Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church, 1532-1546

By Martin Brecht; James L. Schaaf | Go to book overview

V
The Professor

1. THE UNIVERSITY:
ITS ORGANIZATION AND CONSTITUTION

Immediately upon entering office, Elector John Frederick, in accordance with his father’s will, issued regulations concerning the financing of professorships at the Wittenberg university and thus guaranteed the institution’s continued existence. Moreover, new ordinances were necessary for each of the faculties, primarily ones reflecting the changes that had been introduced by the Reformation. In 1533 Melanchthon wrote new statutes for the theology faculty. The norm for teaching was to be the Augsburg Confession of 1530, “the true and reliable conviction of the catholic church of God.” The professors of the faculty were to devote themselves primarily to expounding the Old and New Testaments. Disputations and graduations, which had been discontinued for years, were to be reintroduced. The office of dean was to be filled by the professors in turn. If circumstances made it necessary, however, the oldest professor could occupy the position for a longer time. In fact, that is what happened. In 1535 Luther assumed the office of dean from Jonas, who had held it for many years, and he then kept it for the rest of his life.1 This was a statement of who the head of the Wittenberg theologians was. It appears that there were no longer any legal or political reservations about Luther’s serving as dean.

In 1536, after thorough preparations, the elector granted the university a new Fundation, which primarily provided a secure financial basis for it and assured that it could continue to offer regular instruction. The elector explained that there was a special obligation to maintain the institution because the proper understanding of the divine Word had emerged anew through Luther’s teaching and the ancient languages had been promoted through Melanchthon’s efforts. The chief purpose of the university, above the tasks of all the other disciplines, was to spread the gospel and the Word of God. Luther, Jonas, and Cruciger filled the three theological professorships, and, in addition, Pastor Bugenhagen held a teaching appointment. In addition to teaching, the professors were obliged to advise the elector on ecclesiastical matters and questions of marriage law, and this could occasionally cause difficulties in maintaining their teaching activity. Luther received the highest salary, three hundred gulden, and his colleagues, along with Melanchthon, received two hundred gulden; thus they remained the most highly paid members of the

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