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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Presentation of the Augsburg Confession -- A Tribute

(Also Posted on WMLTBlog)
Presentation of the Augsburg Confession
25 June 1530 before Emperor  Charles V
(Click for Larger Image)
I will speak of your statues before kings, O Lord, and will not be put to shame." -- Introit Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, Psalm 119:46.

Apart from the Lord's salvific events recorded in the Old and New Testaments, particularly Christ's birth, death, resurrection, and ascension, "one of the greatest days in human history" was "when the Augsburg Confession was first publicly read before the emperor." (Klug, Eugene F A. “Lutherʼs contribution to the Augsburg Confession.” Concordia Theological Quarterly 44, no. 2-3 (1980): 155-172, pg. 159.) Martin Luther called the Diet of Augsburg where the Augsburg Confession was read, "the last trumpet before Judgment Day." The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession 481 years ago changed the world. Arguably, the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession is even more important than when Luther nailed the Ninety-five Theses on the castle door in Wittenberg in 1517. The Augsburg Confession was read in German, not Latin, on June 25 at 3 p.m. by Chancellor Beyer. He read with a clear, loud voice for nearly two hours. At least seven (if not nine) Electors and Princes of the Holy Roman Empire (Germany, for all intents and purposes) signed the Augsburg Confession. George of Brandenburg declared, "Rather than deny my God and suffer the Word of God to be taken from me, I will kneel down and have my head struck off." (Eh ich mir will das Wort Gottes nehmen lassen und meines Gottes verläugnen, ehe will ich jetzt niderknien und wir den Kopf lassen abhauen." Corpus Reformatorum 2, 115.) Although the German princes who signed the Augsburg Confession did not lose their heads, others would lose their heads.

The Execution of Twenty-seven Nobles in Prague
After the Bohemian defeat at the Battle on White Mountain.
Just a decade shy of a century after the Augsburg Confession was signed, twenty-seven Bohemian nobles were executed for their confession of the Protestant faith (The Bohemian Confession of 1575 based on the Augsburg Confession), and in some cases for their confession of the Augsburg Confession. The nobles were various shades of Lutherans or Calvinists. Among those executed was Jan Jesenius, physician to the Prince of Saxony 1593, and professor of anatomy in Wittenberg from 1594 until 1600, when he relocated to Prague. He was executed along with twenty-six other nobles for refusing the Roman Catholic faith. In 1621, the Emperor ordered all Calvinists and non-Lutherans to convert in three days to Roman Catholicism or to leave the Czech lands.  In December 1621 under Archbishop Lohelius, "The last Administrator, the Lutheran Jiřík Dykastus, was exiled from Bohemia with other Czech Protestant clergy."(David, Zdenìk V. “THE WHITE MOUNTAIN, 1620: AN ANNIHILATION OR APOTHEOSIS OF UTRAQUISM?” Communio Viatorum 45, no. 1 (2003): 24-66, 35.) A few years later the Silesian Lutherans would come under persecution for their confession. From the 16th century until the present day, many would stand before kings and confess the faith confessed at Augsburg.

Title Page of Confessyon Of The Fayth
Of The Germaynes
London, 1536
Translated by Richard Taverner
Richard Taverner (c. 1505 – 14 July 1575) best known for his translation of the Bible into English, first translated the Augsburg Confession and the Apology into English in 1536. Taverner's commitment to Lutheran theology is questionable, at the very least he was unwilling to lose his life for it. The English Ten Articles of Religion are based on the Augsburg Confession. The effects of Taverner's translation largely are limited to a brief period of time in the 1530s.

Acta et Scripta Theologorum Wirtembergensium et
Patriarchae Constantinopolitanti D. Hieremiae,
After Luther's death, the Lutheran's continued to reach out to others with the Augsburg Confession. Melanchthon is believed to have sent a letter to Patriarch Joasaph II (1555-1565) in 1559. After Melanchthon's correspondance, Demetrios Mysos came to study in Wittenberg for about six months. During this time, Melanchthon and Mysos are believed to have translated the Augsburg Confession into Greek. Melanchthon died in 1560 and there is no evidence that Mysos returned to Constantinople with the Greek version of the Augsburg Confession.
The Augsburg Confession's Title in Greek Reads,
"A Confession of the Orthodox Faith."

A second attempt to contact the Eastern Orthodox church was made by Jacob Andreae in 1574 when he sent a copy of the Augsburg Confession in Greek to Patriarch Jeremiah II. The title of the Augsburg Confession in Greek reads, "A Confession of the Orthodox Faith." The Patriarch responded to the Augsburg Confession article by article. Agreement was not found. The entire fascinating story with a translation of the correspondance can be read in Augsburg and Constantinople: The Correspondence between the Tubingen Theologians and Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople on the Augsburg ... Library of Ecclesiastical and Historical). The original Acta et Scripta Theologorum Wirtembergensium et
Patriarchae Constantinopolitanti D. Hieremiae, 
1584, can be downloaded here in PDF.

Philipp Melanchthon
Das Augsburger Bekenntnis von 1530,
ergänzt durch die Apologie des Bekenntnisses
Wittenberg: Georg Rhau, 1531
The Augsburg Confession confesses, "Ecclesiae magno consensu apud nos docent," that is, "The churches among us with great consensus teach." This is an ecumenical statement that the Augsburg Confession is a universal creed, that correctly expounds the Scriptures and believed by all Christians. On this Dr. Charles Arand writes, "And so in the Augustana they proclaim, "This is the one holy catholic and apostolic faith" which is proclaimed among us. Therefore the one holy Christian church exists among us in its fullness. In this claim of catholicity the confessors issue a call, inviting others to confess their catholicity by confessing the Gospel as it is set forth in the twenty-eight articles of the Augustana. And then they issue a bit of a challenge: And we hope that it exists among you." (Arand, Charles P. “The Future of Church Fellowship : A Confessional Proposal.” Concordia Journal (July 1999), 248-249.)

The Augsburg Confession is the bold confession of the Lutheran, rather of the Christian Church, to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

Read the Augsburg Confession here.

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