Contributed Talk - Working Group History of Astronomy

Ideo sperandum est eum abbreviaturum tempus. Einige Bemerkungen über (pseudo)wissenschaftliche und apokalyptische Ansichten in Martin Luthers unklaren Positionen hinsichtlich der Berechnung der Endzeit [Some remarks on (pseudo)science and apocalyptical claims in Luther’s ambiguous position concerning the computation od the End of the Time]

M. Quatrale1
1Freie Universität Berlin

A form of erudition in the 16th Century concerns the various attempts to compute the End of the Time, with particular emphasis on astrological topics. Well known in Luther’s entourage is Melanchthon’s interest in such field. Luther’s polemic against such kind of superstition (“pseudoscience”, cf. WATi 2, Nr. 2413a; WATi 2, Nr. 2730a) provides on the one hand a confessional basis for a (Gnesio)lutheran form of Demonology, on the other hand legitimates a proper Lutheran apocalyptical, or rather kenotical hermeneutical key for the outward appearance as a whole. But in Luther’s own apocalyptical outline, some theologically relevant contraddictions (cf. WATi 2 Nr. 2439; WATi 2, Nr. 1335 and 2441; WA 44,377,11) lead to different interpretations of his position concerning ‘Signs’. Through the guideline of some Luther’s ‘informal’ ipsissima verba concerning such topic in the so- called Tischreden — WATi 1, Nr. 17; WATi 2, Nr. 3520; WATi 3, Nr. 3332; WATi 1, Nr. 1026; WATi 1, Nr. 678; WATi 5, Nr. 5573; WA 42, 34b, 5-17; WA 10 I. 2, 108, 1-18; WATi 1, Nr. 678; 5, Nr. 5989; WABr 2,367,14f.; 6,381,9ff.; WATi 1, Nr. 855; WATi 5, Nr. 6251; WATi 5, Nr. 5734 —, my aim here is to shortly sketch such contraddiction, in the attempt to trace back its theological roots, and so to identify some recurring patterns in a broader sense, affecting not only Luther’s own theological position, but rather the debate between Gnesiolutheran and Philippist in subsequent years. The background hypothesis is that in Luther’s polemic against Astrology as “pseudoscience” a huge role is played by a kind of pseudo-scientifical, anti-aristotelical argumentation, whose (implicit) roots are to trace back in Luther’s peculiar way to understand the christological Doctrine of the so-called communicatio idiomatum and the Divine Presence as its unavoidable counterpart. This kind of ‘Presence’ allowing an over-interpretation of the Signs of the End of the Time as the only proper Divine Signs in the sense of a ‘hermeneutical circle’ between reality (‘real Signs’ as fulfillment of the prophecy) and authoritative sources (as Signs to be fulfilled within the reality itself), leads to a rejection of the possibility of a ‘readable’ appearance beside the Divine Signs, being such Sings unavoidably apocalyptical Signs. Such implicit petitio principii in Luther’s production, deeply linked to the christological-eschatological core of his theology as a whole, becomes a peculiar form of identification of the Gnesiolutheran group, grounding the pride of a self-legitimation as apocalyptical figure, therefore – due to the impossibility of a theological-political legitimation of such apocalyptical claim, intending each theological-political kind of institution as antichristical products – to be identified as the only proper ‘Lutheran’ group.