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§ 40. The Lutheran Confessions.


I. Collections of the Lutheran Symbols.

(1.) Latin Editions.

Concordia. Pia et unanimi con ensu repetita Confessio Fidei et Doctrinæ Electorum, Principum et Ordinum Imperii, atque eorundem Theologorum, qui Augustanam Confessionem amplectuntur et nomina sua huic libro subscripserunt. Cui ex Sacra Scriptura, unica illa veritatis norma et regula quorundam Articulorum, qui post Doctoris Martini Lutheri felicem ex hac vita exitum, in controversiam venerunt, solida accessit Declaratio, etc. (By Selnecker.) Lips. 1580, 4to; 1584. The second ed. 'communi consilio et mandato Electorum.' Another edition, Lips. 1602, 8vo, by order and with a Preface of Christian II., Elector of Saxony; republished, Lips. 1606, 1612, 1618, 1626, 8vo; Stettin, 1654, 8vo; Lips. 1669, 8vo; 1677. The second ed. (746 pages) is the authentic Latin editio princeps.

The same edition, cum Appendice tripartita Dr. Adami Rechenbergii, Lips. first, 1677, 1678, 1698, 1712, 1725; last, 1742. Rechenberg's edition is the standard of reference, followed by the later Latin editions in the paging.

Ecclesiæ Evangelicæ Libri Symbolici, etc. C. M. Pfaffius, ex editionibus primis et præst. recensuit, varias lectiones adjunxit, etc. Tubing. 1730, 8vo.

Libri Symbolici Ecclesiæ Evangelico-Lutheranæ accuratius editi variique generis animadvers. ac disput. illustrati a Mich. Webero. Viteb. 1809, 8vo.

Libri Symbolici Ecclesiæ Evangelicæ. Ad fidem optim. exemplorum recens. J. A. H. Tittmann. Lips. 1817, 8vo; 1827.

Libri Symbolici Ecclesiæ Evangelicæ sive Concordia. Recens. C. A. Hase. Lipsiæ, 1827, 8vo; 1837, 1845.

Libri Symbolici Ecclesiæ Lutheranæ ad editt. principes et ecclesiæ auctoritate probat. rec., præcipuam lectionum diversitatem notavit, Christ. II. ordinumque evangelicor. præfationes, artic. Saxon. visitator. et Confut. A. C. Pontific. adj. H. A. Guil. Meyer. Gotting. 1830, 8vo.

Concordia. Libri Symbolici Ecclesiæ Evang. Ad edit. Lipsiensem, 1584; Berolin. (Schlawitz), 1857, 8vo.

(2.) German Editions.

Concordia. יהוה Christliche, Widerholete, einmütige Bekenntnüs nachbenanter Churfürsten, Fürsten und Stende Augspurgischer Confession, und derselben zu ende des Buchs underschriebener Theologen Lere und Glaubens. Mit angeheffter, in Gottes wort, als der einigen Richtschnur, wohlgegründter erklerung etlicher Artickel, bei welchen nach D. Martin Luther's seligen absterben disputation und streit vorgefallen. Aus einhelliger vergleichung und bevehl obgedachter Churfürsten, Fürsten und Stende, derselben Landen, Kirchen, Schulen und Nachkommen, zum underricht und warnung in Druck verfertiget. Mit Churf. Gnaden zu Sachsen befreihung. Dresden, 1580, fol. (See the whole title in Corp. Ref. Vol. XXVI. p. 443.)

Concordia. Magdeburg, 1580, 4to, two ed.; Tübingen, 1580, fol.; Dresden, 1581, 4to; Frankfurt a. O., 1581, fol.; Magdeburg, 1581, 4to; Heidelberg, 1582, fol., two ed.; Dresden, 1598, fol.; Tübingen, 1599, 4to; Leipzig, 1603, 4to; Stuttgart, 1611, 4to; Leipzig, 1622, 4to; Stuttgart, 1660, 4to; 1681, 4to.

Concordia. Mit Heinr. Pipping's Hist. theol. Einl. zu den symb. Schriften der Evang. Luth. Kirchen. Leipz. 1703, 4to; 2te Ausg. mit Christ. Weissen's Schlussrede. Leipz. 1739, 4to.

Christliches Concordienbuch, etc., von Siegm. Jac. Baumgarten. Halle, 1747, 2 vols. 8vo.

Christl. Concordienbuch mit der Leipziger Theol. Facultaet Vorrede. Wittenberg, 1760, 8vo; 1766, 1789.

