The Debate with Pirckheimer
The published exchange of pamphlets between Johannes Oecolampadius and the Nuremberg humanist Willibald Pirckheimer pitted two renowned humanists against each other. Whereas other Wittenbergers rejected Oecolampadius’s biblical exegesis, Pirckheimer attacked Oecolampadius’s use of the church fathers, and he skillfully manipulated the debate to draw attention to those fathers who supported his side. Like Luther, Pirckheimer argued that “this is my body” must be understood literally, and that reason must be subordinated to faith. Pirckheimer’s rhetoric and his harsh polemic were intended to establish his superiority to Oecolampadius and undermine his opponent’s ethos or character and his credibility. Oecolampadius’s responses to Pirckheimer were also rhetorically shaped, but the Basler could not match Pirckheimer’s superior social position. Their exchange highlights the importance of nontheological factors in shaping the controversy.
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