Martin Luther was born in Eisleben, Saxony to Hans and Margaretha Luther, who were poor peasants. He would later say with pride, “I am a peasant’s son; my father and my grandfather, all my ancestors were genuine peasants.” He wrote of his parents that they “worked their flesh off their bones.” Luther had three brothers and three sisters. His parents were both strict disciplinarians who believed in a strong application of the rod. He received elementary education in schools in Mansfeld, Magdeburg and Eisenach. Under the strong hand of his teachers he learned the Apostles’ Creed, The Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments as well as several German and Latin hymns and many German proverbs. At fourteen he began supporting himself by singing in the streets. A wife of a very wealthy merchant in Eisenach, Ursula Cotta, began to help support him, due to the interest she gained in him because of “his hearty singing and praying.” Luther’s father was able to become a miner, which enabled him to buy some land and to send Martin to the University of Erfurt in 1501. Luther studied logic, rhetoric and metaphysics, as well as the classics. He also grew in his musical talents, singing, playing the lute and composing songs. He was a moral young man and a very devout Catholic, attending Mass daily, faithfully venerating the Virgin Mary and beginning each day in prayer. He chose as his motto: “To pray well is to study well.” At twenty he saw and read a Latin Bible for the first time. In 1505 two of Luther’s closest friends died, one of them at his side, which greatly shook him. In July of that year as he was returning from visiting his parents, he was caught in a thunderstorm and being nearly struck by lightning he cried out in terror, “Help, beloved St. Anne! I will become a monk!” Though his father was very displeased, wanting him to become a lawyer, Luther kept his vow and entered the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. Luther was a sincere, earnest and strict monk, always in fear and agony for his soul. He began studying the Scripture for the first time, spending long hours in prayer, confession and self-inflicted penances. Johannes von Staupitz, the vicar-general of the Augustinian monasteries in Germany, became Luther’s spiritual father, directing him to look to Christ’s sacrifice for salvation instead of to his own works. Like Erasmus von Staupitz was a strong critic of the Roman church, but always a loyal son to it. In 1507 Luther was ordained as a priest and began to preach and in 1508 he became a professor at the University of Wittenberg, all through the encouragement, oversight and direction of von Staupitz, who believed that activity and purpose would help Luther overcome his morbid introspection. In 1510 Luther took a pilgrimage to Rome, where he was shocked by the immorality, impiety, irreligious and opulent lives of the clergy and the pope and his circle. Luther wrote: “Everything is permitted in Rome, except to be an honest man.” After returning from Rome he began his professorship in earnest, lecturing on scholastic philosophy and Aristotelelian dialectics and physics. Through the study of Romans and Galatians Luther came to understand the truth of justification by faith alone. Romans 1:17 “The just shall live by faith” was key to his acceptance of the Gospel. In 1512 he became a doctor of divinity and learned Greek under his fellow professor Philip Melanchthon. His first lectures on the Bible were from Psalms, then Romans and in 1516 he began lectures on Galatians. The chaplain of Frederick the Wise the Elector of Saxony, Georg Spalatin, greatly respected Luther and became friends with him. This friendship was later key in causing the elector to protect Luther. During this time he also developed close friendships with Philip Melanchthon, Nicolaus von Amsdorf, Wenceslaus Linck and Andreas Carlstadt. The young and worldly Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, appointed Johann Tetzel, a Dominican monk, to sell indulgences to help pay off his debts and raise money for Pope Leo X’s self-aggrandizement. Through buying indulgences people were promised remission for sin and release from years in purgatory. Tetzel made a great show of selling indulgences crying out “As soon as the coin clinks in the chest, a soul flies up to Heavenly rest.” Luther was angered by Tetzel deceitfully taking advantage of the common people. At noon on October 31st, 1517 Luther went to the Castle-Church of Wittenberg and nailed his 95 Theses on the church doors. The Theses were on indulgences and invited public discussion on the matter. He also sent a copy to the Archbishop of Mainz. No one accepted the invitation to publicly discuss the 95 Theses, but within a month they were printed, translated and distributed throughout Europe. In 1518 Luther traveled to Heidelberg to debate with other Augustinians on matters of free will and salvation. Martin Bucer, Johannes Brentz and Erhard Schnepf were stirred in favor of reform through hearing Luther speak at the Disputation of Heidelberg. In October 1518 Luther traveled to Augsburg, with Wenceslaus Linck and Leonard Baier, to appear before Cardinal Cajetan, to answer for his 95 Theses which had angered the pope. Cajetan warned him that if he did not amend his ways he would be excommunicated. Johannes Frosch, who was living in Augsburg at the time, accompanied Luther to see Cajetan and then traveled back with him to Wittenberg. Frosch would later take a leading role in reforming Augsburg. Luther began studying the history of the papacy, concluding that it was an unbiblical office. Luther wrote: “I know not whether the Pope is antichrist himself, or his apostle.” From June 27th-July 15th, 1519 Luther and Carlstadt debated Johann Eck in Leipzig on the authority of the pope, free-will, good works, purgatory and indulgences. Luther came out stronger than he ever had in opposition to the doctrines of Rome, defending his beliefs from Scripture. Luther’s closing remarks in the debate were: “With all deference to the Fathers, I prefer the authority of the Scripture, which I herewith recommend to the arbiters of our cause.” In 1520 Luther wrote against the pope and called for reform through pamphlets, the most important being, Address to the German Nobility, Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and Freedom of a Christian Man, which addressed reform in the state, church and personal lives. Johann Eck and Cardinal Cajetan traveled to Rome to work to get Luther condemned by the pope. On June 15th, 1520 a papal bull of excommunication was issued against Luther. Elector Frederick resolved to protect Luther, who was very popular as a preacher and professor. Luther wrote a tract Against the Bull of Antichrist in response and on December 10th, 1520 he publicly burned the bull outside the city gates of Wittenberg. Luther was called by the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V, to a Diet in Worms. In April of 1521 Luther, accompanied by his friends Nicolaus von Amsdorf and Justus Jonas, traveled to Worms, under the protection of Frederick of Saxony, Philip of Hesse and Charles V’s promise of safe conduct. Large crowds greeted him as he and his friends entered the city in an open farm wagon. On April 17th Luther appeared before the emperor, 6 princes, 24 dukes, 30 archbishops and bishops, 7 ambassadors, knights and royal advisers. Before the emperor was a table with copies of Luther’s writings. Luther was asked if they were his and when he affirmed that they were, he was asked if he was willing to recant them. Luther requested time to consider how he would respond. On the next day, April 18th, when he reappeared before the emperor, he was again asked if he would recant, to which he responded “Unless I am convinced by Scripture or by clear reasoning that I am in error-for popes and councils have often erred and contradicted themselves-I cannot recant, for I am subject to the Scriptures I quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.” The Diet was hastily adjourned, as supporters and foes alike broke into cries and calls, and Luther was hurriedly escorted out by a group of German noblemen. When Luther had returned to his lodging he cried out to Georg Spalatin, “I am through, I am through! If I had a thousand heads, I would rather have them all cut off one by one than make one recantation.” Luther was allowed to leave Worms in safety but the emperor issued an edict against Luther. While on his return journey Frederick the Wise planned a feigned kidnapping of Luther, and had him spirited away to Wartburg Cattle where he was hidden for 10 months under the assumed name of Knight Jorg. Luther spent his time writing tracts and working on translating the New Testament from Greek into German. Luther would later work on the Old Testament with the help of a committee of professors at Wittenberg, including Melanchthon, Bugenhagen and Justus Jonas. The entire Luther Bible appeared in 1534. The Luther Bible greatly aided in the growth of the Reformation as well as standardizing the German language. In December 1521 Luther secretly returned to Wittenberg for three days, where he remained in hiding in the home of Amsdorf. He publicly returned to Wittenberg on March 6th, 1522. He was not pleased with the more radical reforms that Carlstadt had instituted and he began preaching against them and setting the church on a more moderate road of reform. After his return, Luther began to lead forward the rapidly growing Reformation, corresponding with and teaching many ministers, reformers and rulers from all over Europe. In 1524 peasants in Swabia and the Upper Rhine near Switzerland, many inflamed by Thomas Müntzer, began to rebel, destroying life and property on every hand. By 1525 the rebellion had spread through most of south-western and central Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Luther strongly advocated a heavy handed and total suppression of the peasants. A group of nine nuns escaped their convent and came to Wittenberg where they came under Luther’s support and oversight, among them was Katharine von Bora. Luther and Amsdorf both tried to find a husband for Katharine, but she told Amsdorf that she was only willing to marry him or Luther. On June 13th, 1525 Martin and Katharine were married by Johannes Bugenhagen. Katharine, who Luther called Katie, was a good match for Luther and helped provide a good home life for the family. They had six children, one died in infancy and their other children were Hans, Martin, Paul, Margaretta and Magdalena(Lena), a sweet and pious girl who died at 14 causing Luther great sorrow. Luther’s home was as much a class room for the many students that stayed with him as was his lecture hall. In December 1525 Luther published his famous work The Bondage of the Will in response to Erasmus’s Freedom of the Will. This work defended God’s sovereignty over the will of man. Luther continued to write many tracts, a catechism and the words for 37 hymns and at least eight hymn tunes. His most famous hymn for which he wrote both the music and the words, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, was based on Psalm 46 and was written in 1527. Luther labored to promote and organize boys’ schools throughout Germany. Luther, Melanchthon and Bugenhagen attacked the Swiss reformers Zwingli and Œcolampadius’s view on the Lord’s Supper, who taught that the Lord’s Supper was simply a memorial that only benefited those that had faith in the finished work of Christ that was being remembered by taking the bread and wine. This attack of the German reformers began a heated and at times ugly debate on the matter, each side writing many essays, pamphlets and books. This controversy brought disunity between Protestants and Protestant states who were trying to defend themselves against the doctrines and armies of the Catholic countries. In 1529 Philip of Hesse organized a conference at Marburg in hope of reaching unity between the Protestant theologians and then getting the Protestant states to fight against the Catholics and the Turks. The Marburg Colloquy began on Friday, October 1st, 1529. The two parties were able to agree to 14 articles of faith but though the spirit of the meetings were cordial, with exception of an outburst from Luther, the 15th article on the Lord’s Supper could not be resolved. Luther kept insisting that “This is my body” was literal, being unwilling to part with his view on consubstantiation which was that the “presence” of Christ was in the bread and wine. The Marburg Colloquy sadly failed to bring theological unity or tolerance or a military alliance. Luther continued his brutal attacks on the Zwinglian view of the Lord’s Supper through the rest of his life. In 1530 Luther was not allowed by his friends and allies to attend the Diet of Augsburg because of his combative nature. During the Diet he was confined in Coburg Castle, where by letter he could help his followers in drawing up a confession. Luther spent the last years of his life writing, often harshly lashing out at his Papist, Zwinglian, Calvinist, lawyer, Jewish, and Anabaptist enemies. With the constant aid and input of Melanchthon he also worked preaching, lecturing and helping to establish churches faithful to the Augsburg Confession. He called these churches Evangelical Churches, but they were known by everyone else as Lutheran Churches and were predominantly in Scandinavia, Poland, Prussia and northern Germany. Luther was, along with Melanchthon, the leading figure in the German Reformation and the influence of his courage and doctrine was felt throughout all of Europe.
