Wolfgang Musculus and the Allegory of Malchus’s Ear -- By: Craig S. Farmer

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 56:2 (Fall 1994)
Article: Wolfgang Musculus and the Allegory of Malchus’s Ear
Author: Craig S. Farmer


Wolfgang Musculus and the Allegory of Malchus’s Ear

Craig S. Farmer

In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, an extraordinary number of commentaries on the Gospel of John were made available to the public by the new print technology. Print shops all over Europe were issuing editions of patristic and medieval commentaries at a frenetic pace. Beginning in the 1520s, the number of published commentaries on John increased even further by the appearance of works by new authors. From 1523, when the Paraphrase of Erasmus and the Annotations of Melanchthon were published, to 1553, when the commentaries of John Calvin and the Scottish Lutheran Alexander Alesius were published, thirty new works on John appeared in at least 108 separate printings.1 Of the thirty new titles, thirteen were exegetical works devoted exclusively to John’s Gospel; the others produced comments on John in the context of commentaries on the Gospels, the NT, or the whole Bible. John’s Gospel was clearly beloved by the Protestant Reformers, but the remarkable output of commentaries in this period was not the result of their work alone. Of the thirty new titles, fifteen were authored by Protestants, fifteen by Roman Catholics.

The large number of John commentaries produced in this period reflects the importance of Johannine interpretation in the religious controversies of the sixteenth century. The Reformation was not simply a dispute over Paul, but also involved competing claims over the correct interpretation of the fourth Gospel. The understanding of the eucharist (John 6:48–58), the authority of tradition (John 16:12–15), and the Petrine foundation of the papacy (John 21:15–17)—to name a few examples—were all matters debated on the basis of Johannine proof texts. Despite the importance of Johannine interpretation in the sixteenth century, little attention has been given to the commentaries produced in this period. In recent years, impressive studies have appeared on the John commentaries of Melanchthon, Erasmus, Cruciger, and Bucer, but most of the commentaries have yet to receive serious study.2

It is the purpose of this paper to introduce the commentary on John written by Wolfgang Musculus (1497–1563), a Protestant Reformer who assumed a position of leadership in the reformations in Augsburg and Berne. Musculus, who has received very little study, is remembered mostly for his massive work in systematic theology, the Loci communes sacrae theologiae....

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