Melanchthon, Philip

Melanchthon, Philip məlăngkˈthən [key], 1497–1560, German scholar and humanist. He was second only to Martin Luther as a figure in the Lutheran Reformation. His original name was Schwarzerd [Ger.,=black earth; “melanchthon” is the Greek rendering of “black earth”]. A man of great intellect and wide learning, he was professor of Greek at the Univ. of Wittenberg when he met Luther, and they soon became intimate friends and associates. Melanchthon's influence on the Lutheran movement had many sides. In Loci communes (1521) he made the first systematic presentation of the principles of the Reformation and so clarified the new gospel to those outside the movement. He served as mediator between Luther and the humanists, tempering the Protestant disapproval of worldly culture. He represented Luther at many conferences. At the Marburg Conference he opposed Huldreich Zwingli, and at the Diet of Augsburg (1530) he wrote and presented the Augsburg Confession (see creed). Melanchthon was more conciliatory than Luther, as evidenced by his friendship with John Calvin after Luther's death and by his willingness to compromise on doctrinal issues. Luther had great confidence in Melanchthon as his successor, but Melanchthon was ill-suited for leadership. For his powerful role in creating the German schools, Melanchthon is known as preceptor of Germany. His Loci communes appeared in a modern critical edition and translation by Charles Leander Hall (1944).

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