Where Did People Get the Idea That Zwingli Died Fighting?

Certainly not from first hand evidence or witnesses on the scene, all of whom assert that Zwingli died never having drawn a weapon.  So where did the idea that he was hacking away at Zurich’s enemies and died fighting come from?  From Luther, of course, whose hatred of Zwingli so colored his vision that he felt secure in making up things to suit his view-

“Zwingli drew his sword. Therefore he has received the reward that Christ spoke of, ‘All who take the sword will perish by the sword’ [Matt. 26:52]. If God has saved him, he has done so above and beyond the rule.”

No, he didn’t.  But Luther had a text in hand (Mt 26) and he used it to his advantage.  Zwingli was dead so he must have drawn his sword, runs Luther’s reasoning.

And

“The end of all heresy is the sword. We see this in the case of the pope, Münzer, Zwingli, the Arians, etc. They all started out [with a certain show of piety], but in the end they were driven to the sword. They were at first not wanting in the will [to carry out their intentions] but they didn’t have the opportunity. Satan, as Paul said, can’t deny himself. He must show himself to be a liar and murderer. Moreover, I think that Cain’s death also caused a great outcry. They said, ‘Behold, Lamech has killed our father,’ etc.”

And

They say that Zwingli recently died thus; if his error had prevailed, we would have perished, and our church with us. It was a judgment of God. That was always a proud people. The others, the papists, will probably also be dealt with by our Lord God.

Luther was so filled with contempt for Zwingli (and the Zurichers) that he was willing to invent the story of Zwingli dying as a combatant. The historical facts indicate otherwise (as anyone familiar with them knows).

Zwingli certainly wore a helmet and he had a sword strapped to his side (as all Swiss did on the field of battle).  But his was a ceremonial sword.  He was a chaplain ministering to the troops, not a combatant engaged in killing.  He despised war and had since 1515 when he saw it first hand at the Battle of Marignano.  Don’t accept Luther’s badly colored view.  His eyes were blinded by the blackness of contempt.

About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
This entry was posted in Church History, Zwingli and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Where Did People Get the Idea That Zwingli Died Fighting?

  1. Acidri says:

    So he didn’t hack away. Settled. But did he draw that sword a teeny little bit?

    Like

  2. Pingback: Heinrich Bullinger: The Day Zwingli Died « Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

Leave a Reply, but it will be moderated

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s