Tag Archives: Protestant Reformation

The ‘Defense’ of Johannes Oecolampadius

‘Defense’ literature was exceedingly common in the early years of the Reformation, as the Reformers had to ‘defend’ their departure from the corrupt Church of Rome while maintaining their adherence to historic Christianity.  Indeed, most ‘Apologetic’ literature (which is what the term meant in the time) was a demonstration that the Reformers hadn’t departed at all from the truth, Rome had.

Johannes Oecolampadius’ contribution to the genre is an example of both the clarity of his thought and the ease with which he presents those thoughts.  you can download the entire book here (in PDF, in, of course, Latin).

For other of Oecolampadius’ works see the right nav panel under ‘Reformation Texts’.

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

On 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).

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.

The Full Text of My ‘Reformation Day’ Post

The good folk at Logos asked if I might write a brief piece on the Reformers in preparation for ‘Reformation Day’ five years ago, way back in 2012.  They published my piece back then, in an edited version (shortened).  Naturally they are free to edit as they see fit and I’m happy enough with the result.

Nonetheless- here’s the full piece:

‘Reformation Day?  No!’

‘The Reformation’ is a misnomer if ever there were one, for in fact there was no ‘one’ Reformation any more than there was just one Reformer. ‘The Reformation’, when used by students and the general public, usually refers to the Reformation of Martin Luther which commenced at the end of October in the year of our Lord, 1517.

Even then, though, Luther’s intent wasn’t as earth-shattering as later ages took it to be. For Luther, the placement of a series of theses in Latin on the Church Door at Wittenberg Castle was nothing more than an invitation to debate. In other words, Luther didn’t see his act as the commencement of a revolution; he saw it as an academic exercise.

‘The Reformation’ is, then, little more than a label derived from historical hindsight gazing mono-focularly at a series of events over a period of time across a wide geographical landscape. Each Reformer had roots sunk in fertile ground and their work was simply the coming to fruition of generations of shift in the Roman Catholic Church.

Hence, it would be more appropriate to speak of ‘Reformations’ in the same way that we now speak of ‘Judaisms’ and ‘Christianities’. The Reformation was no monolith.

Who, then were the Reformers who gave birth to the Reformations most closely associated with them? They were Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, in just that order.

In 1515 while he was Pastor of the village Church in Glarus, Huldrych Zwingli began to call into question the dependence of the Church on the teachings of the Scholastics. He also questioned the value of the Vulgate for preaching and began earnest study of the Greek New Testament. There, memorizing the letters of Paul (in Greek) he discovered the Gospel which would come to feature so prominently in his Reforming efforts: Salvation is by grace, through faith, and not through works as proclaimed by the Scholastic theologians. By 1519, when he moved to Zurich to become the Pastor of the Great Minster, Zwingli was already well on his way to Reforming the worship of the Church and the administration of the ‘Sacraments’. In short order, within a few years, the Mass was abandoned and replaced by the ‘Lord’s Supper’ and the fixation of the Church on images was denounced and those images removed in due course.

Zwingli’s Reformation was carried out with the cooperation of the City government, which is why Zwingli, along with Luther and Calvin, were to be known to history as ‘Magisterial Reformers’. Not because they were ‘Magisterial’ but because each had the support of their city’s magistrates.

North of Zurich, in Wittenberg, Luther’s Reformatory efforts were coming to full steam around the same time. In 1520 he broke with Rome irrevocably with the publication of his stunning ‘On The Babylonian Captivity of the Church’. From there, there was to be no turning back. And here we must remind ourselves that at this juncture Luther was not dependent on the work of Zwingli, nor was Zwingli dependent on the work of Luther. Both were pursuing reform along parallel tracks, separately.

Further to the West of Switzerland a decade later John Calvin, an exile from France, a lawyer by training and a theologian by training and desire, began his own efforts at Reform. Several years after Zwingli’s death and long after Luther’s demise Calvin plodded away in Geneva attempting manfully to bring that raucous city to heel under the power of the Gospel.

Each of these Reformers were ‘Fathers’ of their own Reformation. Each was, originally, independent of the other and in many ways they tried very hard to retain that independence even when their common foe, the Church of Rome, was the target as their common enemy. Each contributed to ‘The Reformation’ in their own unique way.

If, then, we wish to honor their memory and their efforts, it behooves us to set aside our preconceptions or our beliefs that ‘The Reformation’ began on October 31, 1517. It didn’t. It began in 1515 in Glarus. And it began in 1517 in Wittenberg. And it began in Geneva in 1536.

Happy Reformations Days.

Fantastic News for Students of the History of Christianity

selderhuis10This book – edited by Herman Selderhuis – is being translated into English and will be published in due course by the great folk at Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.  The tentative title (at present) is Handbook of Dutch Church History.  When V&R have it listed on their website I’ll pass along word.

In Dutch it’s a massive volume, at nearly 1000 pages.  Doubtless the English edition will be similarly sized.  Consequently, it’s very thorough.

Dr. theol. Herman J. Selderhuis is Professor of Church History at the Theological University Apeldoorn, Director of Refo500, scientific Curator of the Johannes a Lasco Library, and President of the International Calvin congress. And an all around great guy.

