peter krey's web site

scholarship, sermons, songs, poems, weblog writing on

The Influence of Boethius on Theologia Germanica, and its Influence on Martin Luther

with 2 comments

Luther and Theologia Germanica

and the Philosophical Influence of Boethius

By Peter D.S. Krey

Part One: the German Mystic’s Influence on Luther

Martin Luther discovered a manuscript called Theologia Germanica written by an unnamed German mystic and felt that he had received an overwhelming learning experience about “God, Christ, humanity, and all things” from it. He then published the little book in 1516, adding a preface for its second edition in 1518. After just reading the 1854, quite antiquated translation by Susanna Winkworth,[1] I found that this mystic had a profound influence on Luther in many ways. Luther was no mystic, of course, but just like humanism and nominalism, it affected his theology in important ways.

The only indication we receive about the author of Theologia Germanica comes from his very short preface. He was a former priest and warden, i.e., curator of the House of the Teutonic Order in Frankfurt/Main and seems to have been part of a movement called the “Friends of God” and that quite marvelously long before George Fox (1624-1691) and the Society of Friends or the Quakers. This humble mystic probably wrote his booklet around 1350, because he refers to Johannes Tauler, Meister Eckhart’s student,[2] and in the humility of that movement, does not even attach his own name to the work.

The “Friends of God” may well have been the priests caught in the early fourteenth century conflict between the Avignon Pope John XXII and Emperor Louis IV of Bavaria.[3] The interdict that Pope John placed on him and his subjects in 1324 had already continued for 16 years, when the emperor declared the pope’s interdict invalid and ordered priests to celebrate masses once again. All those who held with the pope and the interdict were considered guilty of high treason (17-18) and some were exiled and others roamed the land. This mystic may well have held with such priests and been among their number. (20)

The Friends of God opposed the Beghards or “Brothers and Sisters of the Free Spirit” of that time. The latter are the “free thinkers” referred to in this book. They wanted reform by withdrawing people completely from the influence of the clergy, (15-16) while the Friends of God felt that an act of humility required accepting the church and clergy for the sake of order and discipline.

Martin Brecht, in his definitive biography of Luther writes that in his early lectures, Luther first emphasized a theology of humility. Reading these pages in Brecht, it seems to me that the early Luther is following the instructions of the mystical author of Theologia Germanica closely:[4] Luther requires deep contrition, magnifies sin, reduces the sinner to nothing, and teaches complete dependence on God.[5] Indeed, other than Luther’s early lectures on the Psalms and Romans, Theologia Germanica was Luther’s first publication, which he immediately followed by his early, extremely popular, non-polemical, pastoral pamphlets of 1518 to 1520.

These early pamphlets enjoyed many editions in his life-time[6] and in them, like the mystic, he speaks to common everyday people in German and not in an exclusionary academic German, let alone Latin. He writes “A Sermon on Indulgence and Grace,” (25 editions) “Contemplating the Holy Passion of Christ,” (32 editions) “On Preparing to Die,” (31 editions) “On the Estate of Marriage,” (19 editions) as well as pamphlets on the blessed sacraments: communion, (19 editions) penance, (18 editions) and baptism (18 editions). In 1520 his “Treatise on Good Works,” (23 editions) “On the Ban (excommunication),” (14 editions) and “Freedom of a Christian” (38 editions) are non-polemical and addressed to the laity, while his pamphlet on the “New Testament, that is the Mass,” (15 editions) already brings the light of his heart-felt faith on some of the practices of the church that needed to be reformed.

Not only did Luther address the laity in common everyday language like the mystic, but many features of his theology stem from having thoroughly digested this work. Many examples will follow.

