Full Text for The Curious Histories of the Wittenberg Concord (Text)

CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY APRIL 1986 Catholicity and Catholicism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Avery DuIles 81 The !baamental Presence in Luthetrin Orthodoxy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Eugene F. Klug 95 Toward a New -ran I,ognWics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lawell C. Gnxn 109 The Curious Histories of the Wittenberg Cmrd . . . . . . . . .James M. Kittelson with Ken Schurb 119 The Curious Histories of the Wittenberg Concord James M. Kittelson with Ken Schurb Like many other confessional documents of the sixteenth cen- tury, the Wittenberg Concord has a curious history. In fact, it has two curious histories, because its Entstehungsgeschichte and its Nachwirkungsgeschichte appear to contradict one another. With respect to the one, Ernst Bizer (its most recent serious student) flatly calls the Wittenberg Concord a compromise be- tween Luther and the South Germ reformers. With respect to the other, its most salient section was included expmssis verbis, in the Formula of Concord! One question naturally poses itself: how can a single, relatively brief document be at the same time a compromise with some of Luther's bitterest opponents in the Sacramentarian Controversy and still be enshrined in the one confession that most clearly marked Lutherans as distinct from all other anti-Roman reformers on just the issue in dispute? Oddly enough, the answer to this question must begin by affirming the truth of both parts of the apparent contradiction. The Wittenberg Concord was a com- promise when it was signed in 1536. By the same token, it does have a rightful place in the Formula. I. The Entstehungsgeschichte There are a number of reasons for arguing that the Concord was a compromise. Perhaps the most powerful of these is that it comes as such a surprise in light of the Sacramentarian Contro- versy ihat preceded it. The bitterness that developed between Wittenberg and the South GermanBwiss connection is legendary. While Luther and his colleagues engaged in condemnation of the "sacramentarians," as he called them, they in turn tried to restrain themselves in public But in private they could be equally hostile. Wolfgang Capi!o from Strasbourg scornfully referred to Lutherans as "the 'breadifiers' of God" (impanati Dei) and, when Martin Bum tried to bring the Swiss into the Concord, Heinrich Bullinger (Zwingli's successor at Zurich) replied by inventing a new Latin verb, bucerisrrre, which may be roughly translated as "to shilly- shall$ * 120 CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUAKERLY Perhaps the tenor of relations between the two sides is best cap tured in the following exchange between Zwingli and Luther at Marburg in 1529. Zwingli- It is for you to prove that the passage in John 6 speaks of a physical eating. Luther: You express yourself about as poorly and carry the argument forward about as well as does a walking stick stand- ing in the comer. Zwingli : No, no, no! This is the passage that will break your neck! Luther Don't be so sure of yourself. Necks don't break so easily here, Remember you are in Germany and not in Switzerland.' It is common these days for historians, theologians, church- men, and even confessionally orthodox clergy to bemoan the violence of these exchanges and rightly so. (It is, after all, not necessary to engage in ad hominem attacks simply to defend one's own position.) This hand-wringing has also, however, led to an unfortunate tendency among the ecumenically-minded in particular-to overlook, downgrade, or distort the real theological differences that lay between the two parties. They were, in fact, in utter disagreement, and the more they talked the greater the disagreement became. This fact of fundamental disagreement makes the Wittenberg Concord all the more surprising. The doctrinal gulf between the two parties deserves, therefore, to be emphasized. Although, as everyone knows, a person's understanding of the words of institu- tion has many theological ramifications, just two issues will suf- fice to show how deeply the disagreement ran; these are the place of John 6:63 in understanding the little word "is:' on the one hand, and the doctrine of the incarnation, on the other. John 6 in general and John 6:63 in particular provided the enduring bone of contention between the two sides. As is common knowledge, it was the centerpiece at the Marburg Colloquy. Luther began the proceedings by declaring that the burden of proof lay on Zwingli, Oecolampadius, and their party. They replied, in essence, by trying to shift the burden of proof back to Luther. There is metaphor, such as "I am the vine' at other places, they said. Luther refused to be ensnared. There the debate at Marburg began and there it ended.' But the argument about John 6:63 has a much more ancient lineage than just the exchanges at Marburg. It began, in fact, long before there was any such thing as a Sammentarian Controversy, and it began on both sides. Indeed, the two rival positions were staked out before there was even a reform movement. The South German side may be more interesting because it appears to reach back further in time than does Luther's. The tendency to spiritualize the words of institution is already evident in the late Middle Ages with figures such as Wycliffe and Hus and in the Northern Renaissance with Erasmus and many others. But it is also evident in one of the parties to the Sacramentarian Controversy. Conrad Rellikan, the eminent Hebraist, reported that he came to visit Wolfgang Capito in 1512 and found him in a state of near despair. Capito had read Wycliffe's condemnation of transsubstantiation and found that he agreed with it. He could not escape the conclusion that the body and blood were spiritually "but not really, corporeally, or substantially" present in the bread and wine' Pellikan did not mention John 6:63 in his account. But it is no accident that the very first exchange between the Strasbourg theologians and Luther on this issue does. The goad was Andreas Carlstadt, who passed through Strasbourg after having been ejected from Saxony. Carlstadt's theology of the Eucharist was so aberrant as to be unworthy of study, but his visit-and the thirteen books he published on the subject-disturbed Bucer's and Capito's parishioners. They then wrote both Zwingli and Luther for clarification and advice After rejecting Carlstadt's opinion, they described their own. Their words to Luther are most revealing: "The bread and the cup are extd things and, however much the bread may be the body of Christ and the cup his blood, they nonetheless provide nothing for our salvation, seeing that the flesh, in sum is of no profit. But on the contrary, this is the only thing that brings salvation: to remember the Lord's death:' Here is both the reference to John 6:63 and the view of the Lord's Supper as a memorial. And the fight had not even begun.6 122 CONCORDIA 'THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY Luther's position, too, was already well-formed. As early as 1519, when he found himself accused of being a Hussite or Bohemian, he remarked in passing that John 6:63 in no way applied to the declaration of Jesus, "This is my bod$' "This is my blood!* In an Explanation of Certain Articles on the Holy Srrcmment he insisted "that the Lord is saying nothing about the sacrament in this passage On the contrary, he is talking about faith in the Son of God and the Son of man, who is Christ!' A few lines later he dechd, "These mcular] Bohemians I regard as heretics. May God have mercy on them!"' Five years before his future opponents appealed to it, Luther had concluded that this very passage of the Scriptures could not be brought to bear upon the words of institution. It might be argued that here Luther was merely trying to distance himself from Hus, even thou& he did not condemn all Hussites. Happily, he repeated himself in 1522, still two years before the Sacramentarian Controversy. His friend Paul Speratus asked him for an opinion about the teaching that the bread and the wine were only symbols of Christ's body and blood. Then (and again in 1523 when he responded to much the same question from Margmve George of Brandenburg-Ansbach) the issue was whether to venerate the consecrated bread and wine. On each occasion Luther gave the same answer. In their sacramental use the bread and wine were Christ's body and blood, but whether one venerated them was indifferent. No one was to be compelled to do so or not to do so. Nonetheless, he insisted, those who "contort the little word 'is' into 'signifies"' did so "frivolously and unsup- ported by the Scriptures!' The disagreement over the applicabiity of John 6 to the words of institution was, therefore, long-standing. At least for Luther, it also involved far more than what communicants received at the Lord's Supper. Oecolampadius, for instance, joined Zwingli in depending on John 6:63 for his understanding of the words of institution. But he added that, because Christ was resurrected and seated at the right hand of the Father, he could not be physically present in the elements of the Lord's Supper. To Luther, such an argument amounted to "mere physics!' On the contrary, he replied, "the Word says first of all that Christ has a body, and this I believe; secondly, that this same body rose to heaven and sits at the right hand of God; this too I believe. It says further that this same body is in the Lord's Supper and is given to us to eat. Likewise I believe Wittenberg Concord 123 this, for my Lord Jesus Christ can easily do what he wishes, and that he wishes to do this is attested by his own words!' If nothing else, Oecolampadius convinced Luther that any argu- ment again% the simple meaning of the w.ds of institution turned on assumptions that came from human logic In addition, Luther saw that any of these assumptions could then be turned against other articles of the Christian faith, such as the incarnation. As he put it, "M4 hold the flesh of Christ to be very, indeed absolutely, necessary. No text, no interpretation, no use of human reasoning can takc it away from us!" For Luther, the core issue in the Sacramentarian Controversy was the understanding of human flesh itself and the power of the Word to penetrate it. 'Ib his mind the great error came in the argument that, according to John 6:63, physical things could not, by their nature, carry spiritual benefits. In a work prepared for the Frankfurt book fair in spring of 1527, he insisted that "every- thing our body does outwardly and physically is in reality and in name done spiritually if God's Word is added to it and it is done in faith. Nothing can be so material, fleshly, or outward but that it becomes spiritual when it is done in the Word and in faith. 