Wittenberg is renowned as being the cradle of the Reformation. It is situated on the right bank of the river Elbe on a low sandy plain and surrounded by sandy plains and sterile soil. It was founded in the 12th century by fishermen and has never been distinguished for commerce or manufacturing. At the beginning of the 16th century Wittenberg had a population of about 3,000. Its inhabitants were described by Martin Luther as “disobliging and discourteous, without any regard for the finer and higher culture, and dwelling on the borders of civilization.” Wittenberg was described as “more like a village than a city,” its “houses were small, old, ugly, low, [and]wooden.” Wittenberg was the capitol of Electoral Saxony and had a castle with a church attached to it, a parish church and an Augustinian monastery. Frederick the Wise sought the best scholars he could find to teach in the Wittenberg University. The University grew rapidly, from 120 students in the winter semester of 1518-1519 to 600 students in the fall of 1520. Students from all parts of Germany, as well as many from foreign lands, flocked to Wittenberg, chiefly to hear Melanchthon. Once the Reformation began hundreds of men came to Wittenberg from all over Europe to study. The Germans mostly studied under Luther, who predominately taught in German, while the rest studied under Melanchthon, who taught and lectured in Latin. Many of the students stayed in the homes of Luther and Melanchthon, which enabled them to be discipled outside of the class room. Many reformers and ministers were raised up through the work of the Wittenberg University.
The 95 Theses
Out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following theses will be publicly discussed at Wittenberg under the chairmanship of the reverend father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology and regularly appointed Lecturer on these subjects at that place. He requests that those who cannot be present to debate orally with us do so by letter.
In the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent”, he willed the entire life of the believers to be one of repentance.
This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortifications of the flesh.
The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self, that is true inner repentance, until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.
The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.
God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to his vicar, the priest.
The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.
Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and necessity.
Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.
Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept [Matt. 13:25].
In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.
The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.
Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.
This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near the horror of despair.
Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and assurance of salvation.
It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily decrease and love increase.
Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or Scripture, that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.
Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.
Therefore the pope, when he uses the words “plenary remission of all penalties,” does not actually mean “all penalties,” but only those imposed by himself.
Thus those indulgence-preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.
As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.
If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.
For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that indiscriminate and high sounding promise of release from penalty.
That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese or parish.
The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.
They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.
It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.
Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.
No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.
The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.
Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be certainly dammed, together with their teachers.
Men must especially be on their guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.
For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.
They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.
Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.
Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.
Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said [Thesis 6], the proclamation of the divine remission.
It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.
A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them-at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.
Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think they are preferable to other good works of love.
Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.
Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.
Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.
Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath.
Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.
Christians are to be taught that the buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.
Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.
Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.
Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.
Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.
It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.
They are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.
Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.
It is certainly the pope’s sentiment that if indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
The treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.
That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many [indulgence-]preachers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.
Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.
St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.
Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure;
For it is clear that the pope’s power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.
The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.
But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last [Matt. 20:16].
On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.
Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.
The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.
The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.
They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.
Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence.
But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.
Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed;
But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence-preachers be blessed;
Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatsoever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.
But much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.
To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.
We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.
To say that even St. Peter, if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.
We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written in 1 Cor. 12[:28].
To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgences-preachers, is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.
The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.
This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.
Such as: “Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial.”
Again, “Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”
Again, “What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, because of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love’s sake?”
Again, “Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?”
Again, “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?”
Again, “What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?”
Again, “What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?”
“Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?”
To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.
If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.
Away then with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace! [Jer. 6:14]
Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!
Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their head, through penalties, death, and hell;
And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace [Acts 14:22].
Diet of Speyer
It was at the Diet of Speyer in 1529 that the Evangelicals began to be called Protestants because of their celebrated Protest against the decree of the Diet, which declared that Lutheranism was not allowed to spread any further, the Zwinglians were to be banished and the Anabaptists executed. Against the first of these points the Lutheran princes signed the Protestation. Those that signed were Elector John of Saxony, Margrave George of Brandenburg, Dukes Ernest and Francis of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Landgrave Philip of Hesse, Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt, and representatives from 14 imperial cities. The Emperor Charles V did not heed their protest.
Diet of Augsburg
In January, 1530, at a time of great tension, uncertainty and disagreement between the Roman Church and the Protestants, the emperor announced an Imperial Diet at Augsburg to begin April 8th. One of the purposes of the Diet was: “To consult and decide about the disturbances and dissensions in the Holy Faith….All sentiments and opinions are to be heard, understood and considered…in love and kindness, so as to put away what is not right in both parties, that true religion may be accepted and held by us all….” Melanchthon and Jonas among others went with Elector John of Saxony and his son John Frederick to the Diet. Melanchthon wrote up a confession of the faith and beliefs of the Protestants to be presented to the emperor which came to be known as the Augsburg Confession. It was written with extreme care during the course of two months of unremitting toil, costing the author many sleepless nights and agonizing days. Every word was weighed, every thought pondered. His aim was to unite perfection of style and finish to fidelity to truth and history. Melanchthon worked on the Confession up to the last hour before its presentation. The Augsburg Confession was subscribed by seven princes and the representatives of two cities as the confession of their faith and that of their churches. The Augsburg Confession was read in the German language before the emperor and the Diet on Saturday, June 25th at 4:00 in the afternoon, the most memorable day in Lutheran history, in the private chapel of the episcopal palace. Chancellor Baier read the Confession in a voice so loud and clear that every word was understood both by everyone in the chapel and the throng assembled in the court beneath. The Augsburg Confession is the fundamental creed of German Protestantism. It contained a doctrinal part (the Schwabach Articles forming its basis) and an apologetic part (the so-called Torgau Articles as its basis) and stated what was held and taught in the churches of the subscribing princes and cities. The confession was signed by Elector John of Saxony, Duke John Frederick of Saxony, Landgrave Philip of Hesse, Margrave George of Brandenburg, Dukes Ernest and Francis of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt and representatives from Nürmberg and Reutlingen.
The Augsburg Confession
Article IV …men cannot be justified (obtain forgiveness of sins and righteousness) before God by their own powers, merits, or works; but are justified freely (of grace) for Christ’s sake through faith….
Article VI …that this faith should bring forth good fruits, and that men ought to do the good works commanded of God, because it is God’s will, andnot on any confidence of meriting justification before God by their works….
Article IX Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that by Baptism the grace of God is offered, and that children are to be baptized, who by Baptism, being offered to God, are received into God’s favor.
Article X Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the (true) body and blood of Christ are truly present (under the form of bread and wine), and are (there) communicated to those that eat in the Lord’s Supper (and received)….
Article XVI Concerning civil affairs, they teach that such civil ordinances as are lawful are good works of God; that Christians may lawfully bear civil office, sit in judgments, determine matters by the imperial laws, and other laws in present force, appoint just punishments, engage in just war, act as soldiers, make legal bargains and contracts, hold property, take oath when the magistrates require it, marry a wife, or be given in marriage….
Philippus Melanchthon/Philip Schwartzard
Philip Melanchthon was born to godly parents George and Barbara Schwartzard in the small city of Bretten in the Palatinate. Melanchthon’s father and grandfather died when he was eleven years old. George’s last words to his son were “Fear God and do right”. His mother died in 1529. Melanchthon received a very good education, first attending the town school, and then having a private tutor, John Unger. Of John Unger Melanchthon writes “I had a teacher who was an excellent linguist. He was an honest man. He taught the Gospel and suffered much for the Gospel’s sake. He was pastor at Pforzheim. He drove me to the grammar and required me to construct sentences…He would not allow me to pass over anything. Whenever I would make a mistake he plied the rod, and yet with the moderation that was proper. Thus he made me a linguist. He was a good man. He loved me as a son, and I him as a father…I loved him not withstanding that he used such severity; though it was not severity, but parental correction which urged me to diligence….” After the death of both Melanchthon’s father and grandfather, his grandmother Elizabeth Reuter undertook his education. She moved with him back to her native town of Pforzheim so that he could attend the Latin school there, one of the most celebrated in the Palatinate, and so he would be more under the influence of his Uncle Reuchlin who was the best Greek and Hebrew scholar in Germany. When he was 12 years old his Uncle Reuchlin was so pleased with his learning and abilities that he said such a clever and learned young man should no longer be called by the homely name of Schwartzard, meaning black earth, but by its Greek equivalent Melanchthon. It is by this name that Philip has since been known. Melanchthon laid the foundation for his role that he would later play by being a very diligent student in Latin, Greek, Logic, Rhetoric, Philosophy, Mathematics, and Astronomy, and forming friendships with godly and talented men. In 1518 Melanchthon became a professor of the Greek language at the University of Wittenberg. He would labor there for the next 42 years. In the coming years he would teach a wide range of subjects including Hebrew, Latin, and Greek Grammar, rhetoric, physics, and philosophy. “Melanchthon was the first to lead students to the original sources of theology and to train them by means of logic and classical literature to systematic thinking and to the clear expression of their thoughts.” –James William Richard. He suffered much from ill health, but a lofty intellect was housed in a weak body.
