Ulrich Zwingli: Prophet, Ketzer, Pionier des Protestantismus

9783290178284TVZ have sent this new volume by Peter Opitz:

Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531) ist nicht nur der Reformator Zürichs und der Vater der Schweizer Reformation: Trotz seiner kurzen, dafür aber überaus bewegten Wirkungszeit kann er mit Fug und Recht als Wegbereiter und Pionier des weltweiten reformierten Protestantismus bezeichnet werden.

Die allgemein verständliche und reich illustrierte Biografie des Zwingli-Forschers Peter Opitz zeichnet auf knappem Raum das Denken und Wirken des Zürcher Reformators in den Konflikten seiner Zeit nach. Sie erhellt, welche theologischen Grundüberzeugungen Zwinglis Handeln in der Kirche wie innerhalb der Eidgenossenschaft prägten. Das Buch eignet sich für Lesende mit und ohne Vorwissen gleichermassen: Die anschauliche Biografie vermittelt auf aktuellem Forschungsstand ein lebendiges und zugleich wissenschaftlich fundiertes Bild des Reformators. Viele der gängigen, mit Zwinglis Namen verbundenen Vorstellungen werden dabei kritisch hinterfragt.

My review will appear in the not too distant future.  I am literally giddy with excitement and I doubt I’ll do anything tomorrow besides read.

Huldrych Zwingli and his Little Brother, James

We have but one letter from H Z to J Z, as Zwingli’s biographer informs us:

Zwingli sent James to Vadian’s care with this letter of introduction, dated Glarus, October 4, 1512 (vii., 7), and accompanied it with an historical sketch of the 1512 Italian campaign of the Glarus contingent in the papal army.

“The bearer of this is my own brother, a boy of good promise; when I thought over to whom to send him to be initiated into the sacred mysteries of philosophy, you always occurred to me. Therefore, I beseech you by the sweetness of our friendship that you polish, smooth, and finish him with plane, axe, and rake. I am sure you will find him most obedient. But if he dare to be disobedient, shut him up without compassion until his petulance effervesces. He has 50 gold pieces for the two years, so that he will need to be economical.”

That James considered his allowance altogether too small is shown by this letter, the only one of his preserved (vii., 7):

“Brother James Zwingli to Huldreich Zwingli, philosopher and rector at Glarus. Greeting: Would that the All swaying and supremely Good God would so bring it about that you might estimate my studies as highly as I do your liberality and brotherly kindness! And I do not despair of this; for I can be advanced so much by your example and exhortations (not to leave room for which would be degeneracy), also by Master Joachim Vadianus, whose pupil I now am; I am nourished by the flowers and rivulets of all the sciences, from which it would be a crime for those ignorant of philosophy to withdraw. Therefore, let me not be defiled by this wrong or that; doubt not that I will strive with perennial energy. Yet one anxiety is left; I cannot live for two years upon the 50 gold pieces allowed me. I do not complain of this, by Mars, because I am given to high living. By Hercules’ I live pretty roughly. I live upon the food carried away from the dinner table; I am compelled to drink water which can be made by no benediction to lose its original bad taste. In accordance with the warning of Joachim, let 50 gold pieces be added to the 15 I received, and this you would assent to if you knew the circumstances. When I reached Vienna, only 11 remained, so expensive was the journey, and of them I spent 7 for books and then bought a bed. Assuredly money slipped so quickly out of my hands that there is hardly a penny left. Then there are 19 florins to be paid the procurator for food and 5 yearly to Joachim, so that unless I can look for 30 gold pieces a year study cannot be carried on. Therefore, my brother, on your side take things in good part, and make your ears gracious to my appeal, and I will on my part always respect your wishes.

“Concerning my studies I cannot write more, as I have hardly tasted them. I gain very little from the reading of Pliny as I lack a copy. I hear with the greatest attention lectures on Lactantius’s De Opificium and the rest from [John] Camertes [professor of theology], the most learned man in Vienna at this time. I hear the Letters of Cicero by our Joachim and the text of the Sentences [of Peter Lombard] from a certain Father, a bachelor of letters. I study, unwillingly though, the Dialectics, and I hear this, that, and the other, which it is not necessary to speak of. Though it will be seen how far I shall profit by any particular course when I have put the finishing touch to it. So much for this.

