Category Archives: Zwingli

And Staring Over Zwingli’s Shoulder Again…

Sometime in April of 1524 Zwingli wrote this little bit: Ordnung von den drei Kilchhören.

Ordnung von den 3 kilchhörinen, so verr die minen herren gevallen wurde.

[1.] Uf Marci sol man 1. fierteil einr stund vor 5. zuo allen kilchen ein zeichen lüten, zuo fünfen das ander, und bald darnach us allen kilchen usgan mit zemenlüten, das man zum Grossen Münster anheben sol und zuo dem Frowenmünster zemenkumen. Da sol ein predge gehalten werden, ein uslegung eines der siben psalmen uf ein halb stund oder stund, demnach das volck gelert werden, wie es alle notturfft da von dem allmechtigen got begeren sölle. Und sol nach end der predge die gemein priesterschafft die siben psalmen, wie vormal gebrucht, gegen einander betten, one die litany, mit dem beschluss des gebettes für die sünd; und demnach one gsang widrum heimkert werden.

[2.] In der krützwochen zuo glicher wys wie uf Marci zuo iedem tag; doch das man uf mentag zuo Sant Peter, zinstag zum Grossen Münster, mitwoch zuom Frowenmünster, wie vor uff Marci bestimpt ist, gang, predge und bitte, damit wytschweiffen, darus gar bald lichtverige erwachsen möcht, und arbeit vermitten werdind und iederman zuo rat und arbeit noch zytlich komen mög.

[3.] Die übrigen krützgeng, von minen herren angesehen, als gen Einsüdlen, uff den Hof, setzend wir irer wysheit heim, in hoffnung, sy werdind hierinn mit got ermessen, welchs das aller gotzgevelligost sye.

When one goes to worship matters. That one goes, matters more. That people have to be told to do it matters most of all.

Staring Over Zwingli’s Shoulder…

Zwingli's Study

Zwingli’s Study

In his study on April 20, 1524, one would have seen him write his Eine Epistel vor der “Antwort eines Schwytzer Purens.”

He sends along to a small community words of encouragement as they struggle to reform, encouraging them as well to support their own Reformer-

Huldrich Zuingli embüt allen christlichen leseren gnad und fryd von got und unserm herren Jesu Christo.

Sich, frommer Christ, wie den himelschen vatter lustet, siner götlichen wyßheit liecht vor den wysen und fürsichtigen ze verbergen Mat. 11. [Matth. 11. 25], unnd das den kindischen erscheinen, damitt er all weg im selbs glych sye, der da verderbet die wyßheit der wysen unnd den verstand der fürsichtigen verschupfft [Jes. 29. 14, cf. 1. Cor. 1. 19]; der im selbs ouch den schlechten huffen wellet, damitt er die wysen zuo scham zwinge [1. Cor. 1. 27].

Hie kempffet ein hafengiesser, der gar ghein sprach noch kluogheit kan, dann die er von got und siner muoter gelert hat, mit eim alten schuolmeister, der in vil künsten, voruß des geistlichen retschens – wie heißt es?: rechtens – verschlissen unnd ußgenutzet ist.

Welcher aber sich uff die götlichen warheit bas verstand und das gotswort eigenlicher bruche, wirdst du in dym gleubigen hertzen innen. Darumb lassend darvon, ir gewaltigen diser welt, die leer Christi ze durächten. Do Christus getödt, ward er durch die vischer in der welt verkündet und nam me zuo, denn do er lyblich hie was. Also wenn ir die wenen vertriben han, werdend die hafner, müller, glaser, tuochschärer, schuochmacher und schnyder leeren. Es ist ietz an denen; die vischer hand es vor gethon.

Ouch, lieben schueler des Gebwylers, wellend ir des bapstes unnd der rethorick bericht werden, blybend bym Gebwyler; denn Hans Fueßli kan nüt darmit. Wellen ir aber die götlichen warheit clar hören, so zühend von dem retor und kummend zuo dem hafengiesser. Verstand es ieder imm besten. Bis hiemit gottes. Des bistu ouch, du wellist oder nit. Der wirt ouch uß dir machen ein geschirr zuo eer oder spott, wie er wil [cf. Röm. 9. 21]; er ist gott.

