Johann Agricola was an influential German Reformer who broke with Martin Luther* over antinomianism, the issue of whether Christians were held to obey the Mosaic Law. Agricola went to school in Braunschweig and began his uni­versity career in Wittenberg in 1515-16. He soon established a close association with Martin Luther. Luther persuaded Agricola to change his course of study from medicine to theology, and he subsequently received a bachelor's degree in that subject in 1519. Agricola was a secretary at the famous Leipzig Debate of 1519 between Luther and the scholar Johann Eck; he also participated with Luther in the famous burning of the papal bull the following year.
In 1525 he became head of a new grammar school at Eisleben and a preacher at the Church of St. Nicholai. He was appointed the preacher of electoral Sax­ony's delegation at the Diets of Speyer (1525, 1526) and Augsburg (1530). At Eisleben Agricola began to assert his antinomianism. He condemned the Ten Commandments as an unnecessary carryover from the Old Testament and too similar to the Catholic doctrine of good works. In 1527 he attacked Luther's colleague Philip Melanchthon* for the inclusion of the Decalogue in Reformed theology. When Agricola returned to Wittenberg in 1536, the controversy raged violently. Luther responded against him with five disputations and a treatise, Against the Antinomians. Under persecution for his attacks on Luther's position, in 1540 Agricola went to Berlin, where he retracted his views. In the same year he was made court preacher by the Protestant prince Joachim II of Brandenburg. Luther, however, remained adamant in his rejection of his former disciple.
In 1548, following Emperor Charles V's* victory over the Protestants, Agricola was selected to help draft a provisional religious settlement between Prot­estants and Catholics, the Augsburg Interim. His role damaged his reputation among Lutherans, although Agricola himself thought that he had helped the Lutheran cause. Agricola wrote several theological works, including biblical commentaries and a catechism. He published a small collection of German proverbs that were illustrated with a commentary. Agricola was also a skilled theologian; his career provides fitting evidence to the controversies within Reformed circles during the first generation of the Reformation.
G. R. Elton, Reformation Europe, 1517-1559, 1963.
G. Kawerau, Johann Agricola von Eisleben: Ein Beitrag zur Reformationsgeschichte, 1881, rpt., 1977.
Andrew G. Traver

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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