“As to the money, do your part that what is coming to me may be handed to Francis Zili, citizen of St. Gall, grandfather of Valentine Tschudi, so that it may reach me by March 23d. I have written the same thing to the abbot [probably that of St. John’s], and by command of my instructor I have asked father for a good new coat. So see to it they get their letters as soon as possible, so that all may be done at an early date. Have them read through this one’s letter to the dekan [of Wesen, Bartholomew Zwingli, James’s uncle] as soon as possible. I and the writer of this [i. e., Valentine] are in one boat. Urge Valentine’s relatives to be liberal, for though they are rich they are very frugal.

“If there is any news let me have it. Not far from us a doubtful conflict has been fought between the Hungarians and the Turks, and this terrifies the Austrians. Do not be angry at this unpolished letter. Farewell! The good fortune of Metellus and the years of Nestor be yours. Greet our respected John, Dr. Gregory [pastor] of Swandon, my comrade Fridolin, and my sister [of Glarus].

“Vienna, at the house of Saint Jerome, January 23, 1513.”

When James went to Vienna he was already a monk, (see above), and so his matriculation entry in the winter semester of 1512 reads: Fr[ater] Jacobus Zwinglin professus ad s. Joannem prope.

We know nothing of what became of James Zwingli.  We do know that it was a scant 3 years later, at the Battle of Marignano, that Zwingli had implanted in his soul the urge of Reform.

Happy Birthday Lucas Cranach (Jr)

Lucas Cranach the Younger was born on October 4, 1515 in Wittenberg, Germany, to Lucas and Barbara Cranach. He grew up and trained in his father’s workshop where he became an accomplished artist in his own right. When his father died, he took over control of the famous artist’s workshop and continued in his famous style.

Shown is probably the most famous portrait of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Younger and is from 1554.

-Rebecca DeGarmeaux for Katie Luther

cranach luther

An Interesting Side Note to the Marburg Colloquy

The editor of the American Edition of Luther’s works writes

The Marburg Articles were dated October 3 by Luther in order to make the time of their composition coincide with the final day of the colloquy. Thus they were to be regarded as a tangible result of the meeting at Marburg. Actually the date of their composition was October 4.

It is worth noting, too, that the final negotiations had to be conducted with considerable haste because an epidemic of serious proportions, known as the “English sweat,” had broken out in Marburg. Anxiety about the rapid spread of the disease caused Philip of Hesse to speed up the proceedings, although he had originally planned that the colloquy was to extend over a period of “not less than eight days.” Consequently, the landgrave himself left Marburg early on October 5. Luther and his party departed on the same day in the afternoon. It is probable that the Zwinglians and the Strassburgers began their homeward journey on the same date, since all had been urged to leave as soon as possible.

Nothing ends a meeting like the ‘English Sweat’…

An Interview With Christophe Chalamet

ChalametChristophe is a scholar at the University of Geneva and one of the presenters in the upcoming Coursera Course on Calvin.  He sat down for a brief interview.  Here’s our exchange:

Q- What drew you to Calvin?

A- When you’re born in Geneva and attend the high school Calvin founded in 1559 (renovations were just completed and celebrated last Saturday, it looks gorgeous, see http://icp.ge.ch/po/calvin) and then you go into theology, then the question is rather: how can you escape Calvin? More broadly: when the University of Geneva was thinking of offering several MOOCs, the topic of Geneva and the Reformation, unsurprisingly, came up. The rector of the University knew of the Theological Faculty’s experience with online courses and invited us to offer a MOOC.

Q- How did you come to teach at Geneva.

A- The University of Geneva is my alma mater. When it had a position opening in systematic theology in 2010, I decided to give it a shot, even though I was a very happy member of Fordham University’s Theology Department. I moved back to Switzerland for several reasons, among them family reasons (i.e. so that my children would get to know their grandparents and vice versa). It’s also exciting, for those who enjoy challenges, to be teaching theology in a heavily secularized society and in a prominent secular university.

Q- How long have you and the other presenters worked on the course which will shortly begin on Coursera?

A- We began planning it in early 2013, we recorded all of it during the summer of 2013 and offered it for the first time in October 2013. We are about to offer the 2nd edition, with only few changes (4 new video sequences; more about them below).