Luther’s position on the free will could well derive from Theologia Germanica. For the mystic any self-will has to be surrendered to the will of God and freedom of the will can only be found in a complete surrender of one’s own will to the will of God, who is Pure Goodness and Perfection. In the words of the mystic,

“Humility springs up in the [human being], because in the true Light [s/he] sees (as it really is) that Substance, Life, Perceiving, Knowledge, Power, and all that pertains to them, all belong to the True Good, and not to the creature; but that the creature of itself is nothing and has nothing, and when it turns itself aside from the True Good in will or in works, nothing is left to it but pure evil.”[7] (89-90)

Luther’s basic argument in the Bondage of the Will against the freedom of the will as represented by Erasmus follows Theologia Germanica in that he argues a radical surrender of any good in human free will, finding that freedom can only be experienced in the will of God. The following sentence from the mystic could come right out of Luther: “A [human being], of [him/herself] and of [his/her] own power, is nothing, has nothing, can do and is capable of nothing but only infirmity and evil.” (73) The mystic follows Christ in utter self-denial:

“A [human being] should so stand free, being quit of [her or] himself, that is, of his or her I, and Me, and Self, and Mine, and the like, that in all things, [s/he] should no more seek or regard him or herself, than if s/he did not exist, and should take as little account of him or herself as if s/he were not and another had done all his or her works. “(56)

Only God counted to the mystic. For this mystic it is only insofar that the human will becomes one with God’s will that it can be free. In Luther’s words, “‘Free-will’ is obviously a term applicable only to the Divine Majesty; because only God can do and does (as the Psalmist sings) ‘whatever God wills in heaven and earth.’”(Psalm 135:6)[8]

In Susanna Winkworth’s introduction, she summarizes the mystic’s approach to the freedom of the will along with several other points very well:

“Their distinguishing doctrines [those of the Friends of God] were self-renunciation – the complete giving up of self-will to the will of God; – the continuous activity of the Spirit of God in all believers, the intimate union possible between God and [the human being] – the worthlessness of religion based upon fear or the hope of reward – and the essential equality of the laity and clergy, though for the sake of order and discipline, the organization of the church was necessary.” (20-21)

Working backwards through her citation, the essential equality of the laity and clergy, Luther may well have developed into the priesthood of all believers in his pamphlets, “The Treatise on the New Testament, that is, the Holy Mass” and “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.” (15 editions) In this Address, Luther states that “Whoever comes out of baptism can count themselves a sanctified priest, bishop, or pope, although not everyone may be fit to exercise such an office.”[9] The difference between laity and clergy for Luther is merely one of function and not status.[10] He demoted ordination to a mere ceremony from its previous status as a sacrament, in which the priest became ontologically superior to the lay person. Luther taught that there was not a spiritual estate made up of priests that excluded the peasants, burghers, and princes, but all Christians made up the spiritual estate as the priesthood of all believers.

In terms of what Winkworth calls “the worthlessness of religion based on fear or the hope of reward,” the mystic writes that a person “would rather die than do an injustice, and all this for nothing, but the love of justice. And to [such a person], justice is her own reward and rewards [the person] with herself.” (104) Another citation follows:

“But true Love is taught and guided by the True Light and Reason, and this true eternal and divine Light teaches Love to love nothing but the One True and Perfect Good, and that simply for its own sake, and not for the sake of a reward, or of the hope of obtaining anything, but simply for the love of Goodness, because it is good and has a right to be loved.” (108)

Luther’s theology is not quite that philosophical, because he aligns it more intentionally with biblical language, but in the “Freedom of a Christian” Luther underscores doing good works for nothing again and again, (umb sunst in his Early New High German) except sometimes he admonishes Christians not to do them out of self-interest, but only for the sake of the neighbor. “Look how love and pleasure for God” he writes, “flow out of faith, and how out of love flows a free, willing, and cheerful life [lived] freely, serving the neighbor for nothing.”[11] About a good work, Luther writes,

“Do not do it in the belief that you are doing something good for yourself, but give it way freely, so others can use it and enjoy it. If you do it for their good, then you will be a true Christian.“[12]

And again,

“All works should be directed for the good of our neighbor, for each and every person has enough by having faith, and all such a one’s works and whole life are left over to be able to serve the neighbor freely in love.”[13]

Luther does not write philosophically in terms of saying virtue for virtue’s sake like the mystic, but he may well have gotten that idea from him, an idea that goes through Luther all the way to Immanuel Kant’s concept of heteronomy, that is, giving or acting for an ulterior motive, rather than loving virtue for virtue’s sake.

