Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Mentor | Staupitz

Johann Von Staupitz

First of all, Johann Von Staupitz is referenced as Luther’s father in doctrine and bearer in Christ. “Everything had started with him.” Although this may be true, the mentor was “generally underexposed” and “seldom fully appreciated.” The Roman Catholic Church put his writings on the index of forbidden books. And, Protestantism seemed to only view him as an Alfred to the Dark Knight Reformer. But, without a knowledge of this teacher, “the Reformation in Germany cannot be understood fully and properly.” [1]

Staupitz’ life verse was “I am yours, save me” taken from the Psalms. This highlights the emphasis of a life completely under God’s control and within the Maker’s hands. With this understanding of vocation and his deep loyalty to Scripture (“he’s held to whatever the sacred page teaches”), it is no wonder that the man had such an impact on both the Lutheran and Catholic Reformations. [2]

Life and Teachings

Between 1463 and 1468, Johann Von Staupitz was born to an old noble Saxon-Meissen family. He studied at the University of Cologne, receiving his bachelor of arts in 1484 and receiving his master of arts in 1489. By the death of his father in 1494, Staupitz had already become an Augustinian friar. He was ordained a priest and became a Baccalaureus Biblicus.[3]

By 1498, he found himself as a Magister at a convent in Tubingen, a relatively young institution, where the four classical faculties of philosophy, theology, jurisprudence, and medicine were taught. Staupitz appreciated the upcoming rise of reform at friaries and university studies. One change that affected Tubingen more than the Augustinian friary was that Hebrew and Greek were being studied along with Latin. At Tubingen, Staupitz would have also encountered the ideas of the most widely known theologians and preachers of the time.[4]

It is here between 1497 and 1498 that Staupitz’ first writings were published. They covered the first two chapters of Job and reemphasized the impact of the Lord in a similar way to his life verse. “At the beginning of each single ‘sermon’ he repeated the main theme, ‘The Lord has given…’” He also stressed the mercy of God, sermonizing the correlation between the gentile Job and his relation to God, owing much to a theology of grace. These sermons also depict Staupitz as “a reformer of the religious life.” “He was critical of the non-reformed mendicant friars. In his mind there was a connection between the devotion and work of the friars and that of the common people.” [5]

He drew heavily on St. Augustine as a source and made good use of the talk of the “sweetness of God.” “Staupitz’s image of Christ was essentially that of the generous giver.” He had a humanist incline, turning away from late medieval scholasticism and preferring the earlier church fathers and the Bible. He became “a reformer of the monastic life and of pastoral care” in his own rite.[6]

It would only be after Staupitz achieves his own doctorate, becomes the head of a monastery, and takes his role in Wittenberg that he would meet the young Martin Luther. But, his education, influence, and input were definitely sources that shaped the wee Reformer’s innocent mind. “Luther himself indicated that through Staupitz the light of the gospel had entered his heart.”[7]

[1] Franz Posset, The Front-Runner of the Catholic Reformation, (Ashgate, Burlington, VT, 2003), xiii, xv.
[2] Ibid., 1, xv.
[3] Ibid., 32, 34, 36-37.
[4] Ibid., 38-40.
[5] Ibid., 43-48.
[6] Ibid., 50-52, 57.
[7] Ibid., 1.

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