Today With Calvin: In Dispute With Hesshuss

On November 28, 1554 Calvin published a tract against one Hesshuss of Westphalia who had involved himself in dispute with the Reformer on the subject of the sacraments. That was a pretty bad idea on the part of Mr Hesshuss- for Calvin noted in the Preface:

It is the property of Satan to slander, to darken the light; and as the father of contention, to destroy peace, and break the unity of the faith. Such being the characteristics of this babbler, nothing remains for us but to designate him a child of the devil.”*

Yes, it’s a bad idea to annoy Calvin, known to many as ‘Mr I-Won’t-Put-Up-With-Any-Of-Your-Nonsense!’  I like that about him.

*The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer Volume 2 (281). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.

Today With Melanchthon


Our Saxon friends remind us (their translation)

To improve Melanchthon’s life circumstances, but also to keep him in Wittenberg, Luther was looking for Melanchthon in 1520 a woman. This idea, however, Melanchthon was not very impressed. The young workaholic professor feared for the progress of his studies. However, it succeeded Luther that he definitively on November 27, 1520 Catherine married the daughter of a cloth merchant and mayor of Wittenberg Hans Krapp.

Although his wife was from a reputable home and Melanchthon earned as a professor at the University well, there was in the house of Melanchthon never greater prosperity. Constant visits by university members who gathered at disputing table rounds in the house of Melanchthon, young students who Melanchthon in his ” scholastic domestica ” taught as a personal mentor and provided, reduced the financial budget of the household.

Melanchthon gained through his work in Wittenberg soon such high regard that offers from other universities in Germany and Europe were presented to him. However, Johann Friedrich I. (Saxony ) wanted to keep the esteemed professor at Wittenberg, and erected on the property his booth 1536 befitting house, which is known as Melanchthon’s house in Wittenberg today. When the family moved into this house in 1537, the couple had children Anna ( born August 24, 1522 † February 27, 1547 ), Philip ( born February 21, 1525 † October 3, 1605 in Wittenberg ), Georg (* November 25, 1527 in Wittenberg, † 1529) and Magdalena (* July 19, 1531; † September 12, 1576 ). As head of the family, he devoted himself with devotion to his beloved children and caring for the children welded together, the couple Melanchthon.

The Day the Melanchthons Married

melanchthonPhilipp Melanchthon married Katharina Krapp on November 27, 1520.

Apparently, Philipp had decided that his work and studies were to be his bride. For years he resisted the urgings of his friends for him to marry for fear that his studies would suffer. His friends, including Martin Luther, strongly disagreed. They even went so far as to choose a bride for him.

In some ways we know very little about Philipp Melanchthon’s wife, Katharina. She was the daughter of Wittenberg’s highly esteemed mayor and tailor Hans Krapp. She and Philipp spent the next 37 years in what was reported to be a very happy marriage. Together they had four children, Anna, Philipp, Georg, and Magdalene. The Melanchthon and Luther children spent much time playing together since their homes were next door to each other.

Katharina was a strong support to her husband. She stood by him when his friends condemned him for his doctrinal weakness. She also nursed him during his physically weak times. In short, Philipp’s marriage to Katharina did for him just the opposite of what he feared. Instead of it tearing him down, it sustained and strengthened him.

Despite all that they had in common, Katharina Melanchthon and Katie Luther never became close friends. But they did share these traits – they were hard workers who had deep love, respect, and support for their respective husbands.

Katharina Melanchthon died in 1557 while her husband was in Heidelberg furthering the cause of the Reformation.

No pictures of Katharina Melanchthon seem to exist today. This picture of Philipp is from 1532, is attributed to Lucas Cranach the Elder and is in the public domain.

