by Michael Wilson
An Incredible Mind
In January 1514 when Philip was seventeen, he received his master’s degree from the university at Tübingen and began teaching philosophy as a faculty member immediately.
Then in 1517, the Elector of Saxony decided that he did not want to see the University of Wittenberg fall behind the times and so Philip was brought to the university to teach Greek. Melanchthon was selected because he was one of the most educated men in Germany. At this point in time, he had already written a Greek textbook.
When Philip Melanchthon came to the university, he impressed many people with his ability to lecture. Among them was a theology professor named Martin Luther.
The Mind of Melanchthon, The Fire of Luther
While Martin Luther was busy writing on various theological topics, Philip Melanchthon wrote the first general summary of theology from an evangelical perspective: Loci Communes (Basic Concepts). Luther stated that the book was almost good enough to be considered part of the canon of Scripture. Melanchthon would become the first systematic theologian of the Protestant Reformation.
Melanchthon wrote the first general summary of theology from an evangelical perspective. He was the first systematic theologian of the Reformation.
When Martin Luther died in February 1546, Philip Melanchthon delivered the oration at the funeral. The relationship between Luther and Melanchthon is a beautiful example of how great things are not solely accomplished by one individual at the forefront like Martin Luther; almost without exception, there are supporting people who assist from the less visible angle like Philip Melanchthon. Simply because someone is less visible does not mean that they are less important to the cause of Kingdom-building.
Criticized, Quiet, Forgotten
It soon became clear that a revision of the interim was necessary. Philip Melanchthon would be heavily involved in the revision that would become known as the Leipzig Interim. The problem was that this interim caused as many problems as the first one for the Lutherans. Melanchthon would never live down his involvement in the interim process.
Throughout Philip’s life he was known as a quiet, pious man who was moderate and committed to finding unity.
Throughout Philip’s life he was known as a quiet, pious man who was moderate and committed to finding unity. Philip Melanchthon’s impact is difficult to assess because of how closely his life is tied to Matin Luther’s legacy. We know this: his influence was history-shaping and, like many, has been largely relegated to the dust bin of history. While his popularity waned, Melanchthon made amazing contributions to the larger movement of the Reformation.
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Wilson, George. Philip Melanchthon, 1497-1560. London: Religious Tracts Society, 1897.