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Zacharias Ursinus

German reformer and theologian

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A reforming theologian, Ursinus was born Breslau in 1534 and studied at Wittenberg from 1550 to 1557. He then moved to Geneva for further study and from there took a teaching post in his native city of Breslau. His doctrine of the Lord's Supper led to his dismissal from Breslau in 1559. But in 1561, thanks to his mentor Peter Martyr Vermigli, received an invitation from Elector Frederick III to come to Heidelberg as director of the theological academy.

It was at Heidelberg that with Caspar Olevianus he made his )most notable contribution to church life by drafting the Heidelberg Catechism (1563). He also undertook the defense of the Catechism against Lutheran objections.

From 1562 he added the professorship of dogmatics to his administrative duties and also prepared a new liturgy. Zanchius relieved him the burden of teaching in 1568, but Ursinus became involved in a difficult struggle to bring in a new discipline on the Genevan model (1570). The death of the electtor in 1577 opened the way for Lutheran influences. Ursinus, with Zanchius, move to Neustadt in 1578 and spent his last year there. In addition to his work on the Catechism, he also wrote an important treatise on the Lutheran Book of Concord and did much to promote Peter Martyr's Loci.

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Zacharias Ursinus was one of the primary writers of the Heidelberg Catechism, one of the most important documents of Reformed churches across the world. As well as the Catechism itself, Ursinus authored commentary on the Catechism as well as various theological essays. In What is Catechism?, he defines the word “catechism,” prescribes the proper applications catechisms, and defends the importance of catechization generally. The theologian supports his claims with both Scripture and appeals to the history of the Church and its traditions. Ursinus provides modern readers with a succinct, fascinating look into the formation and reasoning behind Protestant catechisms.

In this article, Zacharias Ursinus exposits and expands question and answer 19 of the Heidelberg Catechism, of which he was the primary author. In greater detail, he defines the term “gospel” and what Christians mean when they speak of the Gospel. As a further supplement, he describes the history of the Gospel as a doctrine, and what part the Gospel plays in the life of the church. Concerning church practice, he outlines how the Gospel differs from the Law, the stated rules and standards of the faith. Along with plenty of scripture references, he includes brief discussions of several Greek words relevant to both scripture and the Catechism itself.

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Works About Zacharias Ursinus

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