Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Philip Melanchthon's Advocacy of the Death Penalty For Denial of the Eucharistic Real Presence & His Later "Crypto-Calvinist" Eucharistic Position[s]

Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a compatriot of Martin Luther, author of the Augsburg Confession, and Luther's successor. He was, then, one of the major Protestant so-called "reformers." The present paper comes as a result of recent controversies, arising from my papers, The Strong Enthusiasm For Astrology of Early Lutheran Luminaries Philip Melanchthon & Martin Chemnitz, and Why I Sometimes Write About "Bad" & Scandalous Stuff Concerning Early Protestant Leaders (aka "Reformers"). Dr. Edwin Tait, an acquaintance of mine and semi-regular dialogue partner, who has a doctorate in Church history, challenged me (his words in blue):

If you're genuinely just trying to establish a more "complex" view of the Reformers, then that's great. Sometimes it sounds like you're doing a bit of a hatchet job. For instance, you claim that Melanchthon advocated the execution of those who deny the Real Presence, which was his own later position. I'd like to see the precise texts on which you're formulating this. I didn't know that Melanchthon ever advocated the execution of "Sacramentarians," but I am certain that whether he did or not, he would never have admitted to being a "Sacramentarian" hiimself. He did not think that his later position was equivalent to that of Zwingli - and in fact it wasn't. So I think you're being a bit unfair there.

The first two sources below were cited in my paper, The Protestant Inquisition: "Reformation" Intolerance and Persecution, where I first made this claim (this paper originally was written in 1991, and was slightly revised through the years). I shall cite the relevant sections at much greater length now, having been challenged on my facts (all emphases added presently):

1) Preserved Smith: The Social Background of the Reformation, New York: Collier Books, 1962 (2nd part of author's The Age of the Reformation, New York: 1920). Smith (died: 1941) was a professor of history, who taught at Cornell and Harvard. He was an expert on the 16th century, and wrote other books like The Life and Letters of Martin Luther (1911), and Erasmus: A Study of His Life, Ideas and Place in History.

A regular inquisition was set up in Saxony [in the 1530s], with Melanchthon on the bench, and under it many persons were punished, some with death, some with life imprisonment, and some with exile.

. . . Melanchthon was far more active in the pursuit of heretics than was his older friend [Luther]. He reckoned the denial of infant baptism, or of original sin, and the opinion that the eucharistic bread did not contain the real body and blood of Christ, as blasphemy properly punishable by death. He blamed Brenz for his tolerance, asking why we should pity heretics more than does God, who sends them to eternal torment? Brenz was convinced by this argument and became a persecutor himself.

(p. 177)
2) Will Durant: The Reformation (volume 6 of 10-volume The Story of Civilization, 1967), New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957.

Other reformers rivaled or surpassed Luther in hounding heresy. Bucer of Strasbourg urged the civil authorities in Protestant states to extirpate all who professed a "false" religion; such men, he said, are worse than murderers; even their wives and children and cattle should be destroyed (62). The comparatively gentle Melanchthon accepted the chairmanship of the secular inquisition that suppressed the Anabaptists of Germany with imprisonment or death. "Why should we pity such men more than God does?" he asked, for he was convinced that God had destined all Anabaptists to hell (63). He recommended that the rejection of infant baptism, or of original sin, or of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, should be punished as capital crimes (64). He insisted on the death penalty for a sectarian who thought that heathens might be saved, or for another who doubted that belief in Christ as the Rerdeemer could change a naturally sinful man into a righteous man (65). He applauded, as we shall see, the execution of Servetus. He asked the state to compel all the people to attend Protestant religious services regularly (66). He demanded the suppression of all books that opposed or hindered Lutheran teaching; so the writings of Zwingli and his followers were formally placed on the index of prohibited books in Wittenberg (67). Whereas Luther was content with the expulsion of Catholics from regions governed by Lutheran princes, Melanchthon favored corporal penalties. Both agreed that the civil power was in duty bound to promulgate and uphold "the law of God" - i.e., Lutheranism (68).

. . . Elector John of Saxony, at the request of Luther and Melanchthon, promulgated (1528) an edict that prohibited the publication, sale, or reading of Zwinglian or Anabaptist literature, or the preaching or teaching of their doctrines; "and anyone who is aware of such being done by anybody, whether a stranger or an acquaintance, must give information to the . . . magistrates of the place, in order that the offender may be taken up in due time and punished . . . Those who are aware of such breeches of the orders . . . and do not give information, shall be punished by loss of life or property" (72).

