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Schwarz Lausten, Martin
Philipp Melanchthon. Humanist og luthersk reformator i Tyskland og Danmark.
København: Anis 2010. 392 S. m. Abb. gr.8° = Kirkehistoriske Studier, III/15. Kart. DKr 349,00. ISBN 978-87-7457-563-4.
The author of the book (Philipp Melanchthon. Humanist and Lutheran Reformer in Germany and Denmark), Martin Schwarz Lausten, Professor em., is one of the most productive contemporary church historians in Denmark. He has worked intensively with the Reformation period for more than forty years and written books on the Danish kings Christian II. and Christian III., on the Danish reformers Peder and Niels Palladius and the Danish Reformation in general. Between 1997 and 2007 he departed from his agenda to write a six-volume work on the relations between Christian and Jew in Denmark from the Middle Ages to modern times. Latterly he has returned to the Reformation, now focusing on relations be-tween Germany and Denmark, with for instance a biography of Luther (2006), the book Die heilige Stadt Wittenberg. Die Beziehungen des dänischen Königshauses zu Wittenberg (2010), a biography of Johannes Bugenhagen (2011) and the present biography of Philipp Melanchthon (2010).
This work can be said to supply a need in a Danish context. It is the first substantial monograph about the reformer written in Danish which takes into account Melanchthon’s importance for Denmark. The book draws on former, but minor works by the Danish Church Historians Bjørn Kornerup, Leif Grane and Jens Glebe-Møller, and to a large extent it also refers to S. L.’s own earlier productions. Furthermore it is indebted to major German investigations of Melanchthon such as the works of Robert Stup-perich, Heinz Scheible, Günther Frank and Martin Jung, and to the older works of Friedrich Galle, Karl Hartfelder and Georg Ellinger. Strangely enough only one reference to the Anglo-Saxon world is made, in Carl E. Maxcey’s book Bona Opera. A Study in the Development of the Doctrine in Philipp Melanchthon, whereas the production for instance of so important a scholar as Timothy Wengert is passed over.
The study is divided into two parts, the first concerning Melanchthon in Germany and the second Melanchthon in Denmark. At the end S. L. adds a third and short part, an Epilogue, concerning the death of Melanchthon and a brief assessment (four pages) of his importance.
The book has a straight-line composition: In the first part S. L. describes how Melanchthon entered the scene and took part in Luther’s fight with scholasticism, the Diet at Worms, the riots in Wittenberg, the Peasants’ War, the fear of the Turks and all the political negotiations concerning the different religious beliefs in the late 1520s and afterwards. Melanchthon’s work at the renewed University is described and his concept of piety and education (pietas et eruditio) delineated. S. L. also touches shortly on his work with poetry and hymns. He goes on to mention Melanchthon’s work as a counsellor for the princes, his contribution to clerical life in the form of catechetical work and visitations, and also the different disputes and quarrels in which he took part in his later years. We also find a short chapter on the relationship with Luther (10 p.).
In the second part S. L. relates Melanchthon’s efforts to 16th Century Denmark. Here the relations between Melanchthon and the kings of Denmark Christian III. and Frederik II. are outlined. Melanchthon cherished Christian III. as the perfect ruler, protecting the renewed and restored interpretation of Christianity. The valuable correspondence between the two can be found in the Danish Royal Library in Copenhagen and is partly described here. Also Melanchthon’s importance for those Danish theologians who came to Wittenberg is called into attention, figures such as Peder and Niels Palladius, and especially the internationally known Niels Hemmingsen, whose books were widespread in 16 th and 17th century Europe and carried a clearly ›philippist‹ mark.
In his retirement lecture in 2008, S. L. indicated his own strong attachment to the method of historical criticism in Church His-tory, and his debt to his teacher J. Oskar Andersen, who was not as fond of »Dogmengeschichte« as he was of »Realgeschichte«. This description proves to be rather accurate in reading the present book. S. L. attempts to present a historical picture of the person or persons involved, and the transactions in which they were in-volved, made as accurate as possible by reference to the sources, and seasoned with a number of details, anecdotes, references to memoires, descriptions of the person’s family life, religious behaviour and social relations. Even for the specialist in the history of the Reformation the book thus offers a body of rare information and glimpses of sources hidden in the archives. Furthermore it points to material which still needs to be discovered and set out in greater detail, and is in this respect a source of inspiration. This is for instance the case with Niels Hemmingsen, the most important Danish 16 th century theologian and maybe the most ›melanchthonian‹ thinker of his time. And there are many other examples of rare material and quaint individuals, such as Jens Andersen Sinning, Erasmus Laetus, Anders Sørensen Vedel and Jacob Bording, whom one feels compelled to study more extensively after having read S. L.’s œuvre.
But as we know every choice of focus and method has its price, and in this case the ›realgeschichtliche‹ method is unfolded at the expense of the ›Dogmengeschichte‹, or to be more precise: at the expense of the more complex theological depths in Melanchthon’s biography. Melanchthon’s theology is treated, to be sure, in a chapter of twenty-four pages, and the more or less qualified, culturally and historically interested reader is doubtless enlightened, but for the scholar of the Reformation the book is at this point too cursory.
That said, the book is generally written in a pleasing manner, is stylistically in order and contains informative illustrations. There are few direct references to primary literature, none to secondary literature (for each chapter S. L. refers to between five and ten se-condary sources at the end of the book) and no scholarly discussions in the footnotes. This may facilitate the ›read‹, but feels slightly inadequate for the curious soul.