Category Archives: Melanchthon

Philipp Melanchthon in 100 persönlichen Briefen

Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560) had been a colleague and close collaborator of Martin Luther’s in Wittenberg for 28 years. 100 selected letters in chronological order illuminate important events from his life. Most of them now appear in German translation for the first time. Melanchthon’s manifold scientific interests, his reformatory and pedagogical work express themselves in those letters, as especially private aspects such as friendships, emotions, hopes and dreams do, too. This allows deep insight into everyday life during the Reformation in Germany and direct access to his life.

My review of this exceptionally enjoyable book will post tomorrow.

Im Jubiläumsjahr 2017 eine Auswahl von Melanchthons Briefen in deutscher Übersetzung vorzulegen, ist ein doppeltes Statement: 1. Ohne Philipp Melanchthon bleibt jedes Reformationsgedenken und -narrativ unvollständig. Und 2.: Der beste Gewährsmann für MelanchthonsWirken istMelanchthon selbst. Aus den rund 9.750 noch erhaltenen Texten seines Briefwechsels eine Auswahl von 100 Briefen zu treffen, ist allerdings ein schwieriges Unterfangen, das einem viel Mut zur Lücke abverlangt. Der Kreis der hierbei ausgewählten Adressaten umfasst Könige und Fürsten, Humanisten und Reformatoren, Familienangehörige und Freunde, Kollegen, Studenten und Schüler sowie deren Väter und Mütter. In wenigen (sechs) Fällen wurden auch Gegenbriefe aufgenommen, so dass an diesen Stellen der dialogische Charakter der Textgattung Brief jeweils sehr deutlich zum Ausdruck kommt.

This fine little collection of letters, with their thorough documentation and helpful notations, is a quite healthy reminder of the significance of someone besides Luther and the contributions others besides Luther have made to the progress of Christianity in the 16th century.  What Melanchthon writes in these letters is revealing of the inner workings of the chief actors of that historical drama.

Take, for instance, this brief passage, from him to Henry VIII of England in London, from Frankfurt/Main, 26. March, 1539:

Obwohl Deine Hoheit dieses Wohlwollen bereits früher deutlich zum Ausdruck gebracht hat, habe ich mich trotzdem gefreut, dass mir Deine überaus freundlichen Äußerungen von demjenigen überbracht wurden, den ich als mein zweites Ich betrachte.Weil Du unseren Arbeiten wohlgesonnen bist, empfehle ich mich Deiner Hoheit ehrerbietig.

Or this one- to Paul Eber in 1547:

Obwohl ich mir die Trostgründe, die zur Linderung der Trauer überliefert werden, vor Augen halte, quält es mich unglaublich, wenn ich an die Tränen meiner Tochter denke, als sie nach uns gefragt wurde. Dieses Schweigen und ihre Tränen haben meine Seele unheilbar verwundet. Aber schlimmer als dieser private Schmerz ist der öffentliche. Bucer schrieb einen reichlich kühlen Brief. Er hofft auf Frieden und eine unversehrte Stadt. Uns erschüttert die Sorge um „das ganze Staatsschiff“, wie es einst hieß. Wir wollen zu Gott beten, dass er „im Zorn seiner Barmherzigkeit gedenkt“ und das private wie das öffentliche unglück mildert. Ich schickeDir ein Blatt mit Trostgründen, das ich verfasst habe.

These and many others show readers the web of connections between the well known and the unknown.  This volume is important precisely because it shows us behind the scenes into the true inner workings of the minds of Melanchthon and his contemporaries.  It’s one thing to read a formal work like the commentary to Romans or the Loci and quite another to read personal letters never intended for wide public consumption.  We learn more from letters, oftentimes, than we do from formal treatises.

Those, then, interested in learning about Melanchthon should do themselves the favor of obtaining and absorbing this very handy collection of thoughtful and provocative lines from Philipp’s pen.

Melanchthon and Bucer: On the Jews

Disputation zwischen christlichen und jüdischen Gelehrten. Holzschnitt von Johann von Armssheim (1483).

Die vorliegende Untersuchung über das Verhältnis der beiden Reformatoren Bucer und Melanchthon zum Judentum impliziert die Frage, ob ”aus dem oberdeutsch-schweizerischen Ansatz der Bundeseinheit und der Wittenberger Gegenüberstellung von Gesetz und Evangelium eine je spezifische Haltung gegenüber dem Judentum abzuleiten” sei. Detmers zeigt anhand von theologischen Texten und politischem Urteilen des Mitarbeiter Luthers in Wittenberg und des Reformators in Straßburg, dass theologisch-exegetische Erkenntnisse, die eine Toleranz gegenüber Juden hätten begründen können, in der Reformationszeit von antijüdischen Vorurteilen überlagert wurden.