(pp. 423-424)


62 Belfort Bax, The Peasants' War in Germany (London: 1899), 352.
63 Preserved Smith, The Life and Letters of Martin Luther (Boston: 1911), xiv.
64 Ibid., The Age of the Reformation (New York: 1920), 645.
65 Johannes Janssen, History of the German People From the Close of the Middle Ages, 16 volumes, translated by A.M. Christie (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1910; originally 1891), IV, 140-141.
66 Robert H. Murray, Erasmus and Luther (London: 1920), 366.
67 Janssen, XIV, 503.
68 Janssen, V, 290.
72 Janssen, IV, 232 f.
3) Roland H. Bainton (famous Luther biographer and professor of history at Yale). From: Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, New York: Mentor, 1950.

In 1530 Luther advanced the view that two offences should be penalized even with death, namely sedition and blasphemy. The emphasis was thus shifted from incorrect belief to its public manifestation by word and deed. This was, however, no great gain for liberty, because Luther construed mere abstention from public office and military service as sedition and a rejection of an article of the Apostles' Creed as blasphemy.

In a memorandum of 1531, composed by Melanchthon and signed by Luther, a rejection of the ministerial office was described as insufferable blasphemy, and the disintegration of the Church as sedition against the ecclesiastical order. In a memorandum of 1536, again composed by Melanchthon and signed by Luther, the distinction between the peaceful and the revolutionary Anabaptists was obliterated . . . .

Melanchthon this time argued that even the passive action of the Anabaptists in rejecting government, oaths, private property, and marriages outside the faith was itself disruptive of the civil order and therefore seditious. The Anabaptist protest against the punishment of blasphemy was itself blasphemy. The discontinuance of infant baptism would produce a heathen society and separation from the Church, and the formation of sects was an offense against God.

. . . For the understanding of Luther's position one must bear in mind that Anabaptism was not in every instance socially innocuous. The year in which Luther signed the memorandum counseling death even for the peaceful Anabaptists was the year in which a group of them ceases to be peaceful . . . By forcible measures they took over the city of Munster in Westphalia . . .

Yet when all these attenuating considerations are adduced, one cannot forget that Melanchthon's memorandum justified the eradication of the peaceful, not because they were incipient and clandestine revolutionaries, but on the ground that even a peaceful renunciation of the state itself constituted sedition.

(pp. 295-296)
Bainton, in another treatise, Studies on the Reformation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), cites Melanchthon's own words from his notorious 1536 memorandum (signed also by Luther):

They teach that a Christian should not use a sword, should not serve as a magistrate, should not swear or hold property, may desert an unbelieving wife. These articles are seditions and the holders of them may be punished with the sword. We must pay no attention to their avowal 'we did no one any harm', because if they persuaded everybody there would be no government. If it be objected that the magistrate should not compel anyone to the faith the answer is that he punishes no one for his opinions in his heart, but only on account of the outward word and teaching.

. . . What now would happen if children were not baptized, if not that our whole society would become openly heathen? If then one holds only the articles in spiritual matters on infant baptism and original sin and unnecessary separation, because these articles are important, because it is a serious matter to cast children out of Christendom and to have two sets of people, the one baptized and the other unbaptized, because then the Anabaptists have some dreadful articles, we judge that in this case also the obstinate are to be put to death.

(for further source information, see my paper, Luther's Attitudes on Religious Liberty {Roland H. Bainton} )
So we know that Melanchthon, with Luther's approval and sanction, held that heretics who denied infant baptism, original sin, and the Real Presence in the Eucharist should be put to death. This is a matter of historical record. One may quibble with Durant's qualifications as an historian (as I have seen people do) or even Smith's, but not Roland Bainton's qualifications as a biographer of Luther and expert on the 16th century religious conflicts. This is, therefore, not in dispute at all. One can only quibble endlessly about what real presence means.

Did Melanchthon later change his mind on the Eucharist and deny that the Body and Blood of Jesus were truly, substantially present in it, even in the Lutheran sense of consubstantiation? Yes, and this is also rather easily established. It is quite arguably sufficient, in fact, to consult just one work: well-known Melanchthon biographer Clyde L. Manschreck's translation and edition of the "reformer's" systematic theology: Loci communes theologici (1555 edition: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1965; my paperback edition dates from 1982 and is called Melanchthon on Christian Doctrine).

