Melanchthon Always In the Light of Luther, Not the Other Way Around
In recent years there have been some who have attempted to suggest that Chemnitz was not really so much on the side of Luther, or Melanchthon, but walked a middle road of his own. This is simply not true. And here is just a bit of proof. Oh, yes, in addition, this material nicely demonstrates that the second edition of the Apology, the Octavo, had been rejected for use in corpus doctrinae already in Melanchthon’s lifetime by Chemnitz and other Lutheran theologians. The “new thing” apparently in some circles is to extol Melanchthon’s talk about two kinds of righteousness. It has even been asserted, in a rather hamfisted manner, that this is a “better” way of explaining things than the distinction between Law and Gospel. Chemnitz and his fellow confessional theologians would have been appalled at such an assertion, for they knew who was the “chief teacher of the churches of the Augsburg Confession” and that was not Master Philipp!
One of the predecessor documents that led to the Book of Concord were the various “body of doctrine” or Corpus Doctrinae that were prepared and adopted by various German territories. They were prepared, in several cases, in response to Philip Melanchthon’s own personal collection of confessions, which came to be known as the Corpus Doctrinae Philippicum. The Philippicum was received quite negatively, and this started the ball rolling toward formulating alternative collections. One of those documents was prepared by Moerlin and Chemnitz, in 1563. Writing later about the development of the Braunschweig Corpus Doctrinae, Chemnitz notes, “In 1561, because of the need and opportunity of their churches, the honorable cities of Saxony sent their political delegates and their leading theologians to Lueneburg where they prepared a number of Articles. And in order to preserve Christian tranquility and abiding unity in their churches, the honorable council of the noble city of Braunschweig gave orders to print its Church Order in a Corpus including the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, which was first sent to Charles V in 1530, and again in 1531 after its first printing.” So, already in 1561 the second edition of the Apology had been set aside for use in Corpus Doctrinae being prepared. And why is this? The Braunschweig City Council notes in its preface, which was written for the council by Chemnitz, “In recent years the proper and true sense of the Augsburg Confession was occasionally subjected to unusual and unforeseen disagreements. . . . The copies of that Confession (CA) and its subsequent Apology did not always remain precise in every detail, but were altered somewhat as new editions were published.” Chemnitz is highly critical of Melanchthon’s practice of treating church confession as his own private documents and wrote, “Such a Corpus Doctrinae dare not consist of private documents.” He stresses the fact that, “. . . the first CA edition of 1530 must be considered the most reliable and authentic version.” Chemnitz, who was a student of Melanchthon and respected the professional value of his writings, nonetheless regarded Luther as more important and established this principle: “Luther’s works dare not be understood or interpreted in the light of Philipp’s writings, but Philipp’s writings must be understood and interpreted in the light of Luther’s works.”
Inge Mager, The Doctrinal Confession (Corpus Doctrinae) of the City of Braunschweig in Relationship to Other Collections of Lower Saxon Doctrinal Documents
The Reformation in the City of Braunschweig
450th Anniversary Document
Published by the Braunschweig City-Church Association
Unpublished translation by Everette W. Meier