“All public and private life is profited by the study of history….Theology must be studied by the aid of the Greek and the Hebrew. When we go to the sources, then are we led to Christ.” –Melanchthon
Luther and Melanchthon complemented each other very well and were wonderfully prepared by God to work together for the Reformation in which they are entitled to equal honors. Luther said “I am rough, boisterous, stormy, and altogether warlike. I am born to fight against innumerable monsters and devils. I must remove stumps and stones, cut away thistles, and thorns, and clear wild forests; but Master Philip comes along softly and gently, sowing and watering with joy, according to the gifts which God has abundantly bestowed upon him.” Melanchthon loved peace, “What utterly prostrates me is strife and controversy”, but he taught and fought for truth in the midst of strife and controversy to serve His Master in the times that God providentially placed him.
Melanchthon was a prolific author. Among his writings were a Greek dictionary, books on Rhetoric, Apology for Luther against the Furious Decree of the Parisian Theologasters, an Apology showing that the Bible does not forbid marriage to either layman or priest, a Latin Grammar, a treatise on The Mass and Celibacy, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, a Commentary on Romans, Cario’s Chronicle, a number of editions and translations of various Greek and Latin classics, a Preface to a work on astronomy, Prefaces to Luther’s German writings, Confessio Saxonica, voluminous numbers of letters, and a Reply to the Impious Articles of the Bavarian Inquisition (one of his great apologetic writings). Melanchthon’s most important theological work is his Loci Communes or Theological Common Places, which was written when he was 24 years old. It met with extraordinary favor and many editions were printed and distributed. Its purpose was to set forth in condensed form the leading doctrines of the Christian religion in opposition to the Aristotelian subtleties. Its aim is to lead students to a profitable knowledge of theology, not to perplex and confuse them with doubtful disputations. “Yet I desire nothing so much,” says Melanchthon in the preface, “as to make all Christians thoroughly conversant with the Holy Scriptures alone, and to transform them into the image of the same.” The Loci Communes systematizes what Luther and Melanchthon taught and is the forerunner of the Augsburg Confession. “Read Philip’s Loci next to the Bible. In this most beautiful book the pure theology is stated in a quiet and orderly way.” –Luther.
The Disputation in Leipzig in June, 1519 between Martin Luther, Carlstadt, and John Eck was a turning point in Melanchthon’s life. Though he did not take a public part in the debate he furnished Luther and Carlstadt with arguments and made suggestions. His faith in the authority of the Roman Church was now completely shaken and his active participation in the work of the Reformation really begun. Philip Melanchthon was married to Katherine Krapp on November 25, 1520, daughter of the mayor of Wittenberg, “a most pious woman, ardently devoted to her husband, liberal and kind to all.” (Camerarius) The match was made by Luther who wished to do the best for his friend and felt Melanchthon needed a wife to care for his weak body. Melanchthon at first rebelled at the idea of marriage because he loved study more, but at length reluctantly consented, “I am robbing myself of study and of pleasure in order to follow the counsel and subserve the pleasure of others.” The happy couple was married for 37 years and had two sons and two daughters. Katherine died October 11, 1557 while Philip was away at a conference at Worms.
Up until 1527 the Reformation had mostly consisted of attacks on and teaching against the papacy and its institutions which led to a general dissolution of the old ecclesiastical system with a lapse of discipline and the neglect of public worship. The churches needed reorganization and reconstruction on an evangelical basis. Melanchthon had to take the lead in this work of organizing an evangelical Lutheran Church as he did in almost all of the practical affairs of the Reformation. He began the work of visiting the churches and examining the ministers in July of 1527 in one of the four districts in Saxony. The condition of the churches was deplorable. Ignorance of the Scripture and the new Reformation doctrines was wide spread. Disorder and confusion abounded. The people were sunk in the deepest immorality. Melanchthon wrote the Visitation Articles in 1527 through which he was the organizer of the Lutheran Church in Saxony and later in other lands. They were to serve as a guide for visiting the remaining districts and consisted of 18 articles and contained a confession of faith, a directory of worship, and a school order. Melanchthon, Luther, Bugenhagen and others visited all the districts of Saxony. Churches and schools were reformed, consistories were established, able pastors were put in place and superintendents were appointed.
“Justification is to absolve, or to pronounce just….Faith…is confidence in mercy promised for Christ’s sake….It includes the knowledge of the history of Christ as the Son of God and a habit or action of the will which accepts the promise of Christ and reposes in Christ.” –Melanchthon in his Loci Communes on Good Works
The Diet of Speyer in 1529 was the first one attended by Melanchthon and began his work of more than 25 years of serving the Reformation in negotiations and conferences.
Melanchthon, along with others, went with the Elector to the Diet of Augsburg in 1530. He wrote up a confession of the faith and beliefs of the Protestants to be presented to the emperor which came to be known as the Augsburg Confession. It was written with extreme care during the course of two months of unremitting toil, costing the author many sleepless nights and agonizing days. Every word was weighed, every thought pondered. His aim was to unite perfection of style and finish to fidelity to truth and history. Melanchthon worked on the Confession up to the last hour before its presentation.
Melanchthon gave to the subject of the Lord’s Supper more thought and investigation than he did to any other. In 1537 he wrote “For ten years neither day nor night has passed in which I have not reflected on this subject.” He affirmed “the true presence of Christ in the Supper” but always refrained from defining the mode of the presence, referring it to the will and institution of Christ, saying “Not without the greatest struggles have I reached the conclusion that Christ is truly present.”
The Wittenberg Concord was one of Melanchthon’s most useful writings. It contains articles on the Lord’s Supper, Infant Baptism, and Absolution. The Wittenberg Concord was an honest effort on both sides to deal with and come to an agreement on differences, particularly on what the presence of the Lord in the Lord’s Supper meant, between the men and leaders of the Reformation. It was signed by twenty one persons. Sadly it failed to effect any lasting union.
On April 5th, 1560 Philip Melanchthon caught a cold which was followed by a fever that gradually grew worse, but did not at once incapacitate him. He continued to lecture, write letters, converse with his friends, and revise manuscripts for the press right up to the end of his life. He died the evening of April 19th, 1560. The Lutheran Church honors Melanchthon together with Martin Luther as its fathers and founders. Melanchthon is known as the Teacher of Germany.
Heinrich the Pious of Saxony
Soon after Martin Luther nailed up his 95 Theses, Heinrich fully embraced the true Gospel and became a devoted follower of Luther. In 1539 he became the Duke of the Duchy of Saxony and though he only ruled for two years he spent those years in tirelessly establishing Lutheranism throughout Saxony. His sons Maurice and then Augustus both upheld Lutheranism in the Duchy of Saxony but were both more concerned with political intrigue than religion.
Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony
Frederick the Wise succeeded his father as Elector of Saxony in 1486 and in 1502 founded the University of Wittenberg. In 1519 Pope Leo X tried to have Frederick made emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, but Frederick put his support behind Charles V. Frederick had one of the largest collections of relics in Europe numbering over 19,000 items. In 1518 when Luther was summoned to Rome, Frederick saw to it that Luther did not leave Germany and in 1520 he protected Luther from being hurt by the papal bull. Frederick arranged for Luther to have a safe hearing before the Diet of Worms and afterwards had him spirited away to Wartburg Castle for safety. In 1524 he ended the veneration of relics in Saxony. Frederick’s treasurer, Degenhart Pfaffinger, commended Luther to him, and his chaplain, Georg Spalatin, was also a strong supporter of Luther who helped to influence Frederick to help and protect Luther. When Frederick was on his death bed he received Protestant communion for the first time.
John the Steadfast, Elector of Saxony
John the Steadfast was the younger brother of Frederick the Wise. John co-ruled with his brother, Frederick, the two brothers sought the advice of each other on important decisions. John had his own court which he held in Weimar and focused on the rule of Thuringian, Franconian and Vogtland. John became a faithful supporter and protector of Luther. John was a close friend with Philip of Hesse, but was more reluctant than Philip to fight against the emperor. In 1527 the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church was established with John as its first bishop. In 1529 John was one of the princes to sign the Protestation of Speyer. In 1530 John took a leading role at the Diet of Augsburg, of whom Luther wrote: “I think certainly that the Elector John of Saxony has the Holy Spirit. In Augsburg he proved this admirably by his confession.” He helped to found the Schmalkaldic League which was led by him and Philip of Hesse. He had six young pages read to him the Bible six hours each day. John’s motto was: “The Word of God abideth forever.” Though not as well known as his brother Frederick, John actually did far more to advance the Reformation during his reign and, unlike his older brother, became a personal friend of Luther.
