This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Martin Chemnitz" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (May 2014) (Learn how and when to remove this message)
Martin Chemnitz
Born9 November 1522
Died8 April 1586 (aged 63)
Notable workFormula of Concord (with Jakob Andreae), Book of Concord (1580), (with Jakob Andreae)

Martin Chemnitz (9 November 1522 – 8 April 1586) was an eminent second-generation German, Evangelical Lutheran, Christian theologian, and a Protestant reformer, churchman, and confessor.[1] In the Evangelical Lutheran tradition he is known as Alter Martinus, the "Second Martin": Si Martinus non fuisset, Martinus vix stetisset ("If Martin [Chemnitz] had not come along, Martin [Luther] would hardly have survived") goes a common saying concerning him. He is listed and remembered in the Calendar of Saints and Commemorations in the Liturgical Church Year as a pastor and confessor by both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America[2] and Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.[3]

Early life and education

Chemnitz, born in Treuenbrietzen in Brandenburg to Paul and Euphemia Chemnitz, was the last of three children.[4] His older siblings' names were Matthew and Ursula. His father was a successful merchant who died when Martin was eleven:[1] thereafter, the family suffered from financial difficulties.

When he was old enough, Martin matriculated in Magdeburg. Upon completion of the course work, he became a weaver's apprentice. He helped his family with its clothing business for the next few years. When he was 20, he resumed his education at the University of Frankfurt (Oder). He remained in school until his finances were exhausted; he then took a teaching job in the town of Wriezen, supplementing his income by collecting the local sales tax on fish. His time at Frankfurt gave him the basic tools to continue his education on his own, researching areas in which he was interested and applying his naturally inquisitive mind to problems that others had worried over in the past.

In 1545 Chemnitz accompanied his cousin Georg Sabinus to school at the University of Wittenberg in Wittenberg, Germany[1] (1545–1547), where he studied under Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560). From Melanchthon he learned to shape his theological education, beginning with the difference between "law" and "gospel". In Chemnitz's words, though he heard Luther lecture often, he "did not pay Luther the attention he should have." (cf. Autobiography) Because of Luther's death and political events, Chemnitz transferred to the University of Königsberg (1547–1548). Chemnitz graduated in the first class with a Master of Arts degree (1548). However, a plague soon infested the Baltic Sea Hanseatic German port town of Königsberg in East Prussia, (today renamed Kaliningrad since occupied by the Soviet Union in 1945 at the end of World War II, now annexed into the Russian Federation) so Chemnitz left quickly for Saalfeld. When he judged it safe, Chemnitz returned to Königsberg in 1550, now employed by Albert, Duke of Prussia, as the court librarian for the Konigsberg State and University Library. In return for caring for the library and teaching a few courses as a tutor, he had unrestricted access to what was then considered one of the finest libraries in Europe (and unfortunately later damaged and lost with its contents and elaborate building 400 years later during the battles swirling around the Prussian city on the Eastern Front of the Second World War in 1944–1945).

For the first time Chemnitz applied himself completely to theological study. During these years his interest shifted from astrology, which he had studied in Magdeburg, to theology. He began his own course of study by carefully working through the Bible in the original languages of Hebrew and Ancient Greek with the goal of answering questions that had previously puzzled him. When he felt ready to move on, he turned his attention to the early theologians of the Church, whose writings he read slowly and carefully. Then he turned to current theological concerns, again reading slowly while painstakingly making copious notes. This early method of Lutheran scholastic self-study had been suggested by Melanchthon in his Writings (cf. Autobiography).

His vocation as reformer, churchman, and theologian

Chemnitz moved back to Wittenberg in 1553[1] as a guest of Melanchthon. In January 1554 he joined the Wittenberg University faculty. He lectured on Melanchthon's Loci Communes, from which lectures he compiled his own Loci Theologici, a system of theology. He was ordained to the ministry on 26 November 1554 by Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558), and became co-adjutor of Joachim Mörlin (1514-1571), who was ecclesiastical superintendent for the Duchy of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. When Mörlin resigned in 1567, Chemnitz became his successor; he held the post for the rest of his life.

Through his leadership, Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel was brought firmly into Evangelical Lutheranism. There he helped his prince, Duke Julius of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, establish the University of Helmstedt (1575–76). With Jakob Andreae, David Chytraeus, Nicholas Selnecker, Andrew Musculus and others, Chemnitz took part in a centrist movement that brought agreement among German Lutherans in the writing and publication of the Formula of Concord (1577), of which Chemnitz was one of the primary authors. He was instrumental in the publication of the definitive Book of Concord: Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church presented in 1580, containing a series of important earlier confessional theological documents, treatises, commentaries, catechisms as the compilation of the doctrinal standard of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Other major works are Examen Concilii Tridentini[1] (Examination of the Council of Trent) and De Duabis Naturis in Christo (On the Two Natures in Christ). These works demonstrate Martin Chemnitz's abilities as a biblical, doctrinal and historical theologian in the orthodox Lutheran tradition. He died in Braunschweig.



Church government and oversight

Confessions of faith and documents relating to the Formula of Concord

Homiletical and devotional writings


Preface to a work by Heinrich Bünting

Reports and task force studies (Gutachten)

Scholastic disputation

Theological treatises

Biographies and research on Chemnitz


  1. ^ a b c d e Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Chemnitz, Martin" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 76.
  2. ^ Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Pew ed.). Augsburg Fortress. 2006. ISBN 9780806656182.
  3. ^ Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (2006). Lutheran Service Book. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. pp. x–xiii. ISBN 978-0-7586-1217-5.
  4. ^ Joshua Zarling, "Martin Chemnitz," Studium Excitare: A Journal of Confessional Languages Studies at MLC, Issue #1
  5. ^ The title page continues the title: "Primum germanice per reverendum virum, D. Martinum Kemnitium, S. Theologiae Doctorem, in usum Pastorum minus exercitatorum conscripta: Nunc vero voluntate Authoris & loco Confessionis Ministerii Ecclesiae Brunsuicensis latine conversa per Ionnem Zangerum Oenipontanum."
  6. ^ English translation in Robert Kolb et al., Sources and Contexts of The Book of Concord, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), 197-219.