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

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To this Oecolampadius responded, “Very well, but we have nevertheless provided enough to show that we did not reach our opinion frivolously or without cause or motivation.”

Luther answered, “We know all too well that you have significant reasons, but that does not make the thing better.”

Next they were asked whether they wished to present anything more. They said no, since the preceding [arguments] had not been accepted, they could only assume that anything else they would say would find even less acceptance. Luther replied, “Now you haven’t even tried, which is a testament to your own conscience” [i.e. confidence in your argument].

Then the chancellor interjected that they should look for methods and a path to an agreement. Luther said, “I see no other way except for them to honor the Word of God and adhere to our faith.” To which they replied that they could neither understand nor believe that the body of Christ is present [in the Eucharist]. Luther said, “Then we should let you leave and commend you to the just judgment of God. He will know well, who is right.” To which Oecolampadius replied, “As we leave you.” Zwingli, however, was teary-eyed, as many noticed.

Luther had, however, at the beginning [of the discussions] also said, “If we are to achieve unity, we must deal not only with the sacrament [communion], but with several other topics. For they, my opponents, do not teach a single tenet of Christian doctrine correctly, especially, as I was informed, those from Strasbourg, etc.”

[Now] Jacob Sturm stood up and remarked that he had been sent to make sure that the discord due to the sacrament be resolved, etc. He had come with the understanding that there was only one contentious article. If they were to find even more, he would be poorly received when he delivered this message at home. He asked that the teachings of his preachers be heard and demonstrated where they were right or wrong. This [request] was granted. Bucer spoke for them all, but not correctly, especially not about baptism. He asked Luther to attest to the correctness of their teachings. Luther answered, however, “No, I don’t trust you. I am neither your Lord nor your judge, and since you accept neither me nor my doctrine, I cannot tolerate you as disciples. We have already seen that you desire to spread your doctrine under our name. I can well listen to you now, but I do not know if you teach the same at home or not, etc. Thus I cannot give you an endorsement and you may not claim it. For you claim everywhere that you have not learned from us. What use then is our endorsement? One can see all too clearly that you have learned nothing from us. Thus we would be loathe to have such disciples.”

Then Bucer requested that Luther tell them on which points he was displeased with their doctrine, to which Luther said, “I am not your Lord, not your judge, not your teacher. Our spirit does not harmonize with your spirit. Rather it is clear that we do not have the same spirit, for it cannot be the same spirit when in one place the Word of Christ is simply believed and in the other the same faith is ridiculed, disputed, denigrated, and attacked with any number of sacrilegious and blasphemous words. Thus, as I said before, we leave you to the judgment of God. Teach, however, if you think you can account for it before God.”

When it had become clear that they did not want Luther to help or advise them concerning the main article of the sacrament, the prince thanked us for coming to please His Grace, and asked that for now we should adjourn. Should His Grace need us again, either together or individually, we should not be inconvenienced. His Grace wanted to seek further advice, so that we did not have to leave each other like this, etc. Then he sent for each of us, one after the other, and asked for advice and a method to reach a compromise. He found in every case that if they would confess the part that the body of Christ is present in communion and not just a human commemoration, then we would dismiss the other questions and not pressure them whether this was a bodily or spiritual, natural or supernatural presence, with or without a fixed location. We would thus accept them as brothers and do everything that he [the prince] wanted. But (this is surprising to hear) they did not want to do so. The prince invited everyone from both parties to his table.

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