Heretics in Luther's homeland: The controversy over original sin in late sixteenth-century Mansfeld
AuthorChristman, Robert John
AdvisorKarant-Nunn, Susan C.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractDuring the early 1570s, a dispute over the theological definition of original sin rent the central German county of Mansfeld, homeland of Martin Luther. The controversy, initiated by Matthias Flacius Illyricus, divided the conservative Gnesio-Lutheran clergy into two hostile camps. One, led by the Superintendent Hieronymus Mencel, was centered in the city of Eisleben and rejected Flacius's definition of original sin. The other, centered in the city of Tal Mansfeld, was led by the powerful deacon, historian, and polemicist Cyriacus Spangenberg, and accepted Flacius's definition. This dissertation examines the central doctrinal premises over which these clerics fought, as well as their broader implications for Lutheran theology, before turning to other social, political, and economic factors that influenced the clerics' decisions to side with one group or the other. But the controversy was not limited to the clergy. The counts of Mansfeld, numbering between seven and ten during the period and stemming from three dynastic lines, also split over the issue of original sin. One line sided with the group of clerics centered in Eisleben, two with the pastors headquartered in Tal Mansfeld. This study explores the involvement of the counts in the debate over doctrine, but also addresses the various political and other non-religious forces that caused them to split over the issue. With the pastors preaching and pamphleteering and the counts battling among themselves, it did not take long for the laity to become deeply involved and divided over the issue of original sin. Contemporary sources suggest that the miners of Mansfeld fought in the streets and taverns over the issue. This study explores how the clerics articulated the debate to the laity, and the degree to which these commoners understood it. Furthermore, it explores social and other non-religious reasons why the laity took sides in this doctrinal debate. This dissertation argues that although a variety of forces were at play pushing members of these three groups--the clerics, counts, and commoners--in one direction or another, an interest in the doctrinal issue and its implications for wider theology was a motivating theme central to each group.
Degree ProgramGraduate College