John Frederick the Magnanimous, Elector of Saxony
John Frederick was the eldest son of John the Steadfast and was educated by Georg Spalatin, Frederick the Wise’s chaplain and a close friend and supporter of Luther. Through Spalatin’s teaching John Frederick became a devoted follower of Luther’s teachings from an early age and in 1520 he sought out a personal friendship with Luther and began to regularly correspond with him. John the Steadfast began to let John Frederick help him to rule in his early twenties and to help in advancing the unity of the Protestant princes. He accompanied his father to the Diet of Augsburg, where he took an active role in the proceedings and joined his father in signing the Confession of Augsburg. In 1532 John Frederick succeeded his father as the Elector of Saxony. He proved himself to be less cautious in opposing the emperor than his father had been. He also worked to strengthen and purify the advance of the Reformation. He was a faithful and loving husband, and he was truthful and pure and upright in his speech. In 1546 John Frederick took a leading role in the Schmalkaldic War and at the defeat of the Battle of Mühlberg he was wounded, captured, exiled to Worms and condemned to live in prison. Throughout his imprisonment he was unwavering in his faith and calm in spirit. He charged his sons to be steadfast in their faith no matter the cost. John Frederick was released in 1552, after the emperor was attacked by the Lutheran Duke, Maurice of Saxony. After being released, he spent the last two years of his life again working to advance the Reformation and founding the University of Jena.
Pomeranus was born in Wollin, Pomerania. He studied in Greifswald, was ordained and became a lecturer at a monastery in Belbuck. Through studying the Scripture he began in 1518 to come to many of the same convictions as Luther and commenced a correspondence with him. In 1521 he left Belbuck and went to Wittenberg where he studied and lived with Melanchthon. In 1522 he became the first Wittenberg reformer to marry. In 1523 Pomeranus was appointed the pastor at St. Mary’s in Wittenberg. When Martin Luther married Katherine von Bora Pomeranus conducted the services, he also served as Luther’s personal confessor until Luther’s death. In 1525 he was the first Lutheran to attack Zwingli’s view on the Lord’s Supper, sparking off a long and bitter controversy. In 1533 he received his doctorate and began to lecture on theology at Wittenberg University. He went on to write commentaries on Paul’s epistles, Matthew, Jeremiah and Jonah, as well as compiling a harmony of the Gospels in German. At the Marburg Colloquy, although hotly opposing Zwingli, he did try to bring some unity between Luther and Bucer. In 1533 he was made superintendent of the district east of the Elbe River. For two years, beginning in 1534 through the invitation of the duke, he helped to organize the church and advance the reformation in his native Pomerania. In 1537 he went to help establish the Lutheran Church in Denmark. He wrote books of church order for Braunschweig, Hamburg, Lübeck, Pomerania, Denmark, Holstein, Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, and Hildesheim. When Luther died in 1546, Pomeranus preached his funeral sermon.
Heinrich von Zütphen
Heinrich von Zütphen joined the Augustinian Hermits and studied in Wittenberg from 1508 to 1514. In 1515 he was made the prior of an Augustinian monastery in Cologne. From the beginning of Luther’s work for reform Zütphen quickly followed his example by working to reform his monastery but met with stiff opposition, so in 1520 he went back to Wittenberg and in 1521 started to teach biblical studies at the university. In 1521 he wrote 73 Theses against the mass. In 1522 he traveled to serve as a prior in Antwerp and to help advance the reformation in the monastery as well as among the common people. He was imprisoned but being so popular among the people they rose up and freed him. Two of the monks under his charge Johannes and Hendrik became the first Protestant martyrs. He then traveled to preach in Bremen, writing at this time “I will not be silent in preaching the Gospel until I have finished the course of this life.” Zütphen left the Augustinian order and began preaching throughout Germany. On December 9th, 1524 a group of drunken monks came by night and tortured and burned Zütphen alive.
Justus Jonas/Jodocus Koch
Justus Jonas was the son of a senator of Nordhausen and in 1506 he entered the University of Erfurt. In 1510 he went to study civil and canon law at Wittenberg. In 1515 he returned to Erfurt where he was appointed the Canon of St. Severi and preached at times. In 1519 Frederick the Wise sent him to meet with Erasmus and on his return he was made a rector of Erfurt. After Luther’s debate at Leipzig against Eck, Jonas wrote a tract defending Luther and in 1521 he accompanied Luther to the Diet of Worms, for which he was excommunicated and lost his position as Canon in Erfurt. He moved to Wittenberg where he married and began to teach canon law at the university. In 1523 he became the dean of the university. Jonas worked to translate many of Luther and Melanchthon’s works from Latin into German. He was also a delegate at the Marburg Colloquy and the Diet of Augsburg. He helped to organize and write books of church order for Anhalt, Naumburg, Zerbs, Halle and Saxony. In 1541 the citizens of Halle asked Jonas to come and help organize and stabilize the Reformation there. In 1542 one of his sons drowned in the Saale River and his wife died giving birth to their 13th child. In 1543 he married a second time and in 1550 he remarried a third time after the death of his second wife. In 1550 he became the superintendent of Coburg. In 1553 he became a pastor in Regensburg and then ended his ministry in Eisfeld.
George the Pious, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach
Being related to King Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary through his mother, George moved in 1506 to live in the king’s court in Buda, Hungary. The king treated him as his adopted son giving him a place in his government and making him the tutor of his son Louis II of Hungary. George became the leader of a German faction in the Hungarian court. George ruled duchies in Hungary and Silesia. He was the older brother of Albert of Prussia, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and later the Duke of Prussia. Through Luther’s writings, his bold stand at the Diet of Worms and the preaching of reformers in Nüremberg George became convinced of the truth of the Protestant cause. As George read through Luther’s New Testament, which was first published in 1522, he was led to put his personal faith in the Lord. George began a correspondence with Luther on matters of theology and faith. When Louis II of Hungary came to the throne George tried unsuccessfully to convince the young, vain and self-indulgent king to embrace the Reformation. George worked to fill his pulpits with reform minded preachers in his land holdings in Hungary, Silesia, Franconia, Brandenburg-Nüremberg, and Electoral Brandenburg-Ansbach. He labored to model the churches under his rule after those established in Wittenberg. He also worked to bring unity among the other Protestant Princes and Dukes of the Holy Roman Empire and opposed taking up arms against the emperor. At the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 George confronted the emperor with courage and zeal when he tried to put a stop to all Protestant preaching. Alongside John and John Frederick of Saxony, George of Brandenburg was the strongest, most faithful and upright of the German princes to support and propagate the Reformation.
Philip, Landgrave of Hesse
Philip’s father died in 1508 of syphilis at which time he was separated from his mother until 1514. During these years there were several nobles vying for control of his estates in Hesse. Philip was finally able to secure all his lands by 1523 after defeating in battle the last claimant to his land. He married Christina Duchess of Saxony with whom he had nine children. In 1524 he put down a peasant revolt and forged the Torgau League with Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, to resist Charles V’s infringement of their power. In that year he also began corresponding with Philip Melanchthon and embraced the doctrines of the Reformation after a thorough study of Scripture, the early church fathers and Luther’s writings. Philip led Hesse to officially accept the Reformation at the Synod of Homberg in 1526. Philip brought Francis Lambert to be a professor at his newly founded University of Marburg. Besides setting up a Protestant university and boys’ schools, he founded the first known mental hospital. After the Diet of Worms he began to openly oppose Charles’s edict against Luther and along with John of Saxony organized the Protestation of Speyer in 1526. During the Diet of Speyer Philip held an ox roast in open rebellion to the Catholic tradition of not eating meat on Fridays. In 1529 Philip, working with Martin Bucer, tried and failed to bring unity among the Protestant theologians, led by Luther on one side and Zwingli on the other, by organizing the Marburg Colloquy, which was held at his castle that served as the seat of his government. In 1530 Philip signed the Augsburg Confession and served as the spokesman for the Protestant princes before Charles V at the Diet of Augsburg. In 1531 Philip spearheaded the creation of the Schmalkaldic League, an alliance of Protestant princes for mutual defense against the emperor. Philip worked to restore Ulrich Duke of Württemberg on the condition that he establish the Reformation in his land. Philip had became dissatisfied with his faithfulbut in his mind unexciting wife and he entered into an affair with the 17 year old Margarete von der Saale, a lady in waiting of his sister. He desired to marry Margarete, so in 1539, through the counsel of Luther and Melanchthon, he took Margarete as a second wife. This bigamous marriage angered Charles V, caused disunity among the Protestant princes, brought disgrace and embarrassment on the German Reformation and destroyed Philip’s reputation and influence. In 1546 Charles V attacked and defeated the disunified Protestants Princes. Charles V had Philip and John Frederick of Saxony imprisoned in the Netherlands, where they remained until 1552. In 1555 Philip led the forging of the 1555 Peace of Augsburg which secured German princes the freedom to choose Romanism or Protestantism as the religion of their estates. He also worked to aid Huguenots in France and Reformed leaders in the Netherlands fight for their freedom. Though he continued to work for unity, freedom and peace for and among Protestants after his bigamous marriage Philip never returned to being a forefront leader.
Francis Lambert was the son of an official of the pope in Avignon and at 15 entered a Franciscan monastery. In 1517 he left his monastery, which he thought was too worldly, and began traveling on a donkey throughout Switzerland, Italy and France preaching the Scripture and reform. He began studying the Scripture for himself which led him to embrace the true Gospel and by 1522 Lambert had left the Franciscans and the Catholic Church, though he continued to dress in his Franciscan robes for some time. He preached against indulgences and led his converts in burning images and playing cards. He was the first to preach the Gospel in Geneva and then went on to preach the Gospel in Freiburg and Bern to large crowds, where he spoke in Latin since he did not know German. The Franciscans, angered by his preaching, stole his donkey and spread rumors about his character. In 1522 he traveled to Zürich where he met with Zwingli, and he went to Basle where he met with reformers. He traveled to Wittenberg where he was allowed to lecture at the university even though he was not fully trusted by Luther. While in Wittenberg he married Christina, a baker’s daughter. In 1524 he went to Strasburg where he worked among the French-speaking people for a time and helped Wolfgang Capito to found a college in his home. Through the recommendation of Jacob Sturm, the mayor of Strasburg, Lambert went and lived under the protection of Philip of Hesse. At the request of Philip Lambert wrote and nailed on the doors of the churches of Hesse 158 Theses, which he called Paradoxes, on church government. These Paradoxes proposed local congregational rule, with the oversight of a local synod and without state control. The first Paradox read: “Reformation means that all that has become deformed should be reformed. God’s Word alone shows what is deformed and what should be reformed. Reforms on any other basis are null and void.” Philip liked the plan but Luther convinced him that it was a bad plan. Lambert was appointed, by Philip of Hesse, as the head theological professor of the University of Marburg, where he taught many future German, English and Scottish ministers, among them the Scottish reformer and martyr Patrick Hamilton and English Bible translator William Tyndale. Lambert took part in the Marburg Colloquy in 1529. For some time he had wavered between Luther’s view of the Lord’s Supper and Zwingli’s, but after hearing the arguments at the Colloquy he adopted Zwingli’s view. He died of the plague in April of 1530, leaving a long lasting mark on the doctrine of the Church of Hesse.