Die Symb. Bücher der Ev. Luth. Kirche, etc., von J. W. Schöpff. Dresden, 1826–27, 8vo.

Concordia. Die Symb. Bücher der ev. luth. Kirche, etc., von F. A. Koethe. Leipzig, 1830, 8vo.

Evangel. Concordienbuch, etc., von J. A. Detzer. Nürnberg, 1830, 1842, 1847.

Evangel. Concordienbuch, etc., von Fr. W. Bodemann. Hanover, 1843.

Christliches Concordienbuch, New York, 1854.

(3.) German-Latin Editions.

Concordia. Germanico-Latina ad optima et antiquissima exempla recognita, adjectis fideliter allegator. dictor. S. Scr. capitibus et vers. et testimoniorum P. P. aliorumque Scriptorum locis. . . . cum approbatione Facult. Theol. Lips. Wittenb. et Rostoch. Studio Ch. Reineccii. Lips. 1708, 4to; 1735.

Christliches Concordienbuch. Deutsch und Lateinisch mit historischen Einleitungen J. G. Walch's. Jena, 1750, 8vo.

Die Symbolischen Bücher der Evang. Luther. Kirche, deutsch und lateinisch, etc., von J. F. Müller (of Windsbach, Bavaria), 1847; 3d ed. Stuttgart, 1869. (A very useful edition.)


(4.) Translations.

Dutch: Concordiaof Lutersche Geloofs Belydenis in’t licht gegeven door Zach. Dezius. Rotterdam, 1715, 8vo.

Swedish: Libri Concordiæ Versio Suecica, Christeliga, Enhelliga, och Uprepade och Läras, etc. Norköping, 1730, 4to.

English: The Christian Book of Concord, or Symbolical Book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, translated by Ambrose and Socrates Henkel (two Lutheran clergymen of Virginia), with the assistance of several other Lutheran clergymen. Newmarket, Virginia, 1851; 2d ed. revised, 1854. This is the first and only complete English edition of the Book of Concord; but the translation (made from the German) is not sufficiently idiomatic.

II. Historical and Critical Works on the Lutheran Symbols in General.

Jo. Benedict Carpzov: Isagoge in libros ecclesiarum Lutheranarum symbolicos. Opus posthumum a J. Oleario: Continuatum ed. J. B. Carpzov (filius). Lipsiæ, 1665, 4to; 1675, 1691, 1699, 1725.

Jo. Georg Walch: Introductio in libros Ecclesiæ Lutheranæ symbolicos, observationibus historicis et theologicis illustrata. Jenæ, 1732, 4to.

J. Albr. Fabricius: Centifolium Lutheranum. Hamb. 1728–30, 2 vols. 8vo.

S. J. Baumgarten: Erleuterungen der im christlichen Concordienbuch enthaltenen symbolischen Schriften der evang. luth. Kirche, nebst einem Anhange von den übrigen Bekenntnissen und feierlichen Lehrbüchern in gedachter Kirche. Halle, 1747.

J. Christoph. Kœcher: Bibliotheca theologiæ symbolicæ et catecheticæ. Guelph. et Jenæ, 1751–69, 2 vols.

Jac. W. Feuerlin: Bibliotheca symb. evang. Lutherana. Accedunt appendices duæ: I. Ordinationes et Agenda; II. Catechismus ecclesiarum nostrarum. Gotting. 1752. Another enlarged edition by J. Barthol. Riederer. Nürnberg, 1768, 2 vols. 8vo.

J. G. Walch: Bibliotheca theologica selecta. Jena, 1757–65, 4 vols. 8vo.

Chr. Guil. Fr. Walch: Breviarium theol. symb. eccles. luther. Göttingen, 1765–1781, 8vo.

Eduard Köllner: Symbolik der lutherischen Kirche. Hamburg, 1837.

  J. F. Müller: Die symb. Bücher der evang. luth. Kirche. Stuttgart, 1847; 3d ed. 1869. Introduction pp. cxxiv.

Charles P. Krauth (Dr. and Prof. of Theology in the Evang. Theol. Seminary in Philadelphia): The Conservative Reformation and its Theology, as represented in the Augsburg Confession and in the History and literature of the Evang. Lutheran Church. Philadelphia, 1871.

For fuller lists of editions and works, see Feuerlin (ed. Riederer), J. G. Walch, Köllner, l.c., and the 26th and 27th vols. of the Corpus Reformatorum, ed. Bindseil.


