Johannes Bugenhagen

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Johannes Bugenhagen (24 June 1485 – 20 April 1558), also called Doctor Pomeranus by Martin Luther, introduced the Protestant Reformation in the Duchy of Pomerania and Denmark in the 16th century. Among his major accomplishments was organization of Lutheran churches in Northern Germany and Scandinavia. He has also been called the second Apostle of the North.

Johannes Bugenhagen was pastor to Martin Luther at St. Mary's church in Wittenberg. He is also commemorated in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod as a pastor on 20 April.



Early life

Bugenhagen was born in Wollin (now Wolin), Duchy of Pomerania, on 24 June 1485 as one of three children of local Ratsherr Gerhard Bugenhagen. From 1502 to 1504, he studied artes at the University of Greifswald. In 1504, he moved to Treptow an der Rega (now Trzebiatów) and became Rector of the local school. Though he had not studied theology, he was ordained as a priest in Treptow's St. Mary's Church in 1509, and served as a vicar at the Kanonikerkolleg of that church thereafter.<ref name=KP79/>

In 1517, abbot Johann Boldewan called Bugenhagen to his nearby Belbuck Abbey, where he was appointed Biblical lecturer, where Boldewan and Bugenhagen became the core of a Humanist circle.<ref name=KP79/> Duke Bogislav X of Pomerania ordered Bugenhagen to write down the history of Pomerania in Latin. The year 1518 is the beginning of historical writing of the combined territory Pomerania.

Bugenhagen first encountered the theology of Luther in the reformer's Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church in 1520. At first he did not like Luther's thoughts at all. However, once he had studied it more, Bugenhagen became a supporter of the Reformation and moved to Wittenberg.


In Wittenberg, Bugenhagen was elected parish pastor on October 25, 1523,<ref name=Nieden4651>Nieden (2006), pp.46,51</ref> making him Martin Luther's pastor and confessor.<ref name=Kaufmann58>Kaufmann (1998), p.58</ref> He was a member of Luther's team translating the Holy Bible from Latin to German, and opened the debate on Ulrich Zwingli's reforms.<ref name=Kaufmann58/>

By 1523, his private lectures had become well known, so he was called to lecture the following years at the Leucorea, the university in Wittenberg<ref name=Nieden4647>Nieden (2006), pp.46-47</ref> (today Martin Luther University). Bugenhagen was among the most important teachers and practitioners of biblical interpretation in the Wittenberg-centered Protestant Reformation and ordained a generation of Lutheran pastors who had been educated at this university.<ref name=Kaufmann58/>

[[File:Bugenhagen-Predigt.jpg|thumb|250px|Die Predigt rechter Altarflügel der Vorderseite des Altars der Wittenberger Stadtkirche by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Note the keys of the kingdom in Bugenhagen's hands]]

On 17 March 1533,<ref name=Nieden62>Nieden (2006), p.62</ref> he was promoted doctor of theology at the university of Wittenberg, together with Johannes Aepinus and Kaspar Cruciger.<ref name=Nieden62/><ref name=SW58>Selderhuis & Wriedt (2006), p.58</ref> The promotion was supervised by Martin Luther, based on Philipp Melanchthon's theses, financed and attended by Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, and formally granted by deacon Justus Jonas. With the ceremony in Wittenberg's castle church (Schloßkirche),<ref name=Nieden62/> Aepinus, Bugenhagen and Cruciger became the first three Protestant doctors of theology.<ref name=SW58/>

While theological doctoral promotions had been suspended in Wittenberg for the preceding eight years,<ref name=Nieden61>Nieden (2006), p.61</ref> the promotion of Aepinus had become necessary as the Hamburg burghers demanded their new superintendent to bear the title of a doctor.<ref name=SW58/><ref group=nb name=SW58NB>In a letter to Bugenhagen, the Hamburg burghers demanded that their new superintendent Aepinus must "eyne Qualificerde parsonne nemptlick doctor theology syn" ("be a qualified person, that is a doctor of theology"). Selderhuis & Wriedt (2006), p.58</ref> Melanchthon had written the speech for Jonas which laid the foundation of a Protestant doctorate, and Frederick III "the Wise" sponsored a subsequent celebration to introduce the new Protestant doctorate to the theological world.<ref name=Nieden62/>

Reformatory work

After he had outlined his reform ideas in a letter to the Hamburg community, Bugenhagen was the most important figure in the Protestant Reformation in Northern Germany and Scandinavia.<ref name=Kaufmann58/> He took an active lead in creating new church orders (Kirchenordnungen) for Hildesheim (1544),<ref name=Kaufmann58/> Hamburg (1528/29),<ref name=Kaufmann58/><ref name=SW55>Selderhuis & Wriedt (2006), p.55</ref> Lübeck (1530–1532),<ref name=Kaufmann58/> the Duchy of Pomerania (1534/5),<ref name=Kaufmann58/> East Frisia (1534/5),<ref name=Kaufmann58/> Schleswig-Holstein (1542),<ref name=Lorentzen39>Lorentzen (2008), p. 39</ref> Braunschweig (1528),<ref name=Kaufmann58/><ref name=SW55/> Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (1543),<ref name=Kaufmann58/> and Denmark-Norway (1537),<ref name=Lorentzen39/> where he also crowned Christian III.<ref>Lockhart (2007), p. 64</ref>

This earned him later the epithet second Apostle of the North.<ref>Zietz (1834); Schneider (2008), p.4.</ref> Not only did he create the new rules, he also established them and convinced people to follow them. Bugenhagen produced rules and regulations for religious service, for schooling, and for social issues of the church. In 1539, he became superintendent of the Lutheran Church in Saxony.

Also in 1539, Bugenhagen reformed the Pomeranian University of Greifswald, which he "re-founded" as a Protestant university, modelled after the university of Wittenberg.<ref name=SW60>Selderhuis & Wriedt (2006), p.60</ref>

Late life

After the death of Luther in 1546, Bugenhagen took care of Luther's widow and children. Bugenhagen died in Wittenberg in 1558 and was buried at St. Mary's church. Other than for his theological opinions, Bugenhagen was also well-known because of his organising ability. Bugenhagen was also appreciated for his work in making a Middle Low German translation of Luther's Bible in 1534.

Johannes Bugenhagen was always a pastor at heart, and because of his love for music, his family coat of arms shows a harp.

See also






  • Hans-Günter Leder, Johannes Bugenhagen Pomeranus – vom Reformer zum Reformator. Studien zur Biographie (Frankfurt-am-Main: Peter Lang, 2002) (Greifswalder theologische Forschungen, 4).
  • Hans-Günter Leder, Johannes Bugenhagen Pomeranus - Nachgelassene Studien zur Biographie mit einer Bibliographie zur Johannes Bugenhagen-Forschung, herausgegeben von Irmfried Garbe und Volker Gummelt (Frankfurt-am-Main, Peter Lang, 2008) (Greifswalder theologische Forschungen, 15).
  • Cf. Johann Heinrich Zietz, Johannes Bugenhagen – zweiter Apostel des Nordens, nach seinen Lebensschicksalen und seiner Wirksamkeit für die Gestaltung der evangelischen Kirche: Ein biographischer Versuch (11829), Leipzig: Sühring, 21834, passim

Further reading

Bugenhagen's works online

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