The architect of the Danish-Norwegian reformation: Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558)

Morten Kjær, Mattias Skat Sommer

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Johannes Bugenhagen (1485–1558) was perhaps the legal expert par excellence among the reformers in the Wittenberg Circle and the key theological figure in the legal implementation of the Reformation in Denmark-Norway. The article focuses on Bugenhagen’s biography, theology and his important work as the legal architect of the Reformation in Denmark-Norway, which culminated in the Church Ordinance of 1537/39 and his work as legal adviser to Christian III. The ordinance reflected Bugenhagen’s view of Christianity’s core and of the king’s duty to provide a sound legal framework in which Christianity could flourish, and in this regard Bugenhagen followed the thought of Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon. As a legal adviser to the king, Bugenhagen carefully tried to balance the tasks of giving advice, criticizing legal practice, and respecting secular authority. While both his ecclesiology and his understanding of marriage reflect a clear break with the Roman Catholic Church and canon law, he did not completely abandon all elements of canon law. Indeed, canon law could continue to be used in many cases, when it was not contrary to God.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLaw and The Christian Tradition in Scandinavia : The Writings of Great Nordic Jurists
EditorsKjell Å Modéer, Helle Vogt
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication date2021
ISBN (Electronic)9781003015253
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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