I also have the earlier 1521 edition of Loci communes theologici (edited by Wilhelm Pauck, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969), but the later edition is important because it can illustrate Melanchthon's ever-evolving doctrine of the Eucharist. Furthermore, the Preface by Manschreck himself (author of Melanchthon: The Quiet Reformer, New York: Abingdon Press, 1958), tells us just about all we need to know on the matter, right from perhaps the leading authority on Melanchthon in recent times. I shall cite the Preface below.

Remember, Melanchthon advocated the death penalty in 1530 and 1536 for the denial of the Real Presence, then later denied it himself in terms of what I would argue was the clear historical meaning of that term, held even by Luther (though in a way different from transubstantiation). While he didn't later adopt a purely symbolic view, on the other hand, he had forsaken the doctrineof a physical, substantive presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine.

[Note: CR = Corpus Reformatorum, which collects Melanchthon's works and is the primary source for his materials. It was edited by C.G. Bretschneider and H.E. Bindsell from 1834-1860]

Both humanism and an attempt to draw closer to Calvinism have also been blamed for Melanchthon's altered views on the Lord's Supper. This was particularly noticeable in the 1540 changes which Melanchthon introduced into the Augsburg Confession.

. . . Article X of the Augsburg Confession, 1530, read, "Of the Supper of the Lord, they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present and are distributed to those who eat in the Supper of the Lord; and they disapprove of those who teach otherwise." In the Variata of 1540 Article X read: "Of the Supper of the Lord, they teach that with the bread and the wine the Body and Blood of Christ are truly tendered to those who eat in the Lord's Supper." "Tendered" replaced "distributed," and the note on disapproval was omitted. At this time the German evangelicals were making novertures to John Calvin, and this change reflects a desire to allow a Calvinistic interpretation of the Lord's Supper, for Melanchthon himself had come to believe in a real, spiritual presence, which was a drift from the physical, "distributable," "this-is-my-body" presence held by Luther. As early as 1519 Melanchthon had completely rejected transubstantiation, and by 1544 had eliminated the elevation of the Host in Wittenberg (50). Rationalistic humanism figured in the change; he had been searching the documents of early Christianity. In 1544 Melanchthon was ready to depart from Wittenberg if necessary; he had struggled with the problem for more than ten years (51). Nevertheless, the tension did not result in a break (52).

At the Marburg Colloquy in 1529 Melanchthon was paired with Zwingli and Luther with Oecolampadius in a discussion of the Lord's Supper, on which the participants agreed to disagree (53). Afterward, Melanchthon's thoughts on the Eucharist gradually changed, due largely to a dialogue with Oecolampadius in 1530; it shook his confidence in the physical presence, (54), for Oecolampadius demonstrated that the early Church subscribed to both mystic and symbolic views of the Eucharist four centuries before the physical theories became the vogue. After the death of Zwingli and Oecolampadius in 1531 Bucer made overtures for union of the Zwinglians and Lutherans; though they were premature, (55) Melanchthon nurtured strong doubts about the physical presence in which he thought Luther believed. (56) To Melanchthon the presence had become a mystery, analogous to faith. (57) In 1533 Bucer sent Melanchthon a booklet, In Preparation for Union, that held some ecumenical promise, but Melanchthon was not optimistic (58) because he felt bound to present to Bucer (at Cassel in 1534) Luther's view that "the body of Christ is really eaten in the Supper, that the body is actually torn with the teeth and eaten." (59) Nevertheless, Bucer and Melanchthon agreed that the body of Christ is given and received at the same time as the elements, that they are sacramentally joined without any natural mixing of their substances. (60) Luther agreed for the sake of peace, but Melanchthon had become convinced that his original views were contrary to those of the early Church fathers. (61) In the 1535 Loci he expressed an inward, spiritual communion with Christ as the essential aspect of the Eucharist. (62) . . . Melanchthon doubted that the agreement on words would last; rumors circulated that he was a Sacramentarian. (65)

