H. Ashley Hall

Philip Melanchthon and the Cappadocians

A Reception of Greek Patristic Sources in the Sixteenth Century

1. Edition 2014
272 pages
ISBN 978-3-525-55067-0
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht

Refo500 Academic Studies (R5AS) -

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This work offers a comprehensive examination of how Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) -- a great philologist, pedagogue, and theologian of the Reformation -- used Greek patristic sources throughout his extensive career. The Cappadocian Fathers (here identified as Gregory Thaumaturgus, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzen, and Gregory of Nyssa) were received through the medieval period to be exemplary theologians. In the hands of Melanchthon, they become tools to articulate the Evangelical-Lutheran theological position on justification by grace through faith alone, the necessity of formal education for theologians in literature and the natural sciences, the freedom of the will under divine grace, exemplars for bishops and even princes, and (not least) as models of Attic Greek grammar and biblical exegesis for university students. The book is organized around Melanchthon’s use of Cappadocian works against his opponents: Roman Catholic, the Radical Reformers, the Reformed, and in Intra-Lutheran controversies. The author places Melanchthon within the context of the patristic reception of his time. Moreover, an appendix offers a sketch of the “Cappadocian canon” of the sixteenth century, with notation of the particular sources for Melanchthon’s knowledge and the references to these works in modern scholarly sources. While often accused by his critics (past and present) of being arbitrary in his selection of patristic authorities, too free with his quotations, and too anxious for theological harmony, this work shows Melanchthon “at work” to reveal the consistent manner and Evangelical-Lutheran method by which he used patristic material to proclaim “Christ and his benefits” throughout his multifaceted career.

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