The mystic writes that if what is done is not done out of such pure love, then one becomes a hireling:

“Those are enlightened with the True Light, who do not practice these things for a reward, for they neither look nor desire anything thereby, but all that they do is for love alone.” (96) [Otherwise one is a hireling[14] and] “A lover of God is better and dearer to [God] than a hundred thousand hirelings.” (97)

Luther also speaks about union with God in many ways, e.g., the marriage of the soul to Christ the bridegroom, but it is the real ascent in faith that runs through the whole “Freedom of a Christian.” As Luther writes in the famous last paragraph, “Through faith one ascends above oneself into God. From God one descends through love again below oneself and yet always remains in God and God’s love.”[15] The mystic writes about three stages by which one is led upward to attain true Perfection: “first, the purification, secondly, the enlightening, thirdly, the union.” (55) A threefold way is also in each of these stages. “Union is brought to pass by pureness and singleness of heart, by love, and by the contemplation of God, the creator of all things.” (55-56)

To just list some other very relevant influences on Luther: the mystic uses the terms “inward person” and “outward person” (78-79) the same way Luther does in the “Freedom of a Christian.” Indeed, Luther organizes his whole pamphlet by means of this distinction.[16]

In the false light of nature and reason that turns away from God seeking its own ends, people begin to feel that “the more like God one is, the better one is, and therefore I will be like God and will be God.” (99) After reading the mystic’s description of the devious ways people substitute themselves for God, one can easily see Luther formulating his slogan: “Let God be God!”[17]

The mystic writes of the “light of nature and reason” as well as the light of grace much like Luther does in the Bondage of the Will, although Luther adds, the light of glory. Luther argues that what cannot be understood in the light of nature can be resolved in the light of grace and what cannot be understood in the light of grace can be resolved in the light of glory.[18] “In this threefold light, each higher step explains what was insoluble at a lower one.”[19]

The mystic has an emphasis on experience (118) much like Luther, who, however, receives it from nominalism. The mystic speaks of creatures bent on themselves and away from God, (74 and 101) much like Luther’s definition of sin: curvatus in se, i.e., curved in upon the self.

There is a section in which the mystic seems to describe the Anfechtungen that Luther went through intermittently during his life.  This section is called, “How a righteous [Person] in this present Time is brought into Hell, and there cannot be comforted, and how the [Person] is taken out of Hell and carried into Heaven, and there cannot be troubled.” (50-52) The mystic has quite an explanation for why one goes down into the depths: “Now God has not forsaken such a [one] in Hell, but is laying God’s hand upon him [or her].” (51) Real suffering ensues from the laying of God’s hand upon a person.

The mystic is more philosophical than Luther, who seems to avoid that kind of reasoning. At one point he speaks of the Delphic oracle, who heard the voice from Heaven, “[Human], know thyself!” (47) He also refers to Boethius, who may well be a philosopher, who influenced him.[20] His understanding of evil, as non-being or the destruction of God’s created being, comes from St. Augustine. “Therefore it is evil or not good, and is merely nought.” (to use Winkworth’s old word once) (117) Luther does not refer to God as Pure Goodness and Perfection or see him as the Perfect One of whom we are all only imperfect parts, as creatures caught up in “this and that, here or there, now or then” who need to reorient ourselves to the Eternal One. The whole of mystic’s work seems to be a meditation on the Pauline verse, “For when the Perfect comes, then the parts will come to an end.”[21] For him the parts represent all creatures, who have come out of the wholeness and Oneness of God and need to return to God for their true being in God. Luther, of course, continues on his way like a fountain overflowing with theological insights. But he does not reason like this:

Now s/he who shall or will love God, loves all things in One as All, One and All, and One in All as All in One; and s/he who loves something, this or that, other than the One, and for the sake of the One, does not love God, for s/he loves something which is not God. Therefore s/he loves it more than God. (116)

What the mystic never tires of repeating is the self-denial required by Christ: “Behold one or two words can utter all that has been said by these many words: ‘Be simply and wholly bereft of the Self.’” (67) But that gives the person a very intimate oneness with God, who is pure Love, Goodness, and Perfection.