In 1538 Melanchthon insisted that the sacramental presence was in the use, that Christ was truly present and effective then, the sacramental union being like the union of fire and iron. (66) By 1543 Melanchthon held that the sacramental union lasts only until the Communion is finished; then the elements are again simply bread and wine and mnay be treated as such. (67) When Luther wrote A Short Confession on the Holy Sacrament, Against the Fanatics in the tense year of 1544, Melanchthon expected to be attacked. (68) Instead Luther said, "I have absolutely no suspicion in regard to Philip," (69) but the Elector nevertheless took the precaution of forbidding Luther to attack Melanchthon. (70) Despite the tension in 1544, Luther's commendation of ther Loci of 1544-45, which embodied Melanchthon's views on the Supper, were unstinted. (71) After Luther's death, February 18, 1546, Melanchthon branded the physical view of the Supper as bread idolatry. (72)


50 ZKG, XXXII, 292 f.; CR 7:877-89.
51 CR 3:537.
52 CR 5:474.
53 CR 1:1048, 1065, 1098; 23:727.
54 CR 2:217, 822, 824.
55 CR 2:470, 498, 787.
56 Cf. C. Schmidt, Melanchthon (Elberfeld, 1861), 318 f.
57 CR 2:620, letter to Rothmann at Munster, Dec. 24, 1532.
58 CR 2:675, 776; Schmidt, Melanchthon, 318 f.
59 James W. Richard, Melanchthon, the Protestant Preceptor of Germany (New York: 1898), 251; Schmidt, Melanchthon, 319; Martin Luthers Briefe, 4:569.
60 CR 2:807 f.
61 CR 2:824.
62 Cf. Schmidt, Melanchthon, 371.

65 CR 2:837; 3:81, 180; Camerarius, De Vita Melanchthonis, 163.
66 CR 3:514.
67 ZKG, XXXII (1911), 292 f.; CR 7:877-88.
68 CR 5:474; Luthers Werke, 32:39 f.
69 Martin Luthers Briefe, 5:645, 697.
70 CR 5:746.
71 Lutheran Quarterly, XXXVI (April, 1916), 68.
72 For views in the 1555 Loci, see Articles XIX, XXII, XXIII.
The 2002 Encyclopaedia Britannica (written by Clyde L. Manschreck) states: "As late as 1530 Melanchthon agreed with Luther on the Lord's Supper, but by 1529 his own views had begun to shift from Luther's, and the changes that Melanchthon introduced in 1540 in the 10th article of the Augsburg Confession indicated that his view on the Eucharist paralleled Calvin's."

My 1985 edition (also authored by Manschreck) reads as follows:

His turning toward a spiritual view (similar to the Reformed view) of the Lord's supper, as evidenced in the Variata (altered) edition of the Augsburg Confession in 1540 (Article X), seemed to be crypto-Calvinistic (i.e., though Lutheran in name, apparently Calvinist, or Reformed, in tendency. These controversies diminished his influence in Lutheranism. Succeeding generations have questioned Melanchthon's approval of the death penalty for the radical Reformers, the Anabaptists, and an anti-Trinitarian, Michael Servetus; his approval of war to defend the Gospel; his condoning of polygamy for the English king Henry VIII and Philip the Magnanimous, landgrave of Hesse . . .

(Vol. 7, 1025)
A.A. Hodge: Outlines of Theology: Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism & Augustinianism (emphases added):

Luther, a monk of the order of Augustine, and an earnest disciple of that father, taught a system of faith agreeing in spirit and in all essential points with that afterwards more systematically developed by Calvin. The only important point in which he differed from the common consensus of the Calvinistic Churches related to the literal physical presence of the entire person of Christ in, with, and under the elements in the Eucharist. With these opinions of Luther Melanchthon appears to have agreed at the time he published the first edition of his 'Loci Communes.' His opinions, however, as to the freedom of man and the sovereignty of divine grace were subsequently gradually modified. After the death of Luther, at the Leipsic Conference in 1548, he explicitly declared his agreement with the synergists, who maintain that in the regenerating act the human will cooperates with divine grace. Melanchthon, on the other hand, held a view of the relation of the sign to the grace signified thereby in the Sacraments, much more nearly conforming to opinions of the disciples of Zwingli and Calvin than generally prevailed in his own Church. His position on both these points gave great offense to the Old Lutherans, and occasioned protracted and bitter controversies. Finally, the Old or Strict Lutheran party prevailed over their antagonists, and their views received a complete scientific statement in the 'Formula Concordiae' published 1580. Although this remarkable document never attained a position by the side of the Augsburg Confession and Apology as the universally recognized Confession of the Lutheran Churches, it may justly be taken as the best available witness as to what strictly Lutheran theology when developed into a complete system really is.

