Cursed jet lag. First it won’t let you stay awake and then it won’t let you go to sleep. Bad lag, bad. Time out for you!
But his name wasn’t the only one in consideration…
Strong as was the sentiment in Zurich in favor of Zwingli, there were not wanting those who from the start opposed his election. A personality so aggressive could not fail to make enemies.
Many hated him because of his views on the subject of foreign pensions; others whose sympathies were thoroughly Roman suspected his loyalty to the Church, and caught a faint vision of what his coming to Zurich would mean.
The opposition, though bitter and determined, because of the fewness of their numbers despaired from the start of accomplishing anything. As soon as it was known that Zwingli was under consideration several candidates were put forward for the place, and among them one Lawrence Fable, who preached a sermon in the Great Minster, and of whom the report was circulated that he had been chosen.
Zwingli at first was inclined to credit the report. Hitherto he had appeared quite indifferent to what was occurring at Zurich. The knowledge that unworthy persons were seeking to supplant him seems to have acted as a stimulus. At any rate, he now became interested to the extent of writing to Myconius in regard to his prospects. In a letter under date of December 2, 1518, assuming the truthfulness of the report with respect to Fable, he says,
“Well! I know the significance of popular applause. A Swabian preferred to a Swiss! Truly, a prophet is without honor in his own country.”
Myconius in reply the next day removes his false apprehension. “Fable will remain a fable; for they have learned that he is father of six boys and holds I know not how many livings.” He then proceeds to assure him of the number and strength of his friends, and of his own unceasing activity in his behalf. He does not conceal from him the doings of his enemies, and mentions certain charges that were being circulated against his character.
“Although there is no one,” he says, “but praises your teachings to the skies, there are certain to whom your natural aptitude for music appears to be a sin, and thence infer that you are impure and worldly,” Again, he assures him that he has great reason to hope. “It is right that you should take courage and not despair. Even the canons who are opposed to you predict to themselves that you will be the next preacher.”
He closes with the exhortation, “Hope on, for I hope.” The election took place on the 11th of December, 1518, and Zwingli was chosen by a large majority. This event caused great rejoicing among his friends, except those at Einsiedeln, for whom it was a matter of the keenest regret.
The administrator of the Abbey, Baron Geroldseck, whose relationship with Zwingli had ripened into the warmest of friendships, was especially affected. Even the council of the canton were impressed to the extent of transmitting to Zwingli a letter of regret couched in the most respectful terms.*
*Samuel Simpson, Life of Ulrich Zwingli: The Swiss Patriot and Reformer (New York: Baker & Taylor Co., 1902), 71–73.
And I’m worn out. So I’m going to hang out, do nothing, and stay up as late as I can so I can kick the jet lag.
Having been struck in the head, Zwingli collapsed to the ground. Stunned, he began to pray and to recite Scripture—‘do not fear those who can kill the body but fear him who can kill the soul in hell …’. As the last word passed beyond his lips and into the hearing of the Catholic soldier standing over him, the soldier struck again and this time the blow was fatal. Zwingli’s comrade in arms, hearing his last utterance and seeing the death blow, fled. The troops from Zurich were scattered like sheep without a shepherd and Zwingli died alone on the beautiful meadow near the Monastery of Kappel-am-Albis.
After the rout, the Catholic troops were looting the bodies and piling them for burning when one of them looked at Zwingli and recognized him. Announcing his find to his victorious comrades, incredible rejoicing broke out and many gathered at the place where Zwingli lie. They stripped him of his helmet and his clothing, chopped him into four pieces, threw his body in the fire, and watched gleefully as he burned to ash. So ended the life of the first of Switzerland’s reformers on the 11th of October, 1531; a life that had begun 47 years earlier on the 1st of January, 1484.
Zwingli was born in the little town of Wildhaus to Huldreich and Margarita Zwingli. To this day his birth home remains as both tourist attraction and subtle reminder of the powerful impact his existence made on the life of his beloved Switzerland. His father was the equivalent of a village elder and his rather large family was wonderfully pious. His mother was especially devoted and both of his parents were certain that Huldrych would be well suited to the Priesthood with his quick and witty mind and his native brilliance.
While young, Zwingli learned to love music and became proficient in the use of about 10 instruments. The oft repeated misrepresentation that Zwingli hated music was simply not true. When he engaged in Reform he simply saw so much Church music as self serving on the part of singers and musicians (organists in particular) that it actually distracted from true worship and so he banned it.
At ten years of age Zwingli was sent to Basel to study and then to Bern and Vienna (at around fifteen years of age) where he earned a Bachelor’s degree. By 1506 he had earned a Master of Arts at Basel’s famous University and then shortly after celebrated his first Mass at his hometown before moving to Glarus to take up his priestly office. It was while he was in that picturesque village that Zwingli poured himself into his studies of the Bible, led by the urgings of Erasmus, who was then the leader of learning in Switzerland and across western Europe. According to his own testimony, it was in 1515 that the ‘reformatory’ spirit began to stir in his heart so that when he moved to Einsiedeln (in 1516) to serve the congregation there, he was already pursuing the beginnings of Reformed thought.