Part Two: The Influence of Boethius (A.D. 480-524) and the Consolation of Philosophy on Theologia Germanica  

The German mystic does more than just cite Boethius,[22] his philosophy is very much influenced by him. These are some of the statements of Boethius that come up in and get developed in Theologia Germanica:

“You have daily reminded me of Pythagoras’ saying, ‘Follow God.”[23] That intimate way with God rather than Christ, is also in Theologia Germanica. Boethius is very theocentric and filled with Roman and Greek mythology; he never mentions Christ. Perhaps the German mystic is also slightly more theocentric than Christocentric, but he does include Christ and St. Paul, because his book as a whole is a philosophical meditation on St. Paul’s love poem, where he singles out one of its verses: 1 Corinthians 13:10.


“If the things which you complain about losing were really yours, you would never have lost them.” (24) Everything in our earthly existence really belongs to God and can only be had in returning to God.

“Now the good is defined as that which, once it is attained, relieves [humans] of all further desires. This is the supreme good and contains within itself all the lesser goods. If it lacked anything at all, it could not be the highest good.” (43) The mystic uses the term “lack” for parts of the whole and speaks of the good and perfect this same way.

“The human soul seeks to return to its true good.” (45) Boethius makes clear that highest good is God just like the mystic.

“Nature inclines [humans] toward the true good, but error deceives them with partial goods.” (46) The German mystic would not speak of nature that way, for he sees it as a deceptive light. But in using 1 Corinthians 13:10, “When the complete/ perfect/ whole comes, then the part will come to an end,” the German mystic must have read the following words of Boethius:

“Human depravity, then, has broken into fragments that which is by nature one and simple; [humans] try to grasp part of a thing which has no parts and so get neither the part, which does not exist, nor the whole, which they do not seek.” (58) The German mystic could well develop this thought describing creatures as parts, who need to return to God for their true and whole being.

“You order the perfect parts in a perfect whole.” (60) The German mystic would not speak of perfect parts, but his ideas come from Boethius. Like the triple threefold way the he uses to describe a soul’s development until it attains union with God. Along this line Boethius writes:

“You release the world-soul throughout the harmonious parts of the universe as your surrogate, threefold in its operations, to give motion to all things.” (60) The translator of Boethius comments that the early medieval commentators read Boethius to present nature itself as threefold and the soul to be of a threefold nature. (60) The German mystic presents a triplet of threefold ways for the stages by which a human being is led upward to attain perfection. (TG 55-56)

“Now no one can deny that something exists which is a kind of fountain of all goodness; for everything which is found to be imperfect shows its imperfection by the lack of some perfection.” (61) For the German mystic the parts lack being and receive more and more being insofar as they return and unite with God, for “All things have their Being in God, and more truly in God than in themselves.” (TG 91 and 117)

“Nature did not have its origins in the defective and incomplete but in the integral and absolute; it fell from such beginnings to its present meanness and weakness.” (61)

“For, since nothing can be thought of better than God, who can doubt that [God] is the good, other than whom nothing is better.” (62) and “Whatever is the source of all things must be its substance, the highest good.” (63) and “Clearly when two things differ, one cannot be the other; therefore neither can be perfect since it lacks the other.” (63) and “It follows that [humans] become happy by acquiring divinity.” (63) The German mystic would not speak of becoming happy, but of eternal bliss. The German mystic, however, reasons very much like Boethius and uses these ideas.

“Thus everyone who is happy is a god and, although it is true that God is one by nature, still there may be many gods by participation.” (63) The intimate union with God that the German mystic challenges Christians to attain seems to relate to this kind of union with God expressed by Boethius.

“But, if you also grant that every good is good by participating in the perfect good, then you should concede by a similar line of reasoning that the good and the one are the same.” (66) and “Do you also understand that everything that is remains and subsists in being as long as it is one; but when it ceases to be one it dies and corrupts?” (66) Every time I read that thought in the Theologia Germanica, I wrote “Kierkegaard” in the margin, because it reminded me of Kierkegaard’s Purity of Heart is the Will One Thing! After reading Boethius, I understand the rationale behind this insight. In the words of Boethius, “Therefore partial goods cannot be truly good if they are different, but are good if they become one, then clearly they become good by acquiring unity.” (66) To go back to Boethius’ heading of this section: “God is One and [God] is the goal toward which all things tend.” (66)

