The First Zurich Disputation and its Aftermath

Zurichwalk

The First Disputation took place on January 29th, 1523.  Schaff tells the story-

The first disputation was held in the city hall on Thursday, Jan. 29, 1523, in the German language, before about six hundred persons, including all the clergy and members of the small and large Councils of Zurich. St. Gall was represented by Vadian; Berne, by Sebastian Meyer; Schaffhausen, by Sebastian Hofmeister. Oecolampadius from Basle expected no good from disputations, and declined to come. He agreed with Melanchthon’s opinion about the Leipzig disputation of Eck with Carlstadt and Luther. Nevertheless, he attended, three years afterwards, the Disputation at Baden. The bishop of Constance sent his general vicar, Dr. Faber, hitherto a friend of Zwingli, and a man of respect, able learning and an able debater, with three others as counsellors and judges. Faber declined to enter into a detailed discussion of theological questions which, he thought, belong to the tribunal of Councils or of renowned universities, as Paris, Cologne and Louvain. Zwingli answered his objections, and convinced the audience.

On the same day the magistracy passed judgment in favor of Zwingli, and directed him “to continue to preach the holy gospel as heretofore, and to proclaim the true, divine Scriptures until he was better informed.” All other preachers and pastors in the city and country were warned “not to preach anything which they could not establish by the holy Gospel and other divine Scriptures,” and to avoid personal controversy and bitter names.  Zwingli prepared a lengthy and able defence of his Articles against the charges of Faber, July, 1523.

The 67 Articles were greatly expanded and thoroughly exegeted.

The disputation soon produced its natural effects. Ministers took regular wives; the nunnery of Oetenbach was emptied; baptism was administered in the vernacular, and without exorcism; the mass and worship of images were neglected and despised. A band of citizens, under the lead of a shoemaker, Klaus Hottinger, overthrew the great wooden crucifix in Stadelhofen, near the city, and committed other lawless acts.  Zwingli was radical in his opposition to idolatrous and superstitious ceremonies, but disapproved disorderly methods, and wished the magistracy to authorize the necessary changes.

In that way, he believed, Reform could be brought about in an orderly manner. It was at precisely this point that the Radicals wanted instant reform. And when it didn’t happen, they became true Radicals, engaging in violence and thuggery.

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