By Scott Keith

The First Missteps:

Melanchthon was the consummate tinkerer and was never completely satisfied with anything he authored. Directly after the presentation of the Augsburg Confession and the publication of the Apology, Melanchthon began to make changes to the Augsburg Confession. These changes have become known as the Variata, or Altered Augsburg Confession. Up to 1540, these were mostly minor changes in wording. However, in 1540 and 1542, Melanchthon made changes to Article X, which caused considerable controversy. In Article X of the Variata, Melanchthon makes the language concerning the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper less precise to make the article more acceptable to the Reformed. While these changes were not extreme, they should not have been made as men had laid their lives on the line for what they originally signed in 1530. To change a document men had pledged their lives, reputations, and fortunes to defend is certainly a mistake.

By Scott Keith

Early Days at Wittenberg

Contrary to popular opinion, Melanchthon never served as a parish pastor. Unlike Luther, he was not known as a preacher. But as John Schofield points out in his work Philip Melanchthon and the English Reformation, his 1519 Bachelor of Divinity degree earned at Wittenberg and his appointment to the faculty at the University of Wittenberg made him the first ordained professor of Greek in Germany.

By Scott Keith

Luther Under the Ban Melanchthon Hard at Work

In 1521—the same year Melanchthon married his wife—at the Diet of Worms, Martin Luther was convicted of heresy and placed under a Papal bull and an imperial ban. The ban meant that he was an outlaw and could be killed or imprisoned on sight. It was only the grace and quick thinking of his elector, Fredrick the Wise, that saved Luther’s bacon. Elector Fredrick whisked Luther off to the Wartburg castle for safe keeping. Yet, while Dr. Luther was contending with the Papal bull against him, confessing the Christian faith at Worms, and writing sermons for preaching in the Castle Church and elsewhere, Melanchthon was at work developing the first Lutheran “system” of theology. This work was destined to exert a powerful influence on the Lutheran Reformation and marks an epoch in the history of Christian theology. The work in question was entitled the Loci Communes Theologici, or Common Topics of Theology.

By Scott Keith

Early Life and Education:

Philip(p) was born to George and Barbara Schwarzerdt in Bretten in 1497. Philip had four siblings: Anna (1499), Georg (1500 or 1501), Margarete (1506), and Barbara (1508). All were born in his grandparents’ house in the Electoral Saxon Residential town of Bretten. Melanchthon’s father, Georg Schwarzerdt, born in Heidelberg, was a master of gunnery founding and was skilled in forging lightweight, durable armor. Because of his skills, Georg was elevated to the office of electoral master of armorer and thus needed to remain in Heidelberg. Melanchthon’s mother, Barbara, came from the wealthy merchant family of Reuter.

By Scott Keith

Yesterday I taught a class on Philip Melanchthon at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Frasier, Michigan. At the end of class, I was asked if I would recommend a short biography on Melanchthon suitable for a layperson. Sadly, I said no. Most of the short biographies are out of print and very expensive, and most the modern works are written for academic audiences. So, I decided to do a short series as a brief introduction to the life and times of Philip Melanchthon. As we continue to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I think that this series of blogs will be helpful and pair nicely with the two forthcoming Thinking Fellows podcasts on Melanchthon.

By Scott Keith

(Hello, blogosphere. This little piece of satire was sent to me by a former student who for understandable reasons wishes to remain nameless. I hope you enjoy his first contribution to The Jagged Word.)

My First Lutheran Cruise:

Day 1: Dear Mom and Dad,

Thank you so much for buying my ticket to the S.S.S.S.S.F.S.G. (Steam Ship Sola Scriptura Sola Fide Sola Gratia) Luther; I’m having a really good time on the open seas. I’m normally afraid of the ocean, but I feel safe and secure within the theologically reinforced hull of this LCMS-sanctioned cruise ship. There are even a couple windows in case anyone decides to look outside. However, that rarely happens since there is so much great stuff happening inside. I was grateful to find out that my room was in the very back of the boat. Actually, now that I think of it, that’s where most of the people are staying. I heard rumors that there might be some rooms near the front of the boat, but I believe that they are mostly unoccupied or filled with the few non-Lutherans that are on the cruise.