He was born Philip Schwarzerdt (Black Earth) in Bretten, Germany on Feb. 16, 1497. His father was a master of armory in Saxony and his mother came from a well-to-do family of merchants.
Philip excelled in the study of Latin and Greek. Because he was such a good student his uncle gave him the name “black earth” in Greek, Melanchthon . He was ready to take his Masters exam at age 15, but his professors didn’t think he would be accepted as a teacher at such a young age. He did receive his Masters degree two years later and began to teach. He was urged to get married because others thought it would aid him in his life. In 1519 he stated that marriage would interfere with his studies and teaching. However, he did get married in November of the next year.
He joined Martin Luther at the University of Wittenberg in 1518. Melanchthon was a popular lecturer with as many as 2,000 students attending. He and Luther became lifelong friends and associates. He founded schools, wrote textbooks and systematized Lutheran theology.
In April 1530, Emperor Charles V called a meeting between representatives of Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism hoping to reach an agreement. Luther was still under the papal excommunication issued in 1521 and under imperial ban. He was still officially an outlaw. Therefore, Melanchthon was appointed the chief Lutheran representative at the meetings at Augsburg. He was the primary author of the Augsburg Confession, which was presented to the Emperor on June 25. The confession defined Lutheran doctrine and teaching. It demonstrated how Lutherans were not a renegade heretical group, but their teachings were based on Scripture and in accord with the historic teachings of the church. The Augsburg Confession is still the defining document of Lutheranism place in the Christian church.
Melanchthon continued to work for the church until his death on April 19, 1560.