Entre désintérêt et prétexte. Pierre Bayle et Luther

Pierre Bayle seems to have had little interest for the figure of Luther. The article on the Reformer in his Dictionnaire is thus primarily devoted to a refutation of Catholic calumnies, behind which Bayle sees an attempt by the papal clergy to discredit the French Protestants in the aftermath of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Nevertheless, a closer reading of the « Luther » article reveals how the Reformer also functioned as a pretext for Bayle to reflect on themes that actually lie beyond his primary historiographical objective. These themes include sexual ethics in their political and anthropological dimensions (as occasioned by the bigamous marriage of the Landgrave of Hesse); the inspiration of Scripture (through Luther’s description of the Epistle of James as an « epistle of straw »); determinism (by way of the conflict between Erasmus and Luther); and, finally, the relationship between faith and reason (as occasioned by Luther’s doctrine of twofold truth).