Category Archives: Church History

A New Link Added

Under the ‘Reformation Texts’ section of the navigation panel- e-Codices.  It’s fantastically rich in materials.

The Death of Erasmus

melanchthon_erasmusOn his way [back to the Netherlands] he stopped in Basel in the house of Jerome Froben, August, 1535, and attended to the publication of Origen. It was his last work. He fell sick, and died in his seventieth year, July 12, 1536, of his old enemies, the stone and the gout, to which was added dysentery.

He retained his consciousness and genial humor to the last. When his three friends, Amerbach, Froben, and Episcopius, visited him on his death-bed, he reminded them of Job’s three comforters, and playfully asked them about the torn garments, and the ashes that should be sprinkled on their heads. He died without a priest or any ceremonial of the Church (in wretched monastic Latin: “sine crux, sine lux, sine Deus”), but invoking the mercy of Christ. His last words, repeated again and again, were, “O Jesus, have mercy; Lord, deliver me; Lord, make an end; Lord, have mercy upon me!”

James Crossley on the English Radical Tradition, in 3 Parts

Part One

Part Two

Part Three


Kommentare zu den neutestamentlichen Briefen: Hebräerbrief – Katholische Briefe

Appearing in August

The Abiding Significance of Heinrich Bullinger

THIS is a fantastically important essay.

Today in Church History: The Tetrapolitan Confession

The Tetrapolitan Confession, also called the Strassburg and the Swabian Confession, is the oldest confession of the Reformed Church in Germany, and represented the faith of four imperial cities, Strassburg, Constance, Memmingen, and Lindau, which at that time sympathized with Zwingli and the Swiss, rather than Luther, on the doctrine of the sacraments.

It was prepared in great haste, during the sessions of the Diet of Augsburg, by Bucer, with the aid of Capito and Hedio, in the name of those four cities (hence the name) which were excluded by the Lutherans from their political and theological conferences, and from the Protestant League. They would greatly have preferred to unite with them, and to sign the Augsburg Confession, with the exception of the tenth article on the eucharist, but were forbidden. The Landgrave Philip of Hesse was the only one who, from a broad, statesmanlike view of the critical situation, favored a solid union of the Protestants against the common foe, but in vain.

Hence, after the Lutherans had presented their Confession June 25, and Zwingli his own July 8, the four cities handed theirs, July 11, to the Emperor in German and Latin. It was received very ungraciously, and not allowed to be read before the Diet; but a confutation full of misrepresentations was prepared by Faber, Eck, and Cochlaeus, and read Oct. 24 (or 17). The Strassburg divines were not even favored with a copy of this confutation, but procured one secretly, and answered it by a “Vindication and Defense” in the autumn of 1531.*

*Philip Schaff and David Schley Schaff, History of the Christian Church (vol. 7; New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910), 719–720.

Between the Swastika and the Sickle: The Life, Disappearance, and Execution of Ernst Lohmeyer

New Testament scholars are familiar with his name, but they probably aren’t familiar with his amazing story.  This biography corrects that situation.  In fact, it is amazing.

Ernst Lohmeyer (1890-1946) was a stellar German New Testament scholar of the first half of the twentieth century whose work provided an intellectual counterpart to the prevailing liberalism and history of religions consensus among Biblical scholars of the day.

As a Breslau professor in the 1920s Lohmeyer published a half-dozen ground-breaking New Testament monographs, including commentaries on Philippians and Colossians, the Book of Revelation, and the Gospel of Mark, and twice that number of scholarly articles.

In the 1930s, however, his life, like so many in Germany, was commandeered by the rising tide of Nazism. A born leader, Lohmeyer was named president of Breslau University, during which time he joined the Confessing Church and opposed Nazism at its most evil point, its anti-Semitism. He was stripped of his university professorship and sent to the Russian Front in World War II.

Edwards begins his biographical masterpiece with a description of the long overdue installation of Prof. Lohmeyer at the University of Griefswald and the birth of his own interest in the man, and his very troubling and very mysterious last months.  Then Edwards highlights the secrecy surrounding Lohmeyer’s treatment at the hands of the Russians in East Germany.  It is only then that Edwards begins his biographical treatment in earnest, with a chronologically related tale that is both gripping and infuriating and contemporary in its relevance.