'The spiritual' is nothing more than what is done in us and by us through the Spirit and faith, whether the object with which we are dealing is physical or spiritual!' By contrast, he argued, "Our fanatics. . .think nothing spiritual can be present where there is anything material and physical, and they assert that the flesh is of no profit [John 6:63]!'9 For Luther, the incarnation itself was at stake in the debate over the words of institution. The Sacramentarian Controversy therefore had roots that were both long and deep. There can be little wonder that it should be marked by real bitterness and profound suspicion. After the Diet of Augsburg, Bucer (who had come to think of it as a verbal mis- understanding) visited Luther at Coburg. Luther was so unforth- coming that all Bucer could report to his colleagues was that "we will have to swallow much from this man" for the sake of con- cordfO But Luther had good reason to be suspicious of Bucer. In addition to certain unwelcome alterations he had made in Luther's Postil and Bugenhagen's Exposition of the Psalms, Bucer had not especially distinguished himself in the eyes of the Lutheran 124 CONCORDIA THEOUXICAL QUARTERLY participants at the Marburg Colloquy. Osiander's report on Mar- burg contains near-prophetic words on the Monday discussion he and Brenz had with Bucer and Hedio: We brought Bucer to the point where he admitted that Christ's body was in the Lord's Supper and was given to believers in and with the bread; but [he said] it was not given to unbelievers, for this reason: Christ called only the bread which he gave to believers his body and did not at all mean the bread given to unbelievem At this point we said a new controversy would arise, yet not as vehement as the previous one. We srpected that because of this debate we would perhaps still reach an agree- ment. However, Bucer, after he joined his companions, was dissuaded from his point of view and again apostasized!' Considering that Bucer, even in his most conciliatory moment at Marburg, still would not grant that unbelievers receive the body and blood of Christ, one must conclude that the Wittenberg Con- cord was an unlikely document. 11. The Compromise The behavior of those who reached the Wittenberg Concord also suggests that it was a compromise. To summarize the events briefly, the two parties were to have met at a halfway point be- tween Strasbourg and Wittenberg, but Luther kept pleading his age, weakness, and illness until finally the South Germans came all the way to Wittenberg itself. When they arrived, they learned that Luther would not receive them. Abruptly he did so, but then equally abruptly he terminated the first day's meeting. When the southerners at last had the opportunity to present their views, Luther turned to his colleagues, asked if they were acceptable, and then-abruptly once more-declared that they were in concord. Bucer and Capito wept. The Wittenberg Concord was obviously a compromise from the South German point of view. In sum, the South Germans signed a confession that says not a word about the Lord's Supper as a memorial and that ignores the issue of what constitutes "the spiritual!' It is also apparent that they wanted some sort of agree- ment far more earnestly than did the Wittenbergers. They made the initial approaches. They persevered over the six years that elapsed since Augsburg. And they made the long trip to Witten- Wittenberg Concord 125 berg. More significantly, they signed an agreement that explicitly included the manducatio indignorum, and they ignored John 6:63 (perhaps studiously so) both in their oral presentation and in the written statement that everyone signed. The text did speak of a sacramental union and even clarified what this term meant: "that is, they [Bucer and his associates] hold that when the bread is distributed ,$orrecto] at the same time the body of Christ is present and truly offered [exhiberej"." The Wittenberg Concord, then, followed Luther's insistence in the preceding negotiations, namely, that what was done with the bread in the sacrament was likewise done with the body of Christ. The Concord maintained this thought by indicating that the bread was the body of Christ as it was offered, and before it was re- ceived!' Most striking of all, though, were the words, "as Paul says, the unworthy also eat ridignas manducare]. Thus, they hold that the true body and blood of Christ are distributed also to the unworthy, and that the unworthy eat, where the words and in- stitution of Christ are retained!''' But Luther also compromised. Specifically, he did not insist that the South Germans explicitly disassociate themselves from their earlier interpretation of John 6:63. H. G. Haile, in his ex- cellent recent study of the mature Luther, even suggests that Luther so wanted concord that he feigned intractibility during the final months precisely in order to wring concessions from the other side!' Interestingly, the reformer began the promdings at Wit- tenberg by demanding that the South Germans expressly repudiate Zwingli, but he did not finally force them to do so. Rather, he satisfied himself with a condemnation of anyone who taught that the elements were "mere bread and wine' a teaching that the Swiss never held. Luther further compromised by agreeing to some phrasing with which many Reformed theologians later thought they could live Specifically, he signed a confession that declared "that with the bread and wine the body and blood are truly and substantially present, offered, and received!' In this regard, it is important to note the word "with:' a word that would cause no end of trouble in the debate over the Rriata. In addition, Luther signed a con- fession that failed to give a complete defmition of "the unworthy? It stated that these "partake for judgment" if they presented themselves "without repentance and faith!'16 The unanswered key question was, what did the respective sides mean by "faith"? 