Boethius also has Augustine’s teaching about evil as does the German mystic: “Then evil is nothing, since God, who can do all things, cannot do evil.” (72) Augustine’s conception of evil has been compared to the cavity in a tooth. The tooth in its being is good, where it has lost its being – that hole in its being and its decay into nothingness is the issue. It is not God’s good creation but its destruction and reduction to nothing that is evil. “So you will find that the evil which is thought to abound in the world is really non-existent.” (96)

“Virtue is the reward of a virtuous [human], so wickedness itself is the punishment of the wicked.” (82) That first idea certainly comes up again and again in Theologia Germanica. The mystic does not, however, mention the wicked.

“Human souls, however, are more free while they are engaged in contemplation of the divine mind, and less free when they are joined to bodies, and still less free when they are bound by earthly fetters.” (104)

“[Without prayer] what will be left to unite us to the sovereign Lord of all things? And so [human]kind must, as you said earlier, be cut off from its source and dwindle into nothing.” (107)

If Luther developed his conception of the light of glory from the German mystic’s light of nature or reason and light of grace, then the German mystic could well have gotten such concepts from Boethius. But Luther may also have gotten them from Plato.[24] “Light” in this sense speaks of an activity of the mind, a seeing of the mind, like “the light of the eyes” in biblical language. Now Boethius similarly underscores the activity of the mind, and in that way much anticipates Immanuel Kant’s rejection of the “blank slate” (tabula rasa) theory of the mind, where it is passively receiving only external impressions from the external world.

“Everything which is known is known not according to its own power but rather according to the capacity of the knower.” (110)

Boethius argues further: “Various and different substances have different ways of knowing.” (113) He discusses the sentient nature of lower animals and then writes, “Reason is characteristic of the human race alone, just as pure intelligence belongs to God alone.” (113) When he speaks of “the power of the mind,” (113) using the word “light” to express that idea is very imaginable. Boethius delineates the different ways that sentient minds can know: through the senses, e.g., shellfish that cling to rocks; imagination, e.g., beasts seeking and avoiding many things, like trees while running through a forest. Then he makes the statement from which the light of reason and the light of glory may have been developed from the German mystic to Luther: “But reason is characteristic of the human race alone, just as pure intelligence belongs to God alone.” (113) With the groundwork of Boethius, it would now be possible to speak of the light of reason, the light of grace, and the light of glory in terms of human reason and intelligence as opposed to the pure intelligence of God.

It is in this way – and now we are leaving the German mystic and relating to Luther, that Boethius resolves the freedom of the will by describing God’s pure intelligence as surpassing the reasoning of human beings.

“But if we, who are endowed with reason, could possess the intelligence of the divine mind, we would judge that just as the senses and imagination should accede to reason, so human reason ought justly to submit itself to the divine mind.” (114) Thus Luther can take the next step and speak of the light of glory above the light of reason, the light of grace, meaning with it what Boethius called the pure intelligence of the mind of God.

Luther distinguishes between two kinds of necessity in his debate about the free will with Erasmus, that of compulsion and that of immutability,[25] by which he seems to mean an unchanging necessity. Boethius also separates necessity into a simple and contingent one. But this gets into Luther and Erasmus’ debate about the free will and goes beyond Theologia Germanica, which does not explicitly delve into this issue, which becomes Boethius’ climax of The Consolation of Philosophy.

At the end of his work, Boethius has a very clear and cogent argument by which he affirms human free will and God’s foreknowledge of all things, because of God’s vantage-point from eternity, where the past, present, and future of time are grasped in one glance of God’s eternal mind, which also sees and comprehends the contingencies in which human free will transpires.

