Smack in the Middle of the First Zurich Disputation- January 30, 1523

zwingli1011.jpgOn the day appointed for the discussion [January 29] upward of six hundred people from all classes came together in the Town Hall, the assembly place of the Great Council. Faber, the vicar-general of the diocese, and several other doctors were present, as representatives of the Bishop. None of the cantons except Schaffhausen sent deputies.

Zwingli took his position at a table in the midst of the room, and before him lay the open Bible. Burgomaster Roust called the assembly to order and made a brief speech, setting forth the reasons which led to the calling of the meeting. As soon as the meeting was declared open for discussion, Zwingli arose and challenged any who had spoken against him publicly and denounced him as a heretic to speak.

Faber, who knew that this challenge was meant for him, arose and with some confusion replied that he had been sent not to dispute, but to learn why there were so many differences of opinion about religion in the canton, and suggested that, as the Diet of Nuremburg had promised a council soon, the questions in dispute be left for settlement until that time. When it seemed unlikely that any one would accept his challenge, Zwingli addressed the assembly in his own behalf, denying the right of any to call him a heretic and declaring that he was ready to defend his doctrine against all comers.

An awkward pause followed this speech. As no one seemed ready to reply, the burgomaster adjourned the meeting until the afternoon. When the Council convened again a paper was read embodying their decision, i.e., “that Master Ulrich Zwingli continue to proclaim the Holy Gospel as long and as often as he will until something better is made known to him. Furthermore, all priests, curates, and preachers in cities, cantons and dependencies, shall undertake and preach nothing but what can be proved by the Holy Gospel and the Scriptures; furthermore, they shall not in future slander, insult, or call each other heretics.”*

The events of that January were just the beginning. Reform had commenced in earnest but 1525 would be a year of attack from the left and the right and 1527 and afterwards would be engaged in theological disputations with Catholics and Lutherans. In short, from this victorious moment onward, it was all uphill for Zwingli. Nonetheless, the Reform he began (or rather, which God began through him), would succeed magnificently.

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*S. Simpson, Life of Ulrich Zwingli: The Swiss Patriot and Reformer (pp. 122–124).