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Johann Jungnitz (†1588) on the Necessity of Logic for Theology

April 10, 2013

*The following is my translation of pages 8-11 of Luca Baschera’s Tugend und Rechtfertigung: Peter Martyr Vermiglis Kommentar zur Nikomachischen Ethik im Spannungsfeld von Philosophie und Theologie, (Theologischer Verlag Zurich: 2007). Here Baschera summarizes and offers commentary on Johann Jungnitz’s preface to Ursinus’s version of Aristotle’s Organon:

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In 1586 there appeared in Heidelberg an incomplete compendium of Aristotle’s Organon over which the erstwhile theology professor and co-author of the Heidelberg Catechism, Zacharius Ursinus had labored. This work was published posthumously by Johann Jungnitz, a Professor of logic in the University of Heidelberg, who in his preface reflected on the value and necessity of Aristotelian logic as well as philosophy in general.[1] In this text Jungnitz, who was not a theologian, addresses the ever delicate question of the relationship between profane knowledge and theology, in which he explains the traditional defense, namely, that philosophy is not necessary for theologians yet neither does it stand in opposition to the biblical message.[2] Contrary to those who treat philosophy as superfluous, Jungnitz holds that, for theologians, philosophy is indispensible. The task of every good theologian stands on the one hand in the “erudite, methodical, and accurate” treatment of the res sacrae and on the other hand in the defense of orthodox teachings against heretics.[3] However, a theologian who has no philosophical knowledge at his disposal – Jungnitz also numbers mathematics and geography as “philosophy” – will not be able to do justice to his didactic or polemical tasks. According to Jungnitz, proper knowledge of astronomy, physics as well as botany or geography form the conditions for the effective exegesis of holy scripture,[4] while the governance of logic is necessary not only for the conservation of the internal coherence of theological discourse but also to be able to know and refute the faultiness of heretical arguments.[5] Jungnitz admits that heretics often argue “philosophically” in order to reinforce their heretical opinions; however, this should not mislead one into thinking that philosophy is to be blamed for the origin of heresy. Furthermore, one should distinguish thoroughly between the sophistry of the heretic and vera philosophia, which arises from the wisdom of God so that the truth can never oppose it.[6] The constitutive duty of vera philosophia with reference to Truth becomes especially clear by the example of Logic, the goal of which according to Jungnitz lies completely in distinguishing true from false.[7] Philosophical Logic is an art (artificialis), but it conforms to natural logic (naturalis),[8] which constitutes the rules of every rational discourse. This means, among other things, that even if Logic is taught as an art in the writing of philosophy one finds it used as the natural form of thought in the Bible.[9] If, however, the art of Logic arises from a natural, universally valid Logic, which was also used in the Bible then philosophical Logic, insofar as it does not degrade into mere sophistry, is not able to stand in contradiction to Christian Truth. Here, Logic, that commune organum shapes all of the sciences for the recognition of Truth.[10] Furthermore, according to Jungnitz, theology, regina scientiorum cannot abandon [Logic], the very means by which it functions (grundlegende Arbeitsmittel).  In order to be conclusive, a theological argument must be structured according to the same rules which lie at the base of every scientific discourse and are preserved in an especially lucid way in Aristotle’s logical writings.[11] Although from some sides this may be decried as a blasphemous mixture of philosophy and theology, Jungnitz stresses that the mere use of a philosophical paradigm of argumentation (Argumentationsmuster) by the theologian does not place the “otherness” (die Andersheit) of theology as such in question because the “otherness” of each Science depends upon the specificity of their respective objects.[12] So, theology will retain its “otherness” insofar as its theological content remains, even though it shares its modus et methodus demonstrandi with philosophy as well as with the other Sciences.[13]

Within his apology for the artes Jungnitz stresses the necessity of Logic with reference to the scientific structure of theological discourse as well as for the battle against heresy.  On the other hand the remaining philosophical and naturo-philosophical disciplines contribute primarily to the understanding of holy scripture and aid the theologian in the treatment of difficult theological questions. When Jungnitz wrote his preface, however, such arguments did not portray a novelty (novum) in the history of the Protestant understanding of philosophy. [Rather] all the more should his be treated as a representative example of a general consensus, which crystalized in the course of ten years and to its first formulation Philip Melanchthon had substantially contributed.


[1] Zu Jungnitz und seiner Vorrede zum Kompendium des Ursinus siehe Sinnema, Johann Jungnitz on the Use of Aristotelian Logic in Theology.

[2] Jungnitz, Praefatio, †2r: “Alii fortassis etiam reprehendent vitioque vertent, quod ita magnum studium multamque operam in res obscuras atque difficiles contulerit, easque non modo non necessarias, sed principiis et dogmatibus theologicis etiam adversas eoque a theologorum scholis procul procul repellandas.”

[3] Jungnitz, Praefatio, †2r: “Nam qui unquam inter theologos eminuerunt methodica, erudita atque accurata rerum sacrarum tractatione et pro iis contra haereses propugnatione, operam ecclesiae navantes egregiam, etiam philosophica eruditione praeclare ornati fuerunt.”

[4] Jungnitz, Praefatio, †2v: “De eclipsibus, de motis syderum, qui nobis annos et temporum discrimina conficiunt et quorum frequens in scripturis est mentio, praecipit mathematica. De aquis super coelos, de iride, de fluminum generatione et aliis naturae operibus, ad quae scriptura nos saepe remittit, disputat physicus. […] Locum illum Geneseos capite 2, de fluvio paradisum irrigante et in quatuor deinde se dividente capita, quis absque geographiae cognitione recte intelligat et dextre interpretur?”

[5] Jungnitz, Praefatio, †3r: “Certum est et ipsa experientia docet eos, qui in philosophiae studiis multum exerecerunt, paulatim assuefieri ad acuratam, perspicuam et expeditam res etiam obscurissimas investigandi aliisque tradendi methodum, quam quia deinceps theologicis quoque disputationibus adhibent, hoc consequuntur, ut qui in controversiis quamlibet intricatis rerum fontes sunt et firmamenta praecipua facile videant et iudicent aliisque ordine, dextre, dilucide et utiliter explicare norint.”

[6] Jungnitz, Praefatio, †2v: “Omnibus temporibus fuerunt et nunc sunt, qui ecclesiae doctrinam […] labefactare et convellere conantur rationibus e natura petitis. Quas eo nomine reiicere, quod philosophicae seu physicae sint, fatuitas est, quasi philosophicum quod est, idem continuo sit mendacium. Vera enim philosophia ex principiis natura notis extructa Dei sapientia est et veritas cum veritate theologica minime pugnans, quod verum vero nunquam adversatur.”

[7] Jungnitz, Praefatio, †4r: “Finem illum [logices] certum est esse hunc, ut subsidio logices verum a falso discernamus.”

[8] Jungnitz, Praefatio, †3v: “Logicam artificialem habere ortum suum ex naturali illa logica seu rationis luce ac methodo cognoscendi et iudicandi res.”

[9] Jungnitz, Praefatio, †3v: “Cum […] hanc [lucem rationis] vero nec aliam, nec illustriorem, ne accuratiorem in ethnicorum philosophorum scriptis elucere, quam sit ipsius Spiritus sancti in scripturis quamque animadvertatur in ecclesiae doctorum minus statuamus in sacris quoque scriptis quamque animadvertatur in ecclesiae doctorum divinis disputationibus, non minus certum sit, necessario efficitur nihil obstare, quo minus statuamus in sacris quoque scriptis ab ecclesia sapientibus potuisse ac posse bonae et necessariae consequentiae normas ac methodum notari artemque logicam constitui ac perfici.”

[10] Jungnitz, Praefatio, †4r: “Artem logicam ex natura sua necesse est esse commune organum quibusvis disciplinnis cognoscendis aeque inserviens.”

[11] Jungnitz, Praefatio, †4v: “Primum accipimus […] ratiocinandi methodum ac formam non aliam, sed prorsus eandem a theologis, iureconsultis, medicis et aliis artificibus in discendo et docendo observari […]. Deinde addimus formam, normas ac regulas necessariae consequentiae in demonstrationibus theologicis esse non alias, sed illas ipsas, quae ab Aristotele in omni demonstratione perfecta requiruntur.” An einer anderen Stelle betont Jungnitz explizit die Eminenz der aristotelischen Logik, vgl. Ebd., †3v: “Ex priscis sapientibus, sive ethnicis sive sacris, quorum quidem commentationes extant, neminem praeter Aristotelem in illo genere felicius ac eruditius laborasse.”

[12] Jungnitz, Praefatio, †4v: “Nam res demonstrandae et principia, per quae demonstrantur, sicuti et ipsae demonstrationes sunt diversissimae et quodammodo infinitae et cuiusque rei, quae demonstrari apta est, propriae. Modus autem et methodus demonstrandi seu forma, conditiones et normae demonstrationis perfectae semper eadem manent in omnibus scientiis. Res itaque non omnes eadem, sed aliae ex aliis disciplinis, philosophicae ex philsophia, theologicae ex theologia, depromuntur; ratio vero demonstrandi res quascunque ex una atque eadem logica cognoscitur.”

[13] Jungnitz, Praefatio, †4v: “Qui […] eadem ex theologicis, hoc est in scriptura traditis aut repetitis principiis deducentes et iudicantes, eandem in demonstrando methodum sequuntur, quam observant philosophi, […] illi non magis sacra prophanis miscent, quam cum theologus demonstrationem theologicam ad grammaticorum regulas et loquendi usum conformat, ut congrua sit et latina.”

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