126 CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY Bucer's public explanation of the Wittenberg Concord, which he delivered in Strasbourg on June 22, provides a starting point for answering this question. He distinguished three types of peo- ple: the "altogether godless" (who ordinarily would not even pre- sent themselves for the Lord's Supper, but would receive only bread and wine if they did), unworthy communicants, and worthy communicants. The second group stands out as the most in- teresting for present purposes. They believe the words of the Lord, who here offers his body, and receive the sacrament with such faith as to receive likewise the sacramental object [rem Sucmmenti], yet they do not worthily [digne] estimate this gift of God. By this indignity they render themselves guilty of the Lord's body and blood. . .and they do receive it because they embrace the Lord's words and institu- tion; but they do not eat truly [mem], as Augustine says-i.e, they do not fully enjoy uruuntur] this quickening food, which they do not let sink sufficiently into the mind. Bucer said these unworthy communicants were like those who "hear the Gospel and appropriate the salvation in it, but as they do not sufficiently examine it or meditate upon it, but let it slip from mind, they rob themselves of the word!"1 'Tb Bucer, then, one could believe the Lord's words and thus "embrace" His institution, yet not be worthy because one did not show appropriate concern for God and salvation. It is im- portant to note that Bucer was not simply trying to insist that faith in the samment should be genuine faith, as opposed to men head-knowledge. In his written report on the Wittenberg negotia- tions he described the unworthy as those who "are possessed not merely of mind and reason-which of course recognize there nothing but bread and wine-but of faith also. But because they receive it without true dedication of heart, and therefore without that living and saving faith which appropriates for itself the boundless grace of God, they are consequently guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. . !'" How one responded to the gift of God was crucial. An inadequate response could not only destroy faith but also, in effect, distort the character of faith which was pre~ent!~ By contrast, for Luther the sacrament was the Gospel. One who believed the words of Christ's institution (especially "given and Wittenberg Concord 127 shed for you for the forgiveness of sins") was a Christian, no matter how weak his faith or how halting his response, for faith was, first and foremost, the empty sack into which God poured His blessings. But Bucer could declare that "a large number of those who exercise faith in the ordinance of the Lord fail to discern the Lord's body, and so receive the Lord's body in this sacrament un~orthilyl'~~ The contrast between Bucer's and Luther's sacramental theology remained basic. Great eagerness to come to an agreement nonetheless carried the day. It is worth reemphasizing that this eagerness was not unilateral. The Lutheran negotiators, if somewhat more careful, seemed as willing to come to terms as their South German counter- parts. At one point Bucer had affmed that communicants who had faith in the Lord's institution but failed to show "true and life-giving faith" did receive the body and blood. Bugenhagen thm seized the opportunity and asked him, "So it could rightly be said that the unworthy receive the Lord's body?" Yes, Bucer happily responded, provided the words and institution of the Lord were observed.21 But this proviso meant something quite different to Bucer than it did to the Lutherans. There is no escaping the conclusion that both sides compromised by virtue both of what they did say and what thy tacitly agreed not to say in the Concord. 111. Nachwirkungsgeschich te How could a document like this-one that clearly leaves rwm for at least a certain sort of Reformed position-make its way into the Formula? Certainly, the Formulators wished to include everyone they possibly could. After all, they were seeking concord and not yet another fight, another round in the mbks theologorrtrn of which Melanchthon so bitterly complained. Still, as in the con- demnamw, the Formulators were also willing to condemn con- trary teachings and, in particular, those they ascribed to Calvin. There is consequently far more to the Wittenberg Concord's place in the Formula than the Formulators' desire to be as inclu- sive as possible. The first factor is obvious. They pictured the For- mula as a true elaboration of the Augsburg Confession, and they did so for political as well as confessional reasons. In turn, the Invariata is viewed as simply an elaboration on the three Ecu- menical Creeds and therefore a summary of the Scriptures. Struc- turally, the Wittenberg Concord was therefore something of a skip 128 CONCORDIA THEOUXICAL QUARTERLY step between the Augustana and the Formula. It was just a notch below the other documents that appear in the Book of Concord as separate entries. Perhaps it should be viewed as a further ex- planation of but one point of the Augustana. The formulators had good reason to include the Wittenberg Concord in just this way. Perhaps its most important theological feature, to them, was the insistence on the manducatio indig- nomm, at least in form. As previously indicated, this had been a major concession on the part of the South Germans, particularly surprising in Light of the conversation Osiander and Brenz had with Bucer at Marburg in 1529. Evidently, it was of such great moment to the formulators that it dwarfed other aspects of the Wittenberg Concord by comparison. For example, the Formula quoted the section of the Concord on the sacramental union, but not in