Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 30, 2012

Chancellor Melchior Nicolai: German Theologian

In my post of September 25th I spoke of 17th century theologian Tobias Wagner and how men of his caliber shattered the illusion of Germans being uneducated backwoods peasants. I found the life of his father-in-law Melchior Nicolai to be just as fascinating . . .

Unlike Wagner, who was often set in his ways but rarely mentioned as being overly confrontational, Melchior Nicolai is described by the “Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia” as a “rather quarrelsome Wittenberg theologian of the Lutheran orthodox wing and a staunch fighter against Anabaptism in his home country”! Such a statement brings home the truth that, although Protestant groups would have done well to band together in the 16th and 17th centuries, there were often petty squabbles that characterized the lack of ecumenism of this time period.

Why was Melchior Nicolai named “quarrelsome”? He loved his own particular faith, Lutheranism, so well, that that love occasionally brought him into conflict with those of differing denominations. Nicolai was born in 1578 when Protestantism was still fairly new. Like his future son-in-law Tobias Wagner, he was a familiar face and trusted advisor at the University of Tubingen, also a professor of divinity. He was chancellor and dean before Wagner later took over that position. In about 1650, just nine years before his death, he was given the added responsibility of provost of Wittenberg.

Nicolai’s influence was great and his lasting works are impressive. Like most other German theologians, he could write prolifically in Latin, and often did so with the intent of defending the Lutheran faith against outside forces. “Colonial Families of Philadelphia,” involving one branch of the Nicolai-Wagner that moved to that area, says that “Dr. Melchoir Nicolai was an acute, independent, and very zealous theologian of great uprightness in his life and conversation.” It goes on to mention his fervent commentaries against Laurenz Forer, a noted Jesuit priest of Swiss extraction. Forer composed a number of works that boldly attacked Protestants, thus drawing Nicolai’s ire. I imagine their debates must have been quite colorful. Yet Tubingen’s chancellor never backed down.

He, along with Tobias Wagner, should be remembered for his fervent championing of the Lutheran faith.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved


  1. Hello, would love to better understand your interest in Melchior Nicolai and Tobias Wagner. I've been researching their work for years. Kind regards, Jane Merrill Puckett

  2. Hi Jane,

    Concerning my interest in Rev. Nicolai and Rev. Wagner, I've always been very interested in 16th and 17th century Protestantism and the theology greats who contributed so much to the Reformation. When I discovered that Rev. Wagner was a direct descendant of Doctor Martin Luther, and that he wasn't afraid to say what he meant, I knew he'd be one of my "heroes of the faith." I too find their works fascinating and am very pleased to find someone else who shares my appreciation!

  3. Hello, it's been quite some time since I've worked on my research. I've found quite interesting information on my ancestors. Are you interested in the Nicolai/Wagner family history? Jane Merrill Puckett


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