A Little Lutheran Prodigy

David Chytraeus

David Chytraeus (Kochhaff), sometimes called the last of the Lutheran Fathers, was born at Ingelfingen, near Swabian Hall, in Würtemberg, February 26, 1530. He received the rudiments of his education at Gemmingen, where he advanced rapidly in his knowledge of the Latin language. At the age of nine years he entered the University of Tübingen.

In the year 1544 he was made Magister under the name David Kochhaff. In that same year he went to Wittenberg, bearing from Brentz a letter of commendation to Luther, and to Melanchthon one of similar character from George Schwartzerd of Bretten.

Melanchthon inquired of him: “Art thou already a Magister?” and asked him whether he had studied Greek. When the boy answered in the affirmative, Melanchthon handed him a copy of Thucydides and asked him to translate a passage into Latin. This he did so entirely to the satisfaction of the great preceptor that he exclaimed; “Rightly art thou Magister, and thou shalt be as dear to me as a son.”

Melanchthon was as good as his word; he at once admitted the young David to his table and took him into his house—“his David”—where he spent six years in the confidence and friendship of his teacher, who directed him in all the disciplines of the university. Luther’s preaching made a profound impression upon him. He also heard lectures on philosophy, on medicine and on the natural sciences. In 1547 we find him in Tübingen, but in 1548 he returned to Wittenberg. From the year 1550 to the day of his death, June 25, 1600, he resided at Rostock, first as instructor in the Paedagogium, and then as professor in the University.

He was honored with calls to numerous places of service, but he declined them all. He was active in almost all the important ecclesiastical movements of his day. His most important work is his History of the Augsburg Confession, German in the year 1576, Latin in the year 1578. His Catechesis, based on Melanchthon’s Loci, 1556, and in many revised editions, was much used in schools and universities. His son, David Chytraeus, published at Hanover, in 1614, Orationes et Epistolae Davidis Chytraei Theologi in a volume of 1284 pages. In the year 1720, Otto Frid. Schütz published, at Hamburg, Vita Davidis Chytraei in two volumes, aggregating, with Appendix, 1049 pages. These two books contain a large amount of matter pertaining to the history of the Lutheran Church during the second half of the sixteenth century.

In theology, Chytraeus represents the Melanchthon type of doctrine with clearness and consistency. This is shown unequivocally in what he wrote on Free-will, on the Person of Christ, and relatively on the Lord’s Supper.  [James W. Richard, The Confessional History of the Lutheran Church (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1909), 445]

Meanwhile, 9 year olds today are eating dirt off the playground and can’t go 10 seconds without looking at an iPad.