At the end of 1518 Zwingli was approached by friends in Zurich who urged him to move there and serve as the Pastor of the largest church in the city, the Grossmünster, the ‘Great Minster’. There was opposition to this move, however by a few of the leaders of the Zurich church who had heard that Zwingli had engaged in inappropriate behavior with ‘a leading citizen’s daughter’. When he learned of the charge Zwingli wrote a fascinating letter to one of the members of the ‘Zurich search committee’ in explanation of the affair on the 5th of December, 1518, the following (excerpted)-
One of the most learned and amiable of our friends [Oswald Myconius] has written to me that a rumor has been spread in Zurich about me, alleging that I have seduced the daughter of a high official, and that this has given offense to a number of my friends. I must answer this calumny so that you, dear friend, and others, can clear my life from these false rumors … First, you know that three years ago I made a firm resolution not to interfere with any female: St. Paul said it was good not to touch a woman. That did not turn out very well.… As to the charge of seduction I needn’t take long in dealing with that. They make it out to concern the daughter of an important citizen. I don’t deny that she is the daughter of an important person: anyone who could touch the emperor’s beard is important—barber forsooth! No one doubts that the lady concerned is the barber’s daughter except possibly the barber himself who has often accused his wife, the girl’s mother, a supposedly true and faithful wife, of adultery, blatant but not true. At any rate he has turned the girl, about whom all this fuss is being made, out from his house and for two years has given her neither board nor lodging. So what is the daughter of such a man to me?… With intense zeal day and night even at the cost of harm to his body, [I] study the Greek and Latin philosophers and theologians, and this hard work takes the heat out of such sensual desires even if it does not entirely eliminate them. Further, feelings of shame have so far restrained me that when I was still in Glarus and let myself fall into temptation in this regard a little, I did so so quietly that even my friends hardly knew about it. And now we will come to the matter before us and I will cast off what they call the last anchor taking no account of public opinion which takes a poor view of open resort to loose women. In this instance it was a case of maiden by day, matron by night, and not so much of the maiden by day but everybody in Einsiedeln knew about her … no one in Einsiedeln thought I had corrupted a maiden. All the girl’s relations knew that she had been caught long before I came to Einsiedeln, so that I was not in any way concerned.… To close: I have written a good deal of facetious chatter, but these people don’t understand anything else. You can say whatever you think suitable to anyone who is concerned. (G.R. Potter’s translation and selection of the letter to Utinger, Z VII, 110ff).
Zwingli’s actions are naturally inexcusable to us, but they are actually quite tame among the practices of many 16th century priests, who were known to have large families, mistresses, and who engaged in various illicit behaviors simply because they had been granted a ‘papal indulgence’. That being said, this isn’t an attempt to justify, but to contextualize. Being ensnared by the village tart is not quite the same thing as pursuing various sexual conquests. Finally on the matter, it so troubled Zwingli that he regretted it his entire life, thoroughly repented of it, and never again engaged in such behavior.
Zwingli was in fact called to Zurich. He moved to the city at the end of December and assumed his duties on the first of January (his birthday), 1519. He immediately set in motion real reforming efforts beginning with abandoning the lectionary and instead preaching first through the Gospel of Matthew and then other New Testament texts. A wind of change had swept Zurich and it would never be the same because the theological landscape was forever altered by the arrival of the First Swiss Reformer.
But before long another wind blew into Zurich. An ill wind. The wind of the Plague, the black death. Up to two-thirds of the population of the city was wiped out between 1519 and 1520 before the disaster ran its course. Zwingli himself fell ill and during the course of his illness he penned one of his numerous songs: the so called ‘Plague Song’, which begins
To thee I cry:
If it is thy will
Take out the dart,
Which wounds me
Nor let’s me have an hour’s
Rest or Repose!
Will’st thou however
That death take me
In the midst of my days,
So let it be!
When disaster struck, Zwingli turned to God in faith and in pious trust. This was the kind of man which the city had called to be the Pastor of the Great Minster.
Reform began slowly but surely, first with worship. Lent was abandoned as a man made tradition in 1522 and by 1523 the Mass itself was replaced with ‘The Lord’s Supper’. Silver ‘Mass utensils’, cups, and bowls were replaced with common wood. Tables were set up in the Sanctuary so that the Supper more resembled a supper. Images were removed, worship was reorganized, and the Reform gained speed and strength through a series of public debates which Zwingli and his colleagues in Reform easily won.
But troubles soon would follow, with Zwingli being attacked from within the city by the ‘re-baptizers’, the Anabaptists, who wanted more change faster than either Zwingli or the city could bear. From without, rising clouds of disharmony within the world of Protestantism would burst into storm clouds when from the north Luther attacked Zwingli’s view of the Supper. And of course there was conflict aplenty with the ‘Old believers’, the Catholics still attached to Rome.
The last years of Zwingli’s life were spent in conflict. On the one hand the Radicals were denouncing him as the ‘great satan’, once marching in protest to his house next to the Great Minster and pummeling it with eggs, crying out ‘away with the dragon’. And on the other Luther spent the years 1526–1529 insulting and denouncing him for his view of the Lord’s Supper. At one point in this period Zwingli became so depressed that he tearfully offered his resignation to the city Council but they wisely refused it.
