My 3 Reasons to Read Melanchthon’s Common Places 1521, a New Translation

February 8th, 2014 Post by

Philip Melanchthon, Common Places: Loci Communes 1521, trans. Christian Preus (St. Louis:CPH, 2014).

Common Places

I have three reasons why our readers should purchase and read this new translation of Melancthon’s Loci Communes of 1521, published by Concordia Publishing House, besides the fact that Luther called it worthy of immortality and of the Church’s canon. While there are two other translations of this work, this is the first one by a Lutheran. The translator is my brother, Dr. Christian Preus, who not only hails as a young yet good scholar in theology as well as an expert in the Latin language (he has a PhD in Latin and Greek), more importantly actually believes and holds to these theological truths personally. I have enjoyed countless hours and days conversing with him about the divine mysteries of God’s Word. He is a good theologian whose theological thinking is centrally evangelical. The justification of the sinner before God is not just an academic topic for my brother; it is the very foundation for his zeal and desire for seeking the good work of the public ministry (1 Tim 3:1). He has carried this theological habitus into his work on this new translation, providing a useful introduction and notes throughout.

This brings me to my second reason why Steadfast readers should read this new translation. It is a good translation with scholarly comments throughout. The following is a blurb by Dr. Günter Frank, Director of the European Melanchthon Academy:

Christian Preus provides helpful historical and theological contextualization to the Loci Communes of Philip Melanchthon in his introduction. With the text itself, he gives us a clear, modern translation that both improves on the work of past translators and also includes judicious scholarly commentary. This is a welcom and useful tool for modern students of the Reformation.

The third reason to read this book is captured in the following sentences from Preus’ introduction:

The subject matter of theology is already present in Scripture. The job of the theologian is to learn the common topics of Scripture, the doctrinal veins of Scripture, so that he may be driven further into Scripture to confirm what Scripture expresses clearly elsewhere. Whereas Scholastic theology argued technical theological points using logical syllogisms and complex dialectic, Melanchthon sees his job as showing what the clear Scriptures simply say. He does this rhetorically, that is, by gathering together several key subjects or topics that Scripture treats in abundance. In this sense, as Melanchthon himself insists more than once in this work, the Common Topics of 1521 is more a hermeneutical handbook than a dogmatic treatise.1

This work is meant to open the Scriptures up to the reader. My hope is that I, along with the other readers, will enjoy this benefit and be compelled even more to dive deep into God’s written Word, growing from understanding to understanding.

Melanchthon’s Common Topics of 1521 can be found here at cph.org

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1Common Places, 10






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  1. Elizabeth Peters
    February 8th, 2014 at 16:32 | #1

    Thanks Pastor Preus. I’m looking forward to the read! Nice that it’s pretty cheap too!

  2. February 8th, 2014 at 18:11 | #2

    Could somebody shed some light on Melanchthon for me? Because he seems to have a love/hate relationship with Lutheran theologians at times.

  3. Elizabeth Peters
    February 8th, 2014 at 18:53 | #3

    In 1521 Melanchthon was completely in line with Luther. That’s why I’m so excited to read this first edition of his Loci. The later edition of the Loci translated by J.A.O. Preus has some questionable doctrine, like that there has to be a reason in David and Saul why one was saved and one wasn’t. But in this first edition, Melanchthon believes what Lutherans believe on the bondage of the will.

  4. February 9th, 2014 at 11:27 | #4

    Ok, but what happened after 1521?

  5. February 9th, 2014 at 12:39 | #5

    @J. Dean #4
    Melanchthon wrote the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, and the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope. :)

  6. Carl H
    February 9th, 2014 at 13:12 | #6

    @J. Dean #2
    The Augsburg Confession was written in 1530, but afterward Melanchthon introduced a variety of changes, including some made in an effort to reconcile with the Calvinists concerning the Real Presence in Holy Communion. These changes created serious problems. You can read more here: http://bookofconcord.org/historical-4.php .

    I understand Lutheran theologians generally to be truly appreciative of Melanchthon’s substantive contributions to the Reformation, but disappointed — if not dismayed — by the liberties he took with the Augsburg Confession after it was signed, and the confusion that resulted.

  7. helen
    February 9th, 2014 at 20:01 | #7

    @Carl H #6
    I understand Lutheran theologians generally to be truly appreciative of Melanchthon’s substantive contributions to the Reformation, but disappointed — if not dismayed — by the liberties he took with the Augsburg Confession after it was signed, and the confusion that resulted.

    And that is why you will see, on the cornerstones of old Lutheran churches: UAC which means “unaltered Augsburg Confession”.

  8. Joel Dusek
    February 10th, 2014 at 22:58 | #8

    I can’t find the answer on CPH, but is this going to be available in ePub or Kindle format? Does CPH do that? I have no problem with paper, but like electronic books also.

  9. Libby North
  10. Joel Dusek
    February 11th, 2014 at 11:19 | #10

    Thanks, Libby! Didn’t find it on iBooks, so looks like Kindle is it for e-readers

  11. wineonthevines
    February 17th, 2014 at 22:50 | #11

    Melanchthon’s commentary on Romans is also a gem!

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