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Bugenhagen, Johann

BUGENHAGEN, bū´´gen-hê´gen, JOHANN:

Early Life.

A leader of the German Reformation b. at Wollin (29 m. n. of Stettin), Pomerania, June 24, 1485; d. at Wittenberg Apr. 20, 1558. He was educated at the University of Greifswald, paying special attention to the Latin classics. In his eighteenth year he was placed in charge of the school at Treptow on the Rega, which he made famous far and wide by the thorough Renaissance devotion to study which he inculcated. In 1509 he was ordained priest, though without any special theological training Humanism, in fact, strongly influenced his theology. He turned away from the schoolmen to seek a purer doctrine in the early Fathers, and by Erasmus, whom he considered to represent them, was brought to a deep study of the Bible. In 1517 he was appointed to lecture on the Bible and the Fathers in the new monastic school of Belbuck. A journey throughout Pomerania in search of documents to aid in Spalatin's historical work led to the publication of its results in his Pomerania (1518), in which he foreshadows his later career by incidental attacks on the preachers of indulgences; and a sermon delivered before a clerical assembly in 1519 (or 1520) is even more outspoken in its reproof of abuses. Not long after, Luther's writings fell into his hands. He was at first shocked by the Captivitas Babylonica, but further reading convinced him of its truth. An earnest correspondence with Luther followed, and in 1521 Bugenhagen went to Wittenberg, sending back to Treptow a long letter in which he declared his adhesion to his new master's doctrines.

At Wittenberg.

He matriculated at the university, made friends with Melanchthon, and began to expound the Psalms to an increasing audience. The swift development of practical reform carried him with it, and he married in 1522, in spite of the uncertainty of his future. Luther exerted himself to find a position for him, and, a vacancy occurring in the principal church of Wittenberg, put his useful follower in, despite the protests of the capitular body to whom the right of nomination really belonged. Here Bugenhagen busied himself in many practical pastoral works, finding time for literary activity also; he helped in the Low German edition of Luther's New Testament (1524), and in the same year published his lectures on the Psalms and Latin commentaries on several other books of Scripture. These, as well as some German treatises on practical piety, made his name known, and he was called to St. Nicholas's church at Hamburg. The town council objected, and the proposal fell through. Bugenhagen came, however, to the help of the evangelical community in Hamburg in the following year by his tractate Von dem Christenloven und rechten guden Werken (published 1526; High German version in Vogt), which is one of the best popular presentations of the Lutheran teaching. In 1525 he officiated at Luther's marriage, and wrote a defense of the married clergy. Besides his faithful pastoral labors, continued even through the plague of 1527, he took part in the general movement of the Reformation by a letter "to the Christians in England" (1525), by taking a prominent part against Zwingli and Butzer in the eucharistic controversy, and by new exegetical works.

His Ability as an Organizer.

Bugenhagen's forte, however, was organization, which he carried forward in many parts of North Germany, in both ecclesiastical and educational matters. The results of his activity were seen, for example, in the new church constitutions of Brunswick, Hamburg, Lübeck, and Pomerania. In 1535 he came back to spend two years in his duties at Wittenberg, and became a member of the theological faculty. He was called away once more in 1537 to superintend the carrying out of the reforming movement in Denmark, which had been begun the year before, when Christian III. had broken the power of the bishops and confiscated their property. He revised the proposed constitution, crowned the king and queen at Copenhagen, ordained seven evangelical theologians as superintendents to take the place of the expelled bishops, and reorganized the university, which he governed for a time as rector, working meanwhile at his great commentary on the Psalms, not completed till 1544. Returning home in the spring of 1539, he took part in the thorough revision of Luther's Bible, and stood by him in the conflict with Agricola (see Antinomianism and Antinomian Controversies, II., 1, § 3). He declined a call to the bishopric of Sleswick, and another to the University of Copenhagen; but he visited Holstein in 1542, at the king's invitation, to assist in the adoption and adaptation of the Danish church constitution for the duchies. No sooner had he returned than the success of the arms of the Schmalkald League against Henry of Brunswick laid a new task upon him, together with Corvinus and Görlitz; viz., that of organizing an Evangelical Church in the conquered territory. The constitution for Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel which appeared in the autumn of 1543 is mostly his work, and that adopted for Hildesheim in the following year is practically derived from it. Yet the difficulties which he had experienced in this visitation were sufficient, it would seem, to make him reluctant to accept the invitation of the duke of Pomerania to take the place of the deceased bishop of Kammin; and when the duke would have no conditional acceptance, he declined absolutely, 297though professing his willingness to assist for a time in organization.

