Biographical Essays

The following articles are original biographical essays written by students at Martin Luther College. These essays serve as an introduction to key historical figures in Lutheranism and help guide readers into deeper learning.

Balthasar Mentzer

by David Strucely

During the Age of Lutheran Orthodoxy, many theologians arose who academically and dogmatically defined Lutheranism. Some of these men had a great impact, while others made only a small contribution. One of these lesser known theologians is Balthasar Mentzer. He lived during a critical time in the Lutheran Church. Although the previous generation had been responsible for uniting Lutheranism through the Book of Concord, it was the responsibility of Mentzer’s generation to defend Lutheranism and also explain its doctrinal standing. Mentzer, in particular, is known for his polemics defending Lutheranism.

Franz Pieper

by David Strucely

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Missouri Synod had no greater teacher than Franz Pieper. The successor of the synod’s founder, C.F.W. Walther, was well equipped to lead the synod after Walther’s death. The fifty-six year ministry of this man shaped the Missouri Synod as it became the most influential synod in American Lutheranism.

Carl Manthey-Zorn

by Andrew Hussman

Carl Manthey-Zorn was born March 18, 1846 in Sterup, Germany, not far from the border of Denmark. His father, Hans Zorn, was a Lutheran pastor and his mother, Lina Manthey, was from a Danish noble family (when Carl was born his Manthey grandfather wanted him to have his surname, since he himself had no sons). Carl received a good German education as a child while he lived in Hochspeyer and Odernheim, in western Germany. Despite his confirmation and upbringing in a pastor’s household, religion did not have a big impact on him at this time in his life.

Matthias Hafenreffer

by Andrew Hussman

Matthias Hafenreffer, although a lesser-known Lutheran theologian of the Age of Lutheran Orthodoxy, exemplifies the dedication to preserving the purity of God’s Word that characterized this age.

August Pieper

by Aaron Voss

August Otto Wilhelm Pieper was born on September 27, 1857, in Carwitz, Pomerania, as the second youngest son to August Berhnhard Pieper and his wife Bertha. The pedigree of this great Wisconsin synod pastor, professor, and theologian was not that of a pastor soldiering for the gospel, but rather that of a soldier in the Prussian army. His father followed a line of Piepers and served in the Prussian army. August’s father eventually reached the rank of corporal, but after a year in this position, he decided the private life better suited him. Pieper’s father was honorably discharged, and he transitioned from one leadership role to another. He became mayor of Carwitz and was highly respected as a peaceable man. He was by all accounts a good ruler, especially because he supported Frederick William III’s Prussian Union. His unionist support looked good on his résumé but could have been detrimental to the history of our beloved Synod.

Jacob Heerbrand

by Aaron Jensen

Jacob Heerbrand was born on August 12, 1521 at Geingen in Swabia to Andreas and Barbara Heerbrand. Andreas, a weaver by trade, was also very academically minded, pursuing math and Latin especially. Andreas had also been very interested in music in his younger years, but later came to regret the amount of time he spent on something which was only secondary instead of focusing on more important matters. He did what he could to keep his son away from music to prevent him from making the same mistake. Setting aside music, and also math and Latin, he concentrated himself instead on theology, reading Luther diligently. He took care in raising Jacob to cultivate within him an eagerness for both knowledge and hard work. Already as a young boy Jacob would come home from church with questions for his father about the content of the sermons.

George Stoeckhardt

by Philip Hunter

Perhaps because he succeeded the prolific C.F.W. Walther as Professor of Exegesis at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, George Stoeckhardt is not as well-known as he perhaps should be. Beginning during an early ministry full of adventure and obstacles, and continuing throughout a long ministry in America, Stoeckhardt maintained an intimate connection with the Scriptures in their original languages. Exegetic study and its application were the foundation of his life. For this reason, Christian Education mattered a great deal to him. In these ways and others, Stoeckhardt provides an example for all Christians and especially for called workers.

Johannes Brenz

by Andrew Hussman

Johannes Brenz may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think about the fathers of the Reformation like Luther and Melanchthon. Many Lutherans have never even heard of him before. Yet this Lutheran father played an important part in spreading the Reformation and nurturing its growth.

C.F.W. Walther

by Daniel Waldschmidt

Walther was the greatest American Lutheran theologian and a devout student of Luther. As a founding father of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Walther played a major role in uniting the Lutherans who had immigrated to America. He was a respected pastor, professor, and theologian.

Adolf Hoenecke

by Timothy Grundmeier

Chiefly responsible for the Wisconsin Synod's move away from the unionism of the German mission societies, Hoenecke is the theological father of the Wisconsin Synod.

David Hollaz

by Kirk Lahmann

Most renowned for his systematic text, "Examen Theologicum Acroamaticum," Hollaz was a respected pastor and doctor of theology during the period known as the Lutheran Orthodoxy. His death ended the so-called "Silver Age" of Orthodoxy and marks the rise of the pietistic movement.

David Chytraeus

by Nathaniel Biebert

Known as "The Last of the Lutheran Fathers," Chytraeus helped guide the Lutheran church through the controversy that arose after Luther's death. Although he is relatively little-known, he contributed to the framing of the Formula of Concord while it was in its final stages.

Johannes Andreas Quenstedt

by Caleb Bassett

After Chemnitz and Gerhard, Quenstedt was likely the most influential theologian of the post-Reformation church. Quenstedt faced numerous challenges in his life, suffering the death of two wives and dealing with physical ailments. He endured to produce his Theologia Didactio-Polemica Sive Systema, an extensive systematic theology text.

Nikolaus Selnecker

by Souksamay Phetsanghane

After facing death as a young man, Selnecker developed into a leading theologian of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Gentle in demeanor, Selnecker helped to frame the Formula of Conord. In addition to his theological pursuits, Selnecker was also an accomplished hymn writer.

Johann Gerhard

by Nathaniel Biebert

“Gerhard is the third (Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard) in that series of Lutheran theologians in which there is no fourth” As a young man, the learned and talented Gerhard experience a great deal of suffering and sickness. Through it all his devotion to Christianity grew and grew. He put his prodigious talent to work for the church as a dogmatician, devotional writer, pastor, and advocate of Lutheran orthodoxy.

Jakob Andreae

by Benjamin Foxen

During a time of religious flux after the death of Martin Luther, Jakob Andreae worked tirelessly to unite the various factions of Protestants under the banner of Lutheran orthodoxy. His work culminated as a participant in the formation of the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, which united Lutherans under a common confession.

Martin Chemnitz

by Joshua Zarling

Martin Chemnitz is known as "the second Martin," after Martin Luther. The second Martin played a pivotal role in the solidification of the Lutheran church after Luther's death. Facing opposition from the Roman church after the Council of Trent, Chemnitz stood strong with the other framers of the Book of Concord and helped produce the Solid Declaration.