Where Did People Get the Idea That Zwingli Died Fighting?

11 Oct

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.


“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.”


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.


Posted by on 11 Oct 2017 in Church History, Zwingli



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

  1. Acidri

    11 Oct 2011 at 3:52 pm

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


    • Jim

      11 Oct 2011 at 3:55 pm