The new issue of Credo Magazine is unique, drawing our attention to an aspect of the Reformation often forgotten: The Reformation of the Family. Today we would like to highlight Kristen Padilla’s article, “No Woman’s Chit-Chat: Argula von Grumbach as Prophetess, Writer, and Defender of the Reformation.”
Kristen Padilla is the marketing and communications coordinator at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, where she received a master of divinity in 2008. In that role, she is the editor of the Beeson magazine and executive producer of the Beeson podcast. Kristen also occasionally blogs at kristenrpadilla.com.
Here is an excerpt from her article:
September 20, 1523 is a date not found in any Reformation timeline I have seen. In fact, if the opponents of the Reformation at the University of Ingolstadt would have had their way, that date, the events surrounding a letter they received, and its female author, whom they called a “female devil,” would be lost to obscurity.
For why is it necessary to remember the “silly bag” who took on, by herself, the formidable powers of the University of Ingolstadt, an institution whose pro-chancellor was none other than the famous John Eck, Martin Luther’s main opponent?
But thanks be to God, Argula von Grumbach’s open letter to the rector and council of the university was not lost. In fact, it was published and went through fourteen editions in less than two months! Argula’s importance and contributions are many, but suffice it to say Argula is the first fruit among women of the Reformation for whom God’s Word came alive and as a result wrote about and defended it.
From orphan to reformer
Argula von Stauff was born into Bavarian nobility near the end of the fifteenth-century. She was brought up in a family that valued religion and education, with her father giving her an expensive Koberger Bible in German at the young age of ten. In her letter to the university, she writes that it was not her lack of interest or inability to read that kept her from reading this Bible. Rather, Franciscan advisers told her that to read it would “lead her astray.” Ironically, they were the ones who led her astray.
Argula’s life was on the fast track for nobility and luxury. As a teenager, she served on Queen Kunigunde’s court in Munich as a lady-in-waiting. But tragedy soon struck: her parents succumbed to the plague of 1509, leaving her orphaned; and in 1516 her uncle and guardian was beheaded. By the time she married Friedrich von Grumbach, which was most likely an arranged marriage, she was no longer a young woman. She joined him in Dietfurt, where Friedrich served as the town’s administrator.
We are not sure when Argula was first exposed to the new reforming ideas, but by the time she wrote her letter in 1523, she had read the Bible, including Luther’s translation of the New Testament, as well as a considerable amount of reforming works from Wittenberg. What is more remarkable about Argula, perhaps, are her many contacts with reformers and those with reforming views. She corresponded with Luther; Philip Melanchthon; a vicar at the cathedral of Zeilitzheim named Jacob Pfeffer; Paul Speratus, who was both a scholar and cathedral preacher; reformer Andreas Osiander in Nuremberg, who will appear again soon in her story; Spalatin, the court chaplain to Frederick the Wise; and possibly Johann Eberlin von Gunzburg, as her writings suggest. Argula also kept herself and others well informed of news relating to the Reformation, even sending word to Luther in 1522 about new persecutions in the Netherlands. …