The Marburg Colloquy was a meeting at Marburg Castle, Marburg, Hesse, Germany which attempted to solve a disputation between Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli over the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper. It took place between 1 October and 4 October 1529. The leading Protestant reformers of the time attended at the behest of Philipp I of Hessen. Philip's primary motivation for this conference was political; he wished to unite the Protestant states in political alliance, and to this end, religious harmony was an important consideration.
After the Diet of Speyer had confirmed the edict of Worms, Philipp I felt the need to reconcile the diverging views of Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli in order to develop a unified Protestant theology. Besides Luther and Zwingli, the reformers Stephan Agricola, Johannes Brenz, Martin Bucer, Caspar Hedio, Justus Jonas, Philipp Melanchthon, Johannes Oecolampadius, and Andreas Osiander participated in the meeting.
If Philip wanted the meeting to be a symbol of Protestant unity he was disappointed. Both Luther and Zwingli fell out over the sacrament.
Philip of Hesse had a political motivation to unify all the leading Protestants because he believed that as a divided entity they were vulnerable to Charles V. As a unified force, they would appear to be more powerful. Religious harmony was vital amongst the Protestants for there to be a unification.
Although the two prominent reformers, Luther and Zwingli, found a consensus on fourteen theological points, they kept differing on the last one pertaining to the Eucharist: Luther maintained that by Sacramental Union, the consecrated bread and wine in the Lord's Supper were united to the true body and blood of Christ for all communicants to eat and drink; Christ was mysteriously present "in, with, and under" the bread and wine. In contrast, Zwingli believed that the communion service was a commemoration of Christ’s sacrifices and that the bread and wine were purely symbolic. On this issue, they parted without having reached an agreement.
Underlying this disagreement was their theology of Christ. Luther believed that the human body of Christ was ubiquitous (present in all places) and so present in the bread and wine. This was possible because the attributes of God infused Christ's human nature. Luther emphasized the oneness of Christ's person. Zwingli, who emphasized the distinction of the natures, believed that while Christ in his deity was omnipresent, Christ's human body could only be present in one place, that is, at the right hand of the Father. Because of the differences Luther initially refused to acknowledge Zwingli and his followers as Christians, though following the colloquy the two Reformers showed relatively more mutual respect in their writings.
Near the end of the colloquy when it was clear an agreement would not be reached, Philipp asked Luther to draft a list of doctrines all that both sides agreed upon. The Marburg Articles, based on what would become the Articles of Schwabach, had 15 points, and every person at the colloquy could agree on the first 14. The very article of the Marburg Articles is following; “Fifteenth, regarding the Last Supper of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, we believe and hold that one should practice the use of both species as Christ himself did, and that the sacrament at the altar is a sacrament of the true body and blood of Jesus Christ and the spiritual enjoyment of this very body and blood is proper and necessary for every Christian. Furthermore, that the practice of the sacrament is given and ordered by God the Almighty like the Word, so that our weak conscience might be moved to faith through the Holy Spirit. And although we have not been able to agree at this time, whether the true body and blood of Christ are corporally present in the bread and wine [of communion], each party should display towards the other Christian love, as far as each respective conscience allows, and both should persistently ask God the Almighty for guidance so that through his Spirit he might bring us to a proper understanding".
At the later Diet of Augsburg the Zwinglians and Lutherans again explored the same territory as that covered in the Marburg Colloquy, and presented separate statements which showed the differences in opinion.
- First war of Kappel (1529)
- "Colloquy of Marburg". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved December 25, 2016.
- Phillip Cary, Luther: Gospel, Law and Reformation, [sound recording], Lecture 14
- Huldreich Zwingli, the Reformer of German Switzerland edited by Samuel Macauley Jackson et al., 1903, page 316
- G. R. Potter, 'Zwingli, Cambridge University Press, 1976
- On the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ
- Huldreich Zwingli, the Reformer of German Switzerland edited by Samuel Macauley Jackson et al., 1903. Online from Google Books
- Phillip Cary. Luther: Gospel, Law and Reformation, [sound recording], Lecture 14. 2004, The Teaching Company Limited Partnership