from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Urbanus Rhegius , * 1489 † 1541, a reformer active in southern and northern Germany
Menno Simons, a reformer active in the Netherlands and northern Germany

In historical studies and theology , the term reformer means a person from church history who was involved in the founding and shaping of the Protestant churches during the Reformation . The use is linked to the history of the Reformation.


At the time of the Reformation it was not considered necessary to define the men who could be assigned to the Reformers . It was only when the nature of the Reformation in its complexity could no longer be conveyed in an understandable way that a measure was needed by which a reformer could be identified.

In addition to the reformers Martin Luther , Philipp Melanchthon , Huldrych Zwingli , Martin Bucer and Johannes Calvin , Matthäus Alber , Jakob Andreae , Johannes Brenz , Johannes Bugenhagen , Heinrich Bullinger , Martin Chemnitz , Jacob Heerbrand , Gottschalk Kruse , Joachim Mörlin , Andreas Osiander , Urbanus Rhegius performed , Nikolaus Selnecker as well as Protestant princes such as Georg von Anhalt or Philip I of Hesse made an essential contribution to the implementation of the Reformation. The term radical reformers was coined for reformers outside of territorial Protestantism such as Thomas Müntzer and Andreas Bodenstein . Spiritualistic reformers such as Kaspar Schwenckfeld and Anabaptist reformers such as Balthasar Hubmaier and Menno Simons are also included in this.

  • For the history of the Reformation, see also the article Protestantism

Literary history

Matthias Flacius first tried to address the subject in his “Catalogus Testium veritatis” in 1570 when he wanted to prove the continuity of the church. In Basel wrote Theodore Beza de short biographies that in 1580 under the title "Icones" in Geneva appeared. Shortly afterwards a further completed collection came out in Amsterdam . Melchior Adam wrote “Vitae theologorum germanicorum” in Heidelberg in 1618, the most important work in this field for the time.

In the 19th century the lexicons of a general and specific kind such as the "Heretic Lexicon" by BP Fritz, the "Council Encyclopedia " by M. Diesch, the Real Encyclopedia for Protestant Theology and Church and the General German Biography etc., which are only representative here, increased should be mentioned. This tendency continued in the 20th century. B. continued with the Neue Deutsche Biographie , the Theologische Realenzyklopädie and Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon , which summarized a larger part of people in church history and which represented an assignment of the reformers.

In various specialist literature such as Carl Ullmann's “Die Reformatoren vor der Reformation” (The Reformers before the Reformation ”), attempts were made to see the name of the reformers as a broad concept of order that should interpret reforms as a yardstick for evaluating more broadly. However, that tendency did not prevail. Because the concept of the reformer is borne by the special reform of the Reformation , which moves within a fixed framework. A reform is a planned and gradual change or improvement of social conditions, but the reform of the Reformation period is seen in a time-limited framework.

Again and again there were therefore efforts to work out a specifically classifying prosopography . Robert Stupperich published his Reformatorenlexikon in 1984 and largely summarized the group of people who can be identified as a reformer. Basically, he excluded the reformers, often incorrectly referred to as (pre-) reformers, such as John Wyclif and Jan Hus , and thus created a firm orientation on the topic.

Aspects of concept formation

Fictional disputation between leading reformers and representatives of the Catholic Church, surrounded by important reformers. Sitting on the left side of the table: Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen and Oecolampad. Etching, 1650, Zurich Central Library

When the term reformer is formed, the work for the Reformation is generally the decisive criterion. Understanding the Reformation therefore results in a time limit, which begins with the publication of the 95 theses and ends with the conclusion of the confession-building process (i.e. the time between the Lutheran Book of Concords in 1580 and the Reformed Dordrecht Synod in 1618/19).

The Reformation was not a process that was restricted to the Church, but a movement that extended across all areas of life. In essence, it penetrated the entire ecclesiastical and political movement and penetrated all areas of life. That is why the Reformation is also known as the Reformation in terms of church politics. Furthermore, the Reformation quickly spread across the borders of the old German states. If one would like to label all reformist personalities with the designation reformer, the limits of the definition shift, so that here a limitation had to take place in the formation of the term.

If one looks at the main representatives of the Reformation, about whom there is no doubt that they are Reformers, one realizes that they are primarily theological representatives. As a reformer of the school system, Melanchthon is a striking exception. If one derives a formulation of the reformers in relation to the unequivocal reformers, the sensitive context arises that the reformers include those who, on behalf of the great initiators, continued the preaching in sermons and lessons.

Often one also comes across the argument that the Reformation was also a reform of church politics and therefore the political greats of the Reformation period should be included. There is no doubt that regents and their representatives were instrumental in the Reformation. Often they set the course so that the Reformation would not have been possible without their supportive power. However, one should also bear in mind that this did not arise from the theological attitude in the reformist sense, but rather motives that are close to self-interest. Last but not least, Luther rejected a politicization of his theological teaching. Therefore rulers and political giants cannot be regarded as reformers in the strict sense.

The emerging “terminus Semilutheranism” in the northwest shows that there were groups that were touched by the spirit of the Reformation, but did not get through to the Reformation. The Reformation was a movement of the Christian Church and cannot be equated with, for example, humanism , which did not refer to the individual but extended to the totality of all areas of life. For this reason such marginal phenomena can only be named sporadically in connection with the reformers if they were significant in another respect.


Since the term was apparently formulated very narrowly, it often appears difficult to properly assign the term. As a rule, it is used to describe theologians who introduced Protestant teaching into their areas of office during the Reformation. When assigning the term, it has proven useful that it is about people who were involved in church political events such as the Wittenberg Agreement , the Reichstag in Augsburg in 1530, etc., on the side of the Protestant theologians. Only where the basic aspect of the theological implementation of the Reformation is blurred, people can be assigned to the Reformers if they had a formative influence on the events of the Reformation history based on theological necessity.

See also


  • Kurt Aland : The Reformers. Luther - Melanchthon - Zwingli - Calvin, with an afterword on the history of the Reformation ; Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1980 2 ; ISBN 3-579-03964-4
  • Robert Stupperich : Reformatorenlexikon ; Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1984; ISBN 3-579-00123-X
  • Carl Ullmann: The Reformers before the Reformation , 2 vol .; Hamburg 1842 1 ; Gotha 1866 2

Web links

Commons : Reformers  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Hans-Jürgen Goertz (Ed.): Radical Reformators. 21 biographical sketches from Thomas Müntzer to Paracelsus . Munich 1978.