustificatione impii. quandoque super terram facturum filium Dauidis Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum. In tua iusticia libera me Domine. 4007. eds. inuocaui Sanctos. no. 2. Iusticiam Dei nihil aliud. ideoque Hieronymum recte venisse. Numerous studies on this subject exist. 1999). (Weimar. 3. vt omnes sub Papatu. in Monastica vota. Hi. Iudicium autem & iusticiam Dei per Euangelium. confidens in opera & merita mea. qui vel contra hiscerent. & damnabamus ut heréticos. Cum vero legerem in Augustino. Et misericordiam a Deo salutari suo. An original is in the Herzog-August-Bibliothek. 1955ΓΪ) [hereafter LW] 34:335-37.TEXT. Haec ignorabam. Timothy J. vt est in libro UH. Any shortcomings in this article. quod Paulus nobis scribit summa consolatione. hoc . no 3232c. Tviii-Vii. quod latinus vertit. 1883fr) [hereafter WA] 54:185. Ignorabam per praedicationem & Scripturam sanctam esse in Ecclesia Christi. &c. Germany. Nam fed eos mihi mediatores. 1550). Minnesota. Et indigne ferebam quod Hieronymus vertisset in Psalmo sic.F. Accounts of the "tower experience" are found inWA Tischreden 4:72. id quod recitatur lib. tunc promittebant Prophète. ad placandam iram Dei pro remissione peccatorum meorum.

10. Ipse enim perfidem suae incarnationis est vita nostra. 9:i5fF. He says that he will give us eternal life. and our resurrection through faith in his incarnation. De Trinitate. tunc primum aperta est mihi ianua. Luther's notes include a discussion of the raising of Lazarus and Christ's words "I am the resurrection and the life" (John n:25). Lombard Sentences. Illa autem est ipse in humanitate sua: postquam vitam sequetur eterna vita. it can seem as if the later Luther changed the breakthrough's theological basis from poenitentia to iustitia Dei. & ingressus ad totam sacram Scripturam & Euangelium Christi.K. Book IV. our righteousness. Luther asked how the life of God becomes part of the life of the believer. the letter to Staupitz was published as a preface to Luther's Explanations of the Ninety-Five Theses. 6.e. This context means that the letter to Staupitz is not more histori­ cally valid simply because it comes earlier. in Patrologiae Latinae. For the letter to Staupitz. In this context. 5. For he himself is our life. hoc solo vocabulo cognisto Iusticia Dei. While Leppin's historical questions about the later "breakthrough" texts are valid. which comes through faith in him. J. justitia nostra et resurrectio nostra.F. C C 50:165: Resuscitatur ergo anima per poenitentiam. 8. see WA 1:525-527. the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son. which has been given to us for life and salvation in this life. Kritische Gesamtsausgabe. The Randbemerkungen on Lombard's Sentences begin at WA 9:30. 1968) [here­ after CC]. Where Augustine was discussing how the Father and Son relate to each other. 3 in Corpus Christianorum (Turnholti.WA 9:17: Sed hoc credere est in humanitatem ejus credere quae nobis data est in hac vita pro vita et salute. 7. 2006). from the first the­ sis on. χ. And that life is he himself in his humanity: after life will come eternal Ufe. Volker Leppin has argued for this understanding of the breakthrough in his recent biography. but is subject to the same rhetorical analysis as the later accounts of the breakthrough. (Paris 1880). Therefore in this text he seems to speak of life and resurrection. 116-17. Cecidit enim mea iusitida. 50:165. Qui dicit se nobis daturum vitam aeternam i. Augustine. Migne." . et al. LW 48:64-70. Martin Luther (Darmstadt: WBG. ed. cognita iustiría Dei in Christo Iesu Domino nostro. 12 in CC 5θΑ:443. Ergo in eo textu videtur loqui de vita et resunectione quae est perfidem ejus. Luther's Randbemerkungen on De Trinitate are dated 1509 and recorded in Luthers Werke. spiritum sanctum cum patre et filio. et in corpore adhuc mortali renouatio vitae inchoatur afide qua creditur in eum qui iustificat impium (emphasis in CC text).330 LUTHERAN QUARTERLY Augustinum ex Pauli verbis accepisse. The citation used by Lombard is from De Trinitate. Leppin suggests that in light of Luther's comments regarding poenitentia from a 1518 letter to Staupitz.*443: Sed quemadmodum dicitur etiam iustitia dei non solum illa qua ipse iustus est sed quam dat homini cum iustificat impium. dist. 1883fr [hereafter WA]. "But this 'to believe' is to believe in his humanity. Act. Knaake. eds. he does not fully take into account that the letter to von Staupitz might be mentioning poenitentia precisely because ofthat word's importance to the Ninety-Five Theses. 192:828. De quo diät Petrus. Book XIV. 9. Weimar. Book III. Talia & similia saepe narrabat nobis Pater Lutherus. Huic omnes Prophetae &c. Indeed. 35. CC 5oA. that is.

However. . For information regarding the copyright holder(s). This journal is made available to you through the ATLAS collection with permission from the copyright holder(s). for certain articles. The copyright holder for an entire issue of a journal typically is the journal owner. or distribution of this journal in excess of fair use provisions may be a violation of copyright law. and international copyright law and as otherwise authorized under your respective ATLAS subscriber agreement. the author of the article may maintain the copyright in the article. or contact ATLA to request contact information for the copyright holder(s). who also may own the copyright in each article. reproduction.^ s Copyright and Use: As an ATLAS user. Any use. The design and final form of this electronic document is the property of the American Theological Library Association. About ATLAS: The ATLA Serials (ATLAS®) collection contains electronic versions of previously published religion and theology journals reproduced with permission. The ATLAS collection is owned and managed by the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) and received initial funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. No content may be copied or emailed to multiple sites or publicly posted without the copyright holder(s)' express written permission. please refer to the copyright information in the journal. if available. or send articles for individual use according to fair use as defined by U.S. decompiling. you may print. download. Please contact the copyright holder(s) to request permission to use an article or specific work for any use not covered by the fair use provisions of the copyright laws or covered by your respective ATLAS subscriber agreement.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful