A fatal plague in 1541 deprived Bullinger of his aged mother (Anna Wiederkehr) (August 16) and one of his sons (September 30); and in the next year, of his beloved colleague Leo Judæ (June 19), in the midst of his invaluable labours on the Biblia Tigurina. The preface to this translation, which Bibliander had principally completed, was written by Bullinger in February 1543.*
*The Decades of Henry Bullinger: The Fifth Decade. (T. Harding, Ed.) (pp. xii–xiii).
On his discussion of war in his Second Decade, Ninth Sermon, Bullinger observes
…If the magistrate’s purpose be to kill the guiltless, I declared in my former sermons that then his people ought not to obey his wicked commandments. Let the magistrate therefore have an eye to himself, that he abuse not his lawful authority. And although the magistrate be licensed to make war for just and necessary causes; yet, notwithstanding, war is a thing most full of peril, and draweth with itself an endless troop of mischievous evils.
By war the just judgment of God doth plague the men whom his fatherly warning could never move; but among them many times, too, the guiltless feel the whip. In war, for the most part, soldiers misuse themselves, and thereby incur God’s heavy displeasure: there is no evil in all the world that war upholdeth not.
By war both scarcity of every thing and dearth do arise: for highways are stopped, corn upon the ground is trodden down and marred, whole villages burnt, provision goeth to wrack, handicrafts are unoccupied, merchandise do cease, and all do perish, both rich and poor.
The valiant strong men are slain in the battle; the cowardly sort run away for their lives to hide their heads, reserving themselves to be tormented with more exquisite and terrible kinds of cruel punishments: for wicked knaves are promoted to dignity, and bear the sway, which abuse mankind like savage beasts.
Hands are wrung on every side; widows and children cry out and lament; the wealth, that hath been carefully gathered to help in want to come, is spoiled and stolen away; cities are rased, virgins and unmarriageable maidens are shamefully deflowered, all honesty is utterly violated, old men are handled unreverently, laws are not exercised, religion and learning are nothing set by, godless knaves and cut-throats have the dominion: and therefore in the scriptures war is called the scourge of God. For with war he plagueth incurable idolaters, and those which stubbornly contemn his word.*
War, in substance, even when waged for a ‘just’ cause, is a sign of sin and the curse and evidence of humanity’s utter distance from God and unfamiliarity with his love.
*The Decades of Henry Bullinger: The First and Second Decades. (pp. 373–374).
Earlier today I mentioned Luther’s wicked book ‘On the Jews and Their Lies’ and the fact that Bullinger and the other Reformers were more than a little displeased about it, mentioning a letter from Bullinger to Bucer which included a discussion of it.
I wrote Emidio Campi and other trusted advisers and Emidio replied
The letter to Bucer is dated 8 December, 1543. You find it in HBBW 13, No. 1825, pp. 333-338.
Thankfully, those letters are available online- so I grabbed the one presently of interest and post it here for your edification and enjoyment:
In the preface, the editors of the American Edition of Luther’s works write
The fact that Luther, during the last years of his life, wrote treatises harshly condemnatory of the Jews and Judaism is rather widely known. The treatises themselves, however, have not previously been available in English. The publication here of the longest and most infamous of them, On the Jews and Their Lies, will no doubt prove dismaying to many readers, not only because it shows Luther at his least attractive, but also because of the potential misuse of this material. The risk to Luther’s reputation is gladly borne, since the exposure of a broader range of his writings to modern critical judgment is an inherent purpose of this American edition. However, the thought of possible misuse of this material, to the detriment either of the Jewish people or of Jewish-Christian relations today, has occasioned great misgivings. Both editor and publisher, therefore, wish to make clear at the very outset that publication of this treatise is being undertaken only to make available the necessary documents for scholarly study of this aspect of Luther’s thought, which has played so fateful a role in the development of anti-Semitism in Western culture. Such publication is in no way intended as an endorsement of the distorted views of Jewish faith and practice or the defamation of the Jewish people which this treatise contains.*
Luther’s book doesn’t just make us squirm today, it was also viewed negatively in Luther’s own day, among his own supporters!