We learn of the boyhood and youth of Lohmeyer, a genius by all accounts and a sharp and gifted thinker who nevertheless allowed his opinions of his opinions gain mastery over good sense from time to time.  We learn of Lohmeyer’s service in the first world war and of his academic career in the intervening years between that war and the second.  We learn of a man who stood nose to nose with the Nazis without backing down.  And we learn of a man compelled to serve in yet a second war.

Edwards takes us through the post war years and the strange disappearance of Lohmeyer at the hands of the Russians and the many years of silence regarding his fate.  Finally, we return full circle- to the long overdue installation of Professor Lohmeyer, posthumously, to his rightful academic post.

Edwards’ work is completely dependent on interviews with those who knew Lohmeyer, records, and written evidence.  His love of the subject glows on each and every page and for a New Testament scholar by training the production of this biographical work is truly remarkable.

Endnotes, a list of abbreviations, notes, a bibliography, and an index round out the volume which includes photos (though no more than a few pages worth) and maps (so that readers are rightly oriented to the places the book describes).

Edwards does something else in the volume too: he cites extensively from Lohmeyer’s letters and other documents.  He offers a translation of each but he also allows readers to do their own translation of these primary texts, including them in the documentation for all to see for themselves.  Edwards also tells readers fragments of his own story, linking himself to those around Lohmeyer and familiar with him.  By doing so, Edwards guides us through Lohmeyer’s life as a guide with insider information.

Finally, readers will discover in this volume astonishingly familiar sounding historical tidbits.  Allow me to share two of them:

The fact that the Nazi party never won more than one third of the popular vote rings a contemporary bell, doesn’t it?

And the fact that isolationism followed by xenophobia and fear of minorities featured prominently in Nazi propaganda also sounds astonishingly familiar.

In sum, there is an undercurrent of warning here.  What has been, may be again, if we are not vigilant and willing to stand up to tyranny whenever and wherever it manifests itself.  Lohmeyer may not be the last ‘disappeared’ theologian, if we are not careful.

This is a remarkable volume.  It deserves a wide readership because it is well written, relevant, interesting, and provocative.  As I mentioned to friends the other day- if you read just one book this month, make it this one.

A Luther Painting That’s New To Me


A Calvin Painting that’s New To Me


Peter Opitz: Leben und Werk Johannes Calvins

Peter Opitz gelingt es, auf knappem Raum eine allgemein verständliche Einführung in Leben und Werk Johannes Calvins zu geben.

I’ve reviewed this gem (with thanks to Christian Moser for sending a copy) now and you can read it here.

Doing Theology With the Reformers

Folk may be interested in this:


The Reformation was a time of tremendous upheaval, renewal, and vitality in the life of the church. The challenge to maintain and develop faithful Christian belief and practice in the midst of great disruption was reflected in the theology of the sixteenth century.

In this volume, which serves as a companion to IVP Academic’s Reformation Commentary on Scripture, theologian and church historian Gerald L. Bray immerses readers in the world of Reformation theology. He introduces the range of theological debates as Catholics and Protestants from a diversity of traditions—Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, and Anabaptist—disputed the essentials of the faith, from the authority of Scripture and the nature of salvation to the definition of the church, the efficacy of the sacraments, and the place of good works in the Christian life.

Readers will find that understanding how the Reformers engaged in the theological discipline can aid us in doing theology today.

A review copy has arrived.  More anon.

Zwingli’s ‘Petition for Priests to Marry’ and a Little Help from a Friend

xylotectusOn 7 July 1522, while Zwingli was preparing his little booklet on the freedom of priests to marry, his friend in Lucerne, one Johannes Xylotectus, sent him a note with a tiny story to help Zwimgli make his point. Xylotectus writes

Ioannes Xylotectus Huldricho Zuinlio S. D. P.

Sacrificus quidam nostras scorti sui maritum confecit. Scortum sacrificus aliquandiu invito marito aluit. Maritus eum de restituenda preda Lucernae convenit. Hinc cum scorto redeuntem in itinere deprehendit, adgreditur loethiferoque vulnere cadit et tandem moritur. Hoc ideo te scire volui, ut, si commode inserere libello, quem parturis, posses, exemplum haberes recens, quanta noster coelibatus non modo scandala, verumetiam pericula pariat, quibus legittimo coniugio foelicissime mederi possent nostri Helvetii. Noster item Bodenler dominica pręterita multa in sacerdotum coniugia pro contione dixit, cui velim vel per Erasmum nostrum responderetur (ut scilicet vel taceret vel scripturam scriptura refelleret, ne tandem suis coloribus depictus toti orbi fabula redderetur), nugas suas diutius non ferendas, et cetera in hunc modum, ut visum fuerit, litterasque illas cum libello negotii nostri accipiat. Iacobus Naef te ad templi sui consecrationis festum venturum dixit. Fac sciam, an ita sit et quando.


