The Marburg Articles are the result of the conference held at Marburg and sponsored by Phillip of Hesse. Zwingli’s publication of them took place on 3 October, 1529 and you can read them here. A previous post on the subject is available here. And an English translation of the Articles is, of course, available here.
Following is the fairly extensive account of the Colloquy by S.M. Jackson-
Zwingli had left Zurich on September 4th, in company with the Greek professor Rudolf Collin, as has been said; when they reached Marburg on September 27th, he was accompanied by Œcolampadius of Basel, Butzer and Hedio of Strassburg, and by representatives of Zurich, Basel, and Strassburg. The Landgrave entertained them and Luther and his company in his castle. It was the first time the leaders of the Lutherans and the Reformed had met one another and much was expected. Zwingli wished Latin to be used exclusively and the debate to be open; but Luther carried his contention for German, no shorthand reports of the speeches, and a limited audience—the Prince of Hesse, his counsellors, several nobles and magnates, in all not more than sixty and perhaps not that many at any one session. Zwingli read from the Greek Testament; Luther used his own German translation. Once when Zwingli read a passage in Greek, Luther requested that the readings be from the Latin or German.
The parties to the Colloquy were, on the Zwinglian side, Huldreich Zwingli from Zurich, Johann Œcolampadius from Basel, Martin Butzer and Caspar Hedio from Strassburg; on the other side Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, and Caspar Cruciger, all from Wittenberg; Friedrich Myconius from Gotha, Johann Brenz from Hall; Andreas Osiander from Nuremberg, and Stephen Agricola from Augsburg. With a view to shortening the debate the Landgrave had arranged that Zwingli and Melanchthon, Œcolampadius and Luther should meet on Thursday, September 30th, the day preceding that set for the Colloquy, each pair apart in private. The result was much mutual enlightenment as to their views, for it appeared that the Lutherans had really erroneous ideas as to the Zwingli position on minor points. In these private debates the Zwinglians were apparently on the defensive, as the Lutherans held them in more or less disguised contempt.
But in these private talks probably, and certainly in the public debate, there was outward courtesy. When on the next day, Friday, October 1st, the public debate began, it was found that Luther had written before him upon the table in chalk the words: “This is My Body,” in order not to allow himself, says Collin, to be drawn in the discussion with Zwingli and Œcolampadius away from these words. Luther opened the debate by stating that the debate should cover all points of Christian doctrine, as Zwingli had made errors on other points than that of the Eucharist, upon which latter subject he bluntly declared that he was sure he was right and always would be opposed to the Zwinglian view that the words he had written, “This is My Body,” were to be taken other than literally. To which Zwingli replied that the conference should be restricted to the single subject to discuss which it was called, and so the matter was arranged. Neither side had the smallest intention to yield to the other upon a single point, and both sides expressed the greatest contempt for the opposite side’s arguments.
The debate at first took the form of a colloquy between Luther and Œcolampadius. Then Zwingli joined in and accused Luther of judging the case before he heard it in that he declared that he was not going to withdraw from his opinion. This sounded well, but Zwingli was open to precisely the same charge. Both Luther and Zwingli were invulnerable to all arguments. After Zwingli and Luther had debated for a while, Œcolampadius spoke again, and Luther rejoined. So the debate went on for two days, mercifully interrupted by meals and sleep.
The principal points were the construction to be put upon Christ’s words used at the table on the night in which He was betrayed, “This is My Body”; and the relevancy of John 6 to the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, the patristic teaching on the subject, and the nature of the Body which could be found in the sacrament.
At the conclusion of the public debate the Swiss asked that
“Luther would take them for brethren. This Dr. Martin would not at all agree to. He even addressed them very seriously, saying that he was exceedingly surprised that they should regard him as a brother if they seriously believed their own doctrine true. But that [they considered him a brother] was an indication that they themselves did not think that there was much involved in the matter.”
This speech, reported by the faithful pen of Melanchthon, shows how much stress Luther laid upon his interpretation of the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Luther thus put the matter in his letter to Jacobus, the provost at Bremen:
“As to the statement the Sacramentarians are casting abroad to the effect that I was beaten at Marburg, they are acting after their own kind. For they are not only liars but the very incarnation of lying, deceit, and hypocrisy, as Carlstadt and Zwingli show by their very deeds and words. But you see that in the Articles formulated at Marburg they took back the pestiferous teaching that they had been promulgating in their published books in regard to baptism, the use of the sacraments, the external word, and the rest. We took back nothing.… They professed with many words that they wished to agree with us so far as to say that the body of Christ is truly present in the Supper, but spiritually, with the sole view that we deign to call them brethren, and so feign harmony. This Zwingli begged with tears in his eyes before the Landgrave and all of them, saying, ‘There are no people on earth with whom I would rather be in harmony than with the Wittenbergers.’ They strove with the utmost eagerness and vigour to seem in harmony with us, and could never endure the expression I used, ‘You have a different spirit from ours.’ They burst into flame every time they heard it.”
Œcolampadius in his account of the Colloquy is very much milder than Luther and milder than Zwingli. He believed that “there was no victory on either side since there was no fighting or contending.” Brenz is very explicit in regard to the split which was so plainly manifested between the speakers, and which surprised and grieved the Landgrave. He says:
“Afterwards, when the meeting had been disbanded, the Prince tried every possible way to secure agreement between us, speaking to each one of us by himself without witnesses, and begging, warning, exhorting, demanding that we have regard to the Republic of Christ and put strife away. [Failing to secure the absolute submission of the Zwinglians] we decided with one voice that they were outside the Communion of the Christian Church, and could not be recognised by us as brethren and members of the Church. This our opponents thought very hard indeed.… But when the Prince also thought it hard we modified our decision so far as to be willing to recognise our opponents of the Zwingli and Œcolampadius following as friends, but not as brethren and members of the Church of Christ.”