-Rebecca DeGarmeaux (on Facebook)


Karl Barth Sent Packing

It was November, 1934 that Barth was ordered out of Germany.  Our friends at Evangelischer Widerstand have the story:

Karl Barths Abschied aus Deutschland nach seiner Zwangsemeritierung

Nach Hindenburgs Tod im Jahr 1934 beanspruchte Hitler auch das Amt des Staatsoberhauptes. Als „Führer und Reichskanzler“ besaß er fortan uneingeschränkte Macht und forderte von Armee und Staatsdienern den kompromisslosen Treueeid. Als Professor sollte im November 1934 auch Karl Barth einen Treueid auf den „Führer“ zu schwören. Barth stand vor einem Dilemma und sah sich nur in der Lage den Eid zu schwören, wenn er ihn mit einem Zusatz ergänzen könnte. Dieser von ihm vorgeschlagene Zusatz lautete: dem Führer Treue zu leisten nur, „soweit ich es als evangelischer Christ verantworten kann“. Das schränkte die Eidleistung jedoch so weit ein, dass Barth am 26. November 1934 vom Dienst suspendiert wurde.

Die Vorläufige Kirchenleitung hatte sich an Barths Eideinschränkung ein Beispiel genommen und stellte fest: Ein Eid sei mit der Berufung auf Gott ohnehin durch dessen Gebot scharf begrenzt; daher könne er gefahrlos ohne alle Zusätze abgelegt werden. Diese Interpretation wurde dem Innenministerium zugeleitet und in der kirchlichen Presse veröffentlicht. Barth bot daraufhin an, den Beamteneid ohne Zusatz zu leisten. Jetzt ging das NS-Regime erst recht gegen ihn vor. Karl Barth wurde aus dem Staatsdienst entlassen. Auf Drängen der Kirchenleitung hin protestierte er scharf dagegen, woraufhin er vor Gericht stand. Als er den Prozess in erster Instanz verlor und in die Berufung ging, entzogen ihm die Vorläufige Kirchenleitung und der Bruderrat ihre Unterstützung. Er gewann zwar den Prozess in zweiter Instanz, die Kirche bemühte sich aber nicht mehr um ihn.

Enttäuscht blieb er der Arbeit der Bekennenden Kirche nun weitgehend fern. Durch ein „Reichsredeverbot“ weiter eingeschränkt, ging er ins benachbarte Ausland, zunächst an die Universität Utrecht und nach seiner Zwangspensionierung im Juni 1935 schließlich an die Universität Basel. In Basel war ihm eine Professorenstelle verschafft worden. Der Weggang aus Deutschland und das „Reichsredeverbot“ schmerzten ihn. Doch gab er nicht auf und meldete sich fortan bewusst als „Schweizer Stimme“ zu Wort.

Mehr erfahren:

Zwingli to Myconius: On the Death of Andrew Zwingli

zwingliZwingli’s brother was with him in Zurich when he died of the plague.  Zwingli, on the 25th of November, 1520, wrote the following to Myconius:

“Zwingli to Myconius. Greeting. I am doubtful whether the evils which befall me (if they are evils), ought to be communicated to you, who are a man of most sympathetic disposition. For I fear that if I do not warn you beforehand you will fall into unrestrained grief, so regardful are you of me. And yet I beseech that you will endure my misfortunes with a calm mind, even as I myself endure them. Because now I endure with equanimity what formerly threw me into spasms of grief and mourning more than feminine, when I was suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelmed with sorrow.

Still I recovered myself, so that now once more I stand firm. Thanks be to God! And so do you take it calmly when I tell you of the death of my brother Andrew, a youth of great promise and excellent parts, whom the plague slew on St. Elizabeth day [November 19], envious (I think) of our blood and renown. Had he lived a year longer he would have come to you [at Lucern] to be instructed by you and your son in Greek. But so far am I from remonstrating with God that I am ready to offer myself. Enough of this.

“I am awaiting your letter and those manifold songs recommended by Zimmerman, for which our people here are looking daily.

“Farewell, and love me in my bereavement as you are accustomed to do. Except for my loss the plague grows no worse, for I do not know that within a month or so more than four or five have died. I send my good wishes for your wife and children, Zimmerman, the Provisor, and all.

“ZURICH, November 25, 1520.

“P. S. I am not at home, driven out rather by the persuasions of my friends, than by my own fears of death, and I shall soon return. So you will not wonder that this letter is not sealed in my usual fashion. Francis Zinck greets you.”

