Bullinger’s “Kommentare zu den neutestamentlichen Briefen: Hebräerbrief – Katholische Briefe”

The print edition is available from the publisher and an extracted electronic edition is available here. Click the link and then the ‘downloads’ tab.  Or enjoy the full volume by clicking on the ‘open access‘ tab.

Im Geist der Reformation verstand Heinrich Bullinger Theologie in erster Linie als Auslegung der Heiligen Schrift. Mit diesem Band – dem neunten in der Reihe seiner Theologischen Schriften – wird die Edition seiner Kommentare zu den neutestamentlichen Briefen abgeschlossen. Darin enthalten sind die Auslegungen des Briefs an die Hebräer sowie der Katholischen Briefe.

Die Texte sind anhand der Erstauflage sowie der ersten Gesamtausgabe der Kommentare Bullingers zu den neutestamentlichen Briefen (1537) historisch-kritisch ediert worden. Erschlossen wird die Edition durch eine Einleitung und insgesamt vier Register (Bibelstellen, Quellen, Personen und Orte).

Bullinger’s commentaries on the Catholic Epistles and the Book of Hebrews are to this day helpful guides to understanding the biblical text.

The introductory chapter is an indispensable aid for seeing the commentaries in their proper historical light.  Following that, the volume offers modern scholars a critical edition of Bullinger’s work on Hebrews, First Peter, Second Peter, First John, James, and Second and Third John.  And Jude.

After the presentation of the critically achieved text of these commentaries, the editor of the volume, the amazingly careful and academically gifted Luca Baschera provides readers with a thorough bibliography, a Scripture index, a listing of sources, an index of persons, and an index of places.

Those indices are wonderful tools for the reader of the printed edition of the volume and readers and users of the electronic edition can, naturally, search for terms or places or Scripture passages quite easily by using the search feature of the PDF.

If, for instance, one wishes to know where Zwingli is mentioned, one need simply ‘search’ Zwingli.

Another important feature of this important work is the marginal notes which, as is the case of the other volumes in the series, allows readers to scan the pages quite quickly and follow the main points of the presentation, stopping along the way at those places of personal interest.

The biblical text upon which Bullinger comments is the Latin.  This because these works were intended for the intelligentsia and not the average pew occupying Zuricher.  They were intended to be read by the learned clergy and those clergy were intended to take what they learned in the pages of Bullinger’s works to their own congregants.

Bullinger’s handling of the biblical text is, as hinted at above, remarkably timeless.  Take, for instance, his treatment of the crucially important James 2:14-17-

14 Qua utilitas, fratres mei, si fidem dicat aliquis habere se, facta vero non habeat? Num potest fides salvum facere illum? 15 Quod si frater aut soror nudi fuerint et egentes quotidiano victu, 16 dicat autem aliquis vestrum illis: abite cum pace, calescite et saturamini, non tamen dederitis illis, quae sunt necessaria corpori, quae erit utilitas? 17 Sic et fides, si 10 facta non habuerit, mortua est per se.

Bullinger observes

Refutat nunc validius hypocritas et titulotenus christianos vividis argumentis docens, non satis esse verbis profiteri fidem, nisi et operibus misericordiae et charitatis praestemus eandem. Isti, quod et paulo ante monui, iactabant solam fidem iustificare, se autem credere, ergo et iustos esse, et recte quidem si per fidem intellexissent coelestem, vivam et efficacem per charitatem vim, nunc autem iactabant vanam quandam de deo et religione opinionem, quam nulla sequebatur vitae morumque mutatio. Ea vero non est fides illa, cui scripturae tribuunt iustificationem. Appellatur tamen a Iacobo »fides« idque per mimesim; hypocritae enim de opinione sua ceu fide gloriabantur. Contra hos autem:  »Quae«, inquit, »utilitas, fratres mei, si dicat aliquis se habere fidem, facta vero non habeat?« Hoc est: »Nihil prodest homini, si tantum dicat: ›Credo in Christum‹, interim vero effectis caret fidei.« Efficit autem fides in pectoribus fidelium serenam conscientiam, tranquillum animum, securum minimeque de bonitate dei atque promissis, maxime de remissione peccatorum nihil ambigentem, sed in concussa spe aeternam vitam expectantem. Efficit praeterea, ut rebus studeamus sanctis piisque, abnegemus indies mundanas concupiscentias et desyderia carnalia. Praestat item, ut deum diligamus atque proximos, iis inserviamus officiis pietatis, misericordia ac charitate.

Haec, inquam, sunt facta sive fructus fidei. Iam ergo, qui his destituitur, nullum certe fructum ex eo sentit, quod dicit se  credere. Atque hoc est, quod dicit Iacobus: »Num potest fides salvum facere illum?«, iterum nominans fidem non vividam fidem, sed inanem de religione conceptam opinionem. Iactitat aliquis se habere vel herbam vel radicem, quae ex lacte hausta medeatur febribus. Haec quid, obsecro, prodest febricitanti, si hausta eam vim non habet, quam iste iactabat habere? Ad eundem modum quid proderit homini fidem iactasse et effectibus fidei caruisse? Iactitat aliquis fidem, sed fides iustificat et ad opera charitatis impellit; hic vero iniustus et immisericors est; quid ex his aliud colligas, quam istum fide carere? D[ivus] Iacobus huius rei evidentem producit parabolam: »Si quis«, inquit, »sorori aut fratri, cui vestis desit ac victus quotidianus, dicat blandis verbis: ›Abite cum pace‹ (Got t b e r adt üc h)  ›dominus provideat vobis victum et amictum‹, atque haec loquutus nihil interim eorum dederit, quae vitae necessaria sunt sustentandae, verba quidem bona loquutus est, sed illa nihil prosunt egentibus, qui nihilominus algent et esuriunt.«

Ioannes potius non sermone et lingua, sed in veritate et opere docet christianos diligere. Ad hunc autem modum habet et negotium praesens. Si quis dicat:  »Credo in Christum et habeo fidem evangelicam«, egregiam quidem professionem facit, at si nihilominus impurus est, avarus et immisericors, inutilis est illa professio. Id vero Iacobus sic enunciat: »Sic et fides, si facta non habuerit, mortua est per se«, hoc est sola; id est: inane fidei vocabulum inefficax est. Et mortuus homo speciem habet hominis, vim et opera hominis non habet. Inde autem tracta est metaphora ad fidem vocabulo tantum, non etiam re fidem.  ….

Etc.  For 8 more pages on these 4 verses.  Bullinger wasn’t averse to using a lot of ink and paper.

The print edition also includes, as do other volumes in the series, a cd-rom which is attached to the back inside cover in a plastic sleeve and said cd contains the volume and is ideal for searches of anything for which one would wish to search.  This is a fabulous and ingenious idea.  More publishers of primary source materials should follow the lead of TVZ and include a cd.

Stunningly, Bullinger still speaks today.  I think the reason for that is because his interpretation of Scripture is theologically oriented and the truth of Scripture is mirrored in the truths of Bullinger’s exegesis.

This is a remarkable volume.  Do obtain a copy and add it to your personal collection.  And then read it.  And what you read, share.  The publisher is to be thanked for making it available.  The editor is to be thanked for a stupendous job.