And God is with the Reformers.

We Shall Never Forget…

Today with Zwingli: His Adversary, ‘That Cumæan Lion’

zurich1522“You should know that a certain Franciscan from France, whose name indeed was Franz, was here not many days since and had much conversation with me concerning the Scriptural basis for the doctrine of the adoration of the saints and their intercession for us. He was not able to convince me with the assistance of a single passage of Scripture that the saints do pray for us, as he had with a great deal of assurance boasted he should do. At last he went on to Basel [on 18 April, 1522] where he recounted the affair in an entirely different way from the reality—in fact he lied about it. So it seemed good to me to let you know about these things that you might not be ignorant of that Cumæan lion, if perchance he should ever turn your way.

“There followed within six days another strife with our brethren the preachers of the [different orders in Zurich, especially with the Augustinians]. Finally the burgomaster and the Council appointed for them three commissioners on whom this was enjoined—that Aquinas and the rest of the doctors of that class being put aside they should base their arguments alone upon those sacred writings which are contained in the Bible. This troubled those beasts so much that one brother, the father reader of the order of Preachers [i. e., the Dominicans] cut loose from us, and we wept—as one weeps when a cross-grained and rich stepmother has departed this life. Meanwhile there are those who threaten, but God will turn the evil upon His enemies.

“I suppose you have read the petition which some of us have addressed to the Bishop of Constance.… But I must return to Schuerer upstairs, where he is having some beer with several gentlemen and jokes will be in order.”*

* S.M. Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland. p. 170–172.

Today With Zwingli: ‘No, I Won’t Be at Baden’

zwingli_writing_bullinger_RG2In a letter to the Council of Bern, dated April 16, 1526, Zwingli sets forth in detail his reasons for refusing to attend the disputation in their city. In substance they amount to this: (1) That under the circumstances the safe-conduct offered him would be absolutely worthless; and (2) there was not the slightest chance of his obtaining a fair hearing.

Although Zwingli was absent, from the seclusion of his study in Zurich he virtually superintended the discussion on the part of the Reformers. For weeks previous, he labored unceasingly outlining arguments for the use of those who would represent him in the conference. The gates of Baden were strongly guarded by sentinels during the session, but means were found of eluding their vigilance, and letters were regularly exchanged each day between Zwingli and Œcolampadius. Myconius declares that “Zwingli labored more by his meditations, his sleepless nights, and the advice which he transmitted to Baden, than he would have done by discussing in person in the midst of his enemies.”*

*S. Simpson, S.  Life of Ulrich Zwingli: The Swiss Patriot and Reformer (pp. 160–161). New York: Baker & Taylor Co.

#ICYMI- Jud, Zwingli, And Switzerland’s Love of Meat

There’s a great little essay here about just those very things.

The time: March 9, 1522, the first Sunday of Lent. The crime scene: a printer’s workshop in Grabengasse, just a stone’s throw from Zurich’s city walls. The first in a series of articles marking 500 years of the Reformation is a sizzling thriller.

Today With Zwingli

On 16 April, 1522 Huldrych Zwingli’s sermon titled Von Erkiesen und Freiheit der Speisen was published in Zurich at the printing house of Froschauer. It was a greatly expanded version of the actual sermon preached shortly after the Lenten Fast was broken, with his approval. Unlike Barth’s Romans, this book really did fall on the playground of the theologians like a bomb.

Zwingli’s point was simple- the Church wasn’t authorized to heft upon souls requirements foreign to the requirements of the Bible. Its tradition wasn’t superior to Scripture; Scripture takes precedence over tradition.

In his own words-

[They] had not so strong a belief in God, that they trusted alone in him and hoped alone in him, listened alone to his ordinances and will, but foolishly turned again to the devices of men, who, as though they desired to improve what had been neglected by God, said to themselves: “This day, this month, this time, wilt thou abstain from this or that,” and make thus ordinances, persuading themselves that he sins who does not keep them.