After Andrew died, Zwingli went to Einsiedeln for a visit with his old friends.

Wisdom From Oecolampadius: When Pastors Don’t Get Along

In November of 1529 Oecolampadius wrote the Clergy of Muhlhausen, who weren’t getting along-

“We exhort you, and in exhorting you exhort ourselves, to consider well in what a situation the Lord hath placed us; how many look up to us; how many eyes are upon us; what enemies we have; what numbers will reproach us even when we live ever so innocently; how tender the flock is which we are set to keep; and how many dangers on all sides surround us. It is not our own business which we have to conduct, but Christ’s. It is no common business, but such as is of the highest concernment; that which he himself undertook, as the most important.

Let us not underrate the service in which we are engaged. But we do even despise it, if we apply not to it with becoming gravity and purity. Not only do they corrupt the word of God, who intermix with it false doctrines, but they also who admit their own passions into their preaching; and, while they would draw odium upon their brethren, betray the envy which actuates their own minds.

What place can there be for contention where nothing but the glory of Christ is sought in our preaching? Is any man wise? let him first be ‘wise to himself.’ Has he any thing to propose for the profit of the church? let him propose it without prejudice to a brother, who also faithfully labours in the same vineyard: lest, while he unseasonably and improperly sets himself to root up tares, (which yet may not be tares,) he destroy the wheat—not another’s only but his own—or rather neither his nor another man’s, but Christ’s.…

If any thing of human infirmity therefore has crept in among us, we beseech you for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of the service in which we are engaged, and by all that we hold sacred and dear, let us forgive one another, after his example who has forgiven us ten thousand talents: let us hail one another, acknowledge one another, respect one another, as friends and fellow-labourers of Christ: and, if any thing occurs in our preaching which displeases any of us, do not let us presently contradict it before the people, but let us meet together, and examine the scriptures upon it, and consider the arguments on one side and on the other; and let him who is shewn from scripture to have been wrong yield to him who has convinced him, and return thanks for the light he has received.

Where there is a humble heart, a spirit remote from pride; and when a man seeks to consecrate all his attainments to the glory of Christ and not to his own, this will be easy. For the source of envy is pride, which fears lest it should not be sufficiently honoured. He who thinks humbly of himself and honourably of his neighbour will be thankful that Christ should be preached, by whomsoever or on whatsoever occasion it may be.”  —  Johannes Oecolampadius

The Reformer Oecolampadius

Karl Hammer’s excellent Der Reformator Oekolampad (1482-1531) is available in a back issue of Zwingliana which should be read today on this, the anniversary of Oecolampadius’ death. He begins-

Der 500. Geburtstag von Weinsbergs wohl größtem Sohn, Hans Husschin, ist Anlaß genug, darüber nachzudenken, was an Leben und Werk eines solchen Mannes auch für heute unaufgebbar oder doch wenigstens vorbildlich erscheint. Anhand von ausgewählten Stationen dieses Lebens ist jeweils die Frage zu stellen: Welche reformatorischen Keime,Stufen oder Vorstufen, Visionen einer künftigen Kirche enthüllen sich beim näheren Hinsehen? Was ließ Oekolampad schließlich zu einem Reformator werden, den der seinerzeit bedeutende Basler Kirchenhistoriker Karl Rudolf Hagenbach 1845 gern als vierten Hauptreformator neben Luther, Zwingli und Calvin gestellt wissen wollte? Leider ist dieses Ziel nicht einmal von Hagenbachs drittem Nachfolger auf dem Basler Lehrstuhl für Kirchengeschichte, Ernst Staehelin (1889-1980), erreicht worden, dessen halbes Lebenswerk um die Gestalt des Basler Reformators kreiste und dessen Werke bis heute die ausgiebigste Beschäftigung mit Oekolampad darstellen.

There, to this very day, is no full length biography of this extremely important Reformer. There should be.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Mass

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I know, right?!?!?!?!

