A Christology of Love

And for love he made mankind, and for the same love himselfe wolde become man.
— Julian of Norwich, A Revelation of Love 57

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-born Son.
— John 3:16

[F]or everything that has been done through Christ has been done for our sake.
— Martin Luther, Four Sermons on the Resurrection of the Dead (LW58: 150)

[I]t pleased God to come to aid the lost world, that is, by the death of his Son, in which he allures us to love of God and calls us away from the love of the world.
— Sebastian Meyer, In utramque D. Pauli epistolam ad Corinthios commentarii (Frankfurt: Petrus Brubacchius, 1546), fol. 8r

In these four phrases are the seeds of a whole Christology written around the theme of love.


Bullinger on the Inaugurated Reign of Christ

Thus Christ, in whom the Father is glorified and by whose hand he wills to reign, is said to be received at the right hand of the Father, that is, his dominion of heaven and earth inaugurated, he has solemnly taken possession of the administration committed to him and now reigns over all things. In this sense, ‘the right hand of God’ is infinite and is not enclosed in a place. For the power and rule of God is immeasurable, and the kingdom of Christ is the kingdom of all ages and eternal, and he being of the same substance, power and glory as the Father is not bound to any one place, but exists everywhere, working in all things. Since he not only is a true human being, but also true God (indeed finite in terms of his humanity, but immeasurable in terms of his divinity, and he remains in one indissociable person true God and human being), he is king, priest and lord of the worlds. For Peter says, Christ is “at the right hand of God, gone into heaven, having subjected angels, powers and rulers to himself” (1 Pet. 3:22). And Paul, “The Father raised Christ from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavens above every principality and power and rule and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age, but even in that to come; and he put everything under his feet, and made him head over everything for the Church, which is his body, which he fills, who fills all things in every way” (Eph. 1:20-23).

— Heinrich Bullinger, Resurrectio (Zürich: Christoffel Froschouer, 1545), fol. 26r-v

Melanchthon on Worship in the Resurrection

Melanchthon’s systematic theology, entitled Loci communes theologici, was revised in 1535 to include, among other things, a new section on the resurrection of the dead. In this locus, he expounds various passages of Scripture having to do with resurrection and the renewal of the world. When he comes to comment on Isaiah 66:22-24–the last three verses of Isaiah–this is how he understands the prophet’s words, “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares the Lord”:

And he teaches what eternal life will be like when he says, “There will be unending months and an unending Sabbath,” that is, an unending feast day, that all the saints may unendingly worship the Lord. Therefore, eternal life will be unending worship–that is, the knowledge and righteousness of God without sin and without death. (Loci communes theologici [Basel, 1561], p.505)

Erit ergo uita aeterna, perpetua adoratio. Come, Lord Jesus.

Vermigli on the Importance of Resurrection

The Reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562) introduces his locus de resurrectione with these comments on the difficulty and importance of this doctrine:

The article on the resurrection of the flesh is believed with great difficulty because it is a reality so remote from human reason. Yet persuasion regarding it comprises many points of Christian faith so necessary to salvation. He who is clearly and firmly resolved regarding resurrection counsels himself well in that last hour. For those who are dying, certain of the blessed resurrection, cannot but be eager and happy to depart from this life. But those who, on the other hand, waver regarding this article then spin in the greatest anxieties, are anguished and agitated, nor do they truly know where they are going. This firm persuasion, then, consoles us when we lose friends and relatives in death; thus Paul teaches the Thessalonians. In the face of this we are armed against persecutions, misfortunes and the hardships that one ought to suffer for the faithful confession of the name of Christ—the holy martyrs suffered any and all things when they knew with certainty that a most happy life was to be restored to them. (Loci communes [London: Ioannis Kyngstoni, 1576], 3.15.1, pp. 771-72)

Bugenhagen’s Preface to His 1 Corinthians Commentary

Johann Bugenhagen (1485-1558), an early Lutheran pastor and theologian, published a commentary on 1 Corinthians in 1530. Interestingly, it deals only with the first four chapters–and these extensively. His treatment spans some 400 pages, and it reads like a series of classroom lectures, passionately given and full of biblical quotation and contemporary polemic. In fact, this is what Bugenhagen tells us in the preface: his commentary is part of the academic effort at reform, a striving for the souls of his students. This is my translation of the opening paragraph:

It is now two years since the plague advanced on our city.1 At that time our school migrated elsewhere, but Doctor Martin Luther and I remained here, in accordance with the office of sacred preaching committed to us. Almost sixty students (scholastici auditores) also remained, as meanwhile they heard Luther preaching and lecturing on sacred things, to whom I also was able to be a comfort against all scandal rising against the saving teaching of Christ. I began, in the course of my ordinary lecturing, to treat the first letter written by Saint Paul to the Corinthians, but more fully the first four chapters regarding the wisdom and justice of God against the wisdom and justice of the world, and the authority of Holy Scripture and apostolic teaching in the apostolic Church of Christ. (Commentarius in quatuor capita prioris epistolae ad Corinthios [Wittenberg, 1530], fol. 2r)

It might be that, in light of the spreading plague, Bugenhagen delivered his lectures, so to speak, in this written form rather than orally. (This is how Jänckens understood it in 1757.) Whatever the case, they certainly read like oral deliverances, full of address to the reader or listener, full of biblical quotations that appear and reappear, as if from memory, and full of passionate pastoral concern for the consciences of his students against what he perceived as the perversions of Roman Catholicism.

It is his choice of 1 Corinthians 1-4 that I find especially interesting (not least because I just completed a PhD thesis on the history of these chapters’ interpretation). Traditionally, these four chapters were regarded as dealing with teaching in the Church, and this is just what Bugenhagen picks up: a lecture series on this section is ideal for the reform effort because they treat the wisdom of God, the ‘authority of Holy Scripture’ and ‘apostolic teaching.’ A church that needs to rediscover and re-establish how it is to teach Christian truth should turn to 1 Corinthians 1-4 to find how to do so.

The black death came to Wittenberg on August 2, 1527 (see Luther’s Works 43: 115-16).

Bullinger on 1 Cor. 1:21

Reading Heinrich Bullinger’s commentary on 1 Corinthians (1534), one notices some remarkable similarities to John Calvin’s commentary, to be published some twelve years later (1546). This is especially evident in his comments on 1 Cor. 1:21, “For it pleased God through the foolishness of what we preach to save those who believe”:

Let no one wonder at the counsel of God, who revealed the gospel when he wished it to begin to dawn on mortals. It is like this: God fashioned this whole world with the decoration of his majesty–for which reason the Greeks adapted their name for the world, κόσμου, [related to κοσμειν, ‘to order’ or ‘to adorn’]–in order that all nations or educated peoples might know and call on God through this most beautiful spectacle. For so sings the prophet, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1 ESV). And the Philosophers who were believed wise by the consensus of the whole world, did not undertake their praise of it from anything other than what they laboured to examine and investigate in the natures of things. And yet, things were less fortunate when, not only with the common people, but also with the philosophers themselves, this effort ceased. For, by his works and the nature of things and his wonderful governance, they either did not know God, wondering rather at hidden things, or knowing him rightly, they did not worship him, seeking their own praise rather than the praise of the divine. This is explained more fully by the Apostle in Romans 1. Then, since with this he would not succeed, God, who does not want the human race to perish, instead accommodated himself to the capacity of mortals, and, led by his native goodness, altered himself in all appearances [i.e., took on a human life] in order to watch over them. Here he also approached this matter another way, and indeed, through “the foolishness of preaching”–meaning, “through foolish preaching,” in a Hebrew way of speaking.