Ex Lucerna Nonis Iuliis 1522.
Et doctissimo et amicissimo domino Huldricho Zuinlio,
Tigurinorum euangelistae. –
Meister Uolrich Zwingli zuo Zurich lutpriester.

Zwingli’s friends across the Cantons were happy to help him Reform the Church.  And reforming the Church meant reforming the clergy.

Of Xylotectus (who isn’t exactly widely known), the Swiss Historical Lexicon notes

Geboren 1490 (Johannes Ludwig Zimmermann) Luzern, gestorben 19.8.1526 Basel, von Luzern, aus patriz. Geschlecht stammend. um 1524 Margarethe Feer, Tochter des Jost, Bauern. Stud. in Basel, 1508 Bakkalaureus, 1510 Magister Artium. 1499 Chorherrwartner des Stifts Beromünster, 1504 Chorherr zu St. Leodegar im Hof in Luzern, 1513 Priesterweihe.

Ab 1510 wirkte X. als Lateinlehrer in Luzern und knüpfte enge Bande zum Humanistenkreis um Joachim Vadian, Huldrych Zwingli, Glarean und Oswald Myconius. Als seine Stellung in Luzern aufgrund seiner reformator. Gesinnung unhaltbar wurde, siedelte X. Ende 1524 nach Basel um. Dort erlag er der Pest. 1520 wurde X. von Hans Hohlbein (dem Jüngeren) porträtiert.

Calvin: On Ridding the Church of Wicked Pastors

This is becoming more and more important.  Churches should pay attention and act accordingly:

We recognize no other pastors in the Church than faithful pastors of the Word of God, feeding the sheep of Jesus Christ on the one hand with instruction, admonition, consolation, exhortation, deprecation; and on the other resisting all false doctrines and deceptions of the devil, without mixing with the pure doctrine of the Scriptures their dreams or their foolish imaginings.

To these we accord no other power or authority but to conduct, rule, and govern the people of God committed to them by the same Word, in which they have power to command, defend, promise, and warn, and without which they neither can nor ought to attempt anything.

As we receive the true ministers of the Word of God as messengers and ambassadors of God, it is necessary to listen to them as to him himself, and we hold their ministry to be a commission from God necessary in the Church.

On the other hand we hold that all seductive and false prophets, who abandon the purity of the Gospel and deviate to their own inventions, ought not at all to be suffered or maintained, who are not the pastors they pretend, but rather, like ravening wolves, ought to be hunted and ejected from the people of God.*

*Calvin: Theological Treatises (p. 32).

The Burning of Jan Hus

1415: On July 6, Jan Hus is condemned as a heretic and then burned at the stake.

husAfter John Wycliffe, Jan (John) Hus is considered the first Church reformer, as he lived before Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. Hus was a key predecessor to Protestantism, and his teachings had a strong influence on the states of Western Europe, most immediately in the approval of a reformist Bohemian religious denomination, and, more than a century later, on Martin Luther himself. On July 6, 1415, John Hus (whose name means “goose” in his native Czech) made his way to the place of execution. Some of his last words were: You are going to burn a goose but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil.

This “Swan” of this statement has popularly been interpreted to be Martin Luther, not to mention, even by Luther himself:

However, I, Dr. Martinus, have been called to this work and was compelled to become a doctor, without any initiative of my own, but out of pure obedience. Then I had to accept the office of doctor and swear a vow to my most beloved Holy Scriptures that I would preach and teach them faithfully and purely. While engaged in this kind of teaching, the papacy crossed my path and wanted to hinder me in it. How it has fared is obvious to all, and it will fare still worse. It shall not hinder me. In God’s name and call I shall walk on the lion and the adder, and tread on the young lion and dragon with my feet. And this which has been begun during my lifetime will be completed after my death. St. John Huss prophesied of me when he wrote from his prison in Bohemia, “They will roast a goose now (for ‘Huss’ means ‘a goose’), but after a hundred years they will hear a swan sing, and him they will endure.” And that is the way it will be, if God wills. [LW 34:103]

Via our Saxon friends on FB.

Help Fund a New Translation of Calvin’s Institutes

Right here.