full. The German text omitted the clarification cited above22 Significant as agreement about the sacramental union was, the formulators apparently thought they could assert the standard Lutheran understanding of the real presence even more forcefully by hurrying on, as it were, to the most salient point of all: the manducatio indignommZ3 Of course, Chernnitz, Andreae, et id, were trying to demonstrate the consistency of the Lutheran position from previous years as a response to the crypto-Calvinists of their day. Luther's situa- tion in 1536 was somewhat different. He faced the anything-but- hidden Bucer, and he had good reason to continue to be suspicious of him even after the ink was dry on their signatures. Such is also in the nature of a compromise. Yet relations between the two sides were warm, to say the least. Capito began shamelessly to court Katie Luther's favor, even to the point of sending her a golden ring. He also suggested that one of Luther's sons might be sent to Strasbourg to study theology under himself and Bucer. These two in fact sent one of their students-a certain Johann Marbach-to study with Luther and Melanchthon. Capito and Bucer even announced plans to publish an edition of Luther's works from one of Strasbourg's many presses.z4 There is a sense in which the two sides exchanged hostages, or at least Strasbourg sent its share. Secondly, Bucer was scrupulously faithful to the terms of the Wittenberg Concord, at least as he understood them. It is true that Luther had occasion to chide him about some of the word- Wittenberg Concord 129 ing Bucer used in his desperate maneuvering to bring the Swiss into the agreement. Nonetheless, at least to his colleagues in Stras- burg, Bucer rejxatedly insisted "that the body and blood of Christ are present, offered, and dved with the bread and wine, and truly and substantially sa"25 In so doing, Bucer did carefully underline that the body and blood were not locally included in the bread and the wine as "food for the body? Third, Bucer was not only at pains to observe the Concord in Strasbourg. Nine months after the Wittenberg negotiations, Mehchthon, in a letter he wrote from the famous theolgian's conference in Smalkald, noted that the Concord had come up briefly in the discussions there "Bucer spoke plainly and clearly concerning the mystery, aff-g the presence of Christ:' Melanchthon reported. He added that Bucer's testimony was so powerful that it satisfied everyone present, including the stricter brethren2* Fkrhaps Bucer was merely being scrupulous. If so, he was carry- ing out two other provisions of the agreement. One specified that "itknecessarymbothsidestoreferthismattertootherpreachers and authoritie$' because "it is not allowable for us to come to terms concerning an agreement before we have referred it to the rest!' Then all concluded by declaring, "we have the hope that, if the rest, on both sides, would so agree, there would be com- plete harmony" among us.27 The point is simple: Bucer was both being faithful to the Witten- berg Concord and beginning a work by which it captured Stras- burg for all the Lutheran confessions. To be sure, John Calvin came to the city shortly and left a few years later still unconverted. But he did leave with a profound distaste for Z~ingli.~' It must also be granted that those of the Reformed persuasion found a home in Strasbourg for years to come. But in 1563 the city drove Gioralomo Zanchi and kter Martyr Vermigli, the originators of Calvinist orthodoxy, from the theological faculty of its Academy, and in 1598 it subscribed to the Formula of Concord. In sum, the Wittenberg Concord helped make Strasbourg officially Lutheran." But how did it do so? One way was through Marbach, who was sent to Wittenberg to study, returned to Strasbourg, and became the president of the Company of Pastors until his death in 1581. His controversy with Zanchi between 1560 and 1563 is the major event in this story. There is no need to rehearse the 130 CONCORDIA THEOLDGICAL QUARTERLY details of this conflict hereaa The point is that the Wittenberg Concord played a very important role in Marbach's victory over Zanchi and, therefore, over Reformed conceptions of the brd's Supper within Strasbourg. In just this regard most of the debate between the two seems odd from the perspective of a modern theologian and the student of the confessions. They staked out their respective doctrinal positions quickly and clearly and never moved from them. Instead (and in addition to the usual name- calling) the argument turned to who-Marbach or Zanchi- genuinely represented the true tradition of Strasbourg's Refor- mation. Consequently, they quickly began rummaging through the writings and documents left behind by the previous genera- tion of reformers in much the way some scholars treat these very same documents today. The Wittenberg Concord was naturally one of the documents that came under scrutiny. Why, it should be asked, did Marbach and Zanchi choose to debate the issues between them in this peculiar way? One answer to this question is that by now everyone knew the straightforward theological and biblical arguments by heart. Historical theology, therefore, provided the natural grounds for the struggle between the two traditions, just as (in many respects) it does today. But there is also a more immediate answer to this question. It concerns the audience In sum, Marbach and Zanchi were not really addressing one another or even other theologians. They were addresii the Senate and XXI, Strasbourg's highest ruling body. These men tended to think in terms of tradition and law; they made it abundantly clear on a