Augsburg Confession

1530. A summary of the evangelical faith presented to Emperor Charles V* for the Diet of Augsburg. Commissioned by John, elector of Saxony, it was written by Luther, Justus Jonas, Bugenhagen, and Melanchthon. The group, which met at Torgau, had before it the Schwabach Articles written in 1529 and the articles presented during the Marburg Colloquy. The call for the diet indicated the emperor's hope that some conciliation between Catholics and Protestants might be achieved. This, with the recent failure at Marburg with the Zwinglians, might explain the conciliatory and irenic wording of the document.

The Torgau Articles were reworked by Melanchthon. One of his objectives in writing the Confession was to refute the charges of Johann Eck in his book, 404 Articles, that Lutheranism was reviving certain ancient heresies. The draft was sent to Luther for his perusal and some alterations were made after consultation with Jonas, the Saxon Chancellor Brück, Bishop Stadion, and Alfonso Valdez, the imperial secretary. On 23 June 1530, the Confession was approved by John, elector of Saxony; Philip Landgrave of Hesse; George, margrave of Brandenburg; Dukes Francis and Ernest of Lüneburg; representatives from the cities of Nuremberg and Reutlingen; and other counselors and theologians. Ultimately four more cities accepted it during the meeting of the diet. On the insistence of the Protestant princes and against the objection of Charles V, the Confession was read publicly in German during the diet on 25 April 1530. It took two hours.

The German and Latin texts were then given to a group of twenty Catholic theologians chosen by Campeggius for examination and refutation. The reply, called the Papalist Confutation, approved without qualification nine of the articles; six were approved with qualifications or in part; thirteen were condemned. A revised form of the reply was later adopted by Charles V as his own confession. The emperor demanded that the Protestants conform to the Confutation, but they sought the opportunity to reply to it. This was done by Melanchthon,* and the reply or apology was then affixed to the Confession. The German translation by Jonas in 1532 helped to make this the principal confession of the Lutheran Church. Due to the unauthorized publication of the Confession in 1530, Melanchthon issued the Editio Princeps in 1531, presenting the authorized text. The first twenty-one articles dealt with similarities and dissimilarities between Lutherans and Catholics, the last seven articles with abuses in the church, such as failure to give both bread and cup during the Lord's Supper; celibacy; paying for masses; compulsory confession; equating grace with fasts and festivals; lack of monastic discipline; abuse of ecclesiastical power. Melanchthon issued another text in 1540 called the Variata. There is no sure evidence Luther rejected it. The Variata was used by the Crypto-Calvinists. When the Book of Concord* was adopted, the Latin text of 1531 was chosen over the 1540 Variata text. The Confession was the earliest of the formal creedal statements and became the authoritative confessional standard for the Lutheran Church, having influence upon other confessions.

J.M. Reu, The Augsburg Confession (1930); W.D. Allbeck, Studies in the Lutheran Confessions (1952); T.G. Tappert (ed.), The Book of Concord (1959); M. Lackmann, The Augsburg Confession and Catholic Unity (1963); G.W. Forell, The Augsburg Confession (1968); A. Kimme, Theology of the Augsburg Confession (1968).