This abstaining I do not wish to condemn, if it occurs freely, to put the flesh under control, and if no self-confidence or vainglory, but rather humility, results. See, that is branding and injuring one’s own conscience capriciously, and is turning toward true idolatry…In a word, if you will fast, do so; if you do not wish to eat meat, eat it not; but leave Christians a free choice in the matter…

But when the practice of liberty offends your neighbour, you should not offend or vex him without cause; for when he perceives it, he will be offended no more, unless he is angry purposely. … But you are to instruct him as a friend in the belief, how all things are proper and free for him to eat.

The Day Zwingli Took Over the Carolinum, and Laid the Foundation for the Greatest Institution of Theological Learning of the 16th Century

The Grossmunster and the Limmat

Head-master Niessli of the Carolinum, named after Charles the Great, who had granted letters for an ecclesiastical foundation, at Zurich, was removed by death and Zwingli was elected as his successor, April 14, 1525. This institution had declined as a gymnasium, with the churches of the city, on account of the idleness and corruption of the religious and educational leaders; hence 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, 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. The 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.*

We will return, on 19 June, to a further examination of this important theological institution.

*Ulrich Zwingli, The Christian Education of Youth, trans. Alcide Reichenbach (Collegeville, PA: Thompson Brothers, 1899), 45–47.

On This Day, in Zurich, in 1525

The Council abolished the Catholic Mass from the Churches of Zurich.  As Zwingli wrote that same year

Nothing, therefore, of ours is to be added to the word of God, and nothing taken from His word by rashness of ours. To this some one might here object: “Yet many have found rest even in the word of man, and still do find it; for today the consciences of many are firmly persuaded that they will attain salvation if the Roman Pontiff absolve them, grant them indulgences, enroll them in heaven; if nuns and monks tell beads for them, and do masses, hours, and other things for them.” To this objection I answer that all such are either fools or hypocrites, for it must be the result of folly and ignorance if one thinks one’s self what one is not.


Truth Matters: Zwingli on the Mass

The Papists depart from truth when they proclaim that they offer Christ for sin in the Mass. For as He offered Himself once on the cross and again to the Father in heaven, so He won and obtained remission of sins and the joy of everlasting happiness, and he who boasts that he offers Him to the Father can in no way more completely reject or deny Christ. — Huldrych Zwingli

Zwingli lesen

Ulrich Zwingli war ein epochaler Denker. Zwingli lesen bedeutet, an diesem Denken und Argumentieren teilzuhaben.

Dieses Lesebuch enthält deshalb die zentralen Texte von Zwingli selbst – und zwar in verständlichem heutigem Deutsch. Darüber hinaus wird jeder Text eingeleitet und kommentiert. Vollständig wiedergegeben werden: Das Pestlied (1520), Die Klarheit und Gewissheit des Wortes Gottes (1522), die 67 Thesen oder Artikel (1523), Göttliche und menschliche Gerechtigkeit (1523), Eine freundschaftliche und ernstliche Ermahnung der Eidgenossen (1524), die beiden Berner Predigten (1528) und das Kappelerlied (um 1529). Auszüge aus weiteren Texten und einige zentrale Briefe Zwinglis ergänzen den Band.

Die Auswahl greift die wichtigsten Themen und biografischen Stationen des Reformators auf. Wer diese Texte kennt, kann über Zwingli kompetent mitreden.

TVZ have provided a review copy.  And I’d like to first offer a photo of the table of contents- not merely to show what the volume contains, although that’s quite important- but to show how really very lovely the font is.  And the photo doesn’t do it justice.


As to the works by Zwingli included here, the choices made by our learned editors are extremely appropriate.   These short works all show the mind of Zwingli at its most brilliant and the mixture of letters and theological treatises is superb.  Those looking for a first hand introduction to Zwingli’s theological notions, via primary rather than secondary sources, should start here.  And then proceed to the 4 volume collection of Zwingli’s works in modern German by the same publisher.  And then on to the critical edition, also by the same publisher.  With these volumes, this publisher is living up to the first name by which it was known- the Zwingli Verlag, Zurich.

