Philipp Melanchthon bigraphy, stories - German reformer

Philipp Melanchthon : biography

16 February 1497 - 19 April 1560

Philipp Melanchthon (16 February 1497 – 19 April 1560), born Philipp Schwartzerdt, was a German reformer, collaborator with Martin Luther, the first systematic theologian of the Protestant Reformation, intellectual leader of the Lutheran Reformation, and an influential designer of educational systems. He stands next to Luther and Calvin as a reformer, theologian, and molder of Protestantism. Along with Luther, he is the primary founder of Lutheranism.Richard, James William, Philip Melanchthon: The Protestant Preceptor of Germany 1898, pg. 379 They both denounced what they believed was the exaggerated cult of the saints, asserted justification by faith, and denounced the coercion of the conscience in the sacrament of penance by the Catholic Church, that they believed could not offer certainty of salvation. Melanchthon made the distinction between law and gospel the central formula for Lutheran evangelical insight. By the "law", he meant God's requirements both in Old and New Testament; the "gospel" meant the free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ.


But before these and other theological dissensions were ended, he died. A few days before his death he committed to writing his reasons for not fearing it. On the left were the words, "Thou shalt be delivered from sins, and be freed from the acrimony and fury of theologians"; on the right, "Thou shalt go to the light, see God, look upon his Son, learn those wonderful mysteries which thou hast not been able to understand in this life." The immediate cause of death was a severe cold which he had contracted on a journey to Leipzig in March, 1560, followed by a fever that consumed his strength, weakened by many sufferings. On 19 April 1560 he was announced dead.

The only care that occupied him until his last moment was the desolate condition of the Church. He strengthened himself in almost uninterrupted prayer, and in listening to passages of Scripture. Especially significant did the words seem to him, "His own received him not; but as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." When Caspar Peucer, his son in-law, asked him if he wanted anything, he replied, "Nothing but heaven." His body was buried beside Luther's in the Schloßkirche in Wittenberg.

He is commemorated in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod on February 16 and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on June 25. (The LCMS commemorates him on his date of birth, and the ELCA on the date of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession).

Early life and education

He was born Philipp Schwartzerdt (of which "Melanchthon" is a Greek translation) on 16 February 1497, at Bretten, near Karlsruhe, where his father Georg Schwarzerdt was armorer to Philip, Count Palatine of the Rhine.Richard, pg. 3 His birthplace, along with almost the whole city of Bretten, was burned in 1689 by French troops during the War of the Palatinate Succession. The town's Melanchthonhaus was built on its site in 1897.

In 1507 he was sent to the Latin school at Pforzheim, where the rector, Georg Simler of Wimpfen, introduced him to the Latin and Greek poets and Aristotle. He was influenced by his great-uncle Johann Reuchlin, brother of his maternal grandmother, a representative humanist. It was Reuchlin who suggested the change from Schwartzerdt (literally black earth), into the Greek equivalent Melanchthon (Μελάγχθων), a custom which was usual among humanists of that time.Richard, pg. 11

Still young, he entered in 1509 the University of Heidelberg where he studied philosophy, rhetoric, and astronomy/astrology, and was known as a good Greek scholar. On being refused the degree of master in 1512 on account of his youth, he went to Tübingen, where he continued humanistic studies, but also worked on jurisprudence, mathematics, and medicine. While there, he was taught the technical aspects of astrology by Johannes Stöffler.Brosseder, Claudia. (2005) The Writing in the Wittenberg Sky: Astrology in Sixteenth-Century Germany. Journal of the History of Ideas. Vol. 66, No. 4 (Oct.), pp. 557-576.

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