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Melanchthon

Melanchthon

During the early years of the Reformation, Melanchthon wrote several books on theology that were hugely influential in spreading Luther's ideas. He also helped to found and reform many German universities, thus enabling Protestantism to thrive in academic circles.

In 1520, Melanchthon married Katharina Krapp, the daughter of Wittenberg's mayor. The couple had four children together.

Loci Communes

In 1521, Melanchthon published his towering work of Protestant systematic theology - the Loci Communes. The main topics of his work revolved around original sin, grace, law, and free will.

One cannot overstate the significance of this text. It was the first time anyone had tried to condense the many different beliefs circulating in the early Reformation into one coherent system of thought. Luther believed this was such an essential contribution to faith that it deserved to be included in the Scriptures.

Augsburg Confession

In 1530, Melanchthon authored the Augsburg Confession. These 28 articles set out an official summary of the Lutheran theological position. The purpose of this document was to form a coherent confession of faith for Lutherans and to present a defence against Catholic adversaries.

Later Years

Melanchthon's fortunes suffered after Luther died in 1546. Melanchthon had always been more ready to compromise than Luther, and this earned him severe criticism after Luther's leadership had disappeared. He spent his last years in bitter controversies with more radical Protestant reformers and the Catholic Church.

The Philippist Movement

The Philippists were the theologians who decided to follow Melanchthon's more moderate form of Lutheranism. Their main opponents were the Gnesio-Lutherans, who believed that Christ was truly present in the Eucharist.

The Philippists first became a group when Luther died and Melanchthon became the leader of the evangelical church in Germany. Some of Luther's associates did not think Melanchthon was up to the task and followed Matthias Flacius, whereas others believed that Flacius was just trying to assert his own ambitions of leadership. The Philippists believed themselves to be the mean between the extremes of radical Protestantism and Catholicism.

Melanchthon himself never achieved his aim of reuniting the Protestant movement. Although he tried to take the reins of leadership, the Protestant movement splintered further without Luther's charismatic presence.

Language and literature are from heaven.6

It is contrary to the Gospel to institute or do such works thinking that we merit grace through them, or as though we imagine Christianity could not exist without such service of God.7

Melanchthon - Key takeaways

  • Philip Melanchthon was a humanist who became a leading theologian during the Protestant Reformation.
  • Melanchthon was born in south Germany in 1497. He died in 1560 after developing a fever.
  • Melanchthon was known for being the professional partner of Martin Luther. The two men worked closely together on theology.
  • Although Melanchthon is sometimes seen as no more than Luther's mouthpiece, modern voices challenge that assumption. They argue that he was an essential independent thinker in his own right.
  • Another of Melanchthon's achievements was his contribution to German higher and elementary education. Amongst other things, he founded three universities and reformed eight others.

References

  1. Philip Melanchthon, 'On the death of Luther', (1546), p.7.
  2. H. Ashley Hall, 'Philip Melanchthon and the Cappadocians: A Reception of Greek Patristic Sources in the Sixteenth Century', (2014), pp.38-39.
  3. Charles Leander Hill, 'The Loci Communes of Philip Melanchthon' in Philip Melanchthon, The Loci Communes, (2007), p.35.
  4. Charles Leander Hill, 'The Loci Communes of Philip Melanchthon' in Philip Melanchthon, The Loci Communes, (2007), p.35.
  5. Philip Melanchthon, 'Commonplaces: Loci Communes', (1521).
  6. Philip Melancthon, quoted in H. Ashley Hall, 'Philip Melanchthon and the Cappadocians: A Reception of Greek Patristic Sources in the Sixteenth Century', (2014), p.23.
  7. Philip Melanchthon, 'Augsburg Confession', Article XXVI 29, (1530).

Frequently Asked Questions about Melanchthon

Melanchthon believed in the teachings of Martin Luther and formalised these into several documents. The most important of these was the Augsburg Confession, a confession of faith for Lutherans based on Luther's teachings. The main tenets were that through faith (sola fide) and following the Bible (sola scriptura) humans can achieve salvation, granted by God's divine grace (sola gratia). This disputed Catholic beliefs at the time.

Melanchthon helped to reform the German education system alongside his contributions to the Protestant Reformation. He founded several Protestant universities and reformed Catholic universities to the Protestant theology. He also helped to produce the document "Instructions for Visitors" in 1528 which outlined a curriculum for elementary schools - it eventually created the first public school system in the world, based in Saxony.

Philip Melanchthon is best known for his close association with Martin Luther during the Protestant Reformation. Melanchthon wrote some of the most important Lutheran scriptures, including the Augsburg Confession.

Although some might believe that Philip Melanchthon was Luthers "closest friend", the two had a purely professional relationship. They often disagreed over doctrine and how the Protestant faith should develop. Melanchthon was known for his willingness to compromise with Catholicism and other Protestant denominations in order to unite Christianity, whereas Luther opposed compromise, wishing to follow his beliefs solely.

Philip Melanchthon was instrumental in the Protestant Reformation for his literary abilities. He wrote the Augsburg Confession, one of the most important Lutheran documents, which confesses the Lutheran faith and helped to unite the denomination.

Final Melanchthon Quiz

Question

What was Philip Melanchthon's original surname? 

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Answer

Schwartzerd.

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Question

Why did Philip Melanchthon change his surname? 

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Answer

As a humanist, he wanted to change his surname from German to Greek. 

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Question

When was Philip Melanchthon born? 

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Answer

1497.

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Question

What is renaissance humanism? 

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Answer

An intellectual movement which spread across Europe in the early modern era, focusing on classical antiquity and the question of what it means to be human. 

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Question

In 1518, Melanchthon became Professor of Greek at which university? 

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Answer

Wittenberg.

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Question

Who did Philip Melanchthon marry in 1520? 

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Answer

Katharina Krapp.

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Question

In which year was the Augsburg Confession presented? 

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Answer

1530.

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Where was Philip Melanchthon buried? 

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Answer

Next to Luther at the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg. 

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Question

Melanchthon created what in 1521? 

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Answer

The first Protestant systematic theology.

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What was Melanchthon's work of Protestant systematic theology called? 

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Answer

The Loci Communes.

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How many universities did Melanchthon found? 

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Answer

Three.

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Question

What name did Melanchthon become known as for his educational achievements? 

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Answer

The Preceptor of Germany.

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Question

When did Melanchthon die? 

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Answer

1560.

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Question

How did Melanchthon help create the first elementary public school system in the world? 

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Answer

He helped to create a document called Instructions for Visitors which contained an outline of a curriculum for elementary schools. When it was passed into law it crated a public school system. 

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Question

Which of Luther and Melanchthon was more ready to compromise? 

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Answer

Melanchthon.

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