Do you want to be a part of bringing John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion to a new generation of readers? This new edition will be highly accessible to readers who want to deepen their understanding of the Reformed faith, and students discovering and exploring the Reformation.  Our team is A.N.S. (Tony) Lane, general editor; Raymond A. (Randy) Blacketer, translator and associate editor; Drs. Jeannette Kreijkes, associate translator and editor.

This project was originally proposed by Richard A. Muller and will be published by Crossway / Good News Publishers. The project is well underway, but Crossway, as a non-profit, is seeking more funds to complete this exciting work, which will take approximately six years. Dr. Randy Blacketer will be working full-time on the project.

The target goal is high, but it represents our total fundraising goal. We expect other donors apart from our campaign. Crossway has already committed $250,000. If you have a profound love for the Reformed faith and/or for Reformation history, and want to further this worthy cause, any donation will help make an impact. We thank you in advance for your contribution to this project.

More information about Good News Publishers: Crossway is a not-for-profit ministry that exists solely for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel and the truth of God’s Word through publishing and all other means.

Click here for a detailed summary of the project.

Fun Facts from Church History: Calvin’s System of Sermonizing

calvin_preachTo give you some idea of the scope of the Calvin’s pulpit, he began his series on the book of Acts on August 25, 1549, and ended it in March of 1554. After Acts he went on to the epistles to the Thessalonians (46 sermons), Corinthians (186 sermons), pastorals (86 sermons), Galatians (43 sermons), Ephesians (48 sermons)–till May 1558. Then there is a gap when he is ill. In the spring of 1559 he began the Harmony of the Gospels and was not finished when he died in May, 1564. During the week of that season he preached 159 sermons on Job, 200 on Deuteronomy, 353 on Isaiah, 123 on Genesis and so on.

And here’s the most interesting snippet-

One of the clearest illustrations that this was a self-conscious choice on Calvin’s part was the fact that on Easter Day, 1538, after preaching, he left the pulpit of St. Peter’s, banished by the City Council. He returned in September, 1541–over three years later–and picked up the exposition in the next verse.*

That, my friends, is how you do it.
*From John Piper’s little book on Calvin.

Die Mitte der Reformation: Eine Studie zu Buchdruck und Publizistik im deutschen Sprachgebiet, zu ihren Akteuren und deren Strategien, Inszenierungs- und Ausdrucksformen

Die Bedeutung des Buchdrucks für Verlauf und Gestalt der Reformation ist seit der Reformationszeit ein zentrales Thema. Unklar war allerdings bisher, wie die unterschiedlichen Akteure des reformatorischen Kommunikationsprozesses – die theologischen Schriftsteller, die Buchdrucker, Verleger und Buchführer, Formschneider, Leser etc. – auf der Mikroebene interagierten. Hier setzt Thomas Kaufmann an und rekonstruiert zunächst, inwiefern die Reformatoren als »Printing Natives« frühzeitig Kontakte zu Buchdruckern unterhielten, bereits vor der Reformation an Herstellungsprozessen beteiligt und routinierte Editoren, Korrektoren und Publizisten waren, Verfahren beschleunigter Buchherstellung entwickelten und die Strukturen des Buchmarkts genauestens kannten.

Sodann arbeitet der Verfasser die Rolle der Buchdrucker und ihrer Familien heraus; hierbei zeigt sich, dass sie eine vielfach unterschätzte Rolle bei der Gestaltung und Inszenierung eines Buches spielten und originelle Strategien der Transformation des überkommenen Buchmarktes entwickelten.

In einem letzten Schritt arbeitet der Autor anhand von Schlüsselgattungen und -texten der frühen Reformation (Thesenreihen; Disputationsberichten; druckgraphischen Serien; Editionen; Gebet- und Liederbüchern etc.) heraus, dass die reformatorischen Publizisten einen immensen Drang in die publizistische Öffentlichkeit entwickelten, innerhalb kürzester Zeit traditionelle akademische Diskursformen wie Disputationen vermittels des Buchdrucks radikal veränderten und neue, ihren Bedürfnissen entsprechende Gattungen schufen. Nach Auffassung des Verfassers bildete die Interaktion zwischen den reformatorischen Inhalten und ihrer typographischen Reproduktion die Mitte der Reformation.

For many centuries biblical scholars have argued about the ‘center’ of the Bible.  Is it’s central reality the concept of ‘covenant’, or is it ‘salvation history’ or something else?  For Christians, the answer is usually ‘Jesus’, following Luther’s idea that the Old Testament is the cradle in which the Christ child lay.

