The ‘Short Christian Introduction’ of Zwingli

Or, the full title- “A short Christian introduction which the honourable Council of the city of Zurich has sent to the pastors and preachers living in its cities, lands, and wherever its authority extends, so that they may in unison henceforth announce and preach the true Gospel to their dependents.”

… was prepared by Zwingli in fourteen days, so it was a hasty work as usual, and read before the Council on November 9, and printed November 17, 1523.

Preceding it is the mandate of the Zurich authorities which commends the “Introduction” on the ground of its scriptural character, and repeats the requests to be corrected out of the Scriptures, if they have in any respect not advocated correct opinions. The treatise is throughout doctrinal, but far from abstruse. It begins with a brief handling of sin, then of the law. At greater length it treats of the Gospel, as God’s way of deliverance from the law; next upon the deliverance itself, the “removal of the law.” Next, but more briefly, upon images. Zwingli says, in concluding the section:

“It is clear that the images and other representations which we have in the houses of worship have caused the risk of idolatry. Therefore they should not be allowed to remain there, nor in your chambers, nor in the market-place, nor anywhere else where one does them honour. Chiefly they are not to be tolerated in the churches, for all that is in them should be worthy of our respect. If anyone desires to put historical representations on the outside of the churches, that may be allowed, so long as they do not incite to their worship. But when one begins to bow before these images and to worship them, then they are not to be tolerated anywhere in the wide world; for that is the beginning of idolatry, nay, is idolatry itself.”1

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1Samuel Macauley Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531) (Heroes of the Reformation; New York; London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Knickerbocker Press, 1901), 207–208.

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