Pfarrer Christoph Sigrist und Komponist Hans-Jürgen Hufeisen haben eine Messe über den Theologen Dietrich Bonhoeffer geschrieben. Sie ist politisch brisant wie der Glaube selbst.  In der dunkelsten Stunde hebt die Messe zum Jubel an. Eigentlich hatte der Komponist Hans-Jürgen Hufeisen bereits einen Choral geschrieben, der das Stück über Dietrich Bonhoeffer abschliessen sollte.

Doch da war dieser letzte Satz, der vom deutschen Theologen und Widerstandskämpfer gegen die Nationalsozialisten überliefert ist: «Das ist das Ende – für mich der Beginn des Lebens.» In der Morgendämmerung des 9. April 1945 wurde er im Lager Flossenbürg erhängt.

Das Zeugnis eines Gottvertrauens, das über den Tod hinausgeht, liess Hufeisen nicht los. Bonhoeffer kleidete seine Gewissheit, dass sein Passionsweg am Galgen ende, ihm dafür das Osterlicht umso stärker leuchten werde, in schlichte Worte.



The Story of an Ancient Book’s Journey from Irish Bog to Museum Treasure

One summer’s day in Tipperary as peat was being dug from a bog, a button peered out from the freshly cut earth. The find set off a five-year journey of conservation to retrieve and preserve what lay beyond: a 1,200-year-old psalm book in its original cover.

Bogs across Europe have thrown up all sorts of relics of the ancient past, from naturally preserved bodies to vessels containing butter more than a millennium old, but the 2006 discovery of an entire early medieval manuscript, entombed in a wet time capsule for so long, was unprecedented, said the National Museum of Ireland.

The book fell open upon discovery to reveal the Latin words in ualle lacrimarum (in the valley of tears), which identified it as a book of psalms. One particularly unexpected feature was the vegetable-tanned leather cover with a papyrus reed lining, suggesting the monks could have had trade links with Egypt.

“It still blows me away,” said John Gillis, the chief manuscript conservationist at Trinity College Dublin, home of the Book of Kells, the Book of Armagh and 450 other medieval Latin manuscripts. “It was by far and away the most challenging, most interesting project I have ever undertaken – and to put that in context, I am surrounded by these iconic manuscripts.”

Etc.  Enjoy a fascinating tale.

Theological Anthropology, 500 Years after Martin Luther

Now out, from the inestimable Christophe Chalamet et al,

Theological Anthropology, 500 years after Martin Luther gathers contributions on the theme of the human being and human existence from the perspectives of Orthodox and Protestant theology. These two traditions still have much to learn from each another, five hundred years after Martin Luther’s Reformation. Taking Martin Luther’s thought as a point of reference and presenting Orthodox perspectives in connection with and in contradistinction to it, this volume seeks to foster a dialogue on some of the key issues of theological anthropology, such as human freedom, sin, faith, the human as created in God’s image and likeness, and the ultimate horizon of human existence. The present volume is one of the first attempts of this kind in contemporary ecumenical dialogue.

It sounds tremendous.  A review copy is on the way.

Das Eisenacher ‚Entjudungsinstitut‘: Kirche und Antisemitismus in der NS-Zeit

This new volume looks fascinating.

1939 wurde in Eisenach das sogenannte ‚Entjudungsinstitut‘ gegründet. In kirchlicher Trägerschaft suchte es die jüdischen Einflüsse auf Theologie und Kirche zu “erforschen” und zu tilgen. Das Institut zeigt ein perfides kirchliches Andienen an die nationalsozialistische Rassenpolitik im pseudowissenschaftlichen Gewand und markiert dabei eines der dunkelsten Kapitel, das auf kirchliche Initiative die deutsche evangelisch verantwortete theologische Wissenschaft in der NS-Zeit geschrieben hat. Auf der Basis vorliegender Forschungsergebnisse wendet sich der vorliegende Band erstmals in interdisziplinärer Weise dem ‚Entjudungsinstitut‘ zu, kontextualisiert die völkische und antisemitische Ideologie und Theologie der Einrichtung, vergleicht sie mit ähnlichen pseudowissenschaftlichen „Instituten“ und fragt nach dessen Wirkung und Auswirkung in Ost- und Westdeutschland.