number of occasions that they were not theologians and had no wish to become embroiled in theolog- ical arguments, which they regarded themselves as incompetent to judge. As a result, Zanchi was forced to have recourse to the Confessio Et~politina, a confession whose writing almost no one celebrates. The Tetrapolitana was the confession that Bucer and Capito were forced to compose at Augsburg in 1530, when Melanchthon would not agree to their signing the Augustana. Now, over thirty years later, Zanchi was resurrecting this document, and Stras- bourg's politicians found it acutely embarrasing. The wording of their final decree is eloquent on just this point: "By this confes- sion [the Augustana] and by the Wittenberg Concord we wish to take our stand. We wish to hear no more about the Tetrapolitana Confession, whether praise of it or criticism:' The Wittenberg Concord had won. Winenberg Concord 131 Fxplaining exactly why it won is more dficult than thanestablishing that it did, in fact, carry the day. There is, however, a sentence in the decree just quoted that provides an important clue. The authorities began by declaring, "The Senate and XXI signed the Augsburg Confession in 1561:'3' that is, just as the struggle between Marbach and Zanchi was beginning. Indeed, they had done so when they subscribed to the Naumburg Declaration of that year. In the aftermath of this decision both Zanchi and Martyr were also forced to sign the Augtlstana Imariizta, although they did so utpie (or ut mte) intellects But all this information only leads to one more question: why, with the Augustana (to which Marbach repeatedly referred) to back them, should the authorities bother to declare that they were standing by the Wittenberg Con- cord too? The answer to this question says something about the genius of the Wittenberg Concord. Its concluding section contains the following statement: "Since, however, all profess that in all articles they want to hold and teach according to the Confession and Apology of the princes professing the gospel, we are especially anxious that harmony be sanctioned and established.'"' In sum, Strasbourg's theologians-not the politicians, but the theologians -bad subsgibed to the Augsburg Confasion nearly thirty years earher. Moreover, @given the date (1536), they had signed the Irrvariata Therewith they themselves had, in effect, repudiated the l&rapolitana. Unconsciously, they had also made it exceed- ingly difficult for Reformed theologians of the generation after Calvin to find refuge in the Yarat~ as Martyr's and Zanchi's discomfort well iflustrates. Conclusion On the same day that the Wittenberg Concord was struck, Melanchthon reported the pr- to a friend. Little has been accomplished, he declared. Basic disagreements persisted." In evaluating this judgment, it must be borne in mind that this same Melanchthon is the one who would (inadvertently, I think) use the little word, "with:' in the Variata. He is the same man who would be accused (and perhaps rightly) of "Crypto-Calvinism" by the generation that followed. Is it possible that he saw that the Wittenberg Concord was a compromise? Is it possible-at least from the point of view of the Gnesio-Lutherans-that he was led astray by it? 132 CONCORDlA THE0U)GICAL QUARTERLY At the moment (and pending further discussion and research) I think the answer to both questions is yes. But what about Luther? He was no fool. Surely he knew that the Concord was a com- promise in terms of its literal wording. If he was a fool and if he did not know that the Concord was a compro* then why did he watch Bucer so carefully after the agreement was reached? His feelings by no means matched the near euphoria that can be documented on the side of the South Germans. Rather, when he encountered Bucer at Gotha a year W, he chided the Strasbourg theologian for the concessions he was now apparently willing to make in order to bring the Swiss into concord. Luther knew that Bucer would bucerisunz But, of course, such things are the very essence of compromises. Yet there was something else at stake, and Luther may well have known it too. The "something else" was tradition, of which Tevye so eloquently sings in "Fiddler on the Roof' At this very moment Luther was himself in the midst of creating tradition. He was creating it through his ca.t.ec- through the visitations, through the newly-reinstituted disputations, through the pastols he was training, and-yes-through the Wittenberg Concord. In this document he had at least (until the present) stricken John 6:63 from Lutheran discussions of the Lord's Supper, and he had obtained agreement to the manducatio indignorum in so many words. Luther certainly did not know that young Marbach (whose doc- toral disputation he chaired) would become the president of the Company of Pastors in Strasbourg. He had no idea that the Augs- burg Confession would become part of the German constitution after Passau in 1552, and that henceforth all the Reformed in Germany would struggle to be included within the terms of the Augustana. He did not know that Marbach, after consultations with Brenz that grew into the Confwio Wirtembergice would become the Lutheran representative to the second sitting of the Council of Trent! But he did know in 1536 that he was getting old and that it was time to replace himself. Why else would he remark, "My head is like a knive with all the steel worn off. There is only iron left. It won't cut, and neither will my head"?" Luther, who regretted that he had not studied enough history, may well have guessed that tradition would secure a battle that sheer theo- logical argumentation had not. Wittenberg