Everything You Wanted to Know About Archeteles But Were Afraid to Ask

The Archeteles was published on the 23 of August, 1522.  Consequently, it’s time to mention it.

In Archeteles Zwingli wrote, among other things, concerning the false teachings spewing from Rome

archetelesWe warn you again, dearly beloved, not to trust wantonly to these destructive utterances, nor feed the fever of fallacy with acceptance of fallacy, nor take poison for a healing draught or death for salvation.  Be not deceived by the authority of these people nor by the learning with which they proclaim everywhere that they have the spirit of the Lord.

For with adulterous teaching they seek to break down the chastity of the Church and to violate the truth of the Gospel.  The Lord cries and says: Hearken not unto the sayings of false prophets, for the visions of their hearts deceive them. They say, but not out of the mouth of the Lord, Ye shall have peace. [See Jer. 23:16, 17.].  Peace they bring, who themselves have no peace. They promise freedom, when they are the slaves of corruption.  They, who have withdrawn from the Church, offer to raise up and bring back to the Church those who have fallen laden with many burdens.

That snippet gives a good sense of Zwingli’s method.  Of the book  John Scott writes

“Archeteles,” or the Beginning and the End … [is] a summary of the main points at issue between the reformers and their opponents. This work also is addressed to the bishop of Constance, and is an answer, paragraph by paragraph, to that prelate’s late mandate to the chapter of Zurich.

The Archeteles, says Gerdes, “exhibits a true picture of the Zwinglian reformation—very different from what it has been represented by many writers.” This work was highly esteemed, not only in Switzerland, but in foreign countries, as proving the author to be “mighty in the scriptures,” and one who united an intrepid courage with true Christian moderation. It is the same work from which we have, in the preceding chapter, given the author’s own account of his preaching at Zurich, from the time of his first settlement in that city.

The following is a portion of the devout and beautiful prayer with which Zwingli closes this work:

“On thee therefore I call, O blessed Lord, to perform the work, which thou hast begun, unto the day of thy coming. If I have ever built up any thing erroneously, do thou throw it down. If I have laid any other foundation than thyself, do thou subvert it. Let thy flock, taught and imbued with thy Spirit, come to know that it can never be wanting in any thing while it is guided and fed by thee, its true pastor and bishop. For thou, O Son of God, art the protector and advocate of all that hope in thee.… Thou therefore, O most blessed Vine, whose dresser is the Father, and we the branches, forsake not thy plantation, thy building! Thou hast promised to be with us even unto the end of the world; and hast bid us, when brought before kings and rulers, to be without carefulness, for that the Spirit shall teach us in the same hour what we ought to speak; so that even the unwilling may hear the testimony concerning thee. Put therefore into the mouth of all thy servants, who seek thy glory, and hallow thy name, ‘sound speech,’ that they may utter before the princes of this world those things which shall be acceptable in thy sight, and serviceable to miserable mortals! Thus shall we, who are members one of another, and one body in thee our sole and ever-living head, become thy one spouse, betrothed to thee, having neither spot nor wrinkle; and she shall be forsaken, who is made up of corruptions and defilements, on account of which the name of God is blasphemed: O Thou who livest and reignest, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Zwingli’s opening paragraph is interesting too in that he asserts in it that he wishes to pursue understanding between the parties-

To you I must now address my words, who two months or so ago put forth a certain document. Your names I willingly and gladly omit to mention, that they may not be in ill repute among good men, and that I may not provoke you unduly, for I have a hope that you will finally leave the asses and come over to the oxen, abandon the goats for the sheep. Not that I do not know your names or could not set them out as a laughing stock to the crowd, but I think it more profitable, for the advancement of Christ’s teaching, not to do so. Although it may give rise to suspicion of others than yourselves as authors of the document, yet I have preferred to spare your names rather than to answer the viciously wanton suspicions of certain persons. For I am going to treat you as you would by no means treat me if I treated the cause of the Gospel in your style and defended myself with weapons like yours. And I pray to God to enlighten and guide my mind so that I shall say nothing unworthy of him, and yours so that you shall take everything that I say in good part, that casting aside all strife we may come together into one body in Christ and think in harmony in the Lord Jesus. Amen.

1- I don’t want to make you the object of derision, so I will omit your name.
2- And I hope that you’ll take what I say positively.
3- So that unity is restored.

The document, then, is meant to be a step towards reconciliation (but of course that can only happen if the Romans come to the truth of the Reformed Gospel).  As a conciliatory tome it does in fact go to some lengths to bring the differing theological perspectives together.

Zwingli’s later works wouldn’t be so compromising.  He learned, by trial and torment, that there was no way to reconcile the Gospel with it’s false manifestations.

But Erasmus didn’t like it.  And he came to that conclusion after having read just a few pages.   Which reminds me of those people who read 4 pages of a book and review it or who read 3 sentences of a 30 page article and dismiss it. It is impossible to give anything a fair hearing on the basis of a snippet. One would think Erasmus would have been smarter than some of our bloggers and biblical ‘scholars’ but, alas…

Here’s the entirety of Erasmus’ letter, written on 8 September, 1522:

“I have read some pages of your apology [Archeteles]. I beseech you for the sake of the glory of the Gospel, which I know you would favour and which we all who bear the name of Christ ought to favour, if you should issue anything hereafter, treat so serious a matter seriously, and bear in mind evangelical modesty and patience. Consult your learned friends before you issue anything. I fear that that apology will cause you great peril and will injure the Gospel. Even in the few pages that I have read there are many things I wanted to warn you about. I do not doubt that your prudence will take this in good part, for I have written late at night with a mind that is most solicitous for you. Farewell.” (Jackson’s rendition).

Jackson goes on to relate

This [the Archeteles]  is Zwingli’s reply to the admonition which the Bishop of Constance, the diocesan of the city of Zurich, addressed to the chapter of the Great Minster on May 24, 1522. Zwingli was not mentioned in it but rightly regarding himself as the chief agent in bringing in the new ideas which were condemned by the Bishop, he made this reply. His delay in doing so was probably due to his absorbing occupations in other directions. The treatise was written hastily, he informed Myconius, in sending him a copy (August 26, 1522).

There are numerous allusions to the treatise in the Zwingli correspondence. Thus Zwingli in writing to his bosom friend, Myconius, on August 23, 1522 (Werke, n. e. vii., 567), promises him a copy, and this promise he redeemed on the 26th (ibid., 569); on April 11, 1524, he alludes to it when writing to Konrad Hofmann (vii., 169), and lastly to Konrad Sam in Ulm on February 12, 1527 (Schuler and Schulthess ed., viii., 28), he imparted information regarding it as Sam was somehow unacquainted with it. In letters to Zwingli from Michael Hummelberg on August 26, 1522 (Werke, n. e. vii., 574), the same on September 4 (p. 578); Melchior Macrinus, on September 30 (p. 588, he calls it α καὶω); Sebastian Meyer, on November 11 (p. 612); Johannes Zwick, on November 27 (p. 820); and Hedio on February 10, 1523 (viii., 22), mention is made of it. (The Latin Works and The Correspondence of Huldreich Zwingli: Together with Selections from His German Works, Volume 1 (S. M. Jackson, Ed.).

So go read the book.  After all, if you want to know what someone (and in this context, I’ll specify and say, biblical scholars and theologians) says, read them in their entirety.  Don’t take someone else’s word for it- make up your own mind.  If NT Wright or Ben Witherington or an Angel from Heaven tell you something about what someone else thinks, don’t believe them until you read that someone for yourself.

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