Loci Communes Theologici

Loci Communes Theologici is the name given to expositions of evangelical dogmatics in the early times of the Reformation. It originated with Melancthon, and was retained by many as late as the 17th century. Melancthon was led to adopt it in consequence of its classical signification, the word loci being then used to denote the fundamental principles of any system or science, and he considered it desirable that the loci of theology should also be regularly established and defined: "Equibus rerum summa pendeat, ut quorsum dirigenda sint studia intelligatur" (Loci communes s. hypotyposes theologiae, 1521); "Prodest in doctrina Christ ordine colligere praecipuos locos ut intelligi possit; quid in summa profiteatur doctrina Christiana, quid ad eam portineat, quid non pertineat" (Loci communes, 1533, init.). But, as the very first principle of the Reformation was the Bible as a source of saving truth, it is evident the Loci communes theologici could be nothing else than the Scriptures themselves. In the first edition of his Loci Melancthon confined himself almost exclusively to the Epistle to the Romans, in the exposition of which he collected the Communissimi rerum theologicarum loci; in his second work (1533) he extended his field, following the historical order, and this plan has been generally adopted since. The most striking progress accomplished by this method, compared with the former scholastic treatment of dogmatics, is, as Melancthon himself pointed out, a return to the Bible on all points, instead of to the sentences of Peter Lombard, "Qui ita recitat dogmata ut nec muniat lectorem Scripturae testimoniis nec de summit Scripturae disputet." As the Reformation restored the Bible to the people, it was natural that the Loci theol. also should be less scientific and learned works than such as could help the people to a clearer understanding of the Scriptures. Hence they were published in German by Spalatin (1521). afterwards by J. Jonas (1536), and finally by Melancthon himself (1542), and designated by them as the chief articles and principal point of Scripture (Hauptartikel u. fürnehmste Punkte d. ganzen heil. Schrift), or of Christian doctrine (Hauptartikel christlicher Lehre). Melancthon, however, in the third part of his Loci (1543-59), gradually withdrew from this position, and adopted a manner of treating the subject more akin to scholasticism. This was subsequently the case with the Loci theologici of Abdias Praetorius (Schulze) (Wittemberg, 1569) and Strigel (ed. Pezel, Neust. 1581), who held the same views, as well as with those of Martin Chemnitz (ed. P. Lyser, Francf. a. M. 1591) and Hafenreffer (Tüb. 1600), who differed from him; also of Leonard Hutter (Wittemb. 1619), who went on an entirely different principle, which John Gerhard tried to soften down in his renowned Loci theol. (Jena, 1610), while A. Calov, in his Systema locor. theol. (Wittemb. 1655), carried it to its full extreme. After this time the expression Loci theologici ceased to be used in Lutheran dogmatics. In the Reformed Church it was used by Hyperius (Basle, 1566), W. Musculus (Berne, 1561), Peter Martyr (Basle, 1580), J. Maccov (Franeker, 1639), and D. Chamier (Geneva, 1653). See Gass, Gesch. d. prot. Dogmatik (1854, volume 1); Heppe, Dogmatik des deutsch. Protestantismus, etc. (1857, volume 1); C. Schwarz, Studien u. Kritiken (1855, 1, and 1857, 2). — Herzog, Real-Encyklopädie, 8:449. (J.N.P.)

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