In 1504 Johannes Frosch commenced his studies in Erfurt and entered the Carmelite Order. In 1514 he went to Wittenberg to study, in 1516 was licensed to preach and in 1518 he was made the prior of the Carmelite monastery of St. Anna in Augsburg. On October 7th, 1518 Martin Luther was brought to Augsburg to be questioned before Cardinal Cajetan and Frosch accompanied him to the interrogation and then returned with Luther to Wittenberg, where he became a professor at the university. In 1522 the city council of Augsburg called Frosch back to help Urbanus Rhegius reform the church. On Christmas Day 1524 Frosch and Rhegius served Protestant communion for the first time and in 1525 he married. Frosch strongly supported Luther’s doctrine on the Lord’s Supper. He also wrote a German Psalter.
Cellarius studied in Leipzig and was ordained a priest in Straubing. In 1524 when he began to preach the pure Gospel the Bishop of Bayern banned him from preaching, so he traveled to Wittenberg and then the next year he went to help with the work of reformation in Augsburg. Cellarius used much wit and mockery in his preaching, which helped win over many of the common people to the Reformation. Many people in Augsburg and the surrounding towns were saved under his preaching. In 1526 he married an Austrian named Felicitas. During the great communion controversy between Luther and Zwingli, Cellarius parted ways with Luther and joined the Zwinglian party.
Ulrich Duke of Württemberg
Ulrich Duke of Württembergso involved himself in wars in Italy, harshly suppressing and taxing his people, being unfaithful to his wife Sabina and killing a knight that was the husband of a lady that he was in an affair with, that he was placed under Charles V’s ban and run out of Württemberg. In 1525 he tried and failed to retake power by invading Württemberg with French and Swiss mercenaries. While in exile, Ulrich became friends with Philip of Hesse and, agreeing to adopt Protestantism, Philip worked to restore him to his duchy. In 1534 Ulrich with the help of Philip successfully retook the province. He carried through with his agreement with Philip by promoting and establishing Lutheran and Reformed teaching, closing monasteries, seizing church property and supporting Protestant military action. Ulrich soon returned to his tyrannical ways making him very unpopular with his subjects, though preachers that he appointed won over the population to Protestantism.
Christoph Duke of Württemberg
Christoph was the son of Ulrich Duke of Württemberg. After his father was banished he grew up in the court of Maximilian I Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and traveled with Charles V throughout Europe. When Ulrich retook Württemberg in 1534, Christoph was sent to the French court to help fight the Habsburgs. During this time he was saved and converted to Protestantism. In 1544 he married the daughter of the powerful Protestant George of Brandenburg, with whom he had twelve children. In 1550 Christoph succeeded his father, but unlike his father he was upright, kind, generous and very popular in and out of Württemberg. Christoph worked to fully reform the church and state and to advance the education of his subjects. He also gave one of his castles to be used by the South Slavic Bible Institute.
Ambrose Blaarer/Ambrosius Blarer
Ambrose Blaarer was from a prominent family of Constance and with his younger brother Thomas he studied in Tübingen, where he met Melanchthon. He then entered a monastery in the Black Forest, at which he later became a deputy abbot. Blaarer’s brother Thomas went on to study at Wittenberg where he become a zealous follower of Luther, and began to send his older brother Luther’s writings to read. In 1522 Blaarer left the monastery and returned to Constance after his abbot dismissed him for his growing reformed ideas. In Constance he lived with his mother and his sister, Margaretha, who embraced Protestantism and did much to minister to the poor and needy of Constance, organizing the first Protestant Women’s Aid Society and an orphanage. Blaarer worked to preach the Gospel and bring reform to Constance. During the controversy over the Lord’s Supper Blaarer refused to take sides, being angered that theologians were turning people away from the truth by arguing and fighting. In 1532 he began ministering in Esslingen, but he soon moved to Württemberg, where he was the first to introduce Protestantism. In 1537 he returned to Constance to help his sister, Margaretha, in her work and to serve as a church officer. His sister died in 1541 after exhausting herself in ministering to people sick with the plague and in 1548 Blaarer left Constance after it was placed under the imperial ban. He spent the remainder of his life in Switzerland.
Erhard Schnepf was born into a wealthy family and studied at the University of Erfurt and of Heidelberg. When Luther came to Heidelberg for a disputation, Schnepf became a zealous follower of him. He began preaching the Gospel in Württemberg until he was driven out and took refuge in Necharmühlbach under the protection of Lutheran Dietrich von Gemmingen. In 1523 he married Margaretha Wurzelmann, the daughter of the mayor of Baden Wimpfen. In 1526 he accepted the invitation of Count Philip III of Nassue-Weilburg to come and introduce the Reformation in Weilburg. In 1528 Philip of Hesse persuaded Schnepf to serve as a professor at the University of Marburg, where he served alongside Francis Lambert. He was appointed Philip of Hesse’s advisor during the Diets of Speyer and Augsburg. In 1534 when Duke Ulrich retook Württemberg, the duke urged him to come and join Ambrosius Blaarer in bringing the Reformation to the duchy. Schnepf became the court preacher and superintendent of the Protestant Church of Württemberg in 1535. Later in life he would become a professor and preacher at the University of Tübingen and the chair of Hebrew studies at the University of Jena.
Johannes Brenz was born in southern Germany in the city of Weil and from an early age studied under the future reformer, Œcolampadius. In 1518 he attended the Heidelberg Disputation where he first heard Luther’s 95 Theses and he soon joined the reform movement. In 1522 he became the preacher at St. Michael’s in Schwäbisch-Hall. He labored for many years to lead his parish into Protestantism. In 1527 he wrote one of the first Lutheran catechisms, which saw 500 editions, to help teach his parishioners. In 1525 he instituted the Protestant worship in the city churches but he waited until 1540 to institute it in the rural churches when he was sure they were ready to embrace it. He also wrote many pamphlets that were distributed throughout the German states in defense of the Reformation and during the controversy over the Lord’s Supper in defense of Luther. In 1530 he married but his wife soon died. In 1530 he attended the Diet of Augsburg with George of Brandenburg-Ansbach, who in 1533 commissioned Brenz to write a book of church order for Brandenburg-Ansbach and Nüremberg. Brenz came into conflict with Luther by writing against using capital punishment for heretics and attacking Protestants for taking up arms against the emperor. Beginning in 1536 he began advising the reformers of Württemberg and helped organize the University of Tübingen. In 1548 he was forced to flee to Württemberg where he became the advisor of Duke Christoph and the leading preacher in the duchy. During his life he wrote 517 known books, mostly on doctrine. In 1550 he married a second time and with his second wife he had 13 children. In 1551 he wrote the Confession of Württemberg. He also worked to organize schools throughout Württemberg. He was buried at the foot of his pulpit and he had inscribed on his tombstone “Should ever a preacher in this pulpit distort the Gospel, I may lift my head from my grave and cry: You are lying.”
George III Prince of Anhalt-Dessau
When George III’s father died in 1516 he was declared co-ruler with his brother of Anhalt-Dessau. In 1518 his relative Bishop of Merseburg secured him the office of Canon of Merseburg and he also went to study theology at the University of Leipzig. In 1524 he was ordained as a priest. To the end that he could defend the teachings of Rome against the Lutherans, George dedicated himself to an in-depth study for several years of the Scripture, church history and the writings of the early church fathers. His studies so convinced him of the errors of Rome and his own need for salvation that he became so burdened that he was very ill for some time. After a long struggle he surrendered his life to the Lord. After the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 he and his brother joined themselves to the Lutheran party. He implemented a moderate form of Lutheranism in Anhalt-Dessau not being willing to stray too far from church traditions that were not clearly forbidden by or contrary to Scripture. He was also very patient and understanding of those of his subjects not yet ready to forsake Rome. He gently served his subjects and preached the truth, giving them time for their eyes to be opened by the Spirit and the Word. In 1544 Maurice of Saxony appointed George the head over spiritual affairs in Merseburg and George divided their duchy in two, George becoming the sole ruler of the new province of Plözkau-Dessau.
Wolfgang Prince of Anhalt-Köthen
At the age of 8 Wolfgang entered the University of Leipzig and at 16 he began to rule Anhalt-Köthen. He heard Luther speak at the Diet of Worms at which time he wrote that “he gained my heart.” In 1525 with Luther’s help he officially made Anhalt-Köthen and Anhalt-Bernburg Protestant states, becoming the second and third states to do so. In 1526 he joined the Evangelical Schmalkaldic League, and in 1529 was one of the six princes to sign the Protestation of Speyer, and petition the Diet to remove the imperial ban against Luther. In 1530 he signed the Augsburg Confession. He worked to have Luther’s writings printed and distributed all over Anhalt. In 1534 he expelled Catholic priests and confiscated Roman Catholic church property throughout his province. In 1547 Charles V outlawed Wolfgang for fighting against him in the Battle of Mühlberg. He took refuge in Saxony until he was pardoned and his land restored in 1552 under the Peace of Passau.
