Zacharias Ursinus (1534-1583), a sixteenth century German theologian, born Zacharias Baer in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland). Like all young scholars of that era he gave himself a Latin name from ursus, meaning bear. He is best known as a professor of theology at the University of Heidelberg and co-author with Caspar Olevianus (1536-1587) of the Heidelberg Catechism.

At age fifteen he enrolled at Wittenberg University, boarding for the next seven years with Philipp Melanchthon, the erudite successor of Martin Luther. Melanchthon admired young Ursinus for his intellectual gifts and his spiritual maturity, commending him to mentors throughout Europe. Subsequently Ursinus studied under Reformation scholars at Strasbourg, Basel, Lausanne, and Geneva. Sojourns in Lyons and Orleans gave him expertise in Hebrew. Returning to Breslau he published a pamphlet on the sacraments, which aroused the ire of Lutherans who charged him with being more Reformed than Lutheran. The Breslau opponents’ vitriolic reaction succeeded in driving him out of the city from whence he moved to Zurich and became friends with Peter Martyr, the Italian Reformer.

In 1561, upon Peter Martyr's recommendation, Prince Frederick III, elector palatine, appointed him professor in the Collegium Sapientiae at Heidelberg, where in 1563, having been commissioned by the Prince elector, he completed the Heidelberg Catechism in cooperation with Olevianus. The death of the Prince elector in 1576 led to the removal of Ursinus, who then occupied a professorial chair at Neustadt an der Haardt from 1578 until his death in 1583.

His Works were published in 1587-1589, and a more complete edition by his son and two of his pupils, Pareus and Reuterus, in 1612.


  • 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica (public domain)

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