“Philip Melanchthon’s invincible little book on Loci Theologici in my judgment is worthy not only of immortality but even of the Church’s canon.”
(Martin Luther in Bondage of the Will , WA 18:601)
“There’s no book under the sun in which the whole of theology is so compactly presented as in the Loci Communes. . . . No better book has been written after the Holy Scriptures than Philip’s.”
(Martin Luther from Table Talk, no. 5511, LW 54:440)
As any confessional Lutheran knows who has studied the history of the Lutheran Confessions and the Lutheran Reformation, Philip Melanchthon was both a gifted theologian and a man given to excessive worry and compromise. As a result, the fine work he did in the earlier years of the Reformation, when he was most closely and strongly influenced by Martin Luther, was his best work. Later on, particularly after Luther died, Philip went off the rails and ended up taking positions that led to severe compromises with both the Roman Catholics and Calvinists, and, particularly in the hands of his students, Melancthon’s later theology led to a series of very dangerous doctrinal errors that had to be condemned and rejected very specifically in the Formula of Concord. Talk about the ironies of history!
But … as I said, in his earlier years Philip was consistently hitting them out of the park, beginning with a book I read in a single day in the basement of the old library at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne.
Philip’s first edition of his Loci Communes. I could not stop reading it and could not put the book down. Fortunately, because it is relatively brief, and I, in those days, had the luxury of uninterrupted hours simply to read and study, read it cover to cover and then, in the next few weeks, read it three more times. I can count on a couple hands the theological works I’ve read multiple times, but this is indeed one of them.
It blew me away. The writing is crystal clear. The Evangelical passion is powerful. The clarity of the Law and Gospel distinction running through the book is amazing.
It’s no wonder Martin Luther gushed on about this book, that it is “worthy of immortality” and that it should made part of the Church’s canon! Yes, Luther said that. Our dear Father Martin was given to a tad of excess in his rhetoric from time to time when he found a great book. I can identify with that inclination. I guess I’m doing the same thing here.
But, Luther was not far from the truth actually. Melancthon’s 1521 Loci Communes was the very first time Lutheran theology was written up in the form of a classic “systematic theology” or as close to one as was available then, but Melanchthon actually is responsible with this book for starting the Lutheran tradition of writing dogmatics, a tradition that would be carried forward by Martin Chemnitz, then John Gerhard, and all the great dogmaticians of the age of Lutheran Orthodoxy.
In other words, this is a “must read” book. And by “must” I mean, “must” and by read, I mean, “read.”
For many years, the only English translation of the 1521 Loci was only available in a book containing also a work by Martin Bucer, published in 1969. Go figure. But no more.
Dr. Christian Preus has now produced a truly masterful fresh translation that far exceeds the older translation, containing not merely a sparkling, crisp, clear and lively translation of Melanchthon’s work but a wealth of helpful footnotes that really opens the text to the reader. Concordia Publishing House will be releasing this translation in the next few weeks and it is available for preorder now. Yes, Kindle version coming as well, as per the usual.
Martin Luther called Philip Melanchthon’s most important work, Loci Communes 1521, worthy of immortality. This lively, accessible English translation by Christian Preus includes an introduction that delves in to the history of this important contribution to the Reformation movement, as well as extensive footnotes that explain the people and concepts used by Melanchthon to explain the Gospel.
You can take a look inside here.
Praise for Commonplaces: Loci Communes 1521
This book takes us back to the early stages and to the heart of the Reformation, so it is just wonderful that it has now once again become so accessible. The translation is as fresh as the content of the Loci of 1521, and that makes it just the kind of material we need for teaching and learning. Melanchthon’s book has been fundamental for church and theology in the Lutheran as well as the Calvinist tradition. And both will see through this new edition how relevant this reformer and his work still are today.—Herman Selderhuis (Director Refo500, Professor of Church History, Theological University Apeldoorn)
Christian Preus provides helpful historical and theological contextualization to the Loci Communes of Philip Melanchthon in his introduction. With the text itself, he gives us a clear, modern translation that both improves on the work of past translators and also includes judicious scholarly commentary. This is a welcome and useful tool for modern students of the Reformation.—Dr. Günter Frank (Director of the European Melanchthon Academy)
The lucidity that marked the first version of Melanchthon’s Loci communes is captured in this expert translation by a scholar equally expert in the nuances of humanist Latin and the principles of evangelical theology. Preus brings modern readers into contact with Melanchthon’s brilliant early work, augmenting his clear translation with helpful annotations and the perfect introduction to Melanchthon’s life and thought.—Ralph Keen (Schmitt Professor of History, University of Illinois at Chicago)
Melanchthon’s Loci Communes 1521 is available for preorder.
This is arguably Philip Melanchthon’s most important work. Anyone interested in the history of the Lutheran Reformation will find that this book, the first Lutheran work of “systematic theology,” is present in a very lively, accessible English translation, with extensive, helpful footnotes that explain the people and concepts used by Melanchthon to explain the Gospel.
- Clear English translation
- Scripture index
- Index of subjects and names
- Extensive historical introduction by translator Dr. Christian Preus
- Extensive footnotes explaining terminology, history, and theology
Philip Melanchthon’s invincible little book on Loci Theologici in my judgment is worthy not only of immortality but even of the Church’s canon.