Questions about the ‘center’ of the Reformation have also been raised, mostly by specialists.  Some have answered with ‘justification by faith’ or ‘sola scriptura’ or a plethora of other notions.  But Kaufmann has put his finger on the pulse of the Reformation in the present study where he shows, indisputably, that the ‘core’ of the Reformation is…. the book.

Following the introduction, Kaufmann carefully and methodically builds his case for the importance, indeed the centrality, of the book for the success of the Reformation.  In chapter one, with its 12 subsections, argues for the culture of the book and its importance for the Reformers as authors and for their publishers.  Special attention is given to Oecolampadius, whom Kaufmann cleverly calls an exemplary ‘Buckakteur’.

The second chapter is an investigation of publishing families and the cities in which they plied their trade.  Augsburg, Zwickau, Basel, Worms, Leipzig and other important cities are discussed and described.  This chapter is comprised of 5 subsections.

The third chapter is a thorough, indeed very thorough investigation of literary and publicity strategies and various styles and formats of printing.  This chapter too consists of five subsections.  Here Kaufmann illustrates his investigations with examples from the publication of the Leipzig Disputation, the Freedom of the Christian, and various early catechisms.

The final segment of the volume, a hefty 718 pages of text plus various indices and bibliographies, is devoted to early Reformation era interactions between German and English ‘Buchakteuren’.

The argument of the volume is so exceptionally detailed that many if not most of the pages are comprised of footnotes.  Several pages, in fact, have a line of text and the remainder of the page is devoted to notes.  That, to be sure, isn’t the case throughout; but it does occur often enough.  It also happens quite regularly that pages are half taken up with primary text and half taken up with notes.

Kaufmann’s volume is impressive, detailed, finely argued, and persuasive.  Books made the Reformation a reality.  Printed books.  Books made widely available by the invention and implementation of the  printing press.

This work is German historical scholarship at its finest.  It is about books.  It is about the Reformation.  What could be more glorious than the combination of those three things?  This large volume is worth your time.

Tolle, lege!

Today in Church History: The Founding of ‘Theologische Existenz heute!’

Karl Barth und die Anfänge einer kirchlichen Opposition

Die Herausbildung einer kirchlichen Opposition innerhalb der evangelischen Kirche ist durch eine aufsehenerregende Schrift, die am 1. Juli 1933 veröffentlicht wurde, entscheidend forciert worden. Sie stammte aus der Feder des Bonner Theologieprofessors Karl Barth und trug den Titel „Theologische Existenz heute!“.

Der Text hatte den Zuschnitt eines Manifestes und veränderte die kirchliche Lage nachhaltig. Entschieden wendet sich Barth darin gegen die Deutschen Christen und ihr Bestreben, die evangelische Kirche im Sinne des Nationalsozialismus zu politisieren. Barth fordert die radikale Abkehr von dieser Politisierung der Kirche.

Mehr zur Schrift „Theologische Existenz heute!“ finden Sie hier.

«Den wahren Gott recht erkennen und anrufen»

Der Schaffhauser Reformator Johann Konrad Ulmer arbeitete jahrzehntelang an seinem Katechismus und schuf damit ein theologisch und pädagogisch herausragendes Werk: klar aufgebaut, theologisch sauber durchdacht und inhaltlich auf das Wesentlichste konzentriert. Im Zentrum des Buchs stehen die Edition einer bisher unbekannten Abendmahlskatechese, der unedierten Erstfassung des Katechismus (1568) und der gedruckten Fassung von 1569. Für die Kommentierung wurde auch nahezu unbekanntes Archivmaterial verwendet. Untersucht werden ausserdem sprachliche Probleme, die verschiedenen Auflagen und die Verwendung von Liedern im Katechismus, die analog zu den Fragen und Antworten gedruckt wurden.

TVZ sent a review copy in a box today, along with the volume previously mentioned and one to be mentioned next.

Happy Birthday to the University of Marburg

marburg2.jpgThe University of Marburg was opened July 1, 1527, with a hundred and four students. It became the second nursery of the Protestant ministry, next to Wittenberg, and remains to this day an important institution. Francis Lambert, Adam Kraft, Erhard Schnepf, and Hermann Busch were its first theological professors. – Philip Schaff

Happy birthday to one of the most influential universities in the world.