Philip Melanchthon

Philip Schwarzerdt (Greek: Melanchthon) was born February 16, 1497, in in Bretten, Germany. He was the first of five children. Melanchthon's father, Georg Schwarzerdt, was master of armory of electoral Saxony. His grandfather saw that young Philip, his brother Georg and two other grandsons had a strong education in Latin by hiring the tutor Johannes Unger from Pfortzheim. At school Philip was the best student. He went on to learn Greek under Johannes Hiltebrant. His great-uncle, the humanist Johannes Reuchlin, in the humanist tradition, gave him the Greek name "Melanchthon" which also means "black earth."

Reuchlin saw to it that Melanchthon was admitted to the University of Heidelberg at the age of twelve. About two years later, in 1511, at the age of fourteen, he received his BA. He received the MA from the university at Tübingen at seventeen. He was received by the faculty of philosophy and began teaching. He also began writing, which he was to continue doing for the rest of his life. Melanchthon was greatly influenced by humanism. At the age of nineteen even the famous Erasmus of Rotterdam recognized Melanchthon's many talents and spoke highly of him:

In 1518, the twenty-one-year-old Melanchthon was recommended for the new chair of Greek literature at the elector's Wittenberg University (founded in 1502). On August 28 he gave his first lecture on "reforming the instruction of the youth." It was the beginning of a lifelong association for Melanchthon with the university.

At Wittenberg Philip Melanchthon studied theology under Dr. Martin Luther. In September 1519 he was granted his first degree in theology: baccalaureus biblicus. Melanchthon turned out to be a popular lecturer. And Luther, who was fourteen years his senior, recognized Melanchthon's remarkable abilities.

While Dr. Luther was hidden at the Wartburg castle (because of the imperial ban against him after the Diet at Worms), Philip Melanchthon took over his lectures on the Scriptures. This marked the beginning of a time of great productivity for Melanchthon.

Melanchthon is credited with writing the Augsburg Confession in 1530, with Luther as a supervisor. He also wrote commentaries on the New Testament: in 1527, on Colossians; and between 1529 and 1556 on Romans.

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