John Staupitz had been an advisor to Elector Frederick the Wise when he established a new university at Wittenberg in 1502. Upon Staupitz’s recommendation, Frederick invited Luther to teach at the university. So in 1508, Luther moved to the Augustinian convent at Wittenberg.
Luther was to teach physics, the science of matter and motion, and dialectics, the debating of rightness or wrongness of ideas about religion, a kind of philosophy. Luther was frustrated at having to teach these subjects because he wanted more time to study the Bible.
Bachelor of Divinity
In spite of having to teach physics and dialectics, Luther threw himself into the study of Greek and Hebrew, the Biblical languages. He studied hard and a few months after arriving in Wittenberg he was awarded a bachelor degree in divinity in the study of Biblical theology.
At 1 o’clock each day, Luther lectured on the Bible. The teaching of the Bible was something new for this period of history. The Bible was little-studied or taught until this time. Instead, students studied the “church fathers,” theologians who wrote before the year 700. The study of “theology” before Luther came on the scene, was basically the study of traditions in the church. For example, one of the common teachings was that when God said, “Let there be light,” the “light” He created was actually theology, or the study of God and religion.
Luther’s new style of teaching attracted students from across Europe. Staupitz, the leader of the Augustinian monks, asked him to preach in the church of the Augustines. Luther was very shy about preaching in the church, although it was just a run-down, derelict old building at the time. Luther did not want the responsibility of speaking “before men in the place of God.”[i] But Staupitz insisted.
The sermons that Luther preached were so different from anything the people had ever heard before, that soon the ramshackle church was full to overflowing. Even Frederick the Wise came to hear Luther preach.
What was so different about Luther’s sermons? He preached from the Word of God and his goal was the salvation of souls. Until that time, sermons were a form of religious entertainment more than instruction in holiness and the things of salvation.
[i] J. H. Merle d’Aubigne; Reformation of the Sixteenth Century.