How A Fact Becomes a Fiction
Earlier today I was sent an outrageously inaccurate tweet which misrepresented the historical circumstances of the execution of an Anabaptist and the part Zwingli played in the persecution of that sect. When asked for a source, the tweeter offered Roger Olson’s book on the history of Christian theology. So I checked. Here’s what Olson actually wrote about the purported 1000 people Zwingli oversaw executed:
Zwingli consented to the sentence after spending weeks urging Manz to repent. Olson does not at all intimate that Zwingli oversaw the hunting down of the Anabaptists over the next years, however. Yet see what has been done to Olson by the tweeter:
Olson doesn’t say thousands of Anabaptists were killed (and the fact is, there were less than a hundred executed throughout Switzerland during the entire sordid period when they were persecuted). Nor did Zwingli oversee Hubmeier’s torture. He actually helped him leave the Canton! And even had he wanted to, he couldn’t have. The sword belonged to the Council, not the Church. And Hubmeier perished years later, elsewhere.
I’ve requested, several times now, evidence from a primary source but none is forthcoming in support of the claim. Because there is none. What there is, on the other hand, is a tale repeated without foundation which in the repetition gains, among those uninformed, accuracy and truthfulness.
Nonetheless, if no primary source can be brought to the fore, the claim will remain false even if an angel from heaven claims it’s true.
History isn’t done by gossip.