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Smalcald Articles

1537. Drawn up by Martin Luther, the Smalcald Articles were subscribed to by the leading Lutheran theologians as their response to the invitation of Paul III to the council called to be held in Mantua in 1537. To them is appended the “Treatise of the Power and Primacy of the Pope,” written by Philip Melanchthon.* They were endorsed by the princes and estates, although not formally accepted by the Smalcald League.* They belong to the Lutheran Confessions, or Symbols.

The Smalcald Articles consist of three parts, after an introduction. The first part briefly reaffirms the ancient creeds. The second part deals with Christology, the Mass, chapters and cloisters, and the papacy. Purgatory, pilgrimages, monastic life, relics, indulgences, and the invocation of saints are condemned. The pope is branded as the “very Antichrist” and the apostle of the devil. Fifteen points of doctrine are singled out in the third part for special treatment: sin, the Law, repentance, the Gospel, baptism, the sacrament of the altar, the Keys, confession, excommunication, ordination and the Call, the marriage of priests, the church, how one is justified before God and of good works, monastic vows, and human traditions. Extended treatment is given to the “False Repentance of the Papists.”

In Melanchthon's “Of the Power and Primacy of the Pope” the claim that the pope rules by divine right is repudiated by citations from the Scriptures and the Fathers. The arguments of the Roman Catholics are countered. The power and jurisdiction of the bishops are taken up separately. Among those signing “the Augsburg Confession and the Apology” and the Articles at Smalcald in 1537 were Martin Bucer, Ambrose Blaurer, Paul Fagius of Strasbourg, and the Scot, John Aepinus, superintendent of Hamburg.

See T.A. Tappert (ed.), The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Lutheran Church (1959).

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