Kolb, Robert. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000.
“Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope’ pp. 329-345.
This document, from early in 1537, was written for presentation at Mantua along with the Augsburg Confession (Kolb 2000, 329). It was written by Philip Melanchthon in consultation with a number of other theologians. The text opens with a statement of the controversy. “The bishop of Rome claims to be superior by divine right to all bishops and pastors. In addition, he claims to possess by divine right the power of both swords, that is, the authority to confer and transfer royal authority. Third, he states that it is necessary for salvation to believe these things” (Kolb 2000, 330). These three claims are rejected.
Based on Luke 22:20-27, Matthew 18:1-4, John 20:21, Galatians 2:2, 6, and 1 Corinthians 3:4-8; 21-22 the bishops are considered as equals. There is no superiority of one bishop over all the others (Kolb 2000, 33). It is certainly not by divine right, though in the council of Nicea there was a human and pragmatic decision to establish order through a heirarchical ranking (Kolb 2000, 332). The claims of a special authority of Peter are answered by observing that Peter was used as a representative of all the disciples (Matt. 16:18-19, John 21:17, etc) (Kolb 2000, 334). The validity of the ministry is in God’s gift, not in being appointed by a particular bishop (Kolb 2000, 335).
The claim to temporal authority is addressed next. “Christ gave to his apostles only spiritual authority, that is, the command to preach the gospel, to proclaim the forgiveness of sins, to administer the sacraments, and to excommunicate the ungodly without the use of physical force” (Kolb 2000, 335). Melanchthon cites various wars which were unsuccessful in creating righteousness (Kolb 2000, 336).
The third article is that all people must agree with the views of the papacy. Using Galatians 1:8 and Acts 5:29 the conclusion is that “a heretical pope is not to be obeyed” (Kolb 2000, 336). If the pope claims divine authority he has rejected Christ’s teaching (Kolb 2000, 337). The text continues with a list of abuses f power.
After the rejection of the pope’s authority, the Augsburg Confession is presented as a positive statement of what is good and right (Kolb 2000, 340). In essence, the work of a bishop is that of a pastor. It is not a political office (Kolb 2000, 312).