The Evangelical Lutheran Church, in whole or in part, acknowledges nine symbolical books: three of them are inherited from the Catholic Church, viz., the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed (with the Filioque), and the Athanasian Creed; six are original, viz., the Augsburg Confession, drawn up by Melanchthon (1530), the Apology of the Confession, by the same (1530), the Articles of Smalcald, by Luther (1537), the two Catechisms of Luther (1529), and the Form of Concord, prepared by six Lutheran divines (1577).

These nine symbols constitute together the Book of Concord (Concordia, or Liber Concordiæ, Concordienbuch), which was first published by order of Elector Augustus of Saxony in 1580, in German and Latin, and which superseded older collections of a similar character.398398   See an account of the various Corpora Doctrinæ in Baumgarten, Erläuterungen, etc., pp. 247–282; Köllner, Symbolik, I. pp. 96 sqq.; and Müller, Symb. Bücher, pp. cxxii. sqq. The oldest was the Corpus Doctrinæ Christianæ Philippicum, or Misnicum, 1560, which contained only Melanchthonian writings, and was followed by several other collections of a more strictly Lutheran character.

The Lutheran symbols are not of equal authority. Besides the 222three œcumenical Creeds, the Augsburg Confession is most highly esteemed, and is the only one which is generally recognized. Next to it comes the Shorter Catechism of Luther, which is extensively used in catechetical instruction. His Larger Catechism is only an expansion of the Shorter. The Apology is valuable in a theological point of view, as an authentic commentary on the Augsburg Confession. The Smalcald Articles have an historical significance, as a warlike manifesto against Rome, but are little used. The Form of Concord was never generally received, but decidedly rejected in several countries, and is disowned by the Melanchthonian and unionistic schools in the Lutheran Church.

Originally intended merely as testimonies or confessions of faith, these documents became gradually binding formulas of public doctrine, and subscription to them was rigorously exacted from all clergymen and public teachers in Lutheran State churches.399399    As early as 1533 a statute was enacted in Wittenberg by Luther, Jonas, and others, which required the doctors of theology, at their promotion, to swear to the incorrupt doctrine of the Gospel as taught in the symbols. It was only a modification of the oath customary in the Roman Catholic Church. After the middle of the sixteenth century, subscription began to be enforced, on pain of deposition and exile. See Köllner, Symb., I. pp. 106 sqq. The rationalistic apostasy, reacting against the opposite extreme of symbololatry and ultra-orthodoxy, swept away these test-oaths, or reduced them to a hypocritical formality. The revival of evangelical Christianity, since the tercentenary jubilee of the Reformation in 1817, was followed by a partial revival of rigid Lutheran confessionalism, yet not so much in opposition to the Reformed as to the Unionists in Prussia and other German States, where the two Confessions have been amalgamated. The meaning and aim of the Evangelical Union in Prussia, however, was not to set aside the two Confessions, but to accommodate them in one governmental household, allowing them to use either the Lutheran or the Heidelberg Catechism as before. The chief trouble was occasioned by the new liturgy of King Frederick William III., which was forced upon the churches, and gave rise to the Old Lutheran secession. In the other States of Germany, and in Scandinavia and Austria, the Lutheran churches have, with a separate government, also their own liturgies and forms of ordination, with widely differing modes of subscription to the symbolical books.400400    Köllner, I. pp. 121 sqq., gives a number of Verpflichtungsformeln in use in Europe.


In the United States, the Lutherans, left free from the control of the civil government, yet closely connected with the doctrinal and confessional disputes of their brethren in Germany, are chiefly divided into three distinct organizations, which hold as many different relations to the Symbolical Books, and are, in fact, three denominations under a common name, viz.: the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the United States, organized in 1820; the Synodical Conference of North America, organized in 1872;401401    [The statements must be modified in view of the organic unions and Church federations which have recently been formed within the Lutheran communions—movements encouraged by the 400th anniversaries of the XCV Theses, 1917, and the Augsburg Confession, 1930. To follow a statement furnished by the Rev. G. L. Kieffer, Statistician and Librarian of the National Luth. Council—the Luth. churches of the U. S. and Canada, 1930, had a membership of 2,852,843 communicants. Two-thirds of the number are embraced in three corporate groups, namely, The United Luth. Ch. of Am., formed 1918, with 971,187 members; The Am. Luth. Ch., formed 1930 with 340,809 members; The Evang. Luth. Synod of Missouri, formed 1847, with 702,056 members. Two coöperative federations exist, namely: 1. The Am. Luth. Conference with 926,009 members, formed 1930, consisting of five bodies, The Am. Luth. Ch., The Augustana Synod with 234,434 members, the Norwegian Luth. Ch., with 303,358 members, The Luth. Free Ch. and the United Danish Churches with 47,408 members. 2. The Evang. Synod. Luth. Conference of N. Am., founded 1873, having 873,484 members, and consisting of five groups of which the Missouri Synod is much the largest. In addition to the United Luth. Ch. of Am. and the groups joined in the federations there are seven independent synods with 75,397 members. The groups are not to be regarded "as separate denominations, their main difference being in a gradual gradation from the freedom of the universal priesthood of believers to a more or less highly developed legalistic control of the individual." They coöperate in certain general movements through a National Luth. Council and some of the independent synods support the missions of the larger groups.—Ed.] and the General Council, which, under the lead of the old Synod of Pennsylvania, seceded from the General Synod, and met first at Fort Wayne, Indiana, Nov. 20, 1867. The first has its theological and literary centre in Gettysburg, the second at St. Louis and Fort Wayne, the third in Philadelphia.