Last Years.

Bugenhagen remained, accordingly, at Wittenberg, a help and strength to Luther in his last years, and preached his funeral sermon on Feb. 22, 1546. In the troublous times that followed, he adhered undauntedly to the cause of the Wittenberg church, encouraged the citizens during the siege, and went on preaching even after the emperor had entered the city as conqueror. The consideration with which he was treated by Charles V. and the new elector Maurice, and his desire to serve the university and to remain connected with it, combined to reconcile him to the new state of things more readily than some ardent evangelicals thought fitting. There was much criticism of his action from his own side, and calumny even went so far as to accuse him of venality. He was drawn into the policy of the Interim still further, as conducted by Maurice of Saxony and represented theologically by Melanchthon. His personal share in the negotiations was, indeed, a slight one; he was in the opposition at Alten-Zelle, and was consequently not summoned to Jüterbogk. But the concessions made to the Roman Catholic ceremonial found a sympathizer in the man who had impressed upon North German Lutheranism a conservative approximation to the old forms; he overlooked the fact that, as Hering has truly said, what had originally been consideration for the weak brethren might now be only obsequious deference to the powerful. His attitude cost him the confidence of the deposed elector and of Albert of Prussia, and not a few of his old friends turned from him. As an attempt to set himself right, he published in 1550 his commentary on Jonah, in which he gave vigorous expression to his undiminished protest against the Roman Catholic Church, undertaking to derive its doctrines and practises from the Montanist heresy. He raised his voice during the troubles of 1556 in a warning to all pastors to prepare for the end of the world by confession of sin and firm adherence to their faith. Decaying bodily strength forced him to give up preaching in 1557, and a year later he went to his long rest, being buried near the altar in the church he had served so long. He left behind him many a trace of his organizing abilities throughout northern Germany, especially in Lower Saxony, of his wisdom in practical matters, his sensible views on education, and his liturgical institutions, which substantially determined the abiding character of North German Lutheranism.

(G. Kawerau.)

Bibliography: His Briefwechsel, ed. O. Vogt, appeared Stuttgart, 1888. The best treatment is to be found in H. Hering, Doktor Pomeranus, J. Bugenhagen, Halle, 1888. Special treatises are: G. H. Goetze, De J. Bugenhagii meritis . . . oratio, Leipsic, 1704; J. D. Jancke, Lebensgeschichte J. Bugenhagens, Rostock, 1757; R. F. L. Engelken, J. Bugenhagen, ein biographischer Aufsatz für die evangelische Kirche, Berlin, 1817; J. H. Zietz, J. Bugenhagen, ein biographischer Versuch Leipsic, 1834; M. Meurer, J. Bugenhagen's Leben ib. 1862; K. A. T. Vogt, J. Bugenhagen Pomeranus, Elberfeld, 1867. Consult further: J. Köstlin, Martin Luther, ed. G. Kawerau, passim, 2 vols., Berlin, 1903 Schaff, Christian Church, vi. 347, 467, 567 621–622; Moeller, Christian Church, vol. iii. passim; KL, ii. 1453–58. BugenHagen's Vermahnung an die Böhmen was published in Zeitgemässe Traktate aus der Reformationszeit, part 2, ed. C. von Kügelgen, Leipsic, 1903.

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