The Smalcald Articles or Schmalkald Articles (German: Schmalkaldische Artikel) are a summary of Lutheran doctrine, written by Martin Luther in 1537 for a meeting of the Schmalkaldic League in preparation for an intended ecumenical Council of the Church. Luther's patron, Elector John Frederick of Saxony, asked him to prepare these articles for the League's meeting in 1537, held again in Schmalkalden. The League had been organized in 1531 as a union of various Lutheran territories and cities, to provide a united military and political front against Roman Catholic politicians and armies, led by Emperor Charles V. When the Schmalkaldic League meet, Luther was taken very ill with a severe case of kidney stones and so was unable to attend the meeting. The league ultimately determined not to adopt the articles Luther had written. They were influenced not to adopt the Smalcald Articles by Philipp Melanchthon, who was concerned that Luther's writing would be regarded as divisive by some. Melanchthon was asked to write a clear statement on the Papacy and this he did, a document that was adopted at the meeting as the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope. The Smalcald Articles were highly prized by John Frederick who ordered that they be made a part of his last will and testament. And though they were not adopted at the meeting of the Schmalkaldic League in 1537, they were widely used and were incorporated into the Book of Concord in 1580 as one of the Lutheran Confessions of the faith.
Luther summarized what he regarded to be the most important teaching in Christianity:
The first and chief article is this: Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised again for our justification (Romans 3:24–25). He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works and merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood (Romans 3:23–25). This is necessary to believe. This cannot be otherwise acquired or grasped by any work, law, or merit. Therefore, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us… Nothing of this article can be yielded or surrendered, even though heaven and earth and everything else falls (Mark 13:31)
Although the intended Council was never held, the Smalcald Articles were seen as a supplement to the other Confessions of the Lutheran Church and are still used today. They are included in the Book of Concord.
The Smalcald Articles holds to the controversial view that the Pope is the Antichrist, a view which later became an article of faith in many Lutheran churches.
[...]the Pope is the very Antichrist, who has exalted himself above, and opposed himself against Christ because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power, which, nevertheless, is nothing, and is neither ordained nor commanded by God. This is, properly speaking to exalt himself above all that is called God as Paul says, 2 Thess. 2, 4. Even the Turks or the Tartars, great enemies of Christians as they are, do not do this, but they allow whoever wishes to believe in Christ, and take bodily tribute and obedience from Christians[...] Therefore, just as little as we can worship the devil himself as Lord and God, we can endure his apostle, the Pope, or Antichrist, in his rule as head or lord. For to lie and to kill, and to destroy body and soul eternally, that is wherein his papal government really consists[...] The Pope, however, prohibits this faith, saying that to be saved a person must obey him. This we are unwilling to do, even though on this account we must die in God's name. This all proceeds from the fact that the Pope has wished to be called the supreme head of the Christian Church by divine right. Accordingly, he had to make himself equal and superior to Christ, and had to cause himself to be proclaimed the head and then the lord of the Church, and finally of the whole world, and simply God on earth, until he has dared to issue commands even to the angels in heaven.[...]
The Smalcald Articles are available in the following translations:
Bente, F., translator and editor. Concordia Triglotta. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921.
Kolb, Robert and Timothy J. Wengert, eds. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000. ISBN 0-8006-2740-7
McCain, Paul T., Robert C. Baker, Gene Edward Veith, and Edward A. Engelbrecht, eds. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions — A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005. ISBN 0-7586-0806-3
Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959. ISBN 0-8006-0825-9
Bente, Friedrich. Historical Introductions to the Book of Concord. (1921) Reprint. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1965. ISBN 0-570-03262-8