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Confession of Augsburg

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

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The most important Protestant statement of belief drawn up at the Reformation. In summoning a diet for April 1S30, Charles V. offered a fair hearing to all religious parties in the Empire. Luther, Justus Jonas, Melanchthon and Johann Bugenhagen were appointed to draw up a statement of the Saxon position. These "Torgau Articles" (March 1530) tell merely why Saxony had abolished certain ecclesiastical abuses. Melanchthon, however, soon found that, owing to attacks by Johann Eck of Ingolstadt ("404 Articles"), Saxony must state its position in doctrinal matters as well. Taking the Articles of Marburg (see Marburg, Colloquy Of) and of Schwabach as the point of departure, he repudiated all connexion with heretics condemned by the ancient church. On the 11th of May he sent the draft to Luther, who approved it, adding that he himself "could not tread so softly and gently." On the 23rd of June the Confession, originally intended as the statement of Electoral Saxony alone, was discussed and signed by a number of other Protestant princes and cities, and read before the diet on the 25th of June. Articles 1-21 attempt to show that the Evangelicals had deviated from current doctrine only in order to restore the pure and original teaching of the church. In spite of significant omissions (the sole authority of scripture; rejection of transubstantiation), the Confession contains nothing contradictory to Luther's position, and in its emphasis on justification by faith alone enunciates a cardinal concept of the Evangelical churches. Articles 22-28 describe and defend the reformation of various "abuses." On the 3rd of August, shorn of much of its original bitterness, the so-called Confutatio pontificia was read; it well expresses the views approved in substance by the emperor and all the Catholic party. In answer, Melanchthon was ordered to prepare an Apology of the Confession, which the emperor refused to receive; so Melanchthon enlarged it and published the editio princeps of both Confession and Apology in 1531.

As he felt free to make slight changes, the first edition does not represent the exact text of 1530; the edition of 1 533 was further improved, while that of 1540, rearranged and in part rewritten, is known as the Variata. Dogmatic changes in this seem to have drawn forth no protest from Luther or Brenz, so Melanchthon made fresh alterations in 1542. Later, the Variata of 1540 became the creed of the lVlelanchthonians and even of the Crypto-calvinists; so the framers of the Formula of Concord, promulgated in 1580, returned to the text handed in at the Diet. By mistake they printed from a poor copy and not from the original, from which their German text varies at over 450 places. Their Latin text, that of Melanchthon's editio princeps, is more nearly accurate. The textus receptus is that of the Formula of Concord, the divergent Latin and German forms being equally binding.

Acceptance of the Confession and Apology was made a condition of membership in the Schmalkalden League. The Wittenberg Concord (1536) and the Articles of Schmalkalden (1537) reaffirmed them. The Confession was the ultimate source of much of the Thirty-nine Articles. The Religious Peace of Augsburg (1555) recognized no Protestants save adherents of the Confession; this was modified in 1648. To-day the Invariata is of symbolical authority among Lutherans generally, while the Variata is accepted by the Reformed churches of certain parts of Germany (see L6ber, pp. 79-83.) Editions of the received text: J. T. Miller, Die symbolischen Bucher der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche (loth ed., Gitersloh, 1907), with a valuable historical introduction by Th. Kolde; Theodor Kolde, Die Augsburgische Konfession (Gotha, 1896), (contains also the Marburg, Schwabach and Torgau Articles, the Confutatio and the Variata of 1540). For translations of these, as well as of Zwingli's Reckoning of his Faith, and of the Tetrapolitan Confession, see H. E. Jacobs, The Book of Concord (Philadelphia, 1882-83). The texts submitted to the emperor, lost before 1570, are reconstructed and compared with the textus receptus by P. Tschackert, Die unvercinderte Augsburgische Konfession (Leipzig, 1901). For the genesis of the Confession, see Th. Kolde, Die cilteste Redaktion der Augsburger Konfession (Gitersloh, 1906), also Kolde's article, "Augsburger Bekenntnis," in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopadie (3rd ed., vol. ii., Leipzig, 1897). The standard commentary is still G. L. Plitt, Einleitung in die Augustana (Erlangen, 1867 ff.); compare also J. Ficker, Die Konfutation des Augsburgischen Bekenntnisses in ihrer ersten Gestalt (Leipzig, 1891); also A. Petzold, Die Konfutation des Vierstddtebekenntnisses (Leipzig, 1900). On its present use see G. Luber, Die im evangelischen Deutschland geltenden Ordinationsverpflichtungen geschichtlich geordnet (Leipzig, 1905), 79 ff. (W. W. R.*)

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Confession of Augsburg'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica.​encyclopedias/​eng/​bri/​c/confession-of-augsburg.html. 1910.