"Life of Philip Melanchthon"



    60-minute PowerPoint slide show (with sound) - Erwin Weber - July, 2000


Background Melanchthon
House in Bretten
Loci Commune
Lutheran Doctrine
Living Room Melanchthon
House in Bretten
Augsburg Confession
Philip Melanchthon
Old Man with Book, 1559
Book of Concord

I have prepared a 60-minute PowerPoint slide presentation which concentrates on the life of Philip Melanchthon from his birth in Bretten, near the Black Forest in Germany on February 16, 1497, to his studies in Pforzheim, Heidelberg, and Tübingen, to his friendship with Luther in Wittenberg and his hopeless conflicts within the Lutheran Church, until his longed-for death on April 19, 1560. The slide presentation is narrated by Kai Swanson.

Melanchthon's father, George Schwartzerdt, not only made suits of armor for the local prince, Philip of Palatinate, but also for the emperors, Charles V, and Maximillian I from whom George received a royal coat of arms emblematic of his profession. Melanchthon was named Philip in honor of the local prince. Philip was related to Johannes Reuchlin, a poet, Hebrew, Latin and Greek scholar, who noticed that Philip was very talented and urged him to study the Classics. Reuchlin gave Philip a Greek Grammar and translated his name Schwartzerdt into the Greek equivalent, Melan=black and chthon=earth. After attending Latin School in Pforzheim, Philip entered Heidelberg University at age 13 and studied the Classics. At age 14 he received a BA degree and applied for the MA but was refused because he looked "too young and foolish". He then went to Tübingen, where he earned the MA degree, began to hold lectures in the Classics, and wrote textbooks for the study of Greek and Latin.

At age 21 Melanchthon was called to the university in Wittenberg. After his opening lecture, Luther was so delighted, he wanted no other teacher of Greek and Latin. Luther and Melanchthon became the best of friends, for Melanchthon took Luther's thoughts organized them and converted them to the doctrine of the forthcoming Lutheran Church such as his Loci Communes and the Augsburg Confession. Melanchthon's fame spread throughout Europe. He received offers from other universities. For this reason, the Elector of Saxony and the University provided funds to build an impressive three-storied house (notice the living room above) for Melanchthon and his family. It is located next to the university in Wittenberg.

When Luther went into hiding after he was placed under the ban at the Diet of Worms, the burden of directing the Reformation fell upon Melanchthon. Although filled with talent, he did not possess the qualities to cope with the iconoclasts, the anabaptists, Karlstadt and Muenzer. Amid all these distractions Melanchthon sought to improve Christian education. He attended the meeting of Protestant princes in Schmalkalden, and the religious debate of Luther and Zwingli in Marburg. After Luther died in 1546 and the Protestant princes were defeated, Melanchthon longed for peace and wrote a document of mediation between the Protestants and the Catholics in which the authors were ready to accept the papacy and the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. This document fomented distrust among the followers of Luther who migrated to Jena to establish Jena University in 1558.

A year before his death, Melanchthon admitted that he had sinned in preparing the document of mediation and wrote a religious tract in which he not only attacked the Catholics, but also supported the doctrines of the Lutheran Church. Unfortunately, Melanchthon did not live to see his achievement of Lutheran unity through the publication of the Book of Concord in 1580. This book contains his Loci Communes and the Augsburg Confession with its three ancient creeds in which both Catholics and Lutherans believe, namely the Apostle, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. Thus the Lutheran Church has its foundation in the Ancient Church and Melanchthon is the forerunner of the ecumenical movement. Recently, the Vatican announced that the Catholic Church agreed with Luther's doctrine of justification. It was a major step toward Christian unity. Building bridges between the various religious sects and Christian unity had been Melanchthon's most ardent wish and desire.