Justus Jonas, another Lutheran who was present, characterised the Zwinglian disputants thus:
“Zwingli has something countrified about him, and at the same time arrogant; Œcolampadius has a wonderful kindness of disposition and tolerance; Hedio is as courteous as he is liberal-minded; Butzer has the craftiness of the fox, a distorted imitation of acuteness and wisdom. They are all learned beyond a doubt, and the Papalists are no opponents in comparison with them, but Zwingli seems to have gone into letters under the wrath of the Muses and the power of Minerva.”
But it was not entirely in vain that the disputants met. They had been in such mutual ignorance of each other’s real views upon other topics than the Eucharist, and of the arguments by which they sustained them, that it was much to make them mutually acquainted on these points. They discovered with surprise and perhaps with gratitude that they agreed upon nearly everything. So, greatly to the Landgrave’s satisfaction, they drew up Articles upon their points of agreement and all signed them on October 3d. They also came a little closer together. Œcolampadius and Melanchthon, both mild-mannered men, probably could be cordial to one another, but between Luther and Zwingli there could be no cordiality.
How much longer they might have stayed at Marburg is uncertain, but the outbreak of the “English Sweat,” a form of pestilence,—named on the principle that a foreigner is an enemy and all bad things are to be attributed to him; in England the same sickness would probably be called French,—broke out in Marburg and hastened their departure. So on Tuesday, October 5th, they left. The Zwingli party went to Strassburg directly under the escort of Count Wilhelm von Fürstenburg and arrived there safely on October 15th; and on Tuesday, October 19th, Zwingli was once more in Zurich.
The next day he wrote this letter to Vadianus, in which he claims the victory, but writes in much milder language than Luther:
“Grace and peace from the Lord. I will now write briefly what you desire to know. After we had been brought under the safest conduct to Marburg, and Luther with his party had come, the Prince Landgrave determined that Œcolampadius and Luther, Melanchthon and Zwingli, should meet two by two in private to see whether they could not find some ground of agreement upon which they could found peace. Hereupon Luther received Œcolampadius in such a way that the latter came to me complaining secretly that he had met another Eck—but this is to be told to the trusty alone.
“But as for Melanchthon he was so slippery and so transformed himself after the manner of Proteus that he compelled me to seize a pen, to arm my hand and dry it as with salt and so hold him more firmly as he glided around in all sorts of escapes and subterfuges. From this I send you a few examples out of the hundreds of thousands of things said, yet under the condition that you are not to communicate them to any except the trusty, i. e., those who will not make a text for trouble out of them, for Philip [Melanchthon] himself has a copy of them. It was written by me while he was looking on and reading all, and sometimes dictating his own words. But I do not wish to give rise to a new quarrel. Philip and I were engaged in conversation for six hours, Luther and Œcolampadius for three. On the next day, in the presence of the Landgrave and twenty-four witnesses, Luther and Melanchthon and Œcolampadius and Zwingli went into the arena and fought there and in three other sessions.
For there were four in all in which we contended successfully. For we presented to Luther as needing explanation the fact that he had propounded those thrice foolish statements: that Christ suffered in His divine nature; that the Body of Christ is everywhere; and that the flesh could not profit of itself otherwise than as he now asserted. But the fine fellow made no reply, except that in the matter of the flesh not profiting he said: ‘You know, Zwingli, that as time progressed and their judgment grew, all the Fathers treated the passages of Scripture in ways different from the earlier expositions.’ Then he said: ‘The Body of Christ is eaten corporeally in our body, but in the meantime I will reserve this to myself whether the Body is eaten by the soul.’ And yet a little before he had said: ‘The Body of Christ is eaten with the mouth corporeally, the soul does not eat Him corporeally.’
He also said: ‘The Body of Christ is produced by these words,’ This is My Body,” no matter how wicked the man who pronounces these words.’ He conceded that the Body of Christ is finite. He admitted that the Eucharist can be called the sign of the Body of Christ. These and other innumerable vacillating, absurd, and foolish utterances of his, which he babbled forth like pebbles on a beach, we so argued on that now the Prince himself is on our side, although for the sake of certain princes he pretended not to be. Almost all the Court of Hesse have deserted Luther. He himself grants that our books could be read without harm. Hereafter he will suffer the parties who agree with us to retain their positions. Prince John of Saxony was not present, but the Prince of Wittenberg was.
“We parted with the understanding which you will see in print. Truth was so clearly superior that, if ever any one was overcome, Luther, the impudent and obstinate, was beaten, and before a wise and just judge, although meantime he was unconquered. We have effected this good, that after we shall agree in the other dogmas of the Christian religion, the Pope’s party cannot entertain the hope that Luther will be theirs. While I write this I am wearied with my journey; when you come to us you shall have a full report. For I think we have also gained something else; things that will prove a safeguard for religion and against the monarchy of Cæsar. These also shall be set forth to you when the time shall demand it. Meanwhile, farewell, and greet all friends.
If you still want to read more, you can do so in the following essays in Zwingliana: