Zwingli lesen

Ulrich Zwingli war ein epochaler Denker. Zwingli lesen bedeutet, an diesem Denken und Argumentieren teilzuhaben.

Dieses Lesebuch enthält deshalb die zentralen Texte von Zwingli selbst – und zwar in verständlichem heutigem Deutsch. Darüber hinaus wird jeder Text eingeleitet und kommentiert. Vollständig wiedergegeben werden: Das Pestlied (1520), Die Klarheit und Gewissheit des Wortes Gottes (1522), die 67 Thesen oder Artikel (1523), Göttliche und menschliche Gerechtigkeit (1523), Eine freundschaftliche und ernstliche Ermahnung der Eidgenossen (1524), die beiden Berner Predigten (1528) und das Kappelerlied (um 1529). Auszüge aus weiteren Texten und einige zentrale Briefe Zwinglis ergänzen den Band.

Die Auswahl greift die wichtigsten Themen und biografischen Stationen des Reformators auf. Wer diese Texte kennt, kann über Zwingli kompetent mitreden.

TVZ have provided a review copy.  And I’d like to first offer a photo of the table of contents- not merely to show what the volume contains, although that’s quite important- but to show how really very lovely the font is.  And the photo doesn’t do it justice.

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As to the works by Zwingli included here, the choices made by our learned editors are extremely appropriate.   These short works all show the mind of Zwingli at its most brilliant and the mixture of letters and theological treatises is superb.  Those looking for a first hand introduction to Zwingli’s theological notions, via primary rather than secondary sources, should start here.  And then proceed to the 4 volume collection of Zwingli’s works in modern German by the same publisher.  And then on to the critical edition, also by the same publisher.  With these volumes, this publisher is living up to the first name by which it was known- the Zwingli Verlag, Zurich.

The contents of the present work are punctuated by excerpts from Bullinger’s Reformationshgeschichte where color illustrations, by hand, are included in that fabled tome.

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I have to admit that I find such inclusions utterly endearing.  I love this publisher because it constantly produces volumes that really, really matter.  This is such a volume.  It is a work of art and a work of scholarship.

Concerning the translations of these key works by Zwingli with which this volume is populated; they are incredibly well crafted.  Zwingli is very, very hard to translate simply because he works in his own 16th century Swiss German and Latin.  He likes words, and like Luther he was super at creating new ones and using old ones in new ways.  This makes him both incredibly fun to read and incredibly hard to translate for modern folk.  Indeed, Zwingli’s German and Luther’s German were so different that the two theologians couldn’t understand each other at Marburg and had to use Latin.  Because Zwingli’s language is so arcane, anyone capable of translating that language into a modern language should receive a prize of some sort.  And that goes doubly for those who do it well like Opitz and Saxer.

Take, for instance, this bit from the sermon ‘On the Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God‘ from the critical edition from 1522-

Zum zehenden. Empfindstu, das es dich gewüß macht der gnaden gottes und ewigen heils, so ist es von got.

And now the modern German rendering-

10.  Spürst Du, dass dir die Gnade Gottes und das ewige Heil zur Gewissheit werden, so ist das von Gott.

I challenge you to do better.  I don’t think it can be done.

Opitz and Saxer have assemble as well a very brief but useful bibliography (though it pains me that my own work on Zwingli is not included) and they include footnotes in the body of the text but these are kept to a bare minimum.  At the conclusion of each text they also have the original source cited so interested persons can make their way to it.  And, finally, at the very end of the volume is an index of chief subjects so that if readers want to look in on Zwingli’s understanding of ‘Taufe’, for instance, the pages where that subject is touched upon are easily discovered.

By now readers of this review have surely sensed that I think in highly commendable.  If they haven’t, allow me to say it more forthrightly: I love this book.  Not just because it’s Zwingli, but because it’s so well done.  I recommend it to you.  Without hesitation or ambiguity.  It’s super.