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The Lutheran Confessions




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Johann Eck's 404 Theses, 1530

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Editor's Introduction

The wording of the Augsburg Confession was, in large part, prepared in response to the vitriolic attack of Johann Eck against Luther and the Lutheran Reformers, which Johann Eck had prepared for the Diet of Augsburg, at the command of Emperor Charles V. Eck was Martin Luther's most zealous opponent. Even as Luther and his colleagues believed it to be their duty to speak out against the errors and abuses of the Roman Church of their day, so Eck believed it his duty to defend Holy Mother Church against Luther and other emerging reformers, such as Zwingli. While Eck attacks as many others as he can think of, it is Luther who is the real aim of his attack, and, as his cover letter makes clear, it is to Luther that he attributes all the errors of everyone involved in the reforming movement.

These theses are an important insight into the attitudes of the Roman Church and provide important context for understanding the Augsburg Confession. Eck was also the chief author of the Confutation of the Augsburg Confession, to which the Apology of the Augsburg Confession is a reply.

At the end of this translation, by Henry Eyster Jacobs, appears Jacobs' introduction to the theses, providing additional helpful background and explanations of the document and its origin and purpose.

The style of this document is a bit difficult, since what Eck is doing is recounting, with separate paragraphs, the alleged errors of his opponents, at different times, in differing circumstances, on a wide variety of topics. Eck's assertions are a mixture or rumor, myth and fact, generally asserted with no citations and nearly always taken completely out of context. This is a work of propaganda more than theology. He pauses to interject comments and then moves on to his next set of assertions, or theses.

Reading through Eck's accusations is an illuminating exercise, since it presents the points at which Rome was disagreeing with Luther and illuminates the depth of the Roman Catholic misunderstanding of the position of the Lutherans.

Also to be noted is how Eck attempts to lump all the reforming movements together, identifying as a group, Luther and Zwingli, men who were sharply at odds with each other.

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