Lutheran theologian; b. Treuenbreitzen, Nov. 9, 1522; d. Braunschweig, April 8, 1586. Educated despite his lack of financial resources, at Magdeburg (1539–42), Frankfurt (1543), Wittenberg (1545), and Königsberg (M.A. 1547), Chemnitz was librarian to Albert of Prussia, Königsberg (1550). Returning to Wittenberg (April 1553), he entered the ministry in December 1553 as pastor of St. Aegidi and assistant to Superintendent Mörlin in Braunschweig. Chemnitz, a fellow student of melanchthon, replied to the attack on lutheranism by young jesuits of Cologne in his Theologiae Jesuitarum praecipua capita (1562). In answer to attacks by the Portuguese Jesuit Andradius, Chemnitz worked eight years on his Examen concilii Tridentini (1565–73). His fourvolume scholarly analysis of Trent's decisions, based on Scripture, the Fathers, and the history of Catholic dogma, enhanced his reputation far beyond Germany and elicited Jesuit respect for a formidable opponent and scholar. Chemnitz was then in demand as a consultant in doctrinal disputes.
In 1567, upon the request of Duke Albert, Chemnitz accompanied Superintendent Mörlin to Prussia to reorganize the church after the Osiander confusion. Chemnitz's role in drafting the Corpus doctrinae Prutenicum (1567) and a similar church ordinance for Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, the Corpus doctrinae Julium (1569), secured his reputation as a church organizer. Although defending Melanchthon against flacius in earlier vain attempts to straighten out the Adiaphora Streit, Chemnitz maintained his more conservative orthodox Lutheran position. He contributed significantly to the final draft (1580) and later defense of the Konkordienformel, and was particularly effective in clarifying the doctrines on the Person of Christ and His place in the Lord's Supper. Chemnitz's De duabus naturis in Christo, de hypostatica earum unione, de communicatione idiomatum, etc.(1570) laid the foundation for article eight in the Formula of Concord (1580). His "Postilla" likewise exemplified clear and excellent Biblical exposition. Chemnitz was by nature a reflective if eclectic theologian, a profound scholar, and an accomplished linguist, but withal a practical churchman. His goal was to set forth in simple, concise form what the Word of God taught. Doubtless, Chemnitz's inclination toward the reduction of his beliefs to a corpus doctrinae tended to crystallize and formalize the Grundsätze of the Reformers. Also his insistence in creating a definite church polity with the accompanying purist forms, such as black attire without ornamentation for women at communion, tended to standardize church customs.
Bibliography: t. pressel, Martin Chemnitz (Leben und ausgewählte Schriften der Väter und Begründer der Lutherischen Kirche, ed. j. hartmann, v.8; Elberfeld 1862). p. j. rechtmeyer, Der berühmten Stadt Braunschweig Kirchenhistorie, v.3 (Braunschweig 1710) 273–536, best source of his life. e. w. zeeden, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 2:1043–44. f. lau, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (3d ed. Tübingen 1957–65) 1:1647–48. g. noth, Grundlinien der Theologie des M. Chemnitz (n.p. 1930). e. wolf, Neue deutsche Biographie (Berlin 1953–) 3:201–202.
[e. g. schwiebert]