The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Eck, Johann Maier von

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ECK, Johann Maier von, a Catholic theologian, life-long adversary of Luther: b. Eck, Suabia, 13 Nov. 1486; d. Ingolstadt, 1543. His father, a peasant named Maier, assumed the name Maier von Eck or Maier of Eck, after becoming bailiff of his village. Johann, at the age of 11 years, entered the University of Heidelberg whence he passed to the University of Tübingen and there at the age of 14 years took the degree of master of arts. Successively at Tübingen, Cologne and Freiburg universities he studied divinity, jurisprudence and mathematics and at the same time was instructor in philosophy. He was appointed professor of theology in the University of Ingolstadt (1510). While on his travels in Italy (1515) he took part in a public disputation in the University of Bologna and won high distinction; in 1516 on a similar occasion at Vienna he had a like success. In 1518 he published a pamphlet, ‘Obelisci,’ in defense of the Catholic doctrines attacked in Luther's celebrated ‘Theses’ of 31 Oct. 1517. Eck was now chancellor of the University of Ingolstadt and Luther put forward Carlstadt as a defender of the ‘Theses’; Carlstadt not only replied to Eck in print, but challenged him to a public disputation. Eck accepted the challenge and the disputation was held at Leipzig, with Eck as the champion of Catholicism against both Carlstadt and Luther. The disputation was commenced 27 June 1519 and lasted till 15 July. More than a year previously Luther in a letter to one of his friends credited Eck with eminent scholarship and great natural gifts, but after the disputation he was for Luther “a pitiful theologian” and “a miserable sophist.” The numerous audience and the townsmen with unanimity awarded the crown of victory to Eck, and Ludier, in a private letter to his intimate friend Spalatinus, confessed defeat. Eck, stimulated by his success, devoted himself thereafter wholly to working for the overthrow of his adversaries. He procured from the universities of Cologne and Louvain a condemnation of Luther's writing and was honored at Rome with the commission to publish in Germany Pope Leo's bull Exsurge Domine against Luther. But he was received with manifestations of popular enmity almost everywhere; even at Leipzig the bull was solemnly committed to the flames by the students and the populace. On several notable occasions afterward — at the diet of Augsburg (1530), the conferences at Worms (1540) and those at Ratisbon (1541), he was again a principal champion of Catholicism. Some of his works are a German translation of the Old Testament, and a revision of Luther's translation of the New Testament. His pamphlets and books against the doctrines of Luther are included in ‘Operum Johannis Eccii contra Lutherum.’ Consult Wiedemann, ‘Dr. Johannes Eck’ (Regensburg 1865).