. . . The grand distinction of Lutheranism however relates to their doctrine of the EUCHARIST. They hold to the real physical presence of the Lord in the Eucharist, in, with, and under the elements, and that the grace signified and conveyed by the sacraments is necessary to salvation, and conveyed ordinarily by no other means. Hence the theology and church life of the strict Lutherans center in the sacraments. They differ from the high sacramental party in the Episcopal church chiefly in the fact that they ignore the dogma of apostolic succession, and the traditions of the early church.
Philip Schaff: History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity:
133. Calvin and the Augsburg Confession. Melanchthon’s Position in the Second Eucharistic Controversy. (emphases added):

During the progress of this controversy both parties frequently appealed to the Augsburg Confession and to Melanchthon. They were both right and both wrong; for there are two editions of the Confession, representing the earlier and the later theories of its author on the Lord’s Supper. The original Augsburg Confession of 1530, in the tenth article, teaches Luther’s doctrine of the real presence so clearly and strongly that even the Roman opponents did not object to it. But from the time of the Wittenberg Concordia in 1536, or even earlier, Melanchthon began to change his view on the real presence as well as his view on predestination and free-will; in the former he approached Calvin, in the latter he departed from him. He embodied the former change in the Altered Confession of 1540, without official authority, yet in good faith, as the author of the document, and in the conviction that he represented public sentiment, since Luther himself had moderated his opposition to the Swiss by assenting to the Wittenberg Concordia.

. . . Calvin urged Melanchthon repeatedly to declare openly his view on the points in controversy. In a letter of March 5, 1555, after thanking him for his approval of the condemnation of Servetus, he says: "About ’the bread-worship’ . . . , your most intimate opinion has long since been known to me, which you do not even dissemble in your letter. But your too great slowness displeases me, by which the madness of those whom you see rushing on to the destruction of the Church, is not only kept up, but from day to day increased." Melanchthon answered, May 12, 1555:

I have determined to reply simply and without ambiguity, and I judge that I owe that work to God and the Church, nor at the age to which I have arrived, do I fear either exile or other dangers." On August 23 of the same year, Calvin expressed his gratification with this answer and wrote: "I entreat you to discharge, as soon as you can, the debt which you acknowledge you owe to God and the Church." He adds with undue severity: "If this warning, like a cock crowing rather late and out of season, do not awaken you, all will cry out with justice that you are a sluggard. Farewell, most distinguished sir, whom I venerate from the heart." In another letter of Aug. 3, 1557, he complains of the silence of three years and apologizes for the severity of his last letter, but urges him again to come out, like a man, and to refute the charge of slavish timidity. "I do not think," he says, "you need to be reminded by many words, how necessary it is for you to hasten to wipe out this blot from your character." He proposes that Melanchthon should induce the Lutheran princes to convene a peaceful conference of both parties at Strassburg, or Tübingen, or Heidelberg, or Frankfurt, and attend the conference in person with some pious, upright, and moderate men. "If you class me," he concludes, "in the number of such men, no necessity, however pressing, will prevent me from putting up this as my chief vow, that before the Lord gather us into his heavenly kingdom I may yet be permitted to enjoy on earth, a most delightful interview with you, and feel some alleviation of my grief by deploring along with you the evils which we cannot remedy." In his last extant letter to Melanchthon, dated Nov. 19, 1558, Calvin alludes once more to the eucharistic controversy, but in a very gentle spirit, assuring him that he will never allow anything to alienate his mind "from that holy friendship and respect which I have vowed to you .... Whatever may happen, let us cultivate with sincerity a fraternal affection towards each other, the ties of which no wiles of Satan shall ever burst asunder."