Henry V Duke of Mecklenburg
In 1503 he began to rule jointly with his brothers Eric and Albert and his uncle Balthasar. After Eric and Balthasar’s deaths, Henry and Albert agreed in 1520 to split the duchy into Mecklenburg-Güstrow and Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Henry ruled Mecklenburg-Schwerin. From the very beginning of the Reformation Henry agreed with Luther and asked him to send him preachers and teachers. After the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 he openly and strongly supported Luther. Luther recommended Johann Riebling to help set up a Protestant church in his duchy and together they drafted a book of church order and a catechism. He kept himself out of the religious wars believing that war could not bring good to his people.
Johann Albert I Duke of Mecklenburg
Though from a young age Johann Albert was raised to be a devoted Catholic, he was sent at the age of 13 to be educated by his Protestant uncle Elector Joachim II of Brandenburg, alongside his son Johann George. From 1541 to 1544 he studied at the University of Frankfurt and then returned to Mecklenburg a decided Protestant. His father ordered him to fight on the emperor’s side against the Protestants in the Schmalkaldic War. In 1547 when his father died he took control of the duchy and began to introduce the Reformation. In 1549 he pushed the parliament of Mecklenburg- Güstrow to declare Lutheranism the state religion. Besides working to reform the church he also supported the arts and science, and set up several boys’ schools. In 1555 he married Anna Sophia, the daughter of the staunch Protestant Albert Duke of Prussia.
Ernest Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg
In 1512 Ernest was sent, along with his brother Otto, to live with his mother’s brother Frederick the Wise in Wittenberg. Ernest studied at the university there, where he saw the birth of the Reformation up close. After his father was forced to abdicate and flee to France in 1520, Otto and Ernest took charge of ruling Braunschweig-Lüneburg. Ernest married Sophia, the daughter of the Protestant Henry Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Otto stepped down in 1527 making Ernest sole ruler. The Reformation in Braunschweig-Lüneburg was begun by Gottschalk Cruse, Heinrich Bock and Matthäus Mylow and in 1525 Ernest closed the monasteries and invited Protestant preachers to spread the Reformation. In 1530 Ernest signed the Augsburg Confession and returned with reformer Urbanus Rhegius to help spread the Reformation among his people. Ernest also worked to send preachers into other duchies and provinces to preach the Gospel and he took a leading role in the wars of religion. He worked to follow his motto which was “Consumed in the Service of Others”.
Francis Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg
When his older brothers Otto and Ernest began to rule Francis, at the age of 16, was sent to study at the University of Wittenberg after which he stayed at the court of the Electorate of Saxony until 1536, where he developed a taste for luxury and pleasure. Francis signed the Protestation of Speyer and was a member of the Schmalkaldic League. He fought in the Schmalkaldic War and in 1542 he fought against the Turks. He ruled Gifhorn where he introduced the Reformation. Later he co-ruled Braunschweig-Lüneburg with his brother Ernest. Though he did support the Reformation and never wavered in his Lutheran beliefs, neither religion nor governance was very important to him and he spent most of his time and money on extravagant living, entertainment and self-aggrandizement.
Urbanus Rhegius/Urban Rieger
Urbanus Rhegius was the illegitimate son of a priest in Langenargen. Rhegius studied at Tübingen, Basel, Ingolstadt (under John Eck) and Freiburg, where he became friends with Capito. In 1519 he was ordained as a priest and in 1520 he became a preacher in Augsburg, and began to cautiously preach reform and the Gospel. In 1525 his sermons became zealous and outspoken for the truth, he served Protestant communion and married in that same year. During the heated controversy of the Lord’s Supper Rhegius did not take sides but worked for unity and understanding on both sides, which won the favor of Philip of Hesse. Rhegius helped with the drafting of the Augsburg Confession and persuaded Philip of Hesse to sign it. After the Diet of Augsburg he met Luther for the first time which helped him become a stronger Lutheran in his doctrine. After helping bring reform to Augsburg he left in 1530 tired of political controversy and went to help the Reformation in Braunschweig-Lüneburg under the rule of the Protestant Duke Ernest. He was soon made the superintendent of Lüneburg for which he wrote a book of church order. In 1535 he wrote an important handbook to help preachers grow in their knowledge of doctrine and to improve their preaching both in content and delivery. This handbook appeared in Latin, German, Swedish and Polish, and went through many printings. It remained very popular for a long time after his death. He was also active in working for the toleration and liberty of the Jews. Luther and many other ministers saw Rhegius as one of the most useful reformers in Germany.
Frederick II Elector of the Palatine
In 1535 Frederick II married Dorothea the daughter of Christian II the King of Denmark (who was an unfaithful Protestant). Frederick became the Elector of the Palatine in 1544 and tried to introduce the Reformation there, for which Charles V outlawed him. Frederick chose to submit to Charles instead of advancing the Reformation and being outlawed.
Otto Henry Elector of the Palatine
Otto Henry became the Elector of the Palatine after the death of his uncle Frederick II in 1556. On becoming the Elector he immediately instituted the Reformation. He was a staunch Lutheran but also allowed freedom to Reformed Churches. Though the churches of the Palatinate became Lutheran most of the people did not embrace the Reformation.
Frederick III Duke of Simmern and Elector of the Palatine
Frederick was raised in a strict Catholic family and was educated in Cologne. In 1537 he married Princess Maria of Brandenburg, with whom he had 11 children. Maria was a godly woman who won Frederick over to the Reformation and in 1546 he made a public profession of his personal faith in the work of Christ. In 1557 he inherited the Duchy of Simmern from his father and in 1559 after the death of his uncle Otto Henry he became the Elector of the Palatine. In 1559 a bitter controversy on the Lord’s Supper broke out in Heidelberg, the capital of the Palatinate, between Lutheran and Reformed theologians. Frederick deposed the leaders of the controversy on both sides from their offices of professors and pastors for their unchristian behavior and immersed himself day and night in studying the issue. Through his study, he began to favor the Reformed view on the Lord’s Supper, which increased after a disputation held in 1560 in which the Lutherans showed themselves so disagreeable and narrow that it disgusted him. In 1561 he officially adopted Reformed doctrine and called Reformed scholars to teach at the University of Heidelberg, including Ursinus and Olevianus. Frederick began working to make all of the churches of the Palatine into Reformed Churches. Images, crucifixes, vestments and pipe organs were removed, and Reformed worship was instituted. He had the Heidelberg Catechism drawn up to teach the young people the basics of Reformed theology. Ministers that insisted on staying Lutheran were dismissed. In 1564 the emperor ordered a reversal of Frederick’s changes and in 1566 the Diet of Augsburg also demanded Frederick to return to Lutheranism, but Frederick refused saying that he must obey God rather than man. Frederick continued to work to reform churches throughout the entire Palatinate. He set up a city for refugees from the Netherlands to live in and sent his son Johann Casimir to France to helped Huguenot believers. Because of his devoted faith, he was known as Frederick the Pious. During his rule most of his subjects fully embraced Reformed doctrine and the Palatinate became the center of the German Reformed Church. After his death Frederick’s oldest son Louis tried but failed to return the Palatinate to Lutheranism. The Reformed Church was again firmly established when Johann Casimir became the elector.
Ursinus was born in Poland and at 15 began to study at the University of Wittenberg, where he lived with Melanchthon, who was pleased with his intelligence and spiritual maturity. Through Melanchthon’s introduction Ursinus went and studied under Protestant leaders in Strasburg, Basel, Lausanne and Geneva. After he completed his studies he return to Poland where he wrote a pamphlet that supported Zwingli’s view on the Lord’s Supper. This pamphlet caused the Lutherans to run Ursinus out of town and he fled to Zürich, where he became friends with Bullinger and Peter Martyr. In 1561 he was appointed by Frederick III of the Palatine as a professor in Heidelberg. While there Ursinus wrote the Heidelberg Catechism with Kasper Olevianus, which became an important part of the doctrinal standards of German and Dutch Reformed Churches. His writings, which were printed by his sons after his death, became very important in forming the theology of the German Reformed Church.
Kaspar Olevianus/Caspar Olevian
Kasper Olevianus was born in Trier, the son of a baker, and studied in Paris and Bourges, where he became a Protestant. After a time of conflict with the Catholic priest in Trier, in 1560 Frederick III Elector of the Palatine invited him to come and teach at the University of Heidelbeg. Olevianus helped Ursinus write the Heidelberg Catechism, which became a doctrinal standard for many Dutch and German Reformed Churches. Olevianus was very strong in his Reformed beliefs and when the new Elector of Palatine, who was a Lutheran, began to rule Olevianus was dismissed from the University. He moved to Berleburg, where he worked on writing a commentary on Galatians and theological works on the Covenant of Grace. In 1584 he went to Nassau where he became the rector of Herborn Academy.
Nicolaus von Amsdorf
Amsdorf was one of the first students to come to the University of Wittenberg and he became a professor of theology there in 1511. He was a strong supporter of Luther and traveled with him to the Leipzig conference and the Diet of Worms and was one of the few to know of his seclusion in Wartburg Cattle. Amsdorf labored to set up Lutheran churches in Magdeburg, Goslar and Einbeck. He strongly opposed Luther’s support of the bigamy of Philip of Hesse. In 1542 he was set up as the superintendent of the Palatinate. He helped found the University of Jena in 1558. He supported high Lutheranism against Melanchthon and was a leading Lutheran theologian.
