Today With Zwingli

bucerOn the 23rd of June, 1530 Martin Bucer wrote Zwingli a letter which contained this line:

“Nothing more intolerant can be imagined than the hatred which the Lutherans have against us.”

Zwingli received the letter on June 25.  Bucer managed to sum up the situation in the Holy Roman Empire and its environs nearly perfectly.

Jackson’s Description of Zwingli’s First Days in Zurich, and of the Man Himself

Zwingli - Szenen - ov - 09 Scene PictureOn Saturday, January 1, 1519, he presented himself to the assembled canons [of Zurich], and was formally inducted into his office as people’s priest. … Zwingli thanked them for electing him, requested their prayers and the prayers of the congregation, and then announced that he would begin the next day the continuous exposition of the Gospel of Matthew, not according to the Fathers, but according to the Scriptures themselves. This announcement made a decided sensation, as it was a marked deviation from the practice of following the pericopes and interpreting them patristically, and awakened some adverse criticism.

Of stalwart frame, above middle height, of a ruddy countenance and pleasing expression, he made a good impression upon spectators, and when he spoke he soon showed that he was an orator who could enchain the attention. All Zurich, and indeed all Switzerland, rang with his praise. And not only town people but the country folk also listened to him with delight. For the benefit of the latter he preached every Friday, which was market-day, in the market-place, and took the Psalms for continuous exposition. On Sundays in the cathedral he expounded during his first four years, and in this order, Matthew, Acts, I. Timothy, Galatians, II. Timothy, I. and II. Peter, and Hebrews. — S.M. Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531).

Kappel. June 25. 1529.

The First Kappel War ended on this day in 1529.

After several negotiations, a treaty of Peace was concluded June 25, 1529, between Zuerich, Bern, Basel, St. Gall, and the cities of Muehlhausen and Biel on the one hand, and the five Catholic Cantons on the other. The deputies of Glarus, Solothurn, Schaffhausen, Appenzell, Graubuenden, Sargans, Strassburg, and Constanz acted as mediators.

The treaty was not all that Zwingli desired, especially as regards the abolition of the pensions and the punishment of the dispensers of pensions (wherein he was not supported by Bern), but upon the whole it was favorable to the cause of the Reformation.

The first and most important of the Eighteen Articles of the treaty recognizes, for the first time in Europe, the principle of parity or legal equality of the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches,—a principle which twenty-six years afterwards was recognized also in Germany (by the Augsburger Religionsfriede of 1555), but which was not finally settled there till after the bloody baptism of the Thirty Years’ War, in the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), against which the Pope of Rome still protests in vain. (Schaff)

Regrettably the peace would not hold, and just over 2 years later the disastrous Second Kappel War would see the end of Zwingli’s life.  But not the end of his influence nor the end of his Reform.

Today With Zwingli: The End of the First Kappel War

On June 24, 1530, the treaty [that ended the First Kappel War] was signed, and Zwingli on that day expressed himself as satisfied and thankful. The treaty contained eighteen Articles, of which these were the chief:

  • 1. Neither side was to persecute anyone for his faith’s sake. The majority in each canton was to decide whether the Old Faith was to be retained or not.
  • 2. The alliance with Austria was to be dissolved and the papers pertaining to it “pierced and slit.”
  • 3. The six cities of Zurich, Bern, Basel, St. Gall, Mülhausen, and Biel, all Reformed, renounced definitely for themselves and their dependencies all pensions and foreign subsidies of every description, but merely recommended a similar course to the Five Forest Cantons.
  • 7. Schwyz was to support the children of Jacob Keyser (or Schlosser), whom she had burned for his faith’s sake.
  • 10. Abusive speech on both sides was to cease.
  • 13. The Forest Cantons were to reimburse Zurich and Bern for the cost of the war inside of fourteen days from the date of the treaty; on penalty for failure to do so the six cities would refuse to sell-them food.

So SM Jackson.  Regrettably the peace didn’t hold and not too much later Zwingli would be killed while serving as Chaplain to the Zurich troops in the same little meadow at Kappel.

The Pope Writes Zwingli: And Zwingli Responds to the Bearer of the Letter

Pope Adrian wrote Zwingli on 23 January, 1523-

“Adrian, Pope, the sixth [of the name], to his dear son salutations and the Apostolical benediction: We send the venerable brother Ennius, Bishop of Verulam, our domestic prelate and Nuncio of the Apostolic See, a man distinguished for prudence and fidelity, to that unconquerable nation most completely linked unto us and to the Holy See, in order that he may treat with it respecting things of the highest importance to us and the Holy See, and to the entire Christian commonwealth. Although he is enjoined to conduct our affairs with your nation openly and in public, yet because we have a certain knowledge of your distinguished merits and especially love and prize your loyalty, and also place particular confidence in your honesty, we have commissioned this Bishop, our Nuncio, to hand over to you in private our letter, and declare our best intentions toward you. We exhort your devotion in the Lord, and that you have all confidence in Him, and with the same disposition, in which we are inclined to remember your honour and profit, to bestir yourself also in our affairs and in those of the Apostolic See. For which you will earn no small thanks from us.

“Given at Rome at St. Peter’s, under the ring of the Fisherman, January 23, 1523, of our pontificate the first year.”

Zwingli wasn’t about to agree to abandon Reform just to get a plumb reward from the Pope. So he read it, and, according to a letter he wrote his mentor and friend Thomas Wyttenbach, ‘The Pope is the Antichrist’ (letter of 23 June, 1523- SS VII,300)-


Today With Zwingli- The Greatest of the Reformers and the Most Important Theologian Since Paul

zwingliOn the 20th of June, 1527 (a Thursday) Huldrych Zwingli published another in his series of books aimed at correcting people’s misunderstandings concerning the Lord’s Supper.   Daß diese Wort – Das ist mein Leib, etc.   It focuses primarily on two scriptural points- the right interpretation of ‘seated at the right hand…’ and ‘the flesh is of no avail’.  These two points were famously spiritualized by Luther and Zwingli wishes to reclaim their proper sense.  After all, Luther’s interpretation of the ‘Words of Institution’ were to Zwingli pure absurdity.

In a fun twist, Zwingli dedicated the book to the brother of Frederich the Wise…

The most interesting thing about this particular book is it’s tone, because it’s the last time Zwingli will attempt a conciliatory attitude towards Luther.  ‘Aber zorn ist ein band der vernunfft und ein fygend der liebe, nüts weniger weder ouch unsinnigheit die vernunfft verwirrt.’

Luther’s reaction to this volume was unmixed contempt.  Marburg would prove the rift insurmountable and Philip’s hope of a united Protestantism (which he could use for political purposes) was dashed forever.

Zwingli and Hebrew

Zwingli wrote to his friend Rhenanus that he intended

… to resume the study of Hebrew,—which he had begun at Einsiedeln,—and so he had ordered from Basel the Rudiments of Capnio, as he styles him who is better known now as Reuchlin, the famous Humanist. But he had made a similar start in 1519, and this time again he probably did not make much progress, for on March 25, 1522, he writes to Rhenanus: “Tell Pellican that I have begun Hebrew. Ye gods, how distasteful and melancholy a study! But I shall persist until I get something out of it.”

He persisted.  And he was successful.  By 1531, shortly before his death, the Zurich Bible was published.  It contained both Testaments, was a translation into German from Hebrew and Greek, and was the result of Zwingli’s efforts along with the other faculty of the Zurich ‘Prophezei’.

Zwingli’s Foreword to the ‘Prophet’s Bible’

On 1 March, 1529,the famous ‘Prophet’s Bible’ was published in Zurich by the printer Froschauer.  Naturally it was Zwingli’s task to write the foreword to a work which the learned clerics at Zurich in the Prophezei had produced.  Zwingli states the project’s rationale as follows:

Es sind gar vil wort by den Ebreern, die, so man sy in tütsch vertolmetschet, ir krafft unnd ducht, ir liebliche und schöne gar verlürend oder ye nitt gnuogsam ußtruckend. Uff das nun in sölichem dem Tütschen nüt manglete unnd der ursprünglichen spraach, in deren die propheten gschriben, eygenschafft und ard wol harfürbracht wurde, habend wir zuo zyten, wo es die not erforderet, annstatt des ebreischen ein anders gschoben, doch ein söliches, das die eigenschafft des ebreischen eygentlich zuo verston gebe.

That’s what translations are supposed to do!


The ‘Prophezei’: The Most Significant Contribution to the History of Theological Education to Come from The Reformation

The first Reformed ‘University’ in the world was founded on the 19h of June, 1525 in Zurich under the name of the ‘Prophezei’.  Of it Schaff writes

A theological college, called Carolinum, was established from the funds of the Great Minster, and opened June 19, 1525. It consisted of the collegium humanitatis, for the study of the ancient languages, philosophy and mathematics, and the Carolinum proper, for the study of the Holy Scriptures, which were explained in daily lectures, and popularized by the pastors for the benefit of the congregation. This was called prophesying (1 Cor. 14:1). Zwingli wrote a tract on Christian education (1526). He organized this school of the prophets, and explained in it several books of the Old Testament, according to the Septuagint. He recommended eminent scholars to professorships. Among the earliest teachers were Ceporin, Pellican, Myconius, Collin, Megander, and Bibliander. To Zwingli Zurich owes its theological and literary reputation. The Carolinum secured an educated ministry, and occupied an influential position in the development of theological science and literature till the nineteenth century, when it was superseded by the organization of a full university.

There is little doubt that the establishment of the Prophezei was the most important and lasting contribution Zwingli made to the history of Christian theology.

Each day of classes began with the following prayer:

Omnipotens sempiterne et misericors Deus, cuius verbum est lucerna pedibus nostris et lumen semitarum nostrarum, aperi et illumina mentes nostras ut oracula tua pure et sancte intelligamus et in illud quod recte intellexerimus transformemur, quo maiestati tuae nulla ex parte displiceamus: per Jesum Christum dominum nostrum. Amen.

Perhaps theological education in our own day could benefit by the sincere utterance of that prayer. Certainly, our own theological work could.

‘Kill The Dragon!’

That’s one of a number of things that the crowd that assembled outside Zwingli’s house on the 15th of June, 1525 said of him.  They bombarded his house with eggs and stones and the government had to step in to squelch the escalating violence.

Who were these ‘peace loving’ Christians?  The adherents of the Anabaptist sect of course.  As they marched to his house from the Zurich suburb of Zollikon they shouted ‘Woe, woe, woe to Zurich, and as Jonah said, in 40 days the city will be destroyed’.  ‘The dragon must be slain’ (the tale of which is nicely related by Oskar Farner in his stunningly thorough biography of Zwingli).

Of these radicals Schaff notes

The Radical movement began in Zurich in 1523, and lasted till 1532. The leaders were Conrad Grebel, from one of the first families of Zurich, a layman, educated in the universities of Vienna and Paris, whom Zwingli calls the corypheus of the Anabaptists; Felix Manz, the illegitimate son of a canon of the Great Minster, a good Hebrew scholar; Georg Blaurock, a monk of Coire, called on account of his eloquence “the mighty Jörg,” or “the second Paul;” and Ludwig Hätzer of Thurgau, chaplain at Wädenschwyl, who, with Hans Denck, prepared the first Protestant translation of the Hebrew Prophets, and acted as secretary of the second Zurich disputation, and edited its proceedings. With them were associated a number of ex-priests and ex-monks, as William Reubli, minister at Wyticon, Johann Brödli (Paniculus) at Zollicon, and Simon Stumpf at Höng. They took an active part in the early stages of the Reformation, prematurely broke the fasts, and stood in the front rank of the image-stormers. They went ahead of public opinion and the orderly method of Zwingli. They opposed the tithe, usury, military service, and the oath. They denied the right of the civil magistracy to interfere in matters of religion. They met as “brethren” for prayer and Scripture-reading in the house of “Mother Manz,” and in the neighborhood of Zurich, especially at Zollicon.

He then observes, very correctly,

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.

It is my own view that had the Anabaptists been reasonable, rational, theologically educated, and more concerned with real reform than a mere break with Rome, they could have contributed positively to the developments of the 16th century Reformation. Instead, their paths led to the disaster of Münster and the lunacy of the Peasants War.

Fun Facts From Church History: The Role of the Septuagint in the Zurich ‘Prophezei’

S.M. Jackson writes

zw941.jpgZwingli showed his ambition for an educated clergy by establishing a theological seminary as soon as funds were available, which was in the summer of 1525. A call was given to a teacher of Greek and Hebrew, and Zwingli himself took part in the work. The text-book was the Bible. Instruction began at eight o’clock in the morning.

One teacher read the Hebrew text and translated it into Latin with a brief interpretation. Then Zwingli translated the same text from the Greek of the Septuagint into Latin. Leo Jud then commented in German upon what had been read, and explained in Latin.

This theological seminary was attended not only by regular students but by the clergy of the city, and Leo Jud’s lectures by the people generally. Instruction from the Greek New Testament was given in the afternoon at three o’clock by Myconius. That Zwingli set up for himself a high standard is shown by his writings, and he was able to impress this standard upon others. He called his institute “The Prophecy.”

This institution was the first ‘Reformed University’ in the world and the fore-runner to the rightly esteemed University of Zurich even now in operation. And the Septuagint played a central role in the education of the Reformed Clergy of Zurich (and beyond).

Zwingli’s Daily Schedule

oecolampadius_zwingliZwingli’s biographer writes of his daily schedule thusly:

His mode of life is thus described, and the description is true of his remaining years: he rose early, and studied, standing up, till 10 o’clock; after dinner, which commonly at that time in Zurich came on at 11 A.M., until 2 P.M., he was free to all who came; from 2 P.M. till supper-time he studied; after supper he walked out a little; then returned to study or to write letters, which latter occupation sometimes kept him up till midnight.

He read much in the classics: Aristotle, Plato, Thucydides, Demosthenes, and Hesiod, Lucian, Theocritus, and Aristophanes, Homer, and especially Pindar, are to be mentioned as the Greek authors he was most familiar with; while his Latin favourites were Horace, Sallust, and Seneca. He had begun the study of Hebrew at Einsiedeln, but soon dropped it. Now he took it up again under Andreas Boeschenstein. As at Glarus, he had pupils in his house. He also gave instruction in Greek in the cathedral school.

Now, tell me how busy you are.

Zwingli’s Mentor- Thomas Wyttenbach

wyttenbachWyttenbach was born at Biel, or Bienne, sixty miles west by south of Zurich, in 1472, and died there in 1526. In 1496 he was matriculated at Tuebingen, made M.A. there in 1500. In Basel he lectured from 1505 to 1507, when he became people’s priest in Biel and was to the rest of his days identified with that place.

He showed his independence and his defiance of ecclesiastical authority by marrying in 1524, and from that time on his troubles were incessant. He was deprived of his position, and just when he had increased need of money he found himself without any, and till the end of his days was miserably poor. But though in dire need he pleaded the case of spiritual freedom and kept up a gallant fight. His exertions won over many to the Reformation, and while he lay dying his heart was gladdened by the thought that his beloved native city was about to be numbered with the other Reformed cities of Switzerland.

He and Zwingli were frequent correspondents, yet only one letter has been preserved, viz., a long one by Zwingli on the Eucharist, dated June 15, 1523 (vii., 297–300). It is addressed “to his dear preceptor and brother in Christ at Biel.” Zwingli sends him a greeting as “his dear preceptor” in a letter to Haller, December 29, 1521 (vii., 187).

Zwingli Describes His Decision to Leave Glarus for Einsiedeln

Writing to Vadianus from Einsiedeln on June 13, 1517, thus explains his leaving Glarus:

“I have changed my residence, not at the stimulus of desire or of avarice, but because of the wiles of the French; and now I am at Einsiedeln.… What disaster that French faction has at last wrought me the wind of rumour has doubtless wafted to you. In the things done I too have had a part, but I have borne or have learned to bear many misfortunes.

Zwingli is referring to his anti-mercenary preaching and the opposition that preaching provoked in the town and among supporters of the French.

Quote of the Day

I see no more deadly poison can be given to a growing Christian than contentiousness. For are not love and contentiousness diametrically opposed? And what is the Christian life altogether but love? Therefore, when you sow the seeds of contentiousness, at the same time you banish love; for they are as unwilling to be guests in one and the same house as Christ is to associate with Belial. — Huldrych Zwingli

June 8, 1529- The First Kappel War

That’s the day that the Five Forest Cantons (Catholic all) declared war on Zurich and the Zwinglians.  A few days before, Zwingli had written

“Be firm and do not fear war. For that peace which some are so urgently pressing upon us is not peace but war. And the war for which I am so insistent is peace, not war; for I do not thirst for the blood of anyone, nor will I drink it even in case of tumult. This is the end I have in view—the enervation of the oligarchy. Unless this takes place neither the truth of the Gospel nor its ministers will be safe among us. I have in mind nothing cruel, but what I do is friendly and paternal. I desire to save some who are perishing through ignorance. I am labouring to preserve liberty. Fear nothing; for we shall so manage all things with the goodness and the alliance of God that you shall not be ashamed nor displeased because of us.”

So Zurich…

… marched thirty thousand strong to Cappel, a border town ten miles directly south of Zurich. Zwingli accompanied the troops as chaplain, as his office obligated him to do. He went on horseback, carrying “on his shoulder a beautiful halberd.” It was his plan to strike a quick and crushing blow upon the disorganised Five Cantons, and then extort from them the abrogation of the Austrian alliance, the renunciation of foreign pensions, and full liberty to preach the Reformed doctrines within their borders. It was to see that these things were insisted on that he accompanied the host. But as they were directly opposite to the Five Cantons’ ideas and could only be obtained by bloodshed, he was held by them to be their deadliest foe; and the Zurich authorities, knowing that he was considered by them as the cause of the whole trouble, had endeavoured to keep him in Zurich and even appointed another to be chaplain.

But the first Cappel war was over as soon as it was begun. On June 10th the allies received a moving appeal from the chief magistrate of Glarus to await a proposition from the Five Cantons. Zwingli perceived the folly of treating with them and patching up a peace which secured none of the objects of the threatened war. He said to the bearer of the appeal: “You will have to give an account to God for this. While the enemy is weak and without arms, he speaks fair: you believe him and make peace. But when he is fully armed, he will not spare us, and then no peace will he make with us.” The man replied: “I trust in God that all will turn out well. Let us act always for the best.”

On June 11th, Zwingli wrote from the field to the Small and Great Councils of Zurich a long letter, in which he gave his idea of the necessary conditions for a lasting peace: I. The Forest Cantons must allow the Word of God to be freely preached among them. II. Pensions were to be for ever foresworn. III. Distribution of such pensions was to be punished corporally and by fine. IV. The Forest Cantons were to pay indemnity to Zurich and Bern.

Zurich and the Forest Cantons made peace but Zwingli was right.  Within two years they waged war against Zurich again, and killed Zwingli at the same spot at Kappel, on 11 October, 1531.

Fun Facts From Church History: The Reformation of the Church Requires an Educated Clergy

Zwingli was among the first to recognize the fact that without a learned clergy there would be no use in attempts to reform the Church.  Consequently…



Zwingli sought to reform the Carolinum as well as the churches, as a necessary part of the great work of the Reformation.

Accordingly, on the 19th of June, in the same year [i.e., 1525], he substituted for the choir-service what he called “prophecy,” according to 1 Cor. 14, thus engrafting upon the Carolinum a higher institution which transformed it into a remarkably practical school of theology, ancient languages, and elementary science.

It is here that Zwingli accomplished his greatest work, as an educator. The school was in session every week-day, Friday excepted, and was opened at 7 o’clock in the morning, in the summer, and at 8 o’clock, in the winter. A month’s vacation was granted three times a year.

pellicanThe course of study centered on the Bible. The first hour, i. e. the “prophecy” proper, was given to exegesis, with some elements of systematic and practical theology to meet the wants of the Reformation.

The second hour consisted of a divine service, in which the people of the city took part with the students, among whom were also town-parsons, predicants, canons, and chaplains. Here the same Scriptures were treated again, but so simplified that the people could understand them; and we may add that the students themselves not only obtained a clearer knowledge from this repetition but they also learned, in a most practical manner, how to present the truth in their future charges.

Friday was market-day, and the people from the country came to hear the preaching, which was largely intended for their special benefit. The afternoon of each school-day was devoted to the study of the languages and elementary science.

judThe first professor chosen to assist Zwingli was Ceporin, a Greek and Hebrew scholar of great merit. He was elected, June 5, 1525, but he had been teaching at Zurich, in 1522, and later, at Basel, where his Greek grammar was printed.  At the Carolinum, he filled the chair of professor of Hebrew, but only till December 20th of the same year, when he died from over-exertion, at the age of 26.

In March, the following spring, the learned Pellican became his successor. Jacob Ammann was, at the same time elected professor of Latin and Rudolph Collin, professor of Greek. Megander, Leo Jud, and Myconius also assisted Zwingli. Myconius, however, taught at the Fraumunster School, but he conducted an exercise in New Testament exegesis there, every afternoon at three o’clock, which crowds of the laity and students attended, whereas Zwingli had charge of Old Testament exegesis, at the Carolinum, besides being its head and also the pastor of a congregation.

The call of Pellican includes the salary to be paid him, which was to be equal to Zwingli’s, namely, sixty to seventy florins and lodging.*

Without an educated clergy, the Church can never be reformed.

*Zwingli, U. The Christian Education of Youth, (pp. 45–48).