"Philipp Melanchthon in Wittenberg"



    The Lutheran Journal, Vol. 66, #3, 1997 - Erwin Weber


The last issue of the Journal dealt with Melanchthon's early life which included descriptions of his ancestral home in Bretten, his early education in Bretten, Pforzheim, and Heidelberg, his teaching assignment at Tübingen University and his call to teach Greek, Latin and Hebrew at the recently established University of Wittenberg, founded in 1502 by the Elector of Saxony, Frederick the Wise.

When Melanchthon arrived in Wittenberg in 1518, he was only twenty-one years of age and looked very much like a boy. He was small in stature, had a delicate frame, and was very timid. He was not an impressive figure. Yet in spite of his handicaps, this small individual was one of the influential personalities of the 16th century. For within this frail lump of clay, there was imbedded a gigantic intellect and noble soul, whose might and worth would soon become apparent.

Dr. Heinz Scheible, former Director of the "Heidelberger Adademie der Wissenschaften" and recent recipient of the "Melanchthon Award" believes both Luther and Melanchthon were a team of two equally strong work horses on the wagon of history. Luther had the heroic strength to carry out the spiritual revolution. Melanchthon, on the other hand, was the traditional thinker, the invaluable assistant to Luther. The one warlike, aggressive, bold; the other peaceful, cautious, apprehensive. Both labored side by side for the same great cause.

Dr. Stefan Rhein, noted author and Director of the "Melanchthonhaus" in Bretten said that Melanchthon engaged in an enormous exchange of letters. He gave advice to city councils throughout Germany, Switzerland, and other regions in Europe, taught generations of students, built bridges between the various religious sects, promoted an ecumenical movement, denounced fanatics, advocated discussions as a basis for a liberal education and raised ethical questions based on facts rather than the jargon of self-centered so-called "specialists."

Dr. Martin Treu, author of numerous publications and Director of the "Lutherhalle" in Wittenberg stated that Melanchthon is the "Father of the Lutheran Church," as well as the "Father of the Protestant system of church education. To this very day, the Lutheran Church rests on three basic pillars written by Philipp Melanchthon. He published "Loci commune", the first systematic writing of an educational text for the forthcoming Lutheran Church. He wrote the rules and regulations of Church School Reform and the "Augsburg Confession" which contains the three Creeds of the ancient Church, namely, the Athanasian Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Apostles Creed. In this respect, Melanchthon is the forerunner and important leader of the ecumenical movement, not because he entered into all kinds of discussions and made numerous proposals towards unification of Christendom, but because he built upon the foundation of the ancient Church.