MELANCHTHON (Schwarzerd), PHILIPP° (1497–1560), German reformer and theologian. Born at Bretten in Baden, Melanchthon was a great-nephew of the Hebraist and Christian kabbalist Johann *Reuchlin, who taught him Hebrew and supervised his education at Pforzheim. In 1518, at the age of 21, Melanchthon was appointed professor of Greek at Wittenberg but within a year he had sided with Martin *Luther in the struggle with Rome, thus alienating Reuchlin, who later disinherited him. Melanchthon was Luther's principal assistant in translating the Old Testament into German (1523–34). Widely respected as a humanist and theologian, he favored study of the Kabbalah, but condemned its later accretions. One of his addresses on the importance of Hebrew, De studio linguae Ebraeae, appeared in 1549. Although Melanchthon was influenced by Luther's antisemitism, he avoided its cruder excesses and in 1539, at the Frankfurt religious assembly, publicly denounced the blood libel that had resulted in the martyrdom of 38 Brandenburg Jews in 1510.
K. Hartfelder, P. Melanchthon als Praeceptor Germaniae (1889); G. Ellinger, Philipp Melanchthon (Ger., 1902); F. Hildebrandt, Melanchthon: Alien or Ally? (1946); C.L. Manschreck, Melanchthon, the Quiet Reformer (1958); H. Sick, Melanchthon als Ausleger des Alten Testaments (1959); G. Kisch, Melanchthons Rechtsund Soziallehre (1967); Baron, Social2, 13, 229ff.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.