A term used since c. 1700 to designate pure Lutheranism as opposed to the conciliatory and moderate interpretation of Luther's theology made by Philipp melanchthon, and adopted by many during the 16th and 17th centuries (see philippism). Mainly concerned with keeping the church faithful to Luther without Melanchthonian additions, the tendency of the Gnesio (genuine) Lutherans was less generous than that of Luther, who considered Melanchthon indispensible to his reform, even when not altogether in agreement with him. In the ensuing controversies were discussed the questions of the necessity of good works for the believer (see major, georg; majoristic controversy), the Lord's Supper (see cryptocalvinism), freedom of the will (see synergism), and ecumenism (see calixtus, georg). The heat and bitterness of some Gnesiolutherans, at times matched by their opponents, likely owed something to the fear of the German princes of Philippism as a danger to their power. While they put ecumenism in peril, Gnesiolutherans helped preserve some of the essential Protestant emphases for a later era in which the spiritual climate was more properly favorable to it. The leading Gnesiolutherans were: Matthias flacius illyricus, Nikolaus von amsdorf, Joachim Westphal (1510–74), Johannes Timan (?–1557), Tilemann Heshusius (1527–88), Nikolaus Gallus (1516–70), Johannes Wigand (1523–87), Joachim Mörlin (1514–71), Aegidius Hunnius (1550–1603), and his son, Nikolaus Hunnius (1585–1643).
Bibliography: o. ritschl, Dogmengeschichte des Protestantismus v.4 (Göttingen 1908–27). h. w. gensichen, Damnamus: Die Verwerfung von Irrlehre bei Luther und im Luthertum des 16. Jahrhunderts (Berlin 1955). w. lohff, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–64) 4:1018–19.