Fun Facts From Church History: The Catholic Prelate Who Defended Zwingli in Writing

A remarkable instance of the readiness of at least one Roman Catholic prelate to protect Zwingli against printed attacks is given in a letter from Basel, dated November 21, 1519, from which it appears that a certain monk had preached against Zwingli, as he had a perfect right to do, and had gone to Basel to have his polemical sermons printed. But Zwingli, through another friend, asked his friend, Cardinal Schinner, who was in Basel, to have an embargo put upon the volume, and the Cardinal so managed things that the monk could not secure a printer in Basel! Another friend of Zwingli’s (Capito), living in Strassburg, undertook to exclude the same monk from the presses of that city. But this was a dangerous game for the friends of progress to play.*

*Samuel Macauley Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531), Heroes of the Reformation (New York; London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Knickerbocker Press, 1901), 129.

ALMA LEUCOREA: Eine Geschichte der Universität Wittenberg 1502 bis 1817.

It’s a new paperback edition of the earlier hardback.

Die kursächsische Universität Wittenberg war der intel­lek­tuelle Aus­gangs­punkt der luthe­rischen Refor­mation. Im 16. Jahr­hundert ent­faltete sie welt­weite Wirkungen. Sie gehört somit zu den bedeu­tendsten Univer­sitäten der Frühen Neuzeit. Ihre kraft­volle Entwick­lung beruhte auf dem Huma­nismus, jener Geistes­strö­mung, die ein neues Menschen­bild hervor­gebracht hat und von den Witten­berger Gelehrten prägend weiter­entwickelt wurde. Von den Huma­nisten wurde die Universität an der mittleren Elbe in Anleh­nung an den Orts­namen und den weißen Sand des Elbufers gräzi­sierend LEUCOREA genannt. Ihre berühm­testen Profes­soren waren Martin Luther und Philipp Melanchthon.

An ihren vier Fakultäten (Theologie, Jurisprudenz, Medizin, Philo­sophie) wirkten namhafte Univer­sitäts­lehrer, auch in den Jahr­hun­derten nach der Refor­mation. Dieses Buch präsen­tiert zum ersten Mal seit mehr als 100 Jahren einen Gesamt­über­blick über die Geschichte der Universität Witten­berg und damit über alle an ihr gelehrten Fächer während ihres gesamten Existenz­zeit­raums von 1502 bis 1817 auf dem aktuellen Forschungs­stand.

John Calvin and the Righteousness of Works

John Calvin’s understanding of works-righteousness is more complex than is often recognized. While he denounces it in some instances, he affirms it in others. This study shows that Calvin affirms works-righteousness within the context where faith-righteousness is already established, and that he even teaches a form of justification by works. Calvin ascribes not only a positive role to good works in relation to divine acceptance, but also soteriological value to believers’ good works. This study demonstrates such by exploring Calvin’s theological anthropology, his understanding of divine-human activity, his teaching on the nature of good works, and his understanding of divine grace and benevolence. It also addresses current debates in Calvin scholarship by exploring topics such as union with Christ, the relation between justification and sanctification, the relation between good works and divine acceptance, the role of good works in the Christian life, and the content of good works.

This volume is a revised doctoral dissertation and consequently is discipline specific in its intended audience.

Following the acknowledgements and the table of abbreviations, E. provides an introduction.  In it he describes the aims of his study and the way in which it will be presented.  And that aim is to investigate a particular segment of Calvin’s theology- to wit, Calvin on the Duplex Gratia and works righteousness.

Chapter one describes the current state of the question (as one would expect from a dissertation).  Moving into his own argument in chapter two, E. discusses the notions of human nature and human ability in their connection to the idea of righteousness.

Chapter three follows logically with its investigation of the concepts of good works and the acceptance (or not) of God of those efforts.  Here personal righteousness and justification are the focus.

The fourth chapter helps readers, or at least aims to help readers, wrestle with the saving value of good works (whatever those may be).  What have good works to do with personal holiness and communion with God and the assurance of faith, and rewards, and eventually, the fulfillment of salvation.

