« Amraphel Amsdorf, Nikolaus von Amulet »

Amsdorf, Nikolaus von

AMSDORF, NIKOLAUS VON: German Protestant; b. at Torgau (30 m. n.e. of Leipsic) Dec. 3, 1483; d. at Eisenach May 14, 1565. He began his studies at the University of Leipsic in 1500, but two years later went to Wittenberg, being among the first students in the newly founded university in that city. There he fell under the influence of Luther, whose intimate friend he became, and to whose teachings he lent unquestioning adhesion from the very beginning. He was with Luther at the Leipsic disputation in 1519, accompanied him to Worms in 1521, and was in the secret of his sojourn at the Wartburg. In 1524 he became pastor and superintendent in Magdeburg and was active in introducing the Reformation into that city, organizing the ritual closely on the model of Wittenberg. He performed similar services in Goslar and Einbeck. From the first he was rigid in his views, opposed to the least departure from the orthodox Lutheran doctrine, and fierce in his attacks on such men as Melanchthon and Butzer who came to represent a policy of conciliation and compromise both within the Protestant Church and toward the Roman Catholic princes. Thus he was largely instrumental in the failure of the Regensburg conference of 1541, where his attitude toward the emperor was as fearless as it was narrow. In the same year the Elector John Frederick appointed him bishop of Naumburg-Zeitz against the wishes of the chapter and in spite of the protest of the emperor. The battle of Mühlberg (1547) compelled him to seek refuge in Weimar. His quarrel with Melanchthon and his supporters had grown embittered with time, and he helped to found a new university at Jena in opposition to the tendencies represented at Wittenberg. In the same spirit he assumed charge of the Jena edition of Luther’s works, which was to correct the alleged faults and omissions of the Wittenberg edition.

In 1552 Amsdorf was made superintendent at Eisenach, whence, with Flacius, whom he caused to be called to Jena, he carried on a virulent polemic against the so-called Philippists and Adiaphorists. The formal break between the orthodox Lutheran party and the followers of Melanchthon at the colloquy of Worms in 1557 was largely due to Amsdorf’s efforts. From 1554 to 1559 he was engaged in a violent controversy with Justus Menius, superintendent at Gotha, concerning the doctrine of good works as essential to salvation; and in the stress of conflict he was led to assume the extreme position that good works are actually detrimental to the welfare of the soul, denoting by “good works,” however, those that man performs for the express purpose of attaining salvation. When, in 1561, as a result of his views on the doctrine of sin, Flacius, together with his followers, was expelled from Jena, Amsdorf was spared because of his advanced age and his great services to the Protestant cause in the early days of the Reformation.

(G. Kawerau).

Bibliography: E. J. Meier, biography of Amsdorf in M. Meurer, Das Leben der Altväter der lutherischen Kirche, iii., Leipsic, 1863; Eichhorn, Amsdorfiana, in ZKG, vol. xxii., 1901.

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