Perhaps it is too quickly that in the debate about the freedom of the will I said we left the German mystic behind. Although he does not mention this debate explicitly, he writes, “Now in the whole realm of freedom, nothing is so free as the will, and [s/he] who makes it his [or her] own, and does not suffer it to remain in its excellent freedom, and free nobility, and in its free exercise, does a grievous wrong.” (TG 123) When the will is at one with the Will of God, in an intimate union, which the mystic holds as all too possible, the will is free. Where it tries to call this freedom its own, it becomes enslaved. Thus the mystic affirms the freedom of the will for a follower of Christ, but paradoxically, he notes that the world will give such a person no end of suffering, pain, and grief. “So likewise was Christ’s human nature the most free and single of all creatures and yet felt he the deepest grief, pain, and indignation at sin that any creature ever felt.” (TG 124) Freedom of the will comes about by following Christ, which means that one must forsake all things. (TG 125) That brings to mind Janis Joplin and her song, “Bobby McGee”: “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” But in God, all things are gained, giving one the spiritual possession of the heavens and the earth and one’s true self as a brand new creature on the face of the earth and celebrating the glorious freedom of the children of God, to boot.


Susanna Winkworth, Translator. The Theologia Germanica of Martin Luther. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2004.

Richard H. Green, translator. The Consolation of Philosophy: Boethius. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1962.

Martin Brecht. Martin Luther: His Road to the Reformation 1483-1521. Philadelphia: Fortress press, 1981. This is the first of three volumes.

Peter D. S. Krey. Sword of the Spirit, Sword of Iron: Word of God, Scripture, Gospel, and Law in Luther’s Most Often Published Pamphlets (1520-1525), Ph.D. diss., Graduate Theological Union, 2001.

J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, translators. Martin Luther:  The Bondage of the Will. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell, 1957.

The latest American edition of Luther’s Works: LW

Pelikan, Jaroslav, and Helmut Lehmann, eds. Luther’s Works. 55 vols. St.Louis and Philadelphia: Concordia and Fortress, 1955-86.

The Weimar Edition of Luther’s Works: WA

Luther, Martin. D. Martin Luthers Werke, Kritische Gesamtausgabe.  61 Volumes. Weimar, 1983-1993.

Clemen, Otto, ed., unter Mitwerkung von Leitzmann, Albert. Luthers Werke in Auswahl. Vol. 1- 8. Berlin: Verlag von Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1929.

Philip D.W. Krey and Peter D.S. Krey, editors. Luther’s Spirituality. Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2007.

Ulrich Asendorf. Luther and Hegel: Untersuchung zur Grundlegung einer Neuen Systematischen Theologie, (An Investigation for the Foundation of a New Systematic Theology). Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, GMBH, 1982.

Eric Warmington and Philip Rouse, editors. The Great Dialogues of Plato. Translated by W.H.D. Rouse. New York: a Mentor Book, the New English Library. Ltd., 1956.


[1] Susanna Winkworth, Translator, The Theologia Germanica of Martin Luther, (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2004). Numbers in parentheses will represent pages in Winkworth’s Theologia Germanica.

[2] The Dominican mystic, Johannes Tauler’s dates are c.1300-1361 and those of Meister Eckhart are c.1260-c.1327.

[3] Pope John XXII was the second Avignon pope, who reigned from 1316 to 1334 and Emperor Louis IV of Bavaria ruled from 1314 to 1337. Louis of Bavaria gave protection to Marsilius of Padua and William of Ockham from the pope, who also declared the Spiritual Franciscans and Meister Eckhart heretical.

[4] See  Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: His Road to the Reformation 1483-1521, (Philadelphia: Fortress press, 1981), page 133. “The only way that [the human being] can now appear before God is in complete humility and abasement with his poverty and guilt, completely dependent on [God]. Poor, lowly humility as the proper attitude before God – that is the mark of Luther’s piety in these years.” Luther took this little book to heart. Brecht writes, however, that Tauler’s sermons also influenced Luther.

[5] Ibid.

[6] For the number of editions of Luther’s most popular pamphlets, see Peter D. S. Krey, Sword of the Spirit, Sword of Iron: Word of God, Scripture, Gospel, and Law in Luther’s Most Often Published Pamphlets (1520-1525)” Ph.D. diss., Graduate Theological Union, 2001.

[7] Susanna Winkworth translated this text in 1854. I updated the English in the citations, e.g., “springeth” to “springs” and “seeth” to “sees.” I left the older capitalization. I also inserted feminine pronouns with the masculine ones to overcome sexist language.

