Marburg Colloquy

   The Marburg Colloquy of 1529 was an unsuccessful attempt by the leaders of the fledgling Reformation to write a doctrinal statement that could appeal to all factions. It brought together leaders from Germany and Switzerland, the two main countries where the reform movement had taken hold. Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli were the primary participants; others present included Philip Melancthon, Justus Jonas, Johann Brenz, Kaspar Cruciger, Andreas Osiander, Johann Oeco-lampadius, Wolfgang Capito, Martin Bucer, and Johannes Sturm. The gathering had been facilitated by Landgrave Philip of Hesse, and met at his castle.
   The meeting tried to reconcile what appeared to be slight doctrinal differences between Luther and his colleagues on the one hand and Zwingli and his Swiss associates on the other. Quick consensus was reached on 14 statements covering the nature of God, the person and work of Christ, justification by faith, and other basic issues. However, the sacraments remained in dispute.
   Both sides agreed that the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation was incorrect. However, Luther still believed that Christ was literally present in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, while Zwingli interpreted the ceremony symbolically - for him, the elements of bread and wine represented Christ's body and blood. The colloquy failed to resolve the difference and thus failed to unite the Protestant cause. Lutheranism came to dominate Germany and Scandinavia, and the Reformed Church won out in Switzerland.
   Several years later, John Calvin offered a middle position between Luther and the now deceased Zwingli. However, the dividing line had already been drawn. The Reformed churches accepted Calvin's understanding that Christ was spiritually present in the sacrament, but the Lutheran position had already hardened. Sacramental theology would become the major issue dividing the two churches as they competed for members across Europe.
   Further reading:
   ■ Lowell C. Green, "What Was the True Issue at Marburg in 1529?" The Springfielder, 40 (1976): 102-06
   ■ Hermann Sasse, This Is My Body: Luther's Contention for the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar (Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg, 1959)
   ■ W. P. Stephens, Zwingli. An Introduction to His Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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