Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Theology (ThD)


Systematic Theology

First Advisor

Norman Nagel

Scripture References in this Resource (separated by semi-colons)

Psalm 118:163; Psalm 1; Matthew 11:28;


The approach to Luther's theological development which will be taken here is a chronological one. This is in no small part due to the character of Luther's writings themselves, many of which are occasional in nature and therefore inherently reflect Luther's theological development. It is therefore imperative that the time of writing and the occasion of a quotation must always be taken into account. What becomes evident in following such a chronological approach is that we are then learning him all the way through and may be kept from selecting pieces which fit into a preconceived pattern. Indeed, any such foreshortened attempt at presenting Luther as definitive wherever and whenever he uttered a statement regarding Holy Absolution ultimately leads to the creation of a theology of the author writing about Luther, but scarcely a theology of Lutheranism. Here the attempt will be made to trace Luther’s thought as it develops on the basis of whole documents rather than individual statements in isolation, finally noting when a line of development actually comes to full fruition. This study will also be done with respect for the major phases in the reformer's work, spanning the years 1514 - 1537. Luther's early years as a professor of theology to the Diet of Worms will be examined extensively, since this was clearly the most fluid and formative period in Luther’s theological development; the next period sees Luther apply his "reformational discovery" to the ordering and defining of Holy Absolution in the church. This will also include the controversy at Nuremberg which sprang from Osiander's desire to abolish general confession, and will culminate with Luther's own confession of Holy Absolution in the Smalcald Articles. The procedure which will first be followed will provide the historical context of Luther’s thought on the subject of absolution and will secondly provide an examination of the major documents in each period outlined above along with a summary analysis of the isolated references made by Luther in various writings which deal with absolution that are contemporaneous.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.