Now I come from Luther’s discussion with the Roman church,. . Erasmus, and Thomas Muenzer, to Luther’s doctrines themselves. There I am starting with the principle of biblicism which is attributed to Luther. Whenever you see a monument representing Luther, you will always find that he is represented with the Bible in his hands. This is a little misleading, and the Catholic church is right when it says that there was biblicism in the whole Middle Ages – and I have emphasized that in this class very often; the biblicistic attitude is especially strong in the late Middle Ages immediately preceding the Reformation. And in a Catholic nominalist theologian such as Ockham, we have already a radical criticism of the Church by the Bible.

Nevertheless in Luther the biblical principle means something else. What did it mean before? In the nominalistic theology of people like Ockham, it meant the law of the Church, which may be turned against the actual Church but which remains a law. And on the other hand, we have the Renaissance relationship to the Bible, in which the Bible is the source book of the true religion, to be edited by good philologians such as Erasmus. These were the two attitudes – the legal attitude in nominalism, the doctrinal attitude in humanism. But neither of these was able to break through the fundamentals of the Catholic system, which are anyhow the system of the law. Therefore only a new principle of the understanding of the Bible was able to break through the nominalistic and humanistic doctrines.