Martin Bucer was born in Schlettstadt, Alsace, a free imperial city, to a cooper. After studying in the local Latin school his grandfather forced him to enter the Dominican Order in 1507. In 1508 he took his vows as a friar, in 1510 he was ordained as a deacon, in 1515 he went to study theology at the Dominican monastery of Heidelberg and in 1516 to study in Mainz where he was ordained as a priest. In 1517 he entered the University of Heidelberg and began to study the writings of Erasmus. In 1518 Bucer met Luther who had come to defend his doctrines at the Heidelberg Disputation. Bucer was in agreement with the 95 Theses and was dismissed from the University when he made his beliefs known to the faculty that Erasmus and Luther were right in their beliefs, while Aquinas and the scholastics were not. After being dismissed from the University he chose to also leave the Dominican Order and in 1521 was finally released from his vows. Bucer served for a time as the chaplain of Ludwig of Palatine’s younger brother Frederick and lived in Nüremberg, where he got to know reformer Andreas Osiander. In 1522 he became a pastor in Landstuhl and married Elisabeth Silbereisen, a former nun. In 1523 Bucer went to Wissembourg where he strongly and loudly preached the Gospel to large crowds, for which he was excommunicated and forced to flee to Strasburg. Matthäus Zell, the leading preacher and reformer in Strasburg at the time, warmly greeted Bucer and made him a chaplain and set him up teach Bible classes. He was quickly appointed the pastor of St. Aurelia and was accepted as a citizen of the city. Bucer became part of the leading group of reformers in Strasburg which was made up of Matthäus Zell, Wolfgang Capito and Caspar Hedio. The reformers in Strasburg drew from both Luther and Zwingli’s teaching but were neither in one camp or the other, desiring unity and moderation on both sides. Bucer tried to mediate between Luther and Zwingli over the issue of the Lord’s Supper. Though Bucer in the end sided with Zwingli’s view, he continued to believe the issue was not important enough to divide brothers in Christ and that the debate was mostly one of semantics and not of substance. Luther was greatly angered by Bucer’s writings on the Lord’s Supper, believing him to be no better than Zwingli, which caused the church in Strasburg to move closer to the Swiss Reformed Church. In 1527, Bucer and Capito attended the disputation in Bern in support of Zwingli. Bucer also attended the Marburg Colloquy in 1529 and was very disappointed in Luther’s behavior. Bucer wrote after Marburg: “ If you immediately condemn anyone who does not quite believe the same as you do as forsaken by Christ’s Spirit and consider anyone to be the enemy of truth who holds something false to be true, who, pray tell, can you still consider a brother? I for one have never met two people who believed exactly the same thing in all areas.” At the Diet of Augsburg Bucer and the Strasburg reformers tried and failed to have the Lutherans leave out controversial statements on the Lord’s Supper. In response to this rejection Bucer drew up the Tetrapolitan Confession, named for the four cities that adopted it. Bucer then worked with Melanchthon to draw up nine theses hoping again to bring unity between Lutheran and the Swiss Reformed Church. Bucer met with Luther in Coburg to try to convince him to adopt the nine theses but Luther would have none of it. In 1531 Zwingli wrote and ended his friendship with Bucer due to Strasburg’s political ties to Saxony and Bucer’s continued contact with Luther. Bucer continued to labor to build an alliance between German and Swiss Protestant states. Bucer wrote: “In every case, we must seek unity and love in our relationships with everyone, regardless of how they behave toward us.” In 1530 Strasburg joined an alliance with Swiss Protestant states; they were already in league with other German states. Bucer began to teach that all images should be removed in an orderly way from churches. Bucer’s primary focus among the people of Strasburg was the reformation of their morals. He also worked to make Strasburg welcoming of refugees. Among the many refugees that flooded to Strasburg were a large number of Anabaptists, mystics and radical heretics, many of whom caused trouble in the city which led Bucer to ask the city council to take control over church belief and practice. The council chose to set up a commission headed by Bucer to deal with the more flagrant heretics and trouble makers. Bucer had Ziegler dismissed from his pulpit, Melchior Hofmann was imprisoned as a danger to the state, Hans Denck was banished, Caspar Schwenckfeld left before action could be taken against him and after several public disputations with Bucer Pilgram Marpeck was banished. After the Münster Rebellion in 1535 Strasburg, fearing a similar uprising, forced all the Anabaptists to leave the city and made Bucer’s Tetrapolitan Confession the official confession of all churches in Strasburg. In 1538 when Bucer invited John Calvin to come and lead a French refugee congregation in Strasburg a lifelong friendship began between the two reformers. Bucer sadly became entangled in trying to protect and justify Philip of Hesse’s bigamous marriage. Bucer began to work with Hermann von Wied to bring unity among Lutheran and German Reformed churches in the face of persecution from Charles V. In 1541 the plague struck Strasburg. Bucer’s close friend and colleague Capito died as did Bucer’s wife Elisabeth in November. On her deathbed Elisabeth urged Bucer to marry Capito’s widow, Wibrandis, after her death. Only one of Elisabeth and Martin’s many children lived into adulthood, Nathanael, who was mentally and physically handicapped. In April of 1542 Bucer married Wibrandis who had been widowed three times. She had been married to Ludwig Keller, Johannes Œcolampadius, and Wolfgang Capito. Wibrandis brought four children to the marriage and had a daughter, Elisabeth, with Bucer. Bucer lived in Cologne for a time to help the Reformation there. Bucer worked with Herdio, Melanchthon and von Wied to draft the lengthy Simple Consideration Concerning the Establishment of a Christian Reformation Founded upon God’s Word, which addressed issues of doctrine, canon law and liturgy. Bucer also wrote the 600 page book, Steadfast Defense, to support von Wied’s reform in Cologne. In 1548 he wrote an important work, Concise Summary of Christian Doctrine and Religion. With pressure from the emperor Bucer was forced to leave Strasburg in 1549. Melanchthon invited him to come to Wittenberg, Calvin invited him to come to Geneva and Thomas Cranmer requested he come to England. Believing he was more needed in England he traveled to London, where he was presented before Edward VI. He was made a professor of divinity at Cambridge University, where he worked alongside Peter Martyr, the Italian refugee and reformer. He tried to keep himself out of doctrinal debates at the university between Lutherans, Zwinglians, Calvinists and High Anglicans, saying “We must aspire with the utmost zeal to edify as many people as we possibly can in faith and in the love of Christ and to offend no one.” During the heated controversy over the wearing of vestments, in which Hooper, Martyr and Laski argued against Cranmer, Bucer refused to take sides though he did not agree with Cranmer. In 1550 Bucer addressed his book, On the Kingdom of Christ, to Edward VI urging him to take an active role in the English Reformation, which the young king did. Bucer also helped revise the Book of Common Prayer in 1552, making it more Reformed in nature. During Bucer’s last illness his step-daughter, Agnes Capito, lovingly labored to care for him. After his death his wife moved to Basel where she died. Bucer’s writings continued to be printed and respected by Lutherans, Anglicans, Puritans, Calvinists and Swiss Reformed ministers, who all claimed him as one of their own.
Wolfgang Fabricius Capito
Wolfgang Capito was the son of a blacksmith in Alsace and attended a Latin school in Pforzheim. He studied to be a medical doctor and in Freiburg received a doctorate in theology. He joined the Benedictine order and in 1516 became the cathedral preacher in Basel where he learned of Zwingli’s work and began to write to Luther. In 1519 Capito moved to Mainz and in 1523 to Strasburg where he remained for the rest of his life. After a time of struggling with the doctrines of the Reformation and those of the Catholic Church, in 1524 Capito came out in support of the Reformation and began helping advance reform in Strasburg. He was present at the Marburg Colloquy and helped Martin Bucer write the Tetrapolitan Confession. Capito was not dogmatic on points of doctrine and maintained fellowship and open discourse with Lutherans, Zwinglians, and Arians, which brought suspicion on his orthodoxy. In 1532 Capito married Œcolampadius’s widow, Wibrandis Rosenblatt, who after Capito’s death was married to Martin Bucer.
Matthäus Zell 1471-1548 and Katharina Zell
Matthäus Zell was born in Kaiserberg, Alsace and studied at the Universities of Mainz and Erfurt He spent some time in Italy and served in the army of Emperor Maximilian I against the Swiss. In 1517 he became the rector of the University of Freiburg and then in 1518 was appointed a priest at the Cathedral of Strasburg. Zell won great respect in the city through his eloquence and good deeds. He early on came out in support of the Reformation, being the first to preach reform in Strasburg. He also began to serve the Mass in German and then to serve the Protestant communion. When his pulpit was locked up his friends made him a portable one that was brought into the cathedral each time he preached. Large crowds flocked to hear the true Gospel. Though the Catholics resisted his work he was supported by Bucer, Capito, Hedio and Sturm. In 1525 Zell and Katharina Schütz were married by Martin Bucer before a large crowd of supporters, for which he was excommunicated. The city officials sided with Zell and he continued as the pastor of the Cathedral Church. Zell was a faithful, loving and zealous pastor, caring for his congregation and the students of the boys’ schools he helped organize. Katharina tirelessly served the poor, sick and needy of the city, wrote several books, some of them defending the Reformation, carried on a steady correspondence with many leading reformers throughout Europe, and was very hospitable, serving many leaders of the Reformation who stayed in their home, but was often too outspoken and somewhat self-conceited. Matthäus Zell was more reserved than his talkative wife, but he was also warm and loving to the many people that came through their home. Though Zell did not agree with the Anabaptists he believed that they should be given religious freedom and treated as Christian brothers and he strongly preached this view from his pulpit.
In 1518 Kasper Hedio began studying theology under Wolfgang Capito. In 1520 he wrote to Luther supporting his teaching and began a correspondence with Zwingli. In 1523 he became the preacher at the Strasburg Cathedral and in the next year he married Margaret Trenz. While Capito and Bucer were the leading theologians of the Strasburg Reformation, Hedio was the leading organizer and educator. He was present at the Marburg Colloquy but was in the background throughout. Hedio worked to translate many of the writings of the early church fathers and wrote a prominent world history. After Bucer left Strasburg Hedio became the leading voice of the Reformation in the city.