Chapter five is really the heart of the volume.  Everything up to this point lays the groundwork for the very extensive, very careful, very helpful, and very useful discussion of the actual contents of good works.  Several aspects of good works make an appearance herein: good works as the keeping of the law; good works as manifestation of love of God; good works as manifestation of the love of neighbor; and the ultimate importance of authentic affection.

Chapter six sums up the presentation and serves as a very helpful overview of the whole.  There are also a bibliography and an index of persons and subjects.

There are a few problems with the volume and, you will be unsurprised to learn, they relate to the virtual ignoring of Zwingli’s contributions on the subject.   First, Zwingli is mentioned several times throughout the volume but, unless I missed it (which I doubt), his very helpful suggestions on good works are never really dealt with whilst Luther and Melanchthon are often taken in as conversation partners for Calvin.  The volume would have been richer and deeper if Zwingli’s important contributions had been utilized more thoroughly.  To be sure, every author has to make decisions about what they want to discuss and that’s perfectly fine.  As a reader, I was somewhat surprised by the dearth of engagement with Zwingli’s theology and I would be a less than honest reviewer if I failed to say so.

And second, strangely, whilst Zwingli’s name is spelled properly in the list of primary sources (Huldrych) for some inexplicable reason it is misspelled in the index (Huldryck).  Huldryck?  In the words of Joe Biden, ‘come on, man’.

Nonetheless, I found the book very engaging and very enjoyable (inasmuch as doctoral dissertations can be called enjoyable)(it’s not as though they are a large cheese pizza with black olives and mushrooms and that glorious sauce and cheese that festoon them).  It was, if I might compare it to a food, a very nice cheese plate at a Zurich restaurant eaten whilst carrying on a nice conversation with Pierrick Hildebrand or Peter Opitz.  Or to say it plainly, it was good.

I commend it to you.  You’ll find it enjoyable too.  Especially if Calvin is, as the kids say, your jam.  Additionally, it will cleanse your intellectual palate of the cat food-esque smorgasbord of social media discussions of Calvin.  And that’s a very good thing.

Painting with Demons: The Art of Gerolamo Savoldo

Aw, you had me at Demons!

The achievements of Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo were, even during a period of unprecedented artistry, out of the ordinary. Born in Brescia around 1480, he radically reimagined Christian subjects. His surviving oeuvre of roughly fifty paintings—from the intensely poetic Tobias and the Angel to sober self-portraits—represents some of the most profound work of the period. In Painting with Demons, a beautifully illustrated book and the first in English devoted to the painter, Michael Fried brings his celebrated skills of looking and thinking to bear on Savoldo’s art, providing a stunning contribution to our understanding both of the early modern European imagination and of the achievement of this underappreciated artist.

Today With Zwingli

zwingliThere have come forward in our day those who have said that a symbolical meaning is to be found in the word “This.” I commend their faith, if only it is not counterfeit. For God seeth the heart, we poor wretches judge from the face [1 Sam. 16:7]. I greatly commend, therefore, not the faith which makes them venture thoughtlessly to treat these words, but that through which they see that it is untenable for us to understand bodily flesh here. I will not, however, speak now of the Charybdis the fear of which drove them upon this Scylla, for it has no bearing upon this matter.*

Those who have come forward to whom Zwingli refers are, among others, Matt Alber. On 16 November of 1524 Zwingli addressed him thusly:

Gratia et pax a domino! Aspersit nos rumor de certamine, quod tibi futurum est cum quodam fratre, ut aiunt, ingenue etiam Christo favente, qui ut facie mihi notus est, ita nomine ignotus, contra tu nomine nobis et euangelii gloria notissimus es, facie ignotus. Certamen autem Michael noster audivit περὶ τῆς εὐχαριστίας esse indictum, in qua vereor multos vehementer errare, nisi ego magis quam omnes errem. Ac nisi me fallit omnis scripturae tum proprietas, tum sensus, imo pietas ipsa, longe hactenus a scopo iecimus. Quisquis autem peccati huius tandem sit autor, nunc non est ut dicam per epistolam, quam esse brevem oportet.

And then he rips into Carlstadt. Good times, good times.
*H. Zwingli, The Latin works of Huldreich Zwingli, (Vol. 3, p. 221).