Protestant Reformers

The term means a reformer in the history of science and theology, a person of Church history, who participated in the founding and shaping of the Protestant churches during the Reformation. The use is tied to the history of the Reformation.


At the time of the Reformation it was not thought necessary to define the men who were assigned to the Reformers. It was only when the essence of the Reformation in its complexity was no longer comprehensible to place, one needed a measure by which a reformer was determined.

Besides Reformers such as Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Bucer and John Calvin also Johannes Brenz, Johannes Bugenhagen, Heinrich Bullinger and Protestant minded princes such as Georg von Anhalt or Philip I of Hesse play for the reformation was a major role. For standing outside the territorial Protestantism reformers like Thomas Müntzer and Andreas Bodenstein the term was coined radical reformers. This also spiritualistic reformers like Kaspar Schwenckfeld and Anabaptist reformers like Balthasar Hubmaier and Menno Simons are added.

History of Literature

For the first time Matthias Flacius tried the theme in his "Catalogus Testium veritatis " address in 1570, when he wanted to prove the continuity of the Church. In Basel, wrote Theodore de Beza short biographies that appeared in 1580 under the title " Icones " in Geneva. Soon after, in Amsterdam published a further collection completed. Melchior Adam wrote with " Vitae theologorum germanicorum " in 1618 in Heidelberg for at that time the most important work in this area.

In the 19th century, the encyclopedias of general and specific nature, such as the " heretic lexicon " multiplied by BP Fritz, the etc. to be mentioned here only representative " Konzilienlexikon " by M. Diesch, the Encyclopaedia of Protestant Theology and Church and the General German Biography. This tendency continued in the 20th century, for example, continued with the New German Biography, the Theological Encyclopaedia and Biographic- bibliographic church encyclopedia, which came to a larger part of people in the church history and constitute an assignment of the Reformers.

Again and again, " The Reformers before the Reformation, " was trying to see the name of the Reformers as large order term, the reforms should interpret extensive as a benchmark for evaluation in various literature as Carl Ullmann. However, that tendency did not prevail. For the concept of the reformer is supported by the specific reform of the Reformation, which moves in a fixed frame. A reform is a planned and gradual change or improvement of social conditions, however, the reform of the Reformation is seen in a limited time frame.

Again and again there was therefore efforts that assigns a specific prosopography draw. Robert Stupperich published in 1984 his reformer lexicon and made ​​the circuit of the determinable as a reformer group of people together largely. Basically, he concluded from this that often mistakenly referred to as a ( pre-) Reformers Reformers such as John Wycliffe and Jan Hus and thus created a fixed orientation with respect to the subject matter.

Aspects of concept formation

In the formation of the concept reformer is generally the work of the Reformation, the decisive criterion. From the understanding of the Reformation, there is therefore a time limit that begins with the publication of 95 theses and with the completion of the denomination formation process ( ie the time between the Lutheran Book of Concord in 1580 and the Reformed Synod of Dort 1618/19 ) ends.

The Reformation was not exclusively limited to the church but a movement process, which extended over the whole of all areas of life. They penetrated therefore the entire ecclesial and political movement in the core and penetrated into all areas of life. Therefore, the Reformation is also referred to as a church-political reformation. Furthermore, the Reformation quickly spread beyond the borders of the old German states. If you want all reformist personalities with the label provided reformer, the boundaries of the definition verschöben, so that here there had to be a limitation in the term education.

Looking at the main representatives of the Reformation, about which there is no doubt that they are reformers, one realizes that it is primarily theological representatives. Melanchthon is here as a reformer of the school system a striking exception. Passing in the reference to the unambiguous reformers a formulation from the reformers, there is the sensitive context that the Reformers are those to count who have driven on the proclamation in preaching and teaching on behalf of the great initiators.

Often one also applies to the argument that the Reformation was a church policy reform and therefore the political elite in the Reformation period are include. There is no doubt that rulers and their representatives have significantly contributed to the Reformation. Often, they have paved the way so that the Reformation would not have been possible without their promotional power. However, one should also remember that this is not originated from the theological setting in the reformist sense, but there are mainly self-interest related motives close. Not least from Luther rejected the politicization of his theological teaching. Therefore can not be regarded as reformers in the true sense rulers and political figures.

The emergence of the Northwest " terminus Semilutheranismus " finally shows that there were groups that were indeed touched by the spirit of the Reformation, but are not penetrated to the Reformation. The Reformation was a movement of the Christian church and not the same as, for example, with the humanism that was not referring to individual people but extended to the whole of all areas of life. Therefore, such marginal phenomena in connection with the Reformers may be only sporadically named when they have been significant in another respect.


Since the concept name was apparently quite narrow, it often appears difficult to perform a proper assignment of the term. This generally theologians are called, have adopted in their office areas, the evangelical doctrine during the Reformation period. Has proven useful in the assignment of the notion that it is individuals who were involved in the church-political events such as the Wittenberg Concord, the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, etc., on the side of evangelical theologians. Only where the basic aspect of theological implementation of the Reformation blurred, people can be assigned to the Reformers when they participated in the formative theological need for the events of the Reformation history.