The contents of the present work are punctuated by excerpts from Bullinger’s Reformationshgeschichte where color illustrations, by hand, are included in that fabled tome.


I have to admit that I find such inclusions utterly endearing.  I love this publisher because it constantly produces volumes that really, really matter.  This is such a volume.  It is a work of art and a work of scholarship.

Concerning the translations of these key works by Zwingli with which this volume is populated; they are incredibly well crafted.  Zwingli is very, very hard to translate simply because he works in his own 16th century Swiss German and Latin.  He likes words, and like Luther he was super at creating new ones and using old ones in new ways.  This makes him both incredibly fun to read and incredibly hard to translate for modern folk.  Indeed, Zwingli’s German and Luther’s German were so different that the two theologians couldn’t understand each other at Marburg and had to use Latin.  Because Zwingli’s language is so arcane, anyone capable of translating that language into a modern language should receive a prize of some sort.  And that goes doubly for those who do it well like Opitz and Saxer.

Take, for instance, this bit from the sermon ‘On the Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God‘ from the critical edition from 1522-

Zum zehenden. Empfindstu, das es dich gewüß macht der gnaden gottes und ewigen heils, so ist es von got.

And now the modern German rendering-

10.  Spürst Du, dass dir die Gnade Gottes und das ewige Heil zur Gewissheit werden, so ist das von Gott.

I challenge you to do better.  I don’t think it can be done.

Opitz and Saxer have assemble as well a very brief but useful bibliography (though it pains me that my own work on Zwingli is not included) and they include footnotes in the body of the text but these are kept to a bare minimum.  At the conclusion of each text they also have the original source cited so interested persons can make their way to it.  And, finally, at the very end of the volume is an index of chief subjects so that if readers want to look in on Zwingli’s understanding of ‘Taufe’, for instance, the pages where that subject is touched upon are easily discovered.

By now readers of this review have surely sensed that I think in highly commendable.  If they haven’t, allow me to say it more forthrightly: I love this book.  Not just because it’s Zwingli, but because it’s so well done.  I recommend it to you.  Without hesitation or ambiguity.  It’s super.

My Next Translation Project

Huldrych Zwingli’s Letter to Johannes Bugenhagen, Translation and Introduction. An Occasional Publication of the Pitts Theology Library, Forthcoming.

Zwingli on Those Who Will Only Do, If In Doing They Receive a Reward

Those who so persistently demand a reward for their works, and say that they will cease working the works of God if no reward awaits the works, have the souls of slaves. For slaves work for reward only, and lazy persons likewise. But they that have faith are untiring in the work of God, like the son of the house. — Huldrych Zwingli

The Great Reformers as You’ve Never Seen Them…

Via our friends in Zurich, at the ‘Reformation Reloaded’ exhibition.

#ICYMI- The Portrait of Zwingli Which Once Adorned Gottfried W. Locher’s Study Now Adorns Mine

First posted on 5 April, 2013-

Thanks to the incredible kindness of Prof. Locher’s son, Dr. Uli Locher (McGill University), I have on my study wall the very portrait of Zwingli which hung on the study wall of his father.  And I couldn’t, I just couldn’t be more honored.

So i have to show it off-  here it is fresh out of the mailer-


And here it is, in its place of honor, on the wall behind my desk, over my right shoulder-


Many, many thanks to Uli for this kindness.  I feel smarter already (and strangely more accountable).

And yes, it’s still among the most important of my material possessions.

Staring Over Zwingli’s Shoulder, April 2, 1520…

If you had been in Zurich on this date in 1520 and you were at Zwingli’s house, staring over his shoulder as he stood (yes, he stood) at his desk, you could have watched him write this letter to his friend Myconius-

Myconio Zuinglius S.