The rift with Luther over the Lord’s Supper resulted in what is perhaps the most famous gathering of the 16th Century, the Marburg Colloquy. There, at Marburg in 1529, Philip of Hesse summoned Luther and Melanchthon, Zwingli and Oecolampadius (and others less well-known) to discuss and, if possible, come to agreement on their view of the Supper so that ‘Protestantism’ could present a united front against the Catholics. Philip, as a politician, was naturally more interested in consolidating Protestantism for military purposes than he was in solving the problem of Eucharistic disagreement. His effort failed. Miserably. By the end of the three days of discussion, the participants had agreed on a number of issues but concerning the Lord’s Supper there wasn’t, and still isn’t, agreement between the Reformed descendents of Zwingli and the Lutheran descendants of Luther. The resultant document was signed by all participants and states, in its final article:
Concerning the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ
Fifteenth, we all believe and hold concerning the Supper of our dear Lord Jesus Christ that both kinds should be used according to the institution by Christ; also that the mass is not a work with which one can secure grace for someone else, whether he is dead or alive; also that the Sacrament of the Altar is a sacrament of the true body and blood of Jesus Christ and that the spiritual partaking of the same body and blood is especially necessary for every Christian. Similarly, that the use of the sacrament, like the word, has been given and ordained by God Almighty in order that weak consciences may thereby be excited to faith by the Holy Spirit. And although at this time, we have not reached an agreement as to whether the true body and blood of Christ are bodily present in the bread and wine, nevertheless, each side should show Christian love to the other side insofar as conscience will permit, and both sides should diligently pray to Almighty God that through his Spirit he might confirm us in the right understanding. Amen.
That desire for ‘Christian love’ never panned out. When Zwingli died, Luther rejoiced.
The greatest conflict, however, was and would remain with the Catholic Cantons. Reform was anathema to them and they simply refused Zwingli (and others’) attempts to persuade their citizens to leave the Catholic faith to become adherents of the upstarts. Leaders of the Catholic forces went so far as plotting to murder him had he attended a disputation in Baden. Getting wind of the plot, the Zurich City Council forbade him to attend, instead sending his colleague Leo Jud.
The situation with the Catholic Cantons came to a head in 1529 when they met the Reformed Cantons in the field at Kappel-am-Albis in battle. Zwingli was the Chaplain of the Zurich troops and arrived at the site heavy hearted that things had come to such a pass. Fortunately, a diplomatic solution was reached before casualties were suffered.
Two years later, though, the Catholic forces and the Reformed Zurichers returned to the same field with startlingly different consequences. So we return to where we began in this chapter: at the field of Kappel and the death of Zwingli.
Zwingli lived a tremendously full and productive life in spite of its temporal brevity. He wrote hundreds of tractates and books, many hundreds of letters, and preached thousands of sermons. He made incredible contributions to theology and his efforts on behalf of Reform laid the foundation for the work of his successor, Heinrich Bullinger, who can be rightly credited with taking the Reformed movement international.*
*J. West, “Christ Our Captain”: An Introduction to Huldrych Zwingli. Quartz Hill, CA: Quartz Hill Publishing House.
There are still biblioblogs, but most of the first generation of bloggers have either succumbed to irregular posting or post nothing at all anymore. The second generation has long ago withered into dullness. And the third generation has returned to its first love- nothingness.
The heady days of blogging conferences have long passed and people hardly mention their conference participation anymore. Book reviews seldom appear and when they do it’s usually just a mention of the blogger’s own book. I.e., they blog reviews when those reviews are about their book, but they can’t be bothered with reviewing anyone else’s.
TV specials and archaeological news too have become simply the occasion, for most, to talk, again, about themselves. If Bob is on TV Bob is happy to blog that fact but otherwise nothing occurs to Bob but Bob.
In sum, most blogs have simply devolved into avenues of self promotion. Discussing the work of others has become passe. Discussing advances in the field has become passe. Discussing methodology has become passe.
For all of these reasons it have become virtually impossible to populate Carnivals with anything at all. Carnivals were, once upon a time, a place where one could find the most interesting postings from a wide range of practicing bibliobloggers. Now, there are so few bibliobloggers and so few postings by them that there is simply no reason to attempt to assemble their more interesting contributions.
Bibliobloggers have, by and large, forsaken their posts. They have, by and large, curved in on themselves and withdrawn from the wider world. They have retreated behind the safe walls of academia and there they hole up speaking only to themselves.
It’s fitting, I suppose, that the final Carnival posted by me was a reminiscence of SBL2016 (on 1 December). And it was populated with tweets more than with posts because so few posts were actually written by any biblioblogger.
And yet I find it all a bit tragic. Just when society needs to know what Christian academics and academic biblical scholars have to say, they’ve silenced themselves. No one has silenced them. They have silenced themselves.
Farewell, Biblioblog Carnival. You were fun while you lasted. But you’ve been well and truly starved to death by the indifference of the very people who should, by rights, be most interested in sharing biblical studies with the wider culture.