Q- Who else is involved in the course and what are the subjects they teach?

A- Michel Grandjean and François Dermange are the main instructors, with me. Michel Grandjean is a historian of Christianity, François Dermange is an ethicist and theologian. We have many invited scholars in addition to the “core team”.

Q- The last time this course was offered there were people from all around the world who took part. Is it shaping up that way this time?

A- I don’t know the answer to that question yet.

Q- Is the course the same as previously or have some things been removed or others added?

A- We’ve added 4 new videos: on the Heidelberg Catechism and the transition to Protestant scholasticism/orthodoxy from around the time of Calvin’s death, on the Reformed tradition and art, on br. Roger of Taizé, and on two key 20th century Reformed figures who embodied the Calvinist tradition at its best during World War II: Marc Boegner and Madeleine Barot.

Q- What will students take away from the course. Or at least what do you hope they will?

A- I hope they get past stereotypes about Calvin and the Reformed tradition. I also hope they understood that what drove Calvin was not «breaking away» from Rome but rediscovering and proclaiming the Gospel. That legacy lives on, fortunately.

Q- Calvin is a divisive figure even 500 years after his birth. Why do you think that is?

A- The quest for truth (and justice, one may add) doesn’t always lead to harmony among human beings! Moreover, Calvin’s struggle for the truth of the Gospel was very much a 16th century struggle for the Gospel, hence the authoritarian dimension of the man, which no Reformed in his/her right mind wishes to place on a pedestal. We should not lose sight of the fact that he himself wished to reconcile his fellow Protestants, as can be seen in his teachings on the Lord’s supper.

Q- Do you view Calvin as a ‘tyrant’?

A- No.

Q- How has your view of Calvin changed over time?

A- I’ve become a bit more critical of the caricatures of Calvin as a proto-Gestapo officer (cf. Stefan Zweig’s portrait of Calvin) or, at the other extreme end of the spectrum, as a porto-modern thinker. He is a much more complex historical figure than that.

Q- If there were one thing about Calvin that needs correction in the public mind, what would it be and why?

A- The idea that he had no sensitivity to beauty and joy (this cliché is particularly entrenched in Geneva).

Q- Did Calvin kill Servetus?

A- He did not light the match (he actually thought burning Servetus at the stake was too cruel a death and suggested a different method: decapitation – see what a nice man he was?), but he clearly played a decisive part in the Spanish doctor’s trial and subsequent death. Servetus, however, was a hunted man, and not just by the Protestants. I write this as someone who is not a historian of Christianity.

Q- Was Calvin heartless and humorless?

A- Heartless, certainly not. Humorless: perhaps (unfortunately).

Q- Do you think that Calvin was dependent in some respect on Zwingli for his thought?

A- Interesting question; I’m not sure how to answer it. Calvin did retain the « symbolic » dimension of the Lord’s supper, which was Zwingli’s view, but that was not all Calvin had to say on this topic.

Q- You have written a number of books on theological themes and theologians. Do you have plans to write a book on Calvin?

A- Not as of now. Maybe one day, perhaps on the basis of his sermons and biblical commentaries (which are still not read very much).

Q- Calvin seems to have had something of a ‘monk’s heart’. By that I mean, I think he was very hard on himself. What do you think was the reason for this?

A- He was convinced being a disciple involves a certain personal discipline. He also thought he was « on a mission », and a crucial one (again, a mission which was centered on the Gospel).

Q- Do you folk at the University have plans to offer a course on Luther or Zwingli?

A- We’ve toyed with the idea (esp. with 2017 fast approaching) but there are no definite plans as of now.

Q- If you had to choose a Reformer that continues to be the most significant, would it be Zwingli, or Zwingli, or would it be Zwingli?

A- uuh, what about… Zwingli? Sorry to disappoint, Jim, but it would not be Zwingli (btw, my mother, who comes from the region of Bremgarten, Aargau, counts Bullinger (who was born in that city) as one of her ancestors… that’s the closest I can get to ending on a good note!).

Close enough!  Thanks again so much for your willingness to answer these questions and moreso to offer your time and talent in teaching the course.

If you would like to know more about the course, scroll down and follow the link to it.  And I’ll see you there.