Melanchthon would have done better for his own fame if, instead of approving the execution of Servetus, he had openly supported Calvin in the conflict with Westphal. But he was weary of the rabies theologorum, and declined to take an active part in the bitter strife on "bread-worship," as he called the notion of those who were not contented with the presence of the body of Christ in the sacramental use, but insisted upon its presence in and under the bread. He knew what kind of men he had to deal with. He knew that the court of Saxony, from a sense of honor, would not allow an open departure from Luther’s doctrine. Prudence, timidity, and respect for the memory of Luther were the mingled motives of his silence. He was aware of his natural weakness, and confessed in a letter to Christopher von Carlowitz, in 1548: "I am, perhaps, by nature of a somewhat servile disposition, and I have before endured an altogether unseemly servitude; as Luther more frequently obeyed his temperament, in which was no little contentiousness, than he regarded his own dignity and the common good."

But in his private correspondence he did not conceal his real sentiments, his disapproval of "bread-worship" and of the doctrine of the ubiquity of Christ’s body. His last utterance on the subject was in answer to the request of Elector Frederick III. of the Palatinate, who tried to conciliate the parties in the fierce eucharistic controversy at Heidelberg. Melanchthon warned against scholastic subtleties and commended moderation, peace, biblical simplicity, and the use of Paul’s words that "the bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ " (1 Cor. 10:16), not "changed into," nor the "substantial," nor the "true" body. He gave this counsel on the first of November, 1559. A few months afterwards he died (April 17, 1560).

The result was that the Elector deposed the leaders of both parties, Heshusius and Klebitz, called distinguished foreign divines to the University, and entrusted Zacharias Ursinus (a pupil of Melanchthon) and Caspar Olevianus (a pupil of Calvin) with the task of composing the Heidelberg or Palatinate Catechism, which was published Jan. 19, 1563. It became the principal symbolical book of the German and Dutch branches of the Reformed Church. It gives clear and strong expression to the Calvinistic-Melanchthonian theory of the spiritual real presence, and teaches the doctrine of election, but without a word on reprobation and preterition. In both respects it is the best expression of the genius and final doctrinal position of Melanchthon, who was himself a native of the Palatinate.
Martin Brecht: Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church: 1532-1546 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993; translated by James L. Schaaf):

[Writing about the famous "sacramentarian" controversy over the Eucharist (1542-1546) ]

Contrary to expectations, Melanchthon was unscathed . . . even though Melanchthon wanted to emphasize the presence of the person of Christ and not that of his body and blood in the Lord's Supper, his explanations must have satisfied Luther so that the sensational event that Melanchthon feared, in anticipation of which he already was thinking of leaving Wittenberg, never came to pass . . . The elector was aware of the controversy looming between Luther and Melanchthon . . .

. . . Melanchthon expressed his great concern to Bruck that Luther was going to call the Wittenberg Concord into question and also attack Melanchthon himself

(pp. 329-331)
David P. Scaer: In Response to Bengt Hagglund: Did Luther and Melanchthon Agree
on the Real Presence?
(Concordia Theological Quarterly, Vol. 44, Numbers 2-3, July 1980, 141-148):

. . . Melanchthon, "the quiet reformer," was also "the complex reformer," and the tradition which has grown up around him and his positions since his death bears this image of complexity and apparent contradiction . . . The 1540 edition of the Augsburg Confession, known as the Variata, came to be understood as characteristic of Melanchthon's view of the Lord's Supper. The Variata states, "Concerning the Lord's Supper our churches teach that with bread and wine the body and blood are truly shown to those who eat in the Lord's Supper." Several brief and familiar differences between this and the 1530 edition, as it is known, can be noted: (1). Bread and wine are now mentioned. (2.) Whereas the first edition stated that body and blood were present, the later edition states that they are offered with bread and wine. (3.) The condemnation of what was understood as the Reformed, or then Zwinglian, position is lacking. Melanchthon's hesitancy to attach the Real Presence to the elements becomes evident.

. . . In one sense the two Wittenberg reformers shared a common vocabulary but with different explanations. Some claim that the two reformers at first agreed and that Melanchthon around 1534 changed, pointing to the 1540 Variata as proof conclusive. This observation is hard to refute. A more recent scholar has attempted to find an internal consistency in the Melanchthonian view which can be traced from his early period right through his life.' What nearly all agree on is that Luther and Melanchthon did not in fact share the same perspective on the Lord's Supper though both were in some sense convinced of the Real Presence. For Luther, the presence was in the elements and for Melanchthon in the action with the elements. The real problem is whether their different views on the Real Presence are capable of mutual toleration or are inherently self-exclusive. Here there are historical, dogmatic, and exegetical problems.

