MARTIN LUTHER AND AUGUSTINE 
That Augustine was an influence on Martin Luther is undeniable; different historians and theologians, however, vary in opinion as how great this influence was.
Luther joined the Order of Saint Augustine at Erfurt in July 1505, and received a spiritual formation that focused on “Great Father Augustine” (which also was the title of a hymn then in Augustinian use).
The Order used Augustine’s thought in the theological preparation given to its candidates. One of Augustine’s superiors, Johann von Stauptiz O.S.A. (1468-1524), gave Augustine especial emphasis.
It is certain, therefore, that Luther had read and studied many of Augustine’s writings, that he memorised passages from Augustine, and that he cited Augustine more than any other non-Scriptural source.
It is known, for example, that Luther used a copy of the printed collection of some works by Augustine that had been published in Strassburg by Martinus Flach in 1489 under the title of Opuscula plurima, for Luther with his own hand wrote annotations on its margins in 1509. And in 1516 Luther was known to have been studying the eighth volume of the Opera Omnia (the world's first complete printed collection of Augustine's works) edited by Johannes Amerbach in eleven volumes in Basel in 1506
Specialist studies of Luther’s writings have determined the wide range of Augustine’s works that Luther cited. Luther was one of the first major figures to have readily available to him the ‘entire Augustine’ in the Johann Amerbach printed edition of Augustine’s Opera omnia ("Complete Works") mentioned above.
Luther was not only trained in a theology that was heavily Augustinian, but also found resonance in Augustine’s thought for some of the theological issues with which he himself struggled, e.g., sin, grace, predestination, the interpretation of Scripture, and faith.
He initially made his own the basic tenets of Augustine’s theology. This is most evident in his work as a professor at the University of Wittenberg before the time he posted his now-famous ninety-five theses on the castle church there on 31st October 1517.
Luther encouraged his fellow professors to read Augustine’s works. Augustine was the patron saint of the university.
With the public eruption of the Protestant Reformation in 1517, Luther did not abandon Augustine, but used him selectively and sometimes out of context in an effort to support the changed direction of his own line of thought.
There became large areas of thought where Luther diverged from Augustine, e.g., in matters regarding the authority and magisterium of the Church.
Even so, Augustine’s thought was still frequently used as the base from which Luther’s theology proceeded. As Luther matured, his theology became increasingly independent of Augustine, but he continued to praise Augustine.
Further historical and theological research remains to be done on Augustine’s influence on Luther at various stages of the latter’s life.
Photos (at right)
Picture 1: Statue of St Augustine in Augustinian Church of St Thomas, Prague, Czech Republic.
Picture 2: Exterior of the church.
Picture 3: A section of the church interior.
For Augnet pages on Luther and the theology of Augustine, click here.