Who won the Leipzig debate between Martin Luther and Johann Eck? What was the final conclusion? How did it affect to the Reformation? Is a transcript of the debate available online?

  • 4
    I think you need to be more specific on what resources you like beyond the wikipedia entry so you get what you want. May 15, 2022 at 0:22
  • @GratefulDisciple I need its transcript or related posts, books etc. Because I find it difficult to get resources on this subject.
    – Wenura
    May 16, 2022 at 8:08
  • I incorporated your further detail from the other question and vote to close the other question as duplicate. In the future, rather than leaving the further details in a comment, you need to edit it into the Q itself. Sep 3, 2022 at 16:54
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    "Eck came off victorious, exposed Luther's heresy, and won over as a loyal adherent to the Catholic standard, George, Duke of Saxony." ~ Catholic Encyclopaedia: Johann Eck | If you're interested in the debates of the time, you should read cardinal St. Robert Bellarmine's De Controversiis. He demolishes the Protestant position.
    – Glorius
    Sep 6, 2022 at 12:51

2 Answers 2


I only know of one source, which I have here, on the table, in the form of a published book. I will extract quotes from it, to give a flavour of what the author says about the Leipzig debate between Martin Luther and Johann Eck, a professor from the University of Ingolstadt, held between 4th and 14th of July, 1519.

"On the appearance of Luther's theses [Eck] had leveled against them an attack under the title Obelisks, the word used to designate interpolations in Homer. Luther replied with Asterisks. Eck's attack was galling to Luther because he was an old friend, not a mendicant, but a humanist, not "a perfidious Italian" but a German, and not the least because he was formidable... he was a man of prodigious memory, torrential fluency, and uncanny acumen...

[Eck] openly baited Luther by challenging his alleged assertions that the Roman Church in the days of Contantine was not above the others, and that the occupant of the see of Peter and the vicar of Christ - in other words, that the papacy was of recent and therefore of human origin... [Then comes Luther's response to that]

Luther set himself to prepare for the debate. Since he had asserted that only in the decretals of the previous four hundred years could the claims of papal primacy be established, he must devote himself to a study of the decretals. As he worked, his conclusions grew ever more radical. To a friend he wrote in February: 'Eck is fomenting new wars against me. He may yet drive me to a serious attack upon Romanists. So far I have been merely trifling.'..." Here I Stand - Martin Luther by Roland Bainton, pp 107-109, Lion 1988 reprint

Once all the preparatory letters had been sent back and forth, the debate proper started in July, 1519. A description in the book follows, of the ceremony, the pomp, the personnel, what the choir sang while the town piper played lustily, all prior to dinner. Then the preliminary skirmishes over the rules of the verbal tournament are mentioned. The only point of note (for your purposes) is that Eck said 'No' to stenographers as that would chill the passion of the debate, but he lost. Melanchthon said, "The truth might fare better at a lower temperature."

The debate takes eight pages to detail, including the statement of an eyewitness, but if you find the foregoing interesting, you might like to obtain the book. It is to be recommended as a scholarly, well written work. The entire section is from pages 107 to 120. You would need to consult Catholic sources for their version of events.

It goes without saying that Catholics would largely tend to say Eck won the debate, while Protestants would say Luther won it. As the book I quote from is written by a Reformed Protestant scholar, it forms the latter conclusion.


I will give a Lutheran perspective. An online source, from this perspective for the debate can be found here. The highlighted quotes that are brought out in this response comes from that online source.

It is interesting that to begin with, the debate took place during a time in which Luther held to a belief in purgatory. For example:

In his ninth thesis Luther had assumed, with the scholastic theology of the times, that there is a purgatory, but had claimed that it is not settled whether the souls in purgatory are certain of their future salvation, and whether divine grace is effecting a reformation in them.

In reading what transpired during the debate, the nature of the debate followed what Eck requested:

Eck demanded that no one should be permitted to read anything from a paper, but every speaker must speak ex corde.

Melanchthon wrote how Eck:

… thought that the nature of the debate precluded its being reported, for that the force of the debaters was increased by speaking ex tempore and would be decreased by the delay of writing, that while minds were stimulated by rapidity, they would be enervated by delay.

These rules of engagement set the stage, early in the debate, for Carlstadt to flounder:

At this point Carlstadt began to speak haltingly and admitted an activity of man's free will that is communicated by grace, but he claimed that activity is as when a wagon is set in motion : it is really grace alone that operates. Melanchthon had meanwhile slipped a paper to him from which Carlstadt tried to read, when Eck protested that this was against the rules of debate on which they had agreed. He also charged that Carlstadt had brought a private notary into the meeting who was carefully taking down Eck's remarks, and then helped Carlstadt at his lodging to prepare his replies for the next day, while he, Eck, was compelled to rely solely upon his memory and had to speak ex tempore.

Sadly, the Lutherans broke the rules of engagement. The author writes about Eck's comments following the debate:

[Melanchthon had passed a note to Carlstadt during the debate, which Eek resented], three doctors of law, several professors who aided him privately and publicly even in the course of the debate. But I alone, with nothing but right on my side, withstood them.

The author of what transpired, during middle of the debate, adds his comments:

Nature and grace had not favored Carlstadt. Over and against the tall, portly Eck with his dapper appearance and jaimty airs the little sallow professor from Wittenberg with his hollow, monotonous voice, his poor memory, and his nervous and irritable temper made a very poor showing. He was habitually confused, had to hunt among his notes for the remark which he was going to make when his turn came to speak, always came into the hall with a load of ponderous tomes, which he was incessantly searching without finding what he wanted,

He notes how Luther wrote about Carlstadt:

He dishonored, instead of honoring, our cause. He is a most unhappy debater, of an appallingly dull mind." The Wittenbergers were hanging their heads in shame during this ordeal. Thus matters stood on the eve of July 4, 1519.

On the other hand, the author writes about Luther debating Eck after Carlstadt:

It is a queer fact, which a close study of the protocol of this debate reveals, that Eck winced more under the patristic than under the Scriptural arguments of Luther. He was noticeably weak in his Scripture-proofs, while Luther massed his striking texts for a powerful charge upon his opponent. But that he would have to consider himself defeated also by arguments from the fathers was an unbearable thought to Eck.

The author writes about Luther saying:

Eck's assertion-that the Greeks are arch-heretics he declared extreme,...

Here are a couple of more comments about the debate. After one session, the author notes:

In the afternoon Luther continued to speak of the condemned teachings of Wyclif and Hus, and said that there were among these teachings some that had a right Christian ring; for instance, that there is a Church universal, that it is not necessary for salvation to believe that the primacy of the Pope exists by divine right. Many of the old fathers had believed thus and had gone to heaven.

At this statement of Luther Duke George was observed to lean forward, put his arm akimbo, and exclaim excitedly, "The pest take the man!"

At another session, he writes about Luther:

... Continuing in German, he said that he did not deny that human right of the papacy, and then proceeded with his argument in Latin, stating that the majority of the fathers do not understand the rock to signify Peter, while the rest are undecided. The Asiatic bishops, Irenaeus and others, he said, had reprimanded the Pope, and the best of the Greek fathers had never been under the Pope; Gregory the Great had opposed the absolute primacy. In John 21, 16 no supremacy is conferred on Peter, at least, no such authority as the present Pope has, but he is merely exhorted for the love of Christ to do and to suffer all things in behalf of the Church. Now, where is there such a pope? Luther asked. He proceeded to emphasize cordial love as the great duty inculcated in this text, and this love, he said, concerns all teachers. A wicked teacher, also a wicked Pope, must either mend his ways or be deposed.


Here the session of Friday afternoon was adjourned. It was reported that many in the audience had become offended at Luther's statement that the schismatic Greeks are saved.

The author notes how Loughlin comments:

... the Leipzig Debate was the last occasion on which the ancient custom of swearing to advance no tenet contrary to Catholic doctrine was observed. In all subsequent debates between Catholics and Protestants the bare text of Holy Writ was taken as the sole and sufficient fountain of authority. This, naturally placed the Catholics in a disadvantageous position and narrowed their prospect of success.

Who won the debate? As time goes on the Roman Catholic Church appears to no longer view those in the Greek Orthodox as "not saved." I believe that some day there will be re-approachment and the division at the time of the Reformation will be healed.

The author writes about the conclusion of the debate:

Eck remained in Leipzig nine days longer, gathering laurels and enjoying himself after his fashion. He deported himself as the unquestioned victor; but there were men who questioned, and some who openly denied, his victory. They were few, it is true, but it meant much in papal Leipzig that there should be any who believed that the disputants from Wittenberg had won in the famous argument. Carlstadt returned directly to Wittenberg, and the crowd of visitors carried the news of the great things which they had seen and heard to many parts of Germany. For the rest of that year the correspondence of the learned men in Germany, Prance, and Italy is filled with references to the Leipzig Debate.

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