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The Marburg Colloquy – Report by a Lutheran Eyewitness (1529)

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On Monday we were told that we should negotiate with each other on our own. Luther and Philipp [Melanchthon] thus dealt with Zwingli and Oecolampadius, Brenz and I with Martin Bucer and Hedio in secret. We brought Bucer so far that he admitted that Christ's body is present in communion and that it is received in and with the bread by those who believe, but not the disbelievers. [He said this] because Christ had only called the bread he gave to the faithful his body, but had not meant that bread which was received by the disbelieving. Then we said that this would result in new disagreement, but not as vehement as the previous one. We thought that we could reach a compromise on this point. But when Bucer returned to his colleagues, they talked him out of it and he backslid.

Luther also negotiated diligently, but he made no progress on account of the sacrament. They asked us for the sake of God to consider them as our brothers [in faith] and allow their followers to receive communion with us; they in turn wanted to do the same. But this was denied to them for significant Christian reasons. Afterwards they requested that we should reach an agreement on the other contentious points. Luther agreed to this and made an effort. It was decided that he should outline the main tenets [of the faith], and wherever they did agree, they should make this known. If an agreement was reached, then everyone should sign. Luther was very careful; he would gladly have spared their weakness, but he did not want any damage to be done to the true, saving Christian doctrine. But finally he said, “I want to present them in the best possible way; they will not accept them anyway.” And he outlined them as I have had them printed.

In these negotiations it became clear that our opponents became more distant and more fearful of our doctrines the longer we negotiated. And they unfairly damned and bad-mouthed us, calling us cannibals, Capernaites, [and] Thyesteans, and [made] other slanderous claims that we worship a God of bread, a baked God, a gluttonous and drunken God. And yet they asked us to accept them as brothers! They showed themselves to be unworthy of this, for if the slander and lies they directed at us had been true, they should not accept us as brothers, even if we asked them. It also became apparent that they doubt their own teaching, because they did not even introduce most of it out of fear that it would not withstand probing. It has also become clear that they erred because they secretly recanted on five articles of the agreement, which they had first held, taught, and written. Specifically concerning the indivisible union of the divine and human nature in one person in Christ, the doctrine of original sin, absolution [of sins], the fruit and use of the preacher’s office, of baptism, and of the Last Supper of Christ our Lord, as everyone who has read many of their writings knows very well.

Finally, as they were departing, they requested that we refrain from and avoid severe, sharp written attacks on each other. This was promised, as long as they also do so and manage to keep their own [followers] from doing so. We wanted nothing except to deal with them amicably, as well.

Then the prince rode forth on Tuesday morning, and we also departed that afternoon with Luther. And we rode with him that day and Wednesday on the way to Schlaitz to address several questions about the unnecessary [parts] left of the mass and other ecclesiastical practices. On Thursday morning we set off on the most direct route to Nuremberg.

This is, honorable and wise, gracious dear lords, an approximate account of the negotiations in Marburg, everything that I remember. I wanted to relate it to you as you, honorable and wise [sirs], desired, and I hereby humbly commend myself to you.

Source: D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Band 30, Teil 3. Weimar, 1910, pp. 144-51.

Translation: Ellen Yutzy Glebe

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