In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Philip Melanchthon

  • Introduction
  • Handbook and Bibliographies
  • Edited Source Materials and Translations
  • English Translations
  • Journals
  • Biographies
  • Melanchthon’s Relationship with Luther
  • Collected Essays on Melanchthon’s Career and Thought
  • Melanchthon’s Theology
  • Melanchthon’s Exegesis
  • Melanchthon’s Use of the Church Fathers
  • Melanchthon’s Formulation of Public Teaching
  • Melanchthon’s Relationship with Other Christians
  • Melanchthon’s Contributions to the Liberal Arts
  • Melanchthon’s Contributions to Law and Medicine
  • Melanchthon’s Service in Public Life
  • Melanchthon’s Impact

Renaissance and Reformation Philip Melanchthon
Robert A. Kolb
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 May 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0420


While a student at the Universities of Heidelberg and Tübingen, Philip Melanchthon (b. 1497–d. 1560) had won recognition for his abilities as a promulgator of the reforms of the biblical humanistic movement. That reputation propelled him into a professorship at the infant University of Wittenberg in 1518. His primary assignment was to teach Greek and other courses in the Arts faculty, but in 1519 he received the first theology degree, which expanded his responsibilities to include lecturing on the Bible. As a key member of that university, he taught theology and also lectured on several texts and topics in the liberal arts (including Aristotle’s De anima), which continued until his death in 1560. His contributions to the liberal arts, especially in rhetoric and dialectic, but also in refining methods of text analysis and teaching in all branches of learning, were more than equaled by his achievements in biblical interpretation and in the formulation of the dogmatic system that prepared his students for preaching and teaching the faith through the topical method of organizing knowledge of scripture and the Christian tradition. He composed The Augsburg Confession, The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, and The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, which became part of the secondary authority for public teaching in the Lutheran churches. He also served as an ecclesiastical diplomat and counselor on public policy for the electors of Saxony and for the Smalcald League. His later years were marred by criticism from former students, including those to whom he had been very close, whom he disappointed by working with Moritz of Saxony, who had aided the Habsburgs in the defeat of Melanchthon’s former elector, Johann Friedrich, in the Smalcald War (1546–1547). They felt betrayed by his involvement in formulating a compromise policy that was intended to simulate electoral Saxon compliance with imperial commands to return to submission to the papacy while preserving what Luther and Melanchthon had taught in the 1520s, 1530s, and 1540s. His disputed reputation perhaps contributed to the relative dearth of larger scholarly studies of his thought or his multifaceted public career. Much of the scholarship published in what might be called a modest “Melanchthon Renaissance” of the last half century has taken form in essays rather than books, as this bibliography indicates.

Handbook and Bibliographies

Research in Melanchthon has recently received significant stimulus and aid from the appearance of a handbook produced at the Melanchthonhaus, Bretten, Germany, under the leadership of its director, Günter Frank, that covers the breadth of aspects of Melanchthon’s thought and career, with bibliographies and analyses that invite further study. An older bibliography of literature by the German-American German language and literature scholar Wilhelm Hammer is an excellent guide for analyses up to 1970; Helmut Claus’s exhaustive presentation of all publications of Melanchthon’s writings to 1560 is a masterwork of bibliographical information.

  • Claus, Helmut. Melanchthon-Bibliographie, 1510–1560. 4 vols. Gütersloh, Germany: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2014.

    This model descriptive bibliography of over 3,000 pages, the work of a lifetime, details every extant printed edition of the works of Melanchthon published before his death. It is a sine qua non for further Melanchthon research.

  • Frank, Günter, and Axel Lange, eds. Philipp Melanchthon: Der Reformator zwischen Glauben und Wissen; Ein Handbuch. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017.

    Fifty-four essays by forty-two authors provide readers with extensive discussions and bibliographies on Melanchthon’s person and relationships to Luther and others; his use of several literary genres; topics in his theology, philosophy, and teaching in the liberal arts; and his impact and reception over the centuries. An essential guide for both beginners and those who have already done work on Melanchthon.

  • Hammer, Wilhelm. Die Melanchthonforschung im Wandel der Jahrhunderte. Ein beschreibendes Verzeichnis. 4 vols. Gütersloh, Germany: Mohn, 1967–1981.

    Also a model bibliography, with annotated entries on treatments of Melanchthon by supporters and critics, from 1519–1799 (Vol. 1) and 1800–1965 (Vol. 2), with additional entries 1519–1970 (Vol. 3); the index (Vol. 4) is indispensable for further Melanchthon research.

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