Concord 133 To summarize, the powerful place of tradition explains how the Wittenberg Concord could be both a compromise in 1536 and a bulwark in the creation and adoption of the Formula a gener- ation later. It should be added, if only as food for thought, that tradition is not just something that floats in the air. It is something that is created and recreated by every generation. In Old Testa- ment times it was created and recreated first by the spoken word, and this we call "oral tradition!' Soon it was written down, and this was a written tradition. Now it is passed along by churches and seminaries in what is both oral and written tradition. One final comment seems appropriate Its purpose is to bring this treatment full circle and (perhaps) to set the tone for reflec- tions that may follow. One of the bases for the ecumenical discus- sion today is a largely unstated assumption that debates such as the Sacrarnentarian Controversy are part of the past, belong to the past, and should not shackle the present. But the curious histories of the Wittenberg Concord reveal this to be a naive assumption. Tradition is not just something that is old, moldy, and bothersome It is alive, present, and the means by which we define who we are Here, I cannot avoid being reminded of words from one of the Basel tkeologians after the Concord was signed and in response to pressure from Capito to join in it. He wrote, "It is possible for the concord of the church to exist along with disagreement and a variety of words and symbols!'" Even the exhortation to set aside doctrinal differences has a long tradition. Doctrinal questions therefore remain matters of principle 1. Ernst Bizer, Studien arr Gesrhichte des Abcndmohlsstmits im 16. Jahrhmdert (Dmnstadt, 1962). Also see Walther Kobler, Zwingli wd Lurk~StrrPiruk&Abendmoltlbendmoltlrmch@Whenwrdreligicwen Bdehungen, I1 Band: Vom Beginn der Merbwge Verhandhmgm 1529 bis zum Akhluss der Wittenbergw KonkordiP von 1534 Quellen und Fofschungen zur Refonnationsgeschichte, Band 7 (Gutersloh, 1953), pp. 432ff. The most important part of the Wittenberg Concord can be found in FC SD VII 13-16 BK$ pp 977-78 ('hppert, pp. 571-72). 134 CONCORDIA THEOUXICAL QUARTERLY 2. See James M. Kittelson, Wolfgang Capito: Fmm Humankt to R@ormer (Leiden, 1975). p. 149. On Bullinger's comment, see 'Raugott Schiess, ~~1 der Gebrikkr -, 2 (FrCibug, 1910): 303, cited by Wilhelm Fauck, The Heritage ~f the ~ormotwn (Ghcoe, Illinois: Frw Fks, 1950). p 89. 3. WA 30"'. 123; 145 (LW 38. 25-26. 64). 4. WA 30"'. 112-14 (LW 38. 16-17). 5. See Kittelson. Capita pp. 19-20. 6. WABr 3.383. Their words to Zwingli were Likewise rrvealing. Since the flesh profits nothing. thy said, bread and wine could suffice to constitute the sacrament (ad sacmmenti mtionem) in the Lord's Supper. They brought up the analogy of baptism, in which watg is the sok ekmcnt. Corpus Mi- matotum 95. 247. Thus, Bucer and Capito were already conceptualizing "saaament" as the controlling genus of which baptism and the Lord's Sup per were mere species Such a conceptualization became one of the stan- dard Reformed responses to Lutheran assertions of the real presence and remained so long after the Reformation era. 7. WA 6. 80. 8. WA 30"'. 130 (LW 38. 44). 9: WA 23. 189; 193 (LW 37. 92; 95). 10. Cited by Johann Wilhelm Baum. Cupito und Butter, Stmssburgs Refor- matomn (Elberfeld. 1860). p. 474. 11. LW 38. 71-72 (WA 30"'. 150). 12. CR 3. 75. The Wittenberg Concod is translated in Henry E. Jacobs, The Book of Concord, vol. 2: Hktorical Introduction, Appendires and Indexes to the Book of Conconl; or, the Symbolial Books of the &ngelical Luthemn Church (Philadelphia, 1908). pp. 283-87. Here, see p. 285. 13. See WA 38.299. Edward F. Peters has contmded that Bucer's formulation of the axiom "nothing has the character of the sacrament apart from the use" fmt made its way into Lutheran theology with the Wittenberg Con- cod. See his study. "The Origin and Meaning of the Axiom: 'Nothing Has the Character of a Sacrament Outside of the Use"' (unpublished Th.D. dissertation, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, 1968). especially pp. 14ff. 14. CR 3. 76; Jacobs 235. 15. H. G. Haile, Luther: An Eqwriment in Biogmphy (Garden City, N.Y.. 1980). pp. 12347. 16. CR 3.75-76 (Jacobs 2-284-85). The Wriatatext may be found in BKS, p 65. 17. Jacobs 2289-90 (CR 3. 80-81). 18. Commonplaces of Martin Bumr, trans. and ed. by D. E Wright (Appleford, England. 1972). p. 360. Hermann Sasse was trying to grasp Bucer's con- ception with a standard, and probably inadequate, tool when he charac- terized Bucer as ascribing mere fies historico to the indigni More accurate is Sasse's formulation of a few Lines earlier: that the unworthy. "though Wittenberg Concord 135 believing the words of Christ, do not have the real, saving faith!' Hermann Sasse, Thb b My My: Luther's Contention for the Re01 Pllesence in the Sucmment of the Altar (Minneapolis, 1959; revised ed., Adelaide, South Australia, 1977). p. 251. 19. The response of the communicant had been important to Bucer and Capito wen when they wrote to Zwingli in Nowember, 1534 (see note 6 above). They said, "If we rightly eat the bread, etc, thus we will have been so occupied in thinking of [Christ's] death so as not to have leisure [vocoverit] to think what the bread is or what is under it" (CR 95, 247). 