So called from its presentation (in slightly divergent but equally authoritative German and Latin versions) at the Diet of Augsburg on June 25, 1530, to Holy Roman Emperor charles v in response to his invitation to the parties in the theological debate to present their "opinions and views." The Augsburg Confession (Confessio Augustana ) is the primary particular symbol of the Lutheran Church. Although signed by seven imperial princes and representatives of two imperial free cities, it is primarily the work of Philipp melanchthon, who drew it up in its present form (chiefly on the basis of the Schwabach, Marburg, and Torgau Articles) to counter the charge of Johann eck in his 404 Articles that the Lutheran party was reviving ancient heresies.
Deliberately irenic in character, it consists of 21 articles (on God, original sin, Christ, justification through faith, the sacred ministry and the channels of the Holy Spirit; the new obedience, the Church, the Sacraments, ecclesiastical order, humanly instituted rites, civil affairs, Christ's return to Judgment, free will, the cause of sin, faith and good works, and the veneration of the saints) explicitly designed to show that the Lutherans did not depart at any point from Scripture, the Catholic Church, or the Roman Church (Epilogue to pt. 1.1), plus seven concluding articles on Communion under both species, the marriage of priests, the abrogation of private Masses, confession, humanly instituted traditions, monastic vows, and the authority of bishops. The imperial reply, commonly called the Papalist Confutation because it was drawn up by a panel of theologians at the Diet, approved nine articles without exception, approved six with qualifications or in part, and condemned thirteen. The Lutheran theologians under Melanchthon's leadership readied the first draft of a Defense (Apology) and submitted it on September 22, but the emperor refused to receive it. Back at Wittenberg, Melanchthon reworked it into the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, first printed (along with the editio princeps of the Confession itself) in 1531. It repeats and defends the positions taken by the Confession, but goes beyond it in its definition of the Sacraments and in its exposition of the sacrificial aspects of the Holy Eucharist. The official German version of the Apology is a paraphrase by Justus jonas. The Apology formally received symbolical status as a commentary on the Augsburg Confession in 1537. A revised edition (Variata) of the Augsburg Confession, which Melanchthon published in 1540, was less explicit in its Eucharistic doctrine than the 1530 edition and gained extensive acceptance in German Reformed circles; the Lutherans rejected it in the Preface to the Book of Concord (1580) and committed themselves to the 1530 edition (see concord, formula and book of).
In varying degrees the Augsburg Confession influenced other 16th-century confessions, including the thirty-nine articles of the Church of England and through them John wesley's Methodist Articles of Religion. An effort of Samuel S. Schmucker (1799–1873) to accommodate the Augsburg Confession to the prevailing Protestantism of the U.S. in the Definite Platform (1855), by omitting all characteristically Lutheran elements, was vigorously rejected. The original manuscripts of the Augsburg Confession submitted to Charles V appear to have perished in the 16th century, but 54 copies surviving from 1530 alone adequately secure the text of both the Latin and the German version.
See Also: confessions of faith, protestant.
Bibliography: h. lietzmann, ed., Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 5th ed. by e. wolf (Göttingen 1963) 44–404, critical Lat. and Ger. text of both documents. Eng. t. g. tappert, ed. and tr., The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Philadelphia 1959) 24–285. Text of the Papalist Confutation in Corpus reformatorum 27 (1859) 81–244. j. m. reu, The Augsburg Confession (Chicago 1930), contains Eng. tr. of many of the pertinent documents. w. d. allbeck, Studies in the Lutheran Confessions (Philadelphia 1952). m. lackmann, The Augsburg Confession and Catholic Unity, tr. w. r. bouman (New York 1963). w. maurer. Historical Commentary on the Augburg Confession (Philadelphia 1986).
[a. c. piepkorn]