Already upon its first appearance in the year 1543, Luther’s treatise caused widespread dismay, not only among contemporary Jews but also in Protestant circles. Melanchthon and Osiander are known to have been unhappy with its severity. Henry Bullinger, in correspondence with Martin Bucer, remarked that Luther’s views reminded him of those of the Inquisitors. And a subsequent document prepared by the churches of Zurich declared (speaking specifically of the treatise Vom Schem Hamphoras, published later in 1543), that “if it had been written by a swineherd, rather than by a celebrated shepherd of souls, it might have some—but very little—justification.”* [The Zurich document is cited in WA 53, 574. For the views of Melanchthon, Osiander, Bullinger, and other Reformers, see Lewin, Luthers Stellung zu den Juden (cited above, p. 96, n. 35), pp. 97 ff.]
*Luther’s works, vol. 47: The Christian in Society IV.
Im Geist der Reformation verstand Heinrich Bullinger Theologie in erster Linie als Auslegung der Heiligen Schrift. Mit diesem Band – dem siebtem in der Reihe seiner Theologischen Schriften – wird die Edition seiner Kommentare zu den neutestamentlichen Briefen fortgesetzt. Darin enthalten sind die Auslegungen zu den Briefen an die Galater, Epheser, Philipper und Kolosser.
Die Texte sind anhand der Erstauflage sowie der ersten Gesamtausgabe der Kommentare Bullingers zu den neutestamentlichen Briefen (1537) historisch-kritisch ediert worden. Die Edition wird durch eine Einleitung und insgesamt vier Register (Bibelstellen, Quellen, Personen und Orte) erschlossen.
TVZ have sent a review copy of this new publication. It’s an unexpected and most welcome blessing.
Luca Baschera opens the volume with an Introduction which evaluates the structure and sources utilized in the present edition of Bullinger’s commentaries on these four New Testament books. The commentary on Galatians runs from pages 9-124. Ephesians occupies pages 125-208. Philippians is found on pages 209-250. And Colossians is exegeted on pages 251-294.
The book concludes with a series of bibliographies (on sources, literature, etc.) and indices (biblical, source, persons, and places).
Baschera observes, of Bullinger’s exegetical work herein contained,
Da diese vier Briefe Bullinger zufolge eine Art ‘summa’ des christlichen Glaubens bieten, sie es ferner angemessen, sie als eine Einheit zu behandeln (p. ix).
The body of the volume is, of course, commentary. Especially helpful are the marginal road-signs which assist readers in finding particular subjects speedily. Here’s a photo of what I mean (and by the way, the TVZ editions of both Bullinger’s works and Zwingli’s works offer the same marginal sign-posts).
As to Bullinger’s remarks on the text- they are concise and text-centric. Bullinger may well be familiar with textual issues (such as the famous example at Eph 1:1) but he never lets on that he does. rather, he focuses all of his interest and attention on explaining the biblical text itself to and for his readers.
But, as one may well expect, those readers are the educated clerics of the Canton (and further). Bullinger writes in Latin for two reasons: first, because his audience is all of Europe and the learned of Europe all read Latin. And second, had he written in German (especially the dialect of German used in Zurich), his audience would have been considerably more narrow. A modern example may help- imagine a scholar wishing to publish a commentary on Ephesians today and deciding which language to use. If he uses, for instance, Polish, his audience will be quite small. If, though, he chooses English, his audience suddenly expands exponentially.
Bullinger wished to have his commentary read- so he wrote it in the most common language of the day (in Europe anyway). Bullinger aimed to help educated clerics across Europe understand Scripture so that they could then explain it to their congregations. Bullinger was, in sum, a very practical man.
Arriving, then, at a discussion of the commentary proper, a few citations may help readers get a hold on Bullinger’s brilliance and insight:
Of Gal 2:20 (one of my favorite texts), B. writes, in part
Constat enim in uno homine duos esse, veterem et novum. Secundum veterem ergo non vivimus, sed secundum novum vivit in nobis Christus (p. 51-52).
On Gal 5:22
Non dicit iam opera spiritus, sed fructus spiritus (p. 111).
Such examples could be multiplied hundreds and hundreds of times. Suffice it to say, Bullinger’s gift of scriptural interpretation is on full display.
There is nothing in this volume to criticize. It is beautifully printed (the font is crystal clear) and sturdily bound. The German bits by the editor are helpful but not overbearing. Baschera introduces the text and sets it in its context but then simply guides and helps us understand Bullinger (in excellent footnotes filled with historical and biographical details. The footnotes are not to be skipped). Baschera points readers to Bullinger and his era, he doesn’t hover over your shoulder and tell you what to think. And that’s the mark of a talented editor.
I love this book and will consult it often. I believe you will also find it loaded with merit. I commend it without hesitation or mental reservation.