Jacob Sturm was a leading government official and later he was mayor of Strasburg who helped support the Reformation there. He signed the Protest at the Diet of Speyer in 1529 and was present at the Marburg Colloquy. He presented a defense of Zwinglian doctrine at the Augsburg Diet. After Strasburg took up arms against Charles V and lost, Sturm was able to negotiate lenient terms for the city.
Hermann von Wied
Hermann von Wied became an elector and archbishop of Cologne in 1515 and crowned Charles V as emperor in 1520. At the Diet of Worms he worked to have Luther declared an outlaw. Charles’s quarrels with the pope caused von Wied to start to question the pope’s authority. He also sought to bring some reform to abuses, and when the papacy resisted him he began to embrace Protestantism. In 1542 he appointed Bucer as court preacher and sought advice from Luther and Melanchthon on reforming the church. For the next few years he worked to advance the Reformation in Cologne. Hermann was deposed and excommunicated by the pope in 1546.
In 1507 Lazarus Spengler became the town clerk of Nüremberg. In 1518 he met Luther as he passed through and became a strong supporter of him. He actively worked to reform Nüremberg. In 1520 the town council led by Spengler refused to publicly denounce Luther and submit to the pope and thus were excommunicated along with Luther in the Papal Bull of 1521. Nüremberg sent Spengler to the Diet of Worms in 1521 to support Luther. He worked to secure and advance Protestantism in the city, through teaching and setting up schools. At the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 Spengler was a supporter of strict Lutheranism. He also wrote several popular Lutheran hymns.
Wenceslaus Linck grew up with Luther as a play mate and fellow student. He entered the University of Leipzig in 1498 and in 1501 became an Augustinian monk in Waldheim. In 1503 he entered the University of Wittenberg. Linck became a professor in 1516 and a prior in the Augustinian monastery, working alongside Luther. He spent time preaching in Munich and Nüremberg and became friends with Lazarus Spengler. Linck supported Luther during his questioning by Cardinal Cagetan and his debates with Eck. Linck became the leader of the German Augustinian Order in 1520. After the Diet of Worms he sought Luther’s advice on whether he should break with Rome. In 1523 he resigned his position and dedicated himself to preaching the Gospel. He worked for twenty years in Nüremberg as a reformer, preacher and writer, having a great influence on the Reformation there.
Joachim Camerarius studied at Leipzig, Erfurt and Wittenberg where he became friends with Melanchthon. He taught history and Greek in Nüremberg. In 1530 Camerarius was one of the deputies from Nüremberg sent to the Diet of Augsburg and helped draft the Augsburg Confession. He served as a councilor to reformers in many German towns. Ulrich Duke of Württemberg commissioned Camerarius to reorganize the University of Tübingen and in 1541 the University of Leipzig. He worked to translate many classical Latin and Greek writers and wrote 150 books on many different topics.
Andreas Osiander entered the University of Ingolstadt in 1515 where he studied Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. He also studied the Jewish mysticism of Kabbalah. In 1520 he was ordained and began teaching Hebrew at the Augustinian monastery in Nüremberg. In 1522 he published a Latin New Testament translated from the Greek and was appointed the preacher of St. Lorenz in Nüremberg. He soon began to preach reform and in 1523 began serving Protestant communion. Osiander was made the theological adviser of the town council who were working to reform the church and in 1525 he married. In 1533 Nüremberg and Brandenburg adopted his book of church order and in 1543 he wrote one for Palatine-Neuburg. In 1537 Osiander printed a Greek harmony of the Gospels to show that they did not contradict each other. He also wrote tracts defending Jews against false accusations. He worked to defend Luther and Luther’s writings at several lesser diets. Albert the Duke of Prussia embraced reform through hearing Osiander’s preaching. Osainder supported Luther at the Marburg Colloquy in 1529 but by the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 he began to openly criticize Luther’s teaching of justification. In 1532 Osiander met Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, whom he introduced to his niece, Margaret. Cranmer shortly afterwards secretly married Margaret. In 1548 he went to teach in Königsberg, in Prussia, under the protection of Duke Albert. Osiander caused much discord in Prussia through his contentious spirit and by teaching that justification must be followed by sanctification, which included growing into the divine nature.
Radicals and Anabaptists
Carlstadt received his doctorate of theology from the University of Wittenberg in 1510 and in 1511 became the chancellor of the university. He wrote against corruption in the church. Carlstadt debated alongside Luther against John Eck in 1519. The papal bull that excommunicated Luther also put Carlstadt under church discipline. While Luther was in Wartburg Castle Carlstadt led the Reformation of Wittenberg. On Christmas Day 1521, he served the first Protestant communion in which he did not elevate the elements, he did not wear priestly vestments, he served both bread and wine to the people, and he spoke in German instead of Latin and ended by shouting, instead of the traditional whisper, “This is my Body.” In 1522 Carlstadt helped lead the city council and the people in removing images from the churches and he married Anna von Mochau, who was 15 years old. When Luther returned Carlstadt soon became at odds with him on how to move forward with reform. Carlstadt also became more and more communist and mystical in his thinking and for a time rejected infant baptism, though he never advocated re-baptism. In 1523 he left Wittenberg. Luther falsely accused him of supporting Müntzer and the Peasants’ Rebellion. Though Carlstadt was radical in his thinking on the rights of the people and abolishment of the nobility and his teaching led many of his followers to join Müntzer and he also corresponded and supported Müntzer on many points, Carlstadt rejected taking violent revolutionary action. In 1524 Frederick the Wise banished Carlstadt from Wittenberg. He aimlessly traveled through Germany and Switzerland angry and bitter with Luther until his death.
In 1514 Thomas Müntzer became a priest in Braunschweig and began to preach against corruption in the church. In 1517 he came to Wittenberg and became involved in discussions with Luther leading up to the posting of the 95 Theses, but Müntzer soon began traveling and preaching throughout Germany. Though at first he preached the pure Gospel he soon began to teach heretical and mystical doctrine. In 1519 Luther recommended him for a post in Zwickau, where he joined the radical spiritualists Nicolaus Storch and Marcus Thomä Stübner in leading the Zwickau Prophets, who put visions, dreams and “angelic visitations” as more important than the Word of God. The Zwickau Prophets also rejected infant baptism and believed they would lead a revolution that would set up a democratic millennial government. A son of a leader of this group decapitated his brother after a long night of riotous “filling of the Spirit” because he believed God told him to. In 1521 the town council forced Müntzer out due to his radical teaching and he traveled throughout Germany and Bohemia causing trouble. He preached bloody rebellion against ungodly rulers of church and state. In 1524 peasants in Swabia and the Upper Rhine near Switzerland, many inflamed by Müntzer, began to rebel, destroying life and property on every hand. By 1525 the rebellion had spread over most of south-western and central Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Luther strongly advocated a heavy handed and total suppression of the peasants. Müntzer led one of the largest and best organized rebel forces. Close to 80,000 peasants were killed in the suppression of the rebellion. After being defeated in battle Müntzer was captured and executed.
Marpeck was a skillful mining engineer from Tyrol, Austria. Marpeck and his parents embraced the Reformation quite early on and in 1528 Marpeck joined the Anabaptist movement and was baptized on his profession of faith. After becoming an Anabaptist he was forced to flee with his wife and children to Augsburg and within a few months moved to a village outside Strasburg. He used his engineering skills to design and oversee the construction of an aqueduct to supply fresh water to Strasburg. He also helped enrich the city by overseeing a plan to bring wood down the Rhine from the Black Forest. Marpeck not only rejected infant baptism, but he also believed that Christians should not take up arms, that footwashing was an ordinance and that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus abolished the old law and set up a new one. In 1531 he published two books defending his beliefs, for which he was arrested and after three disputations with Martin Bucer, Marpeck was banished in December from the city. He spent the remainder of his life moving from town to town throughout southern Germany and Austria avoiding arrest, preaching, setting up Anabaptist churches based on the moderate Swiss Brethren model and writing books to teach and defend Anabaptist theology on an in depth level.
Casper Schwenckfeld was of noble birth and worked for Frederick II of Liegnitz and was one of the reformers in Silesia. Though at first a Lutheran he soon became mystical in his teaching and taught that Christ was not fully man but that his body was a divine body and that the ordinances were unnecessary. He also believed that there was no true church on earth but that no one had the authority to begin a true church. He wrote many long works and had a good sized following throughout Germany. Schwenkfeld encouraged his followers to publicly remain in the state churches, but to form secret societies and to avoid persecution at all cost.
Hans Denck studied at the University of Ingolstadt and obtained a master’s degree from the University of Basel. In 1524 he became the rector of the classical school of St. Sebaldus in Nüremberg. Denck became suspected of heresy and was asked to present a statement of his beliefs to the city council; this statement caused him to be banished. He traveled to St. Gall where he met with some Swiss Brethren and then moved to Augsburg where he was baptized by Balthazar Hubmaier. He held a mystical view of truth and rejected the Scripture as the final authority for life replacing it with the “Spirit’s” leading in the individual’s inner self. Denck baptized Hans Hut, who became the leading Anabaptist preacher in Austria. Denck then went to Strasburg for a time but did not join himself to any Anabaptist group that was there and was soon banished. While in Strasburg he met Michael Sattler who two months later wrote the Schleitheim Confession, which was a rejection of the teachings of Denck and Hut. Denck worked with fellow mystic Ludwig Hätzer to translate the Old Testament prophets into German and also developed a friendship with mystic Caspar Schwenckfeld. Denck wrote and taught about the ideas of universalism and unitarianism but it is unclear to what degree he fully embraced these ideas, though he did send his followers down the path which caused them to do so. In August 1527 he organized a meeting of Anabaptist leaders in Augsburg, known as the Martyrs’ Synod, because most of those that attended were soon martyred. The main point of discussion was the “approaching end times” and the need to evangelize. Most of the Anabaptists of Germany were mystics, revolutionaries and anti-trinitarian which helped further the idea that all Anabaptist groups throughout Europe were a danger to the church and state.