A Humanist in Reformation Politics

Philipp Melanchthon on Political Philosophy and Natural Law


This book is the first contextual account of the political philosophy and natural law theory of the German reformer Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560). Mads Langballe Jensen presents Melanchthon as a significant political thinker in his own right and an engaged scholar drawing on the intellectual arsenal of renaissance humanism to develop a new Protestant political philosophy. As such, he also shows how and why natural law theories first became integral to Protestant political thought in response to the political and religious conflicts of the Reformation. This study offers new, contextual studies of a wide range of Melanchthon's works including his early humanist orations, commentaries on Aristotle's ethics and politics, Melanchthon's own textbooks on moral and political philosophy, and polemical works.

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Mads Langballe Jensen, Ph.D. (2014), University College London, is post-doctoral research assistant at Royal Holloway University of London. He has published on Protestant political thought from the Reformation to the early eighteenth century. This is his first book.
"[...] wird er neut deutlich, dass ihm eine sorgfältig gearbeitete, stringent argumentierende Studie gelungen ist, die zugleich quellennah vorgeht und Melanchthons Thesen in überzeu gender Weise sowohl in zeitgenössische Debatten wie in politische Konflikte einordnet". Jan-Hendryk de Boer, in Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung, 48 (2021), pp. 149-151.
Preface: Melanchthon’s Natural Law as a Combative Concept

Introduction: Melanchthon, Political Philosopher of the Protestant Reformation
 1 Melanchthon and the Political thought of the Protestant Reformation
 2 Melanchthon: a Humanist in the Reformation
 3 Protestant Wittenberg in Imperial Politics
1 Sedition, Tyranny, and Law in the Early 1520s
 1 The Wittenberg Movement and the Split with Karlstadt
 2 Melanchthon’s Humanist Conception of Politics
 3 Melanchthon’s Early Ciceronian Political Thought
 4 Humanists on Law
 5 Melanchthon’s Oratio De Legibus
 6 Conclusion: Melanchthon’s Distinctiveness
2 “The Causes That Lead Us to Institute Government and Obey Rulers”
 1 Melanchthon’s Turn to Aristotle’s Moral Philosophy: the 1529 Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics
 2 The Identifiable Targets of Melanchthon’s Politics
 3 Ockhamists and Radical Preachers: “Imperium Ex Consensu Populi”
 4 Rebelling Peasants and Radical Preachers
 5 Melanchthon’s Reassessment: Aristotelian Natural Law, State and Government
 6 Property
 7 Forms of Kingship
 8 Wycliffe
 9 Justice and Rule Limited by Law
 10 Conclusion
3 A True and Learned Philosophy according to the Law of God
 1 Cura Religionis, Tertius Usus Legis, and the Law of Nature in the 1530s
 2 Natural Law and the Decalogue in the Philosophiae Moralis Epitome
 3 Political Authority as a Divine Ordination
 4 Justice and the Best Order of the State
 5 Divine Law, Natural Law, the Law of Nations, and Positive Law
 6 The Limits on Political Power
 7 Conclusion
4 Liberty, Tyranny, and Defence of the True Religion
 1 Resistance and Defence, or Rebellion?
 2 The Schmalkaldic War: Political Legitimacy and the True Christian Faith
 3 Melanchthon’s Editing of Von der Notwehr Unterricht
 4 Melanchthon’s Philosophical Theory of Resistance in the nuii
 5 The Magdeburg Confession
 6 Conclusion
Conclusion: Melanchthonian Moral Philosophy and the Beginnings of Protestant Natural Law

Subject Index
Name Index
Historians, political theorists and theologians, academics and students, interested in the Reformation, Philipp Melanchthon, the history of early modern political thought, and natural law theory.
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