. . . Luther and Melanchthon's differences over the Lord's Supper surfaced in their sacramental piety. Luther could speak of teeth tearing away at the body of the Lord, he reluctantly surrendered the elevation since it was seen by some as an expression of the idea that the mass was the sacrifice for the living and the dead, and he could get down on his knees to drink the spilled sacramental wine as the blood of Christ. Melanchthon did not have the same attraction for the elements. He opposed the elevationas a false worship of God, a type of idolatry, and he was ultimately responsible for Luther's removal of the elevation. . . . "Efficacious presence" would also be adequate [to describe Melanchthon's view]. Luther's view may be described as substantive, virtually materialistic.

. . . The wording of the 1540 Variata with exhibeatur is generally recognized as characteristic of this functional, ceremonial, effective view of the Real Presence. Exhibeatur was used by Melanchthon as early as 1526 to describe the sacramental action. Melanchthon is perfectly comfortable about speaking of the presence of Christ in the sacramental rite, but hardly in Luther's terms. It is revealing that Melanchthon sees the presence of God in the Ark of the Covenant as analogous to Christ's presence in the Supper. The chief motivation in the Supper for Melanchthon is neither the activity of the worshipping congregation nor a spiritual presence, but a process in which God comes to the congregation. Modern process thought would be more comfortable with Melanchthon's formulas than with Luther's. The key word exhibeatur, again appears in the Apology of 1530-1531, the Wittenberg Concord 1534, and the infamous Variata of 1540. In the process of the sacramental action, Melanchthon attaches specific importance to the ceremonial eating (manducatio ceremonialis) (Fraenkel). Melanchthon later did not teach Luther's manducatio oralis and manducatio indignorum, the doctrines that Christ's body and blood are eaten by the mouth and received by believers and unbelievers alike.

. . . The actual association of Christ with the bread and wine alone was considered magic for Melanchthon.

Footnote 6: Clyde Manschreck sees a complete conversion for Melanchthon by 1535, but, as other scholars, sees the reformer buckling already in 1530 under Oecolampadius's influence. Op. cit., pp. 233-241.

Footnote 11. Manschreck, up. cit., p. 234. Herrlinger, op. cit., p. 141. Manschreck credits Melanchthon with the abolition of the elevation in 1544. Op. cit., p. 237. In 1543 he was already writing Philipp of Hesse, calling for its removal. Herrlinger, up. cit., p. 145. Charges of "idolatry" have been levelled by the Reformed against the Roman Catholic position. The mere use of this term by Melanchthon in describing Luther's position is revealing. This statement by Melanchthon puts him in a position squarely opposed to Luther. "Haec Sacramentalis Praesentia est voluntaria; non est geometrica vel magica, qua Christus in pane manere." Quoted from Herrlinger, p. 143

Footnote 12: . . . Manschreck is much more sympathetic than is Herrlinger to Melanchthon. About Luther Manschreck writes that the "physical presence of [Christ]. . . lasted beyond the ordinary use." Melanchthon, as opposed to Luther, could write, "God is not to be bound to bread and wine apart from the purpose for which the communion was instituted. It would be wrong to portray the union in a manner which at the words of consecration would make Christ's body so united with bread as to be perpetually there. Only while the visible signs are being received is Christ present and effective." Cited from Manschreck, p. 242. During the convocation, at which this essay was presented, I was asked whether there was a similarity between Melanchthon's view and what is commonly understood as "receptionism," the view that Christ's body becomes present only in the actual eating by each recipient. My answer was then hesitant, but I am now thoroughly convinced that the concentration in both positions on the process was similar. Melanchthon soon gave up teaching the manducatio oralis (op. cit., Herrlinger, p. 145), an essential ingredient in the receptionist view; but limiting the presence to the activity rather than to the elements is Melanchthon's and not Luther's view. Both Melanchthon and the "receptionists" focus the attention on the words "Take, eat" (Rogness, op. cit., p. 132), while Luther focuses on "This is my body."

Footnote 22: Manschreck contains a lively discussion of the dispute between the two Wittenbergers with communication breaking down between them in 1543 and 1544. Melanchthon expected that Luther would devastatingly attack him in his A Short Confession on the Holy Sacrament, Against the Fanatics (1544). Neither he nor Bucer were mentioned. Op. cit., p. 245.
See further evidence for my claim, from noted historian Lord Acton, in my follow-up paper on this topic.


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