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Melanchthon‘s Model

Luther’s co-reformer, Melanchthon, was the Preceptor of the Reformational Educational Systems. Outwardly, the edifice of education he constructed was decidedly Classical. The interests of reason and culture assumed a large role in his educational system. Any humanist could accept one of Melanchthon’s oft-repeated sayings: “The right spirit in the quest is the love of truth.” When one seeks to interpret this humanistic aspect in Melanchthon, the clue to the place of the Scriptures in his educational system emerges. The Bible was not just another book to be studied along with other ancient writings. The other ancient writings were to be studied for what they would ultimately contribute to an enrichment of the biblical message (Manschreck, 203-204).

Loci Communes

Reformational education as developed under Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, Johann Gerhard, Abraham Calov, and Johann Andreas Quenstedt demonstrated a Lutheran tradition of Scholé (i.e., “restful learning”). As Manschreck (1955) described, “Reason and culture assumed a large role in the Lutheran educational system.” Classics or “Ancient Writings” were used to contribute to an enrichment of the Biblical message.

In an age well before electronics, students were encouraged to keep their own florilegium of quotations and poetry to memorize. Lutherans called this journal a “book of Loci Communes or  “Commonplaces” for a study skill. Mayes describes this:

Lutheran theologians from the Age of Orthodoxy suggested that future ministers of the gospel prepare for themselves a blank book in which they can write excerpts from readings, ideas, modes of speech, and the like in an orderly way, in order to ‘aid their memory and simplify future preaching, teaching, and writing endeavors. Such a book is called a book of Loci Communes, “Commonplaces” (Mayes).

Melanchthon’s Loci Communes

Students made excerpts and arranged them in their personal Loci Communes because their education could be impeded by many things including: inconstancy, infidelity, and fragility of their memory; or lack of a large book budget; or scarcity of certain books (Mayes).

Additionally, Lutheran liturgical and spiritual practices also encouraged students to embrace Scholé. Students celebrated what is true and reflects the real presence of Christ. Specifically, what changed Luther and  therefore Lutheranism was Classical Languages. Luther’s study of Hebrew and his discovery of the Gospel (in Greek) impacted his understanding of spirituality.

“From 1518, he defines meditation as a continual chattering and conversation with the mouth. When a person meditates, he says or sings the same words to himself over and over again. In fact, it is best to meditate out aloud, if possible, for the spoken word needs to go through the ears to penetrate the heart. Meditation involves a kind of extroversion. The written word, spoken out aloud, needs to occupy our full physical and mental attention” (Kleinig, 1986).

oratio, meditatio, & tentatio

Luther describes his own practice of spirituality that he himself had learned from singing, saying, and praying the Psalter (Kleinig, 2002). He believed and firmly taught, “You should not only meditate inwardly in your heart but also outwardly by repeating the words out aloud and by rubbing (reiben) at the written word [like a sweet-smelling herb], by reading and rereading it, carefully, attentively and reflectively, to gather what the Holy Spirit means by them. After paying full attention to the words, the reader may then go on a merry hunt as he compares them with other passages of the Scriptures which throw more light upon them” (Kleinig, 1986).

From his praying and chanting through the Psalter, “Luther proposed an evangelical pattern of spirituality as Reception rather than Self-promotion. This involved three things: prayer (Oratio), meditation (Meditatio), and temptation (Tentatio). All three revolved around ongoing, faithful attention to God’s word” (Kleinig, 2002).

Lutheran Reformational Education remains today in some parts of America, it has not been directly emulated by the Classical Christian Education movement. Classical educators can learn from the model established by Melanchthon in Reformational Europe.


Kleinig, J. W. (1986). The Kindled Heart: Luther on Meditation . Lutheran Theological Journal, 142-154 .

Kleinig, J. W. (2002). Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio: What Makes A Theologian? Concordia Theological Quarterly, 255-67.

Manschreck, C. (1955). The Bible in Melanchthon’s Philosophy of Education. Journal of Bible and Religion, 202-207.

Mayes, B. T. (2004). Loci Communes, A Theologian’s Best Friend. LOGIA A Journal of Lutheran Theology, 7-10.