20. Bucer, common^^ p. 361. For Luther's emphasii that the sacrament is the gospel, see Sasse, push 21. D. E Wright put it well: "Wlar's distindian here unworthy bdkven and ungodly unbelim. . .enabled an agreed statement to be rmched be- tween Luther and Bucer without an abandonment on Luther's part of his stress that the virtue of the sacrament did not depend on the worthiness of the recipient or a denial on Wlccr's of his established insistaKx that apart from faith thm is no reception of Christ's body and blood!' Bucer, Com- monplaces, p. 373, note 9. W. P. Stephens held that Bucer's central idea in connection with the "unworthy" was pndestination. Buccr insisted "that only the elect (the pious) may consume the body of Christ; for he accepted that in the eled them wwe degrees of faith and that some might, for a period, lapse. The elect, thmfore, could be unworthy but not impious" 7k Holy Spirit in the Theology of Martin her (Cambridge, 1970). p. 255. G. J. van de Poll. Martin &er's Liturgical IdQillS (Assen. 1954). p. 91. also emphasized predestination as Bucer's "starting point:' one that went unrecognized by the Lutherans at Wittenberg. 22. See above, the text corresponding to note 12. It does not appear that with this omission that the formulaton were retreating from the idea that the body of Christ is present as the bred is offend and before it is received. They did quote these words of the Conwrd: "The body and blood of Christ are truly distributed [dargemichet,- porrigq to the unworthy. . !' (SD VII 16). The Formula further implied this understanding in its assertion that the "use" is the entire action of conseeration, distribution, and reception (SD V11 86). 23. The manducatio indignorum was just as sensitive an issue in the second half of the century as it had been in the fit. The Formula of Concord quoted words of Beza and Vwmigli who claimed that the tnanducotio omlb and the tnanducatio indignonrm were "two hairs of a horse's tail and an invention of which even Satan himself would be ashamed!' (nppert trans., p. 582; SD VII 67.) 34. Capito lost no time. He wrote his first "follow-up" letter on June 13 ( WABr 7, 432-34). CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY 25. CR 3.78-79 (Jacobs 2288). This is a repetition of the Concord's very words (see the text corresponding to note 16 above), which, Hermann Sasse noted, certainly implied the manducatio omlis, "for what else could 'offered, and received' mean?" Sasse was somewhat amazed that Bucer was willing to agree to this Lutheran formulation, but he concluded that Bucer must have agreed to the words in a "Lutheran" sense: "If Bucer did not understand them in that way, he should have demanded another formulation, as he did in the case of the manducatio impiotum" (Sasse, p 250; compare p 247.). Likewise, Bucer further explained, "when the Lord said while offer- ing the bread, 'take and eat, this is my body: etr, it is clearly evident that he commanded them to receive from him and eat with the bd also his own true body, not only a figure or imagining of it" (CR 3'80; J& m). 26. CR 3, 292. 27. CR 3, 76 (Jawbs 2285). 28. See the rather sympathetic description of Calvin's eucharistic theology and his Strasbourg period in Brian A. Gerrish, The Old Pmtermntism and the N~w (Chic- 1982). pp. 111-17, 251-54. 29. Interestingly, the Fonnula of Concord, occupied as it was with crypte Calvinism, never extensively treated Bucer's concept of the "unworthy!' It did touch upon the issue with its affirmation that those who are weak in faith are nonetheless worthy communicants (SD VII 69) and with its cor- responding rejection of the idea that ''true believers. . .who fail to meet tbkr own selfdwkd standard of prepamtion, may receive this sacrament for judgment" (SD VII 125). The antitheses also rejected the positing of cer- tain distinctions amoag the unworthy so as to deny that hypocrites received the body and blood of Christ (SD VII 12.3). The hula also did not particularly addms itself to the situation com- mon today when church visitors present themsehffs for communion, namely, that they claim to believe in Christ as Savior but deny the real presence. it., they do not believe the words of institution. This is the opposite, as it we% of Bucer's idea that one could believe the words, but not be a true Christian. See Lowell C. Green, "Article VII: The Holy Suppe$' A Con- tempmry Look at the Rumula of Concod ed. by Robert D. Preus and Wilbert H. Rosin (St. Louis. 1978). p. 221, and the sources cited there 30. For the aspea of the dispute on predestination, see James M. Kittelson, "Marbach vs. Zanchi: The Resolution of Controversy in Late Reformation Strasbourg:' The SMeenth Century Journal 8 (1977): 31-44. 31. Races verbaux des Senat et XXI (Archives muuiapales de Stmbourg): 1563, ff. 75v. . See Kittelson, "Marbach vs. Zanchi:' pp. 41-42, note 33. 32. CR 3,76 (Jawbs 2285). Sasse said, "we can only wonder how Bucer could accept it [the Wittenberg Concord], especially since its acceptance included the acceptance of the Augsburg Confession" (p. 250). Hastings Eeb, Wittenberg Concord 137 Bucer's twentieth-century English language biographer, reached a similar conclusion. He, however, stressed that the Wittenberg Concord was a diplomatic victory for the Lutkrans because it effectively dmvc a wedge between radical Zwinglian theologians and mote moderate ones like Bucer. See Eells, Martin Burn (New Haven, 1931), pp. 203-204. 33. CR 3. 81. 34. Wm 6. UI1. 35. Cited by Kittelson, &pit4 p. 161. This study was supported in part by the Center for Medieval and Rm&ssance Studies of The Ohio State University. James M. Kittehn is Professor of History at The Ohio State University. He received an M. A. and Ph. D. in history at Word University. Ken Schurb is a graduate student at The Ohio State University, where he has earned an M. A. in history. He is also enrolled in the S.T.M. program at Con- cordia Theological Seminary.