From Emmerich Bullinger was removed to the university of Cologne; and entered July 8, 1519, at the college Bursæ-Montis. There the works of the school-divines, and chiefly of Peter Lombard and Gratian, soon engrossed his attention; and, in the providence of God, were converted into instruments for detaching him from the religion of Rome.
For in this course of reading meeting with frequent extracts from the fathers, he felt an earnest desire quickened within him to peruse their entire writings.
Accordingly, he solicited and obtained admission to a well-stored library of the Dominicans; and there studied with intense ardour several treatises of Chrysostom, Ambrose, Origen, and Augustine. Simultaneously the earlier tracts of Luther, especially his “Babylonish Captivity” and treatise “On Christian Liberty,” with the “Loci Communes” of Melancthon, came into his hands. He procured for himself also a copy of the New Testament, and devoted days and nights to the perusal of it, with the aid of the Commentaries of Jerome.
The result of these pursuits was, that Bullinger’s mind and heart opened gradually to the knowledge and reception of the gospel in its purity.*
Like the majority of Reformers, including Luther, the transition from Roman Catholic to Reformed / Lutheran wasn’t anything but a gradual progression. An evolution, if you will, of spiritual growth from theological infancy to theological maturity. For Bullinger, that full maturity only came after his encounter with Zwingli.
*The Decades of Henry Bullinger: The Fifth Decade. (T. Harding, Ed.) (p. viii). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Whenever one thinks of the Swiss branch of the Reformation, one usually thinks of Ulrich Zwingli as the pivotal figure. But like the conquering King David, it was not Zwingli’s lot to build God’s house. That calling came to Zwingli’s disciple and successor, Henry Bullinger. Like Solomon in Israel, Henry would expand the borders of the kingdom throughout Europe: consolidating, organizing, and shepherding the flock so newly in the reformed fold.
Heinrich Bullinger enjoyed his four hundred and ninety-second birthday this past July 18. Born in 1504 in Bremgarten, a small town about ten miles west of Zurich, young Henry was raised and trained for the priesthood. His father, a priest himself (who paid the regional bishop a yearly tribute for the privilege of keeping a wife contrary to the dogma of the Church), was a firm but loving man of modest means who loved his God more than himself. He passed his attitude on to his son, who diligently studied the fathers in preparation for teaching in a monastery. Henry’s university work in Cologne put him in contact with the works of Erasmus, Luther, and Melancthon, which in turn led him directly to the Scriptures. The seed fell into fertile ground.
You can read the whole piece here. I mention it today because today is the anniversary of Bullinger’s election to the Pastorate at Bremgarten – 17 May, 1529. Readers will recall that it was 16 May of that year that Bullinger first preached at Bremgarten. They must have really liked him. But he would only serve the Church there for a couple of years. After Zwingli was viciously murdered, dismembered, and burnt to ash by the Papists at Kappel, Bullinger was called to the Great Minster of Zurich where he would remain the rest of his very, very long life.
First, today marks the anniversary of the first sermon preached by Heinrich Bullinger, on the 16th of May, 1529, at Bremgarten. He never could have imagined that he would occupy the greatest pulpit of the Reformation only 2 years later. Second, it was on the 16th of May in 1925 that Emil Brunner received a Doctorate of Theology (ThD). No theologian aside from Zwingli before or since has ever surpassed the greatness of Brunner. Third, the greatest English speaking expert on Zwingli and his theology, W.P. Stephens, was born on 16 May, 1934. And fourth, Huldrych Zwingli published his Eine göttliche Vermahnung an die Eidgenossen zu Schwyz:
Gnedigen, lieben herren, amman, rat und gmeind zuo Schwytz. Üwer ersam wyßheit möchte wunderen, wannen mir diser frävel keme, daß ich mich dörste undernemmen ein gantz land ze leren. Das aber warlich in der meinung nit geschicht, sunder als der wyß Salomon spricht: Gib dem wysen ein anzug, so würt er noch wyser [Prov. 9. 9], hatt mich not duocht, üch min meinung anzeygen, damit ir ab einem muster oder byspil üch noch flyßlicher berietind, dann in einem trurigen infal unnd schaden (als leyder üch ietzund beschehen, got welle üch leydes ergetzen und fürer verhueten. Amen.) ist nit ein ietlicher wol by im selbs das allerbest ze treffen.
It’s a big day theologically! You can celebrate all three because they all have published some of the best stuff you’ll ever read.