Category Archives: Zwingli

Truth Can Never be Surrendered, Nor Compromised

The business of the truth is not to be deserted, even to the sacrifice of our lives. For we live not for this age of ours, nor for the princes, but for the Lord. To admit for the sake of the princes any thing that will diminish or vitiate the truth is silly, not to say impious. To have held fast to the purpose of the Lord is to conquer all adversaries.  — Huldrych Zwingli

Arguing With Anabaptists: On January 17, 1525

zwingli101With the appearance of the ‘re-baptizers’ in Zurich in the early 1520’s, need arose for clarification of the Reforming position.  The City Council required discussions and on the 17th of January, 1525, those discussions commenced.  As Schaff notes

At first Zwingli tried to persuade them in private conferences, but in vain. Then followed a public disputation, which took place by order of the magistracy in the council hall, Jan. 17, 1525. Grebel was opposed to it, but appeared, together with Manz and Reubli. They urged the usual arguments against infant baptism, that infants cannot understand the gospel, cannot repent and exercise faith. Zwingli answered them, and appealed chiefly to circumcision and 1 Cor. 7:14, where Paul speaks of the children of Christian parents as “holy.” He afterwards published his views in a book, “On Baptism, Rebaptism, and Infant Baptism” (May 27, 1525). Bullinger, who was present at the disputation, reports that the Anabaptists were unable to refute Zwingli’s arguments and to maintain their ground. Another disputation was held in March, and a third in November, but with no better result. The magistracy decided against them, and issued an order that infants should be baptized as heretofore, and that parents who refuse to have their children baptized should leave the city and canton with their families and goods.

And further

The Anabaptists refused to obey, and ventured on bold demonstrations. They arranged processions, and passed as preachers of repentance, in sackcloth and girdled, through the streets of Zurich, singing, praying, exhorting, abusing the old dragon (Zwingli) and his horns, and exclaiming, “Woe, woe unto Zurich!”

The Magistrates saw this as a demonstration of an anarchic spirit and they cracked down. Hard. Indeed, they were right to. The early Anabaptists weren’t peace loving Yoder-ians (although Grebel and Yoder did have in common a ‘wandering eye for the ladies’ shall we say…). They were – for all intents and purposes – anarchists bent on overthrowing not just the Church but the State. It was the political dimension of their protests which drew Government ire and resulted in the violence leveled against them. And it all started on January 17, 1525, when they rejected persuasion and determined to have it their way no matter the consequences.

Indeed, it wasn’t their view of baptism per se which caused Zwingli to disagree with their overall position.  He had written two years previously

“Although I know, as the Fathers show, that infants have been baptised occasionally from the earliest times, still it was not so universal a custom as it is now, but the common practice was as soon as they arrived at the age of reason to form them into classes for instruction in the Word of Salvation (hence they were called catechumens, i. e., persons under instruction). And after a firm faith had been implanted in their hearts and they had confessed the same with their mouth, then they were baptised. I could wish that this custom of giving instruction were revived to-day, viz., since the children are baptised so young their religious instruction might begin as soon as they come to sufficient understanding. Otherwise they suffer a great and ruinous disadvantage if they are not as well religiously instructed after baptism as the children of the ancients were before baptism, as sermons to them still preserved prove.”

It is, then, an absurdity to claim, as some wrongly do, who do not really understand the world in which these 16th century people lived, that Zwingli and his compatriots despised the Anabaptists because of their view of baptism.  That presumption is simply one based on ignorance.

Bruce Gordon Talks About Zwingli

The Last Attempt to Stop the Reformation In Zurich: The Anniversary of its Failure

second_zurich_dispPursuant to the order of the Council, on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 19 and 20, 1524, Canon Hofmann, chief representative of the Old Party among the priesthood, met the three people’s priests, and six theologians and six councillors, in private sessions, and attempted to defend the old usages. But the commission decided that he had not made out his points from Scripture, and so the Council voted that the canons must give outward assent to the Council’s orders or leave the city.

With this last desperate attempt the Old Party closed their efforts, and there was no further formal opposition in Zurich to the Reformation. One by one, as the people were fully able to stand it, and understand it, those practices of the Old Church which Zwingli considered objectionable were removed. The saints’ days passed unobserved; the procession to Einsiedeln which had taken place annually on Monday after Pentecost (that year May 16th), and which was made much of, was permanently abolished, by order of Council, the preceding Saturday; the reliques were by similar order, June 15th, taken from the churches and reverently buried; the organs were removed and the ringing of the church bells during a tempest, even the tolling for funerals, stopped.

Masses for the dead, processions of clergy, payment for confession, blessing of palms, holy water, candles, and extreme unction, all became things of the past. The removal of the pictures, statues, images, and other ornaments from the churches was accomplished in the city between Saturday, July 2d, and Sunday, July 17th. Similar scenes took place all over the canton. The next step, and one which like the others was carefully weighed, was the abolition of the convents and monasteries in the city and canton of Zurich.*

*Jackson, S. M., Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531) (pp. 223–225).

The First of Three Posts at the Christian History Institute

The first installment by yours truly appeared today.  The next two will appear on the next two Fridays.  I hope you enjoy them.

The Zwingli Film Reviewed

This is, so far as I know, the first review of the film, which just came out yesterday:

Schon lange nicht mehr wurde für einen Schweizer Film so stark die Werbetrommel gerührt wie für den neuen Zwingli-Film (Kino-Start am 17.1.2019). Klar, dass auch ich gespannt war auf den Film. Seit mehr als dreissig Jahren unterrichte ich Kirchen- und Täufergeschichte. Seit mehr als dreissig Jahren bin ich selber gleichzeitig fasziniert und irritiert über die Dynamiken, die sich in der Reformation entfaltet und die Jahrhunderte danach geprägt haben. Seit mehr als dreissig Jahren bin ich selber involviert in Gespräche in Kirchen und zwischen Kirchen, die historisch auf die Reformationszeit zurückgehen. Seit mehr als dreissig Jahren tue ich dies als Mitglied einer täuferisch-mennonitischen Kirche, deren Anfänge viel mit Zwingli zu tun haben – und deren weitere Geschichte stark von Verfolgung und Repression geprägt ist.

Klar also, dass auch ich gespannt war auf den Film.

Etc.  I don’t know how accurate the review is- but I’ll let you know my take in a few weeks when I see it in Zurich.

Arguing with Radicals

Huldrich_zwingli 8In the middle of January, 1525, Zwingli and the other Pastors in Zurich were in a pitched battle against the radicals who were then urging their followers to abandon the Reformation and speed ahead with a total severance from society.  1525 would become the year during which Zwingli spent the majority of his time battling these ’causers of unrest’.

Indeed, things had already developed to such a threatening level to the well being of the city that in December the year before Zwingli had written  his scathing Wer Ursache gebe zu Aufruhr. In March of 1525 Zwingli published De vera et falsa religione commentarius, which took a swipe at both the old believers and the radicals.   In April the trial of some rebaptizers was observed by Zwingli; in May his Von der Taufe… appeared.   In June, Von den Predigtamt took to task those asserting pastoral and preaching privileges even though they lacked the appropriate tools.  And in November, the Antwort über Balthasar Hubmaiers Taufbüchlein saw the light of day.

All of these books were ‘conflict’ oriented and 1525 was perhaps the most conflict ridden of Zwingli’s life.   And that doesn’t take into account the opening of a front against an inaccurate understanding of the Lord’s Supper which was then developing and would come to a head at Marburg in 1529.

Notwithstanding all these disputations and difficulties, Zwingli maintained a cheerful disposition.  Depression and despair would stay away until 1531, when early in the summer, he would try to resign.

The historically ignorant to this day constantly insist that the Radicals were chiefly interested in infant baptism and its abolition.  This is not the case.  Nor is it the case that they insisted on baptism by immersion- since they were happy both to sprinkle and to pour.  No, their aim was far more inappropriate: they wanted a Church separated from society.

As Schaff puts it so pointedly:

The first and chief aim of the Radicals was not (as is usually stated) the opposition to infant baptism, still less to sprinkling or pouring, but the establishment of a pure church of converts in opposition to the mixed church of the world. The rejection of infant baptism followed as a necessary consequence. They were not satisfied with separation from popery; they wanted a separation from all the ungodly. They appealed to the example of the disciples in Jerusalem, who left the synagogue and the world, gathered in an upper room, sold their goods, and held all things in common. They hoped at first to carry Zwingli with them, but in vain; and then they charged him with treason to the truth, and hated him worse than the pope.

Zwingli could not follow the Anabaptists without bringing the Reformation into discredit with the lovers of order, and rousing the opposition of the government and the great mass of the people. He opposed them, as Augustin opposed the schismatical Donatists. He urged moderation and patience. The Apostles, he said, separated only from the open enemies of the gospel, and from the works of darkness, but bore with the weak brethren. Separation would not cure the evils of the Church. There are many honest people who, though weak and sick, belong to the sheepfold of Christ, and would be offended at a separation. He appealed to the word of Christ, “He that is not against me, is for me,” and to the parable of the tares and the wheat. If all the tares were to be rooted up now, there would be nothing left for the angels to do on the day of final separation.

The Radicals couldn’t and wouldn’t tolerate such sensibility.  So they stirred civil unrest.  That the authorities could not tolerate, and the Radicals reaped the whirlwind.

Weather For the Zurich Conference

Weather at home

Weather at the Philadelphia transit point

Weather in Zurich

So it looks like weather won’t create any travel problems.  Yay.

The Film Opens Tomorrow

Another Zwingli Film Poster

Zwingli’s Private Library

This arrived from Brill for review a while back:

The Swiss theologian Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531) was one of the most prominent reformers and the founder of the Reformed Protestant Church in the Swiss Confederation. During the last hundred years more than 200 titles from his private library have been discovered. They give an interesting insight into his interests and sources. The present book contains not only an extensive introduction and a catalogue of these books and manuscripts, but also an inventory of the lost works possessed by Zwingli. They open the door to Zwingli’s study and to the intellectual world of an important reformer.

The book is comprised of three parts.  In part one, Leu and Weidmann put Zwingli in the context of books and libraries in general and in the context of his own library in particular.  As they state it

… investigating someone’s private library is just as crucial in tracing his spiritual life and intellectual conflicts, as is the scrutiny of other personal documents.

They go on to say a bit further on

Zwingli loved the secluded life of study. It is no coincidence that he underlined the quotation by Horace: “Beatus ille, qui procul negotiis” (Happy the man who is far away from the business) in his copy of the Orationes praelectiones et praefationes by Philipp Beroaldus.

So the aim here is clearly stated: which books did Zwingli own and what did he think of them?  To that end, then, we are informed that

… a maximum of a few thousand titles would have been available to scholars during Zwingli’s lifetime.  It can thus be inferred that they had to purchase many of the books they wanted themselves, due to the difficulty, at times sheer impossibility, of accessing the material otherwise.

And books were expensive!

One of his most expensive books was probably his edition of the works of Augustine (no. 13). The edition printed later in 1529 by Johannes Froben (about 1460–1527) had cost 18 guilders.

I had to do a little research, but I discovered this bit of information about the value of the guilder:

An outdoor laborer earned 6.50 guilders per week or just over 300 guilders per year.
master carpenter earned 9 guilders per week or just over 450 guilders per year
Wages did not change for 150 years.

A pastor earned 500 guilders per year. Rent free. We have an antique Dutch book and it describes the detailed living expenses of a pastor and his wife on a 500 guilders a year salary. They could not make ends meet.

Today, economists find it difficult to express a meaningful correlation factor of cost of living between two very different cities e.g. Miami, Oklahoma and Miami, Florida, let alone find a factor for correlating cost of living between two countries over some 400 years. However, research on inflation and CPI over the period of 1600 to 2000, -as well as rate of exchange and purchasing power- gives us a workable factor of 60. That means that for the rest of this report we’ll use: 100 guilders in the 1600s equals US $6,000 in today’s money.   (Cf-

That’s approximately the valuation of the guilder used in Switzerland during Zwingli’s lifetime.  I.e., 1 guilder = $60.  That means that Zwingli’s copy of Augustine’s works cost him $1080.

Zwingli paid off this work in at least two installments because on 8th March 1521 he wrote to Beatus Rhenanus that he had sent four guilders to the bookseller Mathias Biermann to settle the debts for his Augustine.

Leu continues:

If we calculate Zwingli’s income, it becomes evident that the Reformer spent a comparatively large amount of his money on his library which numbered several hundred titles. He was prepared to spend substantial sums on books and on education. We do not know how much he earned in Glarus, his financial situation in Einsiedeln is better documented. As well as a papal pension of 50 guilders per year for his military services in northern Italy, he also had a sinecure from Glarus and received an annual salary of twenty guilders from the monastery in Einsiedeln. There, he was also entitled to part of the so-called Beichtschilling (confessional shilling), to the fees for reading Masses (Oblations) and to a quarter of the donations at a funeral (mortuaries). Furthermore, he held the parish of Glarus de jure and had a locum vicar, thus securing for him self an additional income. Zwingli certainly earned over 100 guilders annually in Einsiedeln, which was not the case during his early days in Zürich.

These fascinating details fill this volume’s first chapter and no fuller picture of Zwingli’s book acquisitions has ever been composed.

When our authors get to the second part of their work they examine in brilliant detail the works in Zwingli’s library (of three chief sorts, Theological, Historical, and Miscellaneous).  They provide many examples of marginal notations along with many historical details about the works Zwingli used.  For instance, and remarkably

Astonishingly enough, not one single German Bible has survived from Zwingli’s Bible collection, although he certainly knew the so-called Wormser Propheten (no. A 17) as well as Luther’s New Testament (no. A 18). He used both of these works in preparing his translation for the Zürich Bible. Unlike the private collection of Zwingli’s successor, Heinrich Bullinger, no copy of the Zürich Bible has come down to us from Zwingli’s library, although he himself contributed greatly to its translation. We do however have a complete Greek Bible which, in a way, can be seen as Zwingli’s family Bible (no. 26). He would not have read aloud from it in the family circle, but he recorded the births of his children on the back inside cover. This list of births was continued by his son, recording his children with Anna Bullinger proving that the Bible remained in the Zwingli family after his death and was not transferred to the abbey library of the Grossmünster.

They also provide numerous illustrative plates throughout the volume.

Zwingli’s library was comprised of just over 400 volumes.  197 of them are held in the Zurich Central Library and they are available online, as we are here informed:

Finally it should be noted that all titles held by the ZBZ are available in digitized form at the following internet address:

There is a wealth of material in those volumes in the form of Zwingli’s marginal notations.

The third part of the volume is the catalogue itself.  And, unsurprisingly, it is simply a listing of those volumes held by Zwingli in his personal library.

The volume concludes with a bibliography.  It also concludes with a series of indices of printer’s locations, a list of contributors to Zwingli’s library, and finally, dedicators.

This is an exceptionally interesting book.  The historical details it shares and the massive amount of material it so carefully sifts is astonishing.  Readers of this volume will learn more about Zwingli and his world than from most other volumes on the great Reformer.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  And so I recommend it to you, to your library, and to your research institution.

The Contents of Zwingli’s Library

Zwingli’s personal library held over 400 works.  The Central Library of Zurich has 197 of them.  And they are all digitized, which means that where Zwingli annotated them you can see those annotations themselves.    With 10,000 thanks to Urs Leu for mentioning the collection in his book:

Finally it should be noted that all titles held by the ZBZ are available in digitized form at the following internet address: http://www.e‑

Zwingli was no Lutheran

“I do not want the papists to call me a Lutheran for I did not learn the doctrine of Christ from Luther, but rather from the Word of God. When Luther preaches Christ, he does the very same as me, though—thank God— innumerably more people are led to God through him than through me and others.” – HZ

Another Zwingli Film Poster

This and all the rest are here.

Zwingli’s Testimony at Hubmaier’s Trial

Zwingli testified at Balthasar Hubmaier’s trial as follows:

Doctor Balthasar hatt grett, man moge der oberkeit nienderth mit bas abkommenn, dann mit dem widertouff.  — Zwingli.

And the council passed sentence of exile.  Because the Anabaptists were viewed not so much heretics (which they were) as anarchists.  The council could deal with heretics.  Anarchists, though, were a cancer that had to be excised without mercy.

Luther? Who is That?

Zwingli seems only to have become aware of Luther at the end of 1518, although he had probably heard of the dispute about indulgences in Germany in 1517. His interest in the German reformer only really dates from a year after this when he made enquiries about Luther to his colleague Beatus Rhenanus in Basle. On 6th December 1518 Rhenanus replied: “We have not yet been able to find out anything about Luther. – Urs Leu

Zwingli and Jerome

Here’s a fun fact from Urs Leu’s brilliant book-

Jerome is mentioned [by Zwingli][JW] 873 times, Augustine 512, Ambrose114 451 and Origen 345, the names of the latter two occurring predominantly in the marginal notes of Zwingli’s copy of the Greek Pauline epistles.

Zwingli loved Jerome.  With good reason.

Today With Zwingli

Zwingli was in Bern for the doings there and wrote his lovely wife to check in on things.

thumb_zwingli-and-wife-2Gnad und frid von gott.

Liebste husfrow, ich sag gott danck, das er dir ein fröliche gburt verlihen hatt. Der welle üns die nach sinem willen ze erziehen verlyhen. Schick miner bäsy j oder ij tuechly sölcher maass und wys, als du sy treyst. Sy kumpt zimmlich, doch nit bagynlich, ist ein frow von 40 iaren,  in alle wys und maass, wie sy meister Iörgen frow beschriben hatt.  Tuot mir und üns allen über die maass guetlich. Bis hiemit gott  bevolhen. Gruetz mir gfatter schaffnerin, Uolmann(!) Trinckler,  schultheiss Effingerin, und wer dir lieb sye.  Bitt gott für mich und uns alle.

Geben ze Bernn xj. tags Ienners.

Gruetz mir alle dine kind; besunder Margreten tröst in minem namen.

Huldrych Zuingli, din huswirt.  Schick mir, so bald du kanst, den tol’ggenrock.

Der frommen Anna Reinhartin ze Zürich, siner lieben husfrowen.

Another Zwingli Film Poster

Zwingli on the Indispensability of the Biblical Languages

You cannot maintain your soul in better order than by meditating on the Word of God day and night. But this can only be done correctly if Hebrew and Greek are properly mastered because, without the one, the Old Testament cannot be really understood, and without the second, the New Testament cannot be correctly understood*.  — Huldrych Zwingli

*Tr. by Urs Leu. – “Rectius autem animum componere non poterit, quam si verbum dei nocturna manu diurnaque verset. Id autem commode faciet, si linguas, Hebraicam et Graecam probe calleat, quod sine altera vetus instrumentum, sine altera novum pure capi difficulter possit.”