Read Achim Detmers scintillating essay here.

Marburg, Day One

The following record of the exchange of the first day is from Simpson’s volume on Zwingli’s life. Day One shows that days 2 and 3 were pointless. Luther was incapable of understanding anyone but himself. It was his greatest weakness.

lutherLuther opened the discussion, and in a long speech protested that he differed from his opponents on the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, and furthermore, would always differ, since Christ clearly says, “Take, eat: this is my body.” “They must prove,” said he, “that a body is not a body.” He maintained that there could be no question about the meaning of words so plain. He refused to admit the validity of any arguments based on reason or mathematics. “God,” said he, “is above mathematics, and his words must be received with reverence and obeyed.”

Œcolampadius replied to Luther by quoting certain passages from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel. With the words, “This is my body,” he compared, “I am the true vine.” From a carnal manducation he led up to a spiritual, and declared that his view was not groundless or isolated, but rested upon the faith of Scripture.

Luther admitted that Christ used figurative language in the sixth of John and elsewhere, but denied that the words “This is my body” were a figure of speech. “Since Christ says ‘This is,’ it must be so.”

oeco24Œcolampadius: To believe that Christ is in the bread is opinion, not faith. There is danger of attributing too much to the mere elements.

Luther: We are bound to listen not so much because of what is spoken, as because of Him who speaks. Since God speaks, let us pigmies of men listen; since He commands, let the world obey, and let all of us reverently kiss the Word.

Œcolampadius: Since we have the spiritual eating, what need is there of the corporal eating?

Luther: I care not about the need, but since it is written, “Take, eat: this is my body,” we must believe, and do it without question.

Œcolampadius quoted from the sixth chapter of John the words, “The flesh profiteth nothing.” “If the flesh,” said he, “when eaten profits nothing, it must appear to us”—here Zwingli interposed and accused Luther of prejudice, because he protested that he would not be driven from his views. “Comparison is necessary,” said he, “in the study of the Scriptures. It is the Spirit that gives life. The Spirit and the flesh are at enmity with each other. God does not propound to us things that are unintelligible. The disciples were mystified by the thought of the carnal eating. Therefore Christ explained to them the spiritual significance of his words.”

Luther: The words are not ours, but the Lord’s; let them be obeyed. By means of these words the hand of the priest becomes the hand of Christ. I will not argue as to whether is means signifies. It is enough for me that Christ says, “This is my body.” To raise questions about this is to fall away from the faith. Wherefore believe the plain words, and give glory to God.

Zwingli: We indeed implore that you glorify God by abandoning your main proposition. I would ask whether you believe that Christ in the sixth chapter of John desired to reply to the question addressed to him?

Luther: We take no account of that passage; it has no bearing on the subject in hand.

Zwingli: No? Why, that passage breaks your neck.

Luther’s proclivity for literalness of interpretation now took an amusing turn. He received Zwingli’s jocose remark as a threat of personal violence, and addressing his friends complained bitterly of the murderous intimation of his opponent. Zwingli laughingly explained that his language was figurative, and had reference to his opponent’s arguments.

Œcolampadius now gave the argument a Christological turn. “The Church,” said he, “was founded on the words, ‘Thou art the Son of God,’ and not on the words, ‘This is my body.’ ”

Luther: I do not hold to this in vain. To me it is sufficient that Christ says, “This is my body.” I confess that his body is in heaven, and that it is in the sacrament also. I care not if it be contrary to nature, provided it is not contrary to faith.

Œcolampadius: In all things He was made like unto us. As He is wholly like the Father in His divine nature, so He is wholly like us in His human nature.

Luther: “The poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always,” is the strongest argument you have advanced to-day. Christ is as substantially in the sacrament as when He was born of the Virgin. Faith needs no figures of speech.

Œcolampadius: We know not Christ after the flesh.

Melanchthon: After our flesh.

Œcolampadius: You will not admit a metaphor in the words of institution, and yet contrary to the Catholic conception you allow a synecdoche.

Luther: In a sword and its scabbard we have an example of synecdoche. “This is my body.” The body is in the bread, just as the sword is in the scabbard.

Zwingli (quoting from the Epistles): “God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” “He was made like unto his brethren.” Therefore we must conclude that Christ had a finite humanity, and if his body is on high it exists in one place. [He here quoted from Augustine, Fulgentius, and others.] We must affirm, therefore, that Christ’s body is in one place, and cannot be in many.

Luther: In like manner you might prove that Christ had a wife, and that his eyes were black.  As to his being in one place, I have already declared to you, and I now repeat, I care nothing for mathematics.

zwingliZwingli began quoting additional passages from the Greek text to prove the finiteness of Christ’s nature. Luther, interrupting him, requested that he employ either Latin or German instead of Greek. “Pardon me,” answered Zwingli, “for twelve years I have read the New Testament in Greek.”

Luther: As in the case of a nut and its shell, so in the case of Christ’s body. I concede its finiteness. But God can cause it to exist in a place and not in a place at the same time.

As soon as Luther conceded that Christ’s body was finite, Zwingli caught him up and said: “Therefore it is local, exists in a place, and if so, it is in heaven, and hence cannot be in the bread.” Luther would not admit that it existed in a place, saying: “Ich will es nicht gehebt haben, ich will sie nichts.” (I will not allow it, I positively will not.)

Zwingli retorted: “Muoss man dann grad alles, was ihr wollend?” (Must everything be as you will it?)

Fortunately, as Collin informs us, they were interrupted at this exciting juncture by a servant of the Prince, who announced that dinner was served.

When the theologians assembled at the next session, Zwingli resumed the discussion where they had left off. “Christ’s body is finite,” said he, “therefore it exists in a place.”

Luther: Although it is in the sacrament, it is not there as in a place. God could so dispose of my body that it would not be in a place; for the sophists say that a body can exist in several places at the same time; e.g., the earth is a body, yet it does not exist in one place.

Zwingli: You argue from the possible to the impossible. Prove to me that the body of Christ can exist in several places at the same time.

Luther: “This is my body.”

Zwingli: You repeatedly beg the question. I might thus contend that John was the son of Mary, for Christ said, “Behold thy son.” We must ever teach, forsooth, that Christ said, “Ecce filius tuus, ecce filius tuus!” Behold thy son, behold thy son!)

Luther: I do not beg the question.

Zwingli: Scripture must be compared with Scripture and expounded by itself. Tell me, pray, whether Christ’s body exists in a place.

melanchthonBrenz: It does not.

Zwingli: Augustine says that it must exist in a single place.

Luther: Augustine was not speaking of the Supper. The body of Christ is present in the Supper, but not locally present.

Œcolampadius: If that is so it cannot be a true body. [Œcolampadius began quoting from Augustine and Fulgentius.]

Luther: You have Augustine and Fulgentius on your side, but the rest of the Fathers support our views.

“Please name them,” said Œcolampadius. Luther refused, but afterward prepared a list of references to passages in the Fathers which he thought favorable to his views.

It became evident to all that further discussion would be vain, and it was agreed to close at this point. The fruitlessness of the conference was a great disappointment to the Landgrave. He urged the disputants to come to some partial agreement at least. “There is but one way to effect that,” said Luther. “Let our opponents accept our views.” “That we cannot do,” replied the Swiss. Thus ended the discussion. Zwingli had looked forward to this meeting with strong hope of a final settlement of the differences which divided the Protestant Church, and was now overcome with disappointment. He sat apart from his friends and shed tears in silence, while the Landgrave and the Hessian divines redoubled their activities in a final effort to bring about an amicable agreement.

Marburg, 1529, And the Colloquy There Held

Huldrych Zwingli and Johannes Oecolampadius met with Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon in Marburg beginning October 1, 1529 till October 3.  They agreed on 14 of 15 points but, as everyone knows, they couldn’t come to agreement on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper.  Luther was far too ensconced in Roman Catholic theology to see with the clarity with which Zwingli saw. Consequently, Luther left the conference angry and Zwingli left depressed.

Walter Koehler wrote a fine essay for Zwingliana in 1930 on the colloquy which took place in Marburg at the behest of Philip.

It commences

„Um den Glauben wird der Streit gehen und um das Geheimnis des göttlichen Wirkens in uns” —• de fide erit contentio et de mysterio divinae operationis in nobis —, so schrieb im Frühjahr 1527, als das schon längst zusammengeballte Gewitter des Abendmahlsstreites zwischen Luther und Zwingli unmittelbar vor der Entladung zu stehen schien, der Süddeutsche Theobald Billikan nach Basel an Johannes Oekolampad.

They put their names on that agreement on 3 October, went home, and wrote very uncharitable things about each other.

Philip Schaff does a nice job of summarizing both the discussions and the viewpoints of the major actors.

Today with Melanchthon

melanchthon_holbeinIt was on 22 August in 1518 that the young Philip Melancthon arrived in Wittenberg to begin his life’s work of teaching there.  Just so you know.

Another Image of Melancthon… Just Because

2melanch

My Favorite Portrait of Melanchthon

Is this one by Hans Holbein the Younger-

melanchthon_holbein

And A Happy Anniversary to the Melanchthons

melanchAugust 18, 1520: Philipp Melanchthon married Katharina Krapp in Wittenberg. Katharina was the daughter of Hans Krapp who was the highly esteemed mayor of Wittenberg.