The 'General Synod,' which is composed chiefly of English-speaking descendants of German immigrants, and sympathizes with the surrounding Reformed denominations, adopts simply 'the Augsburg Confession as a correct exhibition of the fundamental doctrines of the divine Word,' without mentioning the other symbolical books at all, and allows a very liberal construction even of the Augsburg Confession, especially the articles on the Sacraments.402402    'We receive and hold, with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of our fathers, the Word of God, as contained in the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and the Augsburg Confession, as a correct exhibition of the fundamental doctrines of the Divine Word, and of the faith of our Church founded upon that Word.' (Constitution of General Synod, adopted at Washington, 1869, Art. II. Sect. 3.) With this basis 224the Lutheran Synod of the Southern States, which was organized during the civil war, is substantially agreed.403403    'We receive and hold that the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice. We likewise hold that the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Augsburg Confession contain the fundamental doctrines of the sacred Scriptures; and we receive and adopt them as the exponents of our faith.'

The Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, which is so far almost exclusively German as to language, requires its ministers to subscribe the whole Book of Concord (including the Form of Concord), 'as the pure, unadulterated explanation and exposition of the divine Word and will.'404404    'Ich erkenne die drei Hauptsymbole der [alten] Kirche, die ungeänderte Augsburgische Confession und deren Apologie, die Schmalcaldischen Artikel, die beiden Catechismen Luthers und die Concordienformel für die reine, ungefälschte Erklärung und Darlegung des göttlichen Wortes and Willens, bekenne mich zu denselben als zu meinen eigenen Bekenntnissen und will mein Amt bis an mein Ende treulich und fleissig nach denselben ausrichten. Dazu stärke mich Gott durch seinen heiligen Geist! Amen.' (Ordination vow in the Kirchen-Agende, St. Louis, 1856, p. 173.) Here the Lutheran system of doctrine is almost identified with the Bible, according to the adage:    'Gottes Wort und Luther's Lehr
   Vergehet nun und nimmermehr.'

With the Missourians are agreed the Buffalo and the Iowa Lutherans, except on the question of the origin and nature of the ministerial office, which has been the subject of much bitter controversy between them.

The 'General Council,' which is nearly equally divided as to language and nationality, stands midway between the General Synod and the Synodical Conference. It accepts, primarily, the 'Unaltered Augsburg Confession in its original sense,' and, in subordinate rank, the other Lutheran symbols, as explanatory of the Augsburg Confession, and as equally pure and Scriptural.405405    'We accept and acknowledge the doctrines of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession in its original sense as throughout in conformity with the pure truth, of which God's Word is the only rule. We accept its statements of truth as in perfect accordance with the canonical Scriptures; we reject the errors it condemns, and believe that all which it commits to the liberty of the Church, of right belongs to that liberty. In thus formally accepting and acknowledging the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, we declare our conviction that the other Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, inasmuch as they set forth none other than its system of doctrine and articles of faith, are of necessity pure and Scriptural. Pre-eminent among such accordant, pure, and Scriptural statements of doctrine, by their intrinsic excellence, by the great and necessary ends for which they were prepared, by their historical position, and by the general judgment of the Church, are these: the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, the Catechisms of Luther, and the Formula of Concord, all of which are, with the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, in the perfect harmony of one and the same Scriptural faith.' (Principles of Faith and Church Polity of the Gen. Council, adopted Nov. 1867, Sections VIII. and IX.)


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