Ne quis miraretur de Consilio dei, quo uoluit euangelium citra sapientiae splendorem illucescere mortalibus, retegit illud. Est autem tale. Condidit deus uniuersum hunc mundum in ornamentum maiestatis suae, unde & Graeci nomen mundo κόσμου accommodauerunt, ut omnes Gentes uel per hoc pulcherrimum spectaculum eruditae, deum cognoscerent & inuocarent. Sic enim cecinit propheta, ‘Coeli enarrant gloriam dei, & opus manuum eius annunciat firmamentum.’ Et Philosophi qui totius orbis consensu sapientes crediti, id laudis non aliunde assequuti sunt, quam quod in rerum naturis excutiendis & inuestigandis laborarunt. Atqui sinistrius cum apud uulgus, tum apud ipsos philosophos cessit iste conatus. Nam deum ex opere suo atque rerum natura admirabilique administratione uel non cognouerunt, res conditas admirati, uel cognitum rite non coluerunt, suam potius quam numinis laudem quaerentes, quemadmodum copiosus exponitur ab apostolo in 1. in Rom. cap. Proinde cum hac non successisset, deus qui genus mortalium perire non uult, quin potius se ad captum attempterat mortalium, et in omnes formas se, natiua bonitate ductus, uertit, ut seruet, etiam hic diuersa negotium istud aggressus est, nempe per stultitiam praedicationis, id est, per stultam praedicationem. Est enim modus loquendi Hebraicus.

Heinrich Bullinger, In priorem D. Pauli ad Corinthios epistolam (Zürich: Christoffel Froschouer, 1534), fol. 15v-16r.

There are some interesting connections with Calvin here, particularly with the idea that humanity ought to have known God through created things. Calvin speaks of a speculum, a mirror of God’s wisdom: “For in creatures God sets before us a very clear mirror of his marvelous wisdom” (Comm. 1 Cor. 1:21), through which humanity could have come to know God if they hadn’t abused it. Interestingly, Bullinger here speaks of creation as a spectaculum, that “most beautiful spectacle,” through which they “might know and call on God.” Speculum and spectaculum: not, I think, a coincidence.

Both also speak of God choosing to adapt himself to humanity’s failings. Calvin speaks of God approaching us alia via, by another way, using the same verb here as Bullinger uses (aggressus est, ‘to approach’) to speak of approaching us by the Incarnation, and by the foolishness of preaching. Calvin, however, does not specify this alia via, but it is clear he means the same as Bullinger: since humanity had wandered away, God sent Jesus in the flesh–another way–in order to call us back to him.

One interesting difference, I think, though perhaps it is only a matter of emphasis, is where Calvin and Bullinger locate the moral failure on the part of humanity. Bullinger says that the philosophers and common people “ceased” their effort to know God, for two reasons: they either (i) were more curious about hidden things than about God or (ii) they preferred their own glory to the worship of God. Calvin, on the other hand, does not mention particular ways in which humanity is at fault in this, but only that it is our own fault: “Thus, it is to be imputed to our own vice that we do not acquire a saving knowledge of God before we are emptied of our own understanding.” His emphasis is more on this latter: that because of our moral failing, we first must become foolish, empty of our own ideas about God, before we can then come to God in his revelation.

Philippi Melanthonis Opera quae supersunt omnia – Links

Here are links to (almost) all 28 volumes of Philip Melanchthon’s works in the Corpus Reformation edition on Archive.org.

Philippi Melanthonis Opera quae supersunt omnia. Edited by Karl Gottlieb Bretschneider (vols. 1-15) and Heinrich Ernst Bindseil (vols. 16-28). 28 vols. Corpus Reformatorum 1–28. Brunswick: C.A. Schwetschke, 1834–60.

See also my links to the Ioannis Calvini Opera quae supersunt omnia in the same series.

Index of vols. 1-28

CR1 (1834)

CR2 (1835)

CR3 (1836)

CR4 (1837)

CR5 (1838)

CR6 (1839)

CR7 (1840)

CR8 (1841)

CR9 (1842)

CR10 (1842)

CR11 (1843)

CR12 (1844)

CR13 (1846)

CR14 (1847)

CR15 (1848)

CR16 (1850)

CR17 (1851)

CR18 (1852)

CR19 (1853)

CR20 (1854)

CR21 (1854)

CR22 (1855)

CR23 (1855)

CR24 (1856)

CR25 (1856)

CR26 (1858)

CR27 (1859)

CR28 (1860)