Accepi, optime Myconi, cum Hedionis tuas quoque literas, plenas earum, quas ad te quoque scripsit, rerum. Hoc autem die, quo has ad te damus, a Zasio, quas etiam ad te mittimus, accepimus literas (nam grandis omnino mihi cum isto viro intercessit amicicia). Velis itaque iuxta illa, quę pro Dorpio scribit, tu etiam epistolam ad illum scribere nobisque transmittere, ut, cum Vadiani quoque acceperimus, simul omnes dirigantur, ut homo, quemadmodum Zasius inquit, laudis cupidus videat Helvetios etiam sibi gratulari, quod ad partes meliores secessionem fecerit.

Ne vero hoc te consilium lateat, quod sibi a nobis datum tantopere commendat Zasius, scito in nupera quandoque illum epistola ad nos scripsisse, ita se animatum, ut adversus Lutherum de potestate pontificia non possit non scribere, quod is sacrorum canonum maiestatem (en tibi iurisperitum in factionem suam iuratum) floccifacere sit ausus etc.

Ego hominem non tantum dehortatus sum, verum, cum quadam tamen modestia, deterrui, iubens, ut vel hoc unicum spectaret, Lutherum, et si modestiam ipse quandoque desyderem in illo, pontifices tamen, si perpetuo pergant esse mali, sua traductione suorumque scelerum libera censura olim absterriturum ab illis verecundiamque incussurum. Huius, inquam, consilii gratiam habet Zasius.

Literas eius mox remittito, ut et ad Vadianum transeant. Quid tibi consultum volueris post Hedionis literas lectas, haud capio. Vale et gratiam habe filio missę ad nos papyri.

Salvus etiam sit cum parente, tua coniuge. Salvi pręterea sint Xilotectus, provisor, omnes tui.

Vale. Ex Tiguro 2da Aprilis anno MCCCCCXX.
Zasius sępe antehac ad nos scripsit et semper te cum Vadiano*
Myconio suo, amico carissimo.

And after watching him write the note, you could have seen him sign it-

zwingli_signatureReading the correspondence of the Reformers is the best, the very best, way to learn who they were.  Zwingli, Calvin, Melanchthon, Luther, Oecolampadius, Bullinger… they’re all revealed in their letters.

* Unfortunately the correspondence with Zasius is lost.

Quote of the Day

Those who are a prey to obstinate hypocrisy can never be persuaded by the most skillful argument to confess what they really feel and have in their hearts. Yet the more persistently they refuse, the more certainly are they understood by the spiritual physician. For “he that is spiritual judgeth all things” — Huldrych Zwingli

Zwingli’s Warning Against Folly

An appropriate warning for folly day-

Zwingli optWhere persons assemble in social gatherings, every youth attending them should see to it that he go away morally benefited; so that he may not, as Socrates complains, always come home morally worse than he was before. He should therefore be watchful and diligent to follow the example of those who conduct themselves honorably and uprightly on social occasions; but, on the other hand, when he observes persons behaving themselves unbecomingly or shamefully, let him beware of imitating them.

Those, however, who are grown up and have become bold and fixed in their habits are hardly able to restrain themselves in this manner; therefore my advice is, that the youth should attend public gatherings, for social purposes, all the more rarely. Should a youth perchance be led into the folly of others, he ought by all means to turn away from it and should come to himself at the earliest moment. His reason for thus withdrawing from such association will satisfy those persons who know that his desire is, always to be intent on doing what is noblest and best.

Fun Facts from Church History: When Zwingli Sends a Copy of His Latest Book…

The book [i.e., the Commentary on True and False Religion] came from the press at the end of March, 1525. Zwingli sent a copy to Vadian (March 31) and one to Christoph Schappeler at Memmingen. Ludwig Sigwyn, of Swabia, is known to have had a copy by August 23, 1525; it was probably a gift from the author. Thus the new publication served to propagate Zwinglian doctrine in South Germany. A German edition of 608 octavo pages, translated by Leo Jud, was published in 1526 by Froschauer at Zurich. Professor Walther Köhler, of the University of Zurich, translated part of the Commentary into German and incorporated it in his work, entitled, Ulrich Zwingli, eine Auswahl aus seinen Schriften, Zurich, 1918. — George Warren Richards, The Latin Works of Huldreich Zwingli, vol. 3.

Zwingli for The Day