It is the 25th of June 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1530. It was the year when we were introduced to the newest iteration of the order of St. John: the Knights of Malta. The Knights of this order started as hospitallers during the Crusades. Eventually, the job of running hospitals was merged with protecting the sick. This task eventually became their primary job, and they would become better known as Knights. The Knights were always on the move for strategic reasons. Formerly in the Holy Lands, when the Crusade fizzled, they moved on to Cyprus and then Rhodes. However, they were defeated by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1523 and dispersed. Charles V was interested in using the Knights as corsairs against pirates in the Mediterranean. As the Emperor, he held many titles, one of which was being the King of Sicily. He could also lay claim to the vassal of Sicily, the small Mediterranean island of Malta. Charles granted the Knights the Island, which they would call their home from 1530 until 1798.
1530 saw the first publication of the Pentateuch in English. William Tyndale, who earlier in the decade produced the first English New Testament, had attempted to translate the entire Bible into English. His fluency in Languages permitted him to access Latin, Greek, and Hebrew texts as well as Luther's German Bible. After 1530, he translated a few more books from the Old Testament, but his arrest and trial in 1536 led to his death by burning under Imperial authority. His friends and followers completed his work and published the full Bible in English the following year.
Emperor Charles was busy this year. 1530 saw the end of the war of the League of Cognac. The battle lines were drawn thus: Charles V with both the Empire and Habsburg Spain took on the so-called League of Cognac, this bizarre alliance included France, England, the Pope, and the Republic of Florence.
Florence is the important part here because they had thrown off D'Medici rule three years prior. While the people rejoiced, the Emperor and the Pope both preferred known and strong leadership in the critical region of Italy. When the Empire was victorious, both sides agreed to restore the D'Medicis to rule Florence.
In 1530 it seemed that all roads lead back to Charles, and that makes sense as he was the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. On top of the political intrigue, the issue of the Reformation loomed large. A Diet was called to meet in the German city of Augsburg in this year. And it was on this day, the 25th of June, at that Diet that the Emperor was presented the Augsburg Confession.
The presentation of the book, which consisted of 28 Articles, written by Phillip Melanchthon and approved by over 30 theologians, was read out loud. It took over two hours to read. It was a watershed movement in the history of the Reformation. By 1530 various peasant uprisings had caused some to distance themselves from the movement. Furthermore, the movement was still more of negation of certain Catholic doctrines with no unified positive vision of Reformation doctrine. The Augsburg Confession represents the awakening of the "confessional" spirit, as hundreds like it were written in different regions over the next century. The Confession is most important as a positive statement that united the churches in many different lands. And while many eventually drew up their own confessions of faith, it was this Confession that first unified the disparate movement.
The presentation of this Confession was seen as so important, that 50 years later, the next generation of Lutherans presented their full theological statement of faith, the Book of Concord, on this precise day, the 25th of June.
The Augsburg Confession would undergo some later editing at the hands of Melanchthon under the influence of John Calvin in an attempt to unify the reforming movements. This was not well received; in fact, many Lutherans down to this day confess their belief in the Unaltered Augsburg Confession. That precise wording would become totemic for later Lutherans in the century. The Augsburg Confession, the first confession of the Reformation, was presented to Emperor Charles V on this, the 25th of June, in 1530.
The reading for today comes from the 20th-century theologian, William Willimon.
"Despite our earnest efforts, we couldn't climb all the way up to God. So what did God do? In an amazing act of condescension, on Good Friday, God climbed down to us, became one with us. The story of divine condescension begins on Christmas and ends on Good Friday. We thought, if there is to be business between us and God, we must somehow get up to God. Then God came down, down to the level of the cross, all the way down to the depths of hell. He who knew not sin took on our sin so that we might be free of it."
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 25th of June 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man whose own "Augsburg Diet" consists of Weisswurst, Leberknöde, and Schnitzel, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.