Apparently, Philipp had been determined to live his life as a bachelor. He was fully dedicated to his work and was afraid that domestic life would hinder his teaching and research. His friends, including Martin Luther, totally disagreed. While Luther at this time was totally avoiding marriage for himself, he realized that a wife was exactly what his friend and colleague needed. He helped to arrange the marriage and was a strong supporter of it.

Philipp and Katharina’s marriage was a happy one. Katharina proved to be a strong support for her husband both emotionally and physically. She stood by him when he face opposition from the other reformers and nursed him when he was ill.

Philipp and Katharina had four children: Anna, Philipp, Georg, and Magdalene.

For reasons that remain unclear, Kathrina and Katie Luther never became good friends. It seems that the Melanchthons initially disapproved of Martin and Katie’s marriage. Speculation has also been raised as to whether Katharina, who was born in a higher social class than Katie, resented a former nun now rising above her socially. The rift was obviously mended between Philipp and the Luthers and the Melanchthon and Luther children were playmates. But the Katies never became close despite all that they had in common.

Katharina Melachthon died in 1557 while Philipp was in Heidelberg furthering the cause of the Reformation.

This painting of Philipp Melanchthon is by Lucas Cranach the Elder

-Rebecca DeGarmeaux

And yes, she would have married anyone to rid herself of her maiden name.  #TragicGermanNames

Quote of the Day

“Philip [Melanchthon] stabs, too, but only with pins and needles. The pricks are hard to heal and they hurt. But when I stab I do it with a heavy pike used to hunt boars.” — Martin Luther

boar_hunt

Philipp Melanchthon: Der Reformator zwischen Glauben und Wissen. Ein Handbuch

This newly published work arrived today for review from DeGruyter:

Written by a team of internationally renowned scholars, this newly conceived handbook provides a reliable introduction to the life, work, and impact of Philipp Melanchthon. It presents the latest research on Melanchthon’s role in Reformation history, but beyond this, reveals his importance in intellectual history as a universal scholar of the 16th century.

More anon.

George Athas is In Berlin…

And he has snapped a couple of photos I am unashamedly kipping-

It’s International ‘Friendship Day’

So, along with being very friendly today, I’m also passing this along from our friends in Saxony-

The picture was taken inside the Melanchthonhaus in Lutherstadt Wittenberg. The exhibtion “Philipp Melanchthon: Life – Work – Legacy” honours Martin Luther’s great friend!

mel-luther

Today in Melanchthon History

From our Saxon friends on FB-

July 24, 1518-  Philipp Melanchthon receives a letter from Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, appointing him professor of the Greek language at Wittenberg University, founded in 1502.

It was a momentous calling.

Coming In October…

From the Editor in Chief- this news:

18. Oktober 2017 ist die Präsentation des ersten Bandes der neuen historisch-kritischen Melanchthon-Edition geplant.

The volume is on the DeGruyter website– Philipp Melanchthon: Opera Omnia: Opera Philosophica 2.2 Principal Writings on Rhetoric.

Melanchthon: On What Pleases God

melanchnullum Deo gratius est officium, quam veritatis et iustitiae studium et propagatio. nam haec sunt praecipua Dei dona, in quibus Dei praesentia maxime cerni potest. – Philipp Melanchthon

Fun Facts From Church History: The Augsburg Confession

“Melanchthon began the preparation [for the Confession] at Coburg, with the aid of Luther, in April, and finished it at Augsburg, June 24. He labored on it day and night, so that Luther had to warn him against over-exertion. “I command you,” he wrote to him May 12, “and all your company that they compel you, under pain of excommunication, to take care of your poor body, and not to kill yourself from imaginary obedience to God. We serve God also by taking holiday and rest.” – Schaff

These days folk take years to write considerably less and considerably less important.

Fun Facts From Church History

Melancthon1In the early editions of the Loci, Melanchthon didn’t discuss the doctrine of the Trinity because he had a certain bit of scorn for attempts to explain the mystery of the divine unity in trinity.

He accepted the doctrine and thought efforts to rationalize it silly.

There is No Defense Against the Slanderer

melanchton_foto_a_wagenknechtThe saying is certainly true that there is no defense against the attacks of slanderers. Nothing can be said so carefully that it can avoid misrepresentation. — Melanchthon

Because it’s the Anniversary of Melanchthon’s Death, That’s Why

In Memoriam Melanchthon

The greatest of the German Reformers (yes, greater than Luther) died on April 19, 1560.  As our Saxon friends write

Vor 456 Jahren starb der Reformator Philipp Melanchthon. Er war ein Überflieger, kein Zweifel. Mit 21 Jahren wurde Philipp Melanchthon, 1518, Professor für Griechisch an der Wittenberger Universität. Dort wurde er Begleiter des Reformators Martin Luther. Er schloss sich der Reformation an und nahm an allen entscheidenden Religionsgesprächen seiner Zeit teil.