[8] J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, translators, Martin Luther:  The Bondage of the Will, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), page 105.  Also see Helmut T. Lehmann, ed., Luther’s Works. Vol. 33, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1957), page 68. Also see WA 18:635-638. The WA is the Weimar Edition.

[9] Martin Luther, Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, In the beginning of the section considering the first wall around the papacy. LW 44:129.  WA 6:c.408.

[10] LW 44:127.  WA 6: c. 407.

[11] Philip D.W. Krey  and Peter D.S. Krey, editors, Luther’s Spirituality, (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 2007), page 87. Our book has a translation of Luther’s popular German version of “Freedom of a Christian.” In the LW 31:333-377 and all American anthologies, English readers have access only to the translation of the more academic Latin version of the pamphlet. This one is shorter by a third, much more simple, direct, and spiritual and ends with a very famous paragraph, not quite as featured in the Latin version that goes on to analyze ceremonies.

[12] Ibid., page 89.

[13] Ibid., 86.

[14] I need to comment on this point. One has to brace oneself for a great deal of suffering when student loans and credit card balances mount up after graduate studies and bury a person in debt only thereafter to face unemployment. The pressure not to become a hireling is intense and one can really become desperate. I’m sure that the mystic would grant that “a laborer is worthy of his wages,” (1 Timothy 5:18) even though Jesus and even St. Paul did not ask for them. God can be trusted to provide, but one has to really pray that God increase and strengthen one’s faith.

[15] Philip and Peter Krey, editors, Luther’s Spirituality, page 90.

[16] See my “Notes on another Reading of the ‘Freedom of a Christian”:

[17] Luther, “A Sermon on Preparing to Die,” LW 42:105. WA 2: c.687.

[18] In Luther’s Bondage of the Will, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), page 316-317 or see Luther’s Works, Vol. 33, page 291 or the Weimar Edition, Vol. 18, c.787.

[19] Ulrich Asendorf’s Luther and Hegel: Untersuchung zur Grundlegung einer Neuen Systematischen Theologie, (An Investigation for the Foundation of a New Systematic Theology), (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, GMBH, 1982), page 160.

[20] Part Two will demonstrate the powerful influence of Boethius over the German mystic.

[21] 1 Corinthians 13:10.

[22] His full name is Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius: c. A.D. 480-524.

[23] Richard H. Green, translator, The Consolation of Philosophy: Boethius, (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1962.) page 3. Numbers in parentheses will now represent pages from Boethius, while those including a TG come from Susanna Winkworth, translator, The Theologia Germanica of Martin Luther, (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2004).

[24] In Plato’s Republic, he distinguishes different kinds of knowing: conjecture for shadows and reflections under the sun, belief for the world of sense objects there, understanding for thoughts and ideas, and fourthly, reasoning for the ideal forms of the good, true, and beautiful in the world of the mind. Eric Warmington and Philip Rouse, editors, The Great Dialogues of Plato, translated by W.H.D. Rouse, (New York: a Mentor Book, the New English Library. Ltd., 1956), page 309. Boethius distinguishes passive knowing by taking in sense impressions, imagination for animals in motion, where their minds can seek and avoid things; reasoning by human beings, whose minds by virtue of their own power can make distinctions; and fourthly, intelligence, a higher power of the mind, which is wholly free from all bodily affections and does not need the stimulus of extrinsic objects. Boethius ascribes pure intelligence to the mind of God. (113)

[25] J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, translators, Martin Luther:  The Bondage of the Will, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell, 1957), page 181.  Also see Helmut T. Lehmann, ed., Luther’s Works. Vol. 33, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1957), page 151. Also see page 38, footnote 37. WA 18:693-696.


Written by peterkrey

March 28, 2012 at 6:22 pm

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Hi Pr. Krey,
    I was casting about the web for bits on Boethius and Luther in anticipation of the 5th “Lutheranism and the Classics” conference in Fort Wayne, September 2018. I was pleased to read through your thorough treatment here. Should you happen to read comments, and care at all to be involved in such a conference, I’ll happily forward you details. In any case, it was a pleasure to read through your very full and rich presence among God’s people through the lens of your wordpress site! Take care, –cja (

    CJ Armstrong

    June 30, 2017 at 5:20 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: