Wendelin Steinbach's lectures on the Letter to the Galatians: A late medieval approach to Pauline authority and teaching

Daniel Peter Metzger, Marquette University


Wendelin Steinbach lectured on the Pauline corpus during the years just prior to the Reformation era. Recent Reformation scholars have compared Steinbach's theology to standards drawn from the sixteenth century. These historians have stressed the nominalist categories which Steinbach uses rather than emphases in his thought which arise from his encounter with the text. Using this approach, they have criticized Steinbach for ascribing insufficient authority to Scripture and for teaching a semi-pelagian doctrine of grace and justification. This study argues that a different understanding of Steinbach emerges if he is compared to a representative of the tradition which preceded him rather than to sixteenth-century thought. A comparison of Steinbach's commentary on Galatians to that of Thomas Aquinas allows Steinbach to be judged in his own historical terms. Aquinas's non-controversial, paraphrasing method also allows interpretive tendencies and points of special emphasis in Steinbach's commentary to stand out more clearly. This method has led to a different assessment of Steinbach's theology. The thesis of this dissertation is that Steinbach's commentary on Galatians exhibits a theology of which the dominant themes are the work of Christ and the grace of God. Although Steinbach uses nominalist categories to elaborate the doctrines of grace and justification, his thought is influenced primarily by his study of Paul and Augustine. Steinbach treats Pauline authority as a major theme of Galatians. He does not oppose the authority of Paul or of Scripture to the authority of the Church. Rather, he emphasizes that all authority belongs to Christ, the Church's Head, who speaks also through Paul. For Steinbach a second major theme of Galatians is the end of the Old Law. Steinbach's primary understanding of the Old Law is that it teaches of Christ by prefiguring Him. By clinging to the figure, the Galatians were denying that the reality had arrived in Christ. Steinbach considers the most important theme of the letter to be the necessity of grace. Within a nominalist framework, Steinbach emphasizes both the absolute dependence of human beings on divine grace and the abundant supply of that grace found in Christ.

Recommended Citation

Metzger, Daniel Peter, "Wendelin Steinbach's lectures on the Letter to the Galatians: A late medieval approach to Pauline authority and teaching" (1994). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9433784.