What is the “Unaltered” Augsburg Confession?
As we enter the month of June, we especially thank God for our distinctive Lutheran Confession—being the faithful continuance of orthodox Christian Doctrine, as it was originally received from the apostles. On June 25th, in the year 1530, the Augsburg Confession was presented before Emperor Charles V, as a summary of the teachings of Holy Scripture. This Augsburg Confession has become the fundamental symbol of the Lutheran church. When the complete Book of Concord was published in 1580, it was released also on June 25th, intentionally to honor the fiftieth anniversary of the Augsburg Confession.
On our Church sign are the three letters, “UAC”. This stands for “Unaltered Augsburg Confession.” These three words mean that we, along with historical Lutheranism, hold to the original text of the Augsburg Confession, as it was presented on June 25th, 1530.
But, if we specify the “unaltered”, that implies there was an “altered”. Philip Melanchthon, the author of the Augsburg Confession as well as of the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (also in the Book of Concord), rewrote the Augsburg Confession a number of times. These later versions are known as the Variata (a Latin word, which simply means “a variant”). Melanchthon only intended to make the Confession clearer and to not offend fellow Christians unnecessarily—in his own words, “the meaning was the same, though in the later copies milder and plainer words were used.” Unfortunately, the Variata opened up the door for false claims of fellowship with the Calvinists and opened up Melanchthon to accusations of unfaithfulness by his fellow Lutherans. To this day, in American Lutheranism, Melanchthon is frequently remembered as a traitor to the Lutheran church for altering the Augsburg Confession. They cite, in particular, one of the Variata, written in 1540, in which Melanchthon allegedly changes article X, on the Lord’s Supper, for the sake of the Calvinists. We shall compare.
This is article X, as found in the original Augsburg Confession of 1530 and preserved in the Book of Concord of 1580:
Of the Supper of the Lord, they [our churches] teach, that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed to those who eat in the Supper of the Lord; and they disapprove of those that teach otherwise.Jacobs edition.
The Variata of 1340 reads:
Of the Lord’s Supper they teach that, together with the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ are truly tendered to those that eat in the Lord’s Supper.Jacobs, vol. 2, p. 139.
Two phrases are missing from the 1540 Variata: “truly present,” and, “they disapprove of those that teach otherwise.” This omission is said to have been in favor of the Calvinists, who falsely teach that the body and blood of the Christ are not in the bread and wine, but only in heaven, also that we do not receive His body and blood sacramentally by physically eating and drinking, but by being spiritually raised to heaven to feed on Him there.
Comparing the two texts, above, the Variata certainly does not teach Calvinism and only could if someone maliciously twisted the intentions of the author. Martin Luther, himself, approved the 1340 Variata as faithful to the original. But, men are sinful. In time, fellow Lutherans, papists, and Calvinists would all treat the Variata edition as an attempt at false unity with the Calvinists. It became the symbol of a false Lutheran. After all, while the Calvinists pretended that they agreed with the Variata, they never could agree with the original Augsburg Confession.
For this reason, when the Book of Concord was published in 1580, the original Augsburg Confession was immediately and without question held up as the most faithful, clear, and agreed upon text, and the letters, “UAC” became a mark of the orthodox.
At such times, we remember the warning of Martin Luther, in his preface to the Small Catechism:
“Let the preacher take the utmost care to avoid all changes or variations in the text and wording of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Sacraments, etc. Let him, on the contrary, take each of the forms respectively, adhere to it, and repeat it anew year after year. For young and inexperienced people cannot be successfully instructed unless we adhere to the same text or the same forms of expression. They easily become confused when the teacher at one time employs a certain form of words and expressions, and at another, apparently with a view to make improvements, adopts a different form. The result of such a course will be, that all the time and labor which we have expended will be lost.”
 James William Richard, Philip Melanchthon: The Protestant Preceptor of Germany, 1497–1560 (Forgotten Books, 2015), 289.
 J. L. Neve, History of Christian Doctrine, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: The Muhlenberg Press, 194), 267.
 Richard, 283–284.
 Jacobs edition.
 Jacobs, vol. 2, p. 139.
 Martin Chemnitz, Timothy Kirchner, and Nicolaus Selnecker, Apology or Vindication of the Augsburg Confession, trans. by James L. Langebartels, ed. by Kevin G. Walker (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1583–2018), 344.