Leipzig Debate

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The Leipzig Debate (German: Leipziger Disputation) was a theological disputation originally between Andreas Karlstadt and Johann Eck. Eck, a defender of Catholic doctrine and a highly respected Dominican friar, had challenged Karlstadt to a public debate concerning the doctrines of free will and grace. The Leipzig Debate took place at Pleissenburg Castle (now the location of the city hall) in Leipzig, and lasted from June to July 1519. The purpose of the debate was to discuss Luther's teachings and was to be held in the presence of Duke George (an opponent of Luther). Eck was concerned about clerical abuses but his life's work had been dedicated to the defence of Catholic teachings and combating heresy. He was considered the best debater in Germany.[1]

Martin Luther arrived in Leipzig and joined the debate in July 1519, at the invitation of Eck. Luther and Eck expanded the terms of the debate, to include matters such as purgatory, the sale of indulgences, the need for and methods of penance, and the legitimacy of papal authority.[2] Eck's debating skills led to Luther's open admission of heresy in order to not be defeated and he declared that sola scriptura (scripture alone) was the basis of Christian belief and that the Pope had no power as he was not mentioned in the Bible. Luther also condemned the sale of indulgences to the laity in this way as there was no mention of purgatory in the Bible.

The debate led to Luther's excommunication from the Catholic Church by the Pope in the bull Exsurge Domine in June 1520 and his views were banned from preaching or writing. However there was much opposition to the bull especially in north west Germany were Lutheran beliefs were strongest.

A joint verdict on the outcome of the debate was to be issued by the University of Erfurt and the University of Paris, but the theological faculty of Erfurt recused itself. The faculty in Paris delivered a negative verdict on Luther's writings in 1521, but made no direct reference to the debate in Leipzig itself.


  1. ^ AQA History, AS Unit 1, Philip Stanton p48
  2. ^ Kolb, Robert (2009). Martin Luther. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 24. ISBN 0199208948.