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Marburg Colloquy

1529. A meeting of Protestant theologians to try to form a united front against the Roman Catholic threat. The efforts at harmony originated with Martin Bucer* and the Strasbourg theologians, but were frustrated by Luther's firmness. It was in response to political pressures that Landgrave Philip of Hesse brought Zwingli, Oecolampadius, Bucer, Capito, and John Sturm and other Swiss and Strasbourg theologians together with Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas, Brenz, Cruciger, and Osiander, the Lutherans at Marburg. The main question of debate was the meaning of the Lord's Supper. The S German group followed the teaching of Zwingli* that Communion was a sign or seal of divine grace already bestowed on the believer; the bread and wine were symbols of the body and blood of Christ, who was locally present in His own body in heaven and not on earth. Luther adhered to the interpretation that Christ's words “This is my body” meant a real presence of Christ and were not to be interpreted metaphorically.

As a result of their discussion, fifteen articles were issued expressing general agreement on doctrines such as the Trinity, the person of Christ, justification by faith, baptism, good works, confession, and secular authority. The fifteenth article, which dealt with Communion, rejected transubstantiation and the idea of the Mass as a sacrifice, insisting on the laity receiving both the bread and the wine as the spiritual partaking of the body and blood of Christ. Despite these articles the colloquy served to divide rather than unite the Protestants, setting the pattern of church splits which has continued into the twentieth century.

See W. Köhler, Das Marburger Religions-Gespräch (1929).