Keep your eye out for this when it does come out.

Summer Course: The History of the Reformation

InstitutdhistoireThe Institut d’histoire de la Réformation in Geneva invites to subscribe for the summer course 2013. The topics are “The Reformation, the Family and the Social Order” and “Evil, temptation and damnation. Representations, norms and practices of combatting Satan in the era of confessionalisation”….  Click here to see the brochure. Click here to go to the website of the Institut d’histoire de la Réformation, with more information on the summer course.

How fun!  Via Refo500.

A Little Speech By Zwingli to the Authorities

On the 20th of December of 1524 Zwingli addressed the City Council of Zurich and the Church authorities as follows:

zwingli35Frommen, vesten, fürsichtigen, wysen, gnedigen, lieben herren!

Als wir bericht werdend, so verdenckt man uns, wie das wir us liebe des herschens unsere hoche und nidere gericht zuo üwer ersam wysheit handen übergeben verzuhind. Das doch nit also ist, sunder so ettlich gevärden in sölichem übergeben liechtlich erwachsen möchtind, sind wir darüber mitt flyss und ernst gesessen, und befunden, das wir hierinn üwer ersamen wysheit räts und hilf notturfftig sind.

Und ist hieruf ünser embieten und beger:

Das wir für das erst geneigt und guotwillig sind, söliche ünsere hoche und nidere gericht zuo üweren handen stellen und übergeben, wie dann üns uwer ersam wysheit hierinn am aller fuoglichisten wol weißt zuo berichten, damitt es formklich ouch ünseren biderben lüten unnachteilich und unklagbar beschehe. Und wiewol diser handel vormals ouch uf der ban gewesen, ist er doch all weg guoter meinung hinder sich gestellt.

Zuom anderen, das es ouch one nachteil zinsen, zehenden, rendten und gülten des stiffts beschehe. Da uwer ersam wysheit wol mag ermessen, das, sidmal wir die letsten sind, sölich vorbehalten nit us eignem nütz komme, sunder us sorg, das by dem Grossen Münster das belybe, damitt man die bestimpten notturfften der ler und anderer dingen halb versehen moge. Wir setzend ouch sölicher übergebnus widerlegung zu üwer bescheidenheit und guete.

Zuom dritten empfelhend wir üns all mitt allem, das ünser stifft hat, üwer trüw und früntschafft, die wir bishar by üch all weg funden habend, und erbietend uns als die ghorsamen und willigen in allen gebürlichen dingen. Wellend ouch zuo üweren diensten all zit guotwillig und bereit sin.

It may have been a little speech, but its purpose was clear- funding! Even the Reformers had to deal with the most mundane issues- like proper support for their work by the authorities.

Today With Heinrich Bullinger: Eintrichtung einer Schule in Rüti

bullinger93As the Reformation picked up steam it became increasingly important for schools to be organized in such a way that they would become bastions of Reformed thought.  With that in mind, on the 19th of December, 1537, Heinrich Bullinger wrote a brief instructional piece titled Eintrichtung einer Schule in Rüti.  It covers all the bases very briefly including instructions for daily preaching, instruction in the Bible, and the implantation of morals based on the Bible.

Schools were then a very important link in the chain of the spread of Reformed thought.

The Theology of Martin Luther: A Critical Assesment

The folk at Fortress have sent this very nice volume along for review:

Does Martin Luther have anything to say to us today? Nearly five hundred years after the beginning of the Reformation, Hans-Martin Barth explores that question in this comprehensive and critical evaluation of Luther’s theology. Rich in its extent and in its many facets, Barth’s didactically well-planned work begins with clarifications about obsolete and outdated images of Luther that could obstruct access to the Reformer.

The second part covers the whole of Martin Luther’s theology. Having divided Luther’s theology into twelve subsections, Barth ends each one of these with an honest and frank assessment of what today can be salvaged and what’s got to go. In the final section he gives his summation: an honestly critical appropriation of Luther’s theology can still be existentially inspiring and globally relevant for the twenty-first century.

Check out the TOC and Chapter One along with the Preface by clicking on the ‘samples’ tab at the link.  My review is here.

Quote of the Day

Quamvis quid attinet, humanam speciem circumferas an simię, modo re non aliud sis quam belua, nec te uti alia ratione quemquam puto, quam qua mulis et asinis utitur. Opportunus es ad omne facinus; nullius enim te pudet. Tales frontes habere oportet eos, qui patrum sensum exuerunt et tyrannorum furorem induerunt. Verum quid saxum obiurgo?  quasi vero tu sensum aliquem hominis habeas, aut spes ulla sit, te ullius obiurgationem, sive blandam sive fortem, auditurum.

Deploratiorem hominem, ita me dii ament, dum universam Germaniam perlustro, non video. Sunt, qui ęquiparari tibi stulticia, iactantia, malicia possint, pręferri nemo. Deliberaveram diu mecum, quam te amanter convenire vellem; at quanto magis cogito, tanto magis video nihil per humanitatem confici tecum posse. — Huldrych Zwingli (to J. Eck)

Have a Happy ‘Luther Finally Caught Up to Zwingli, 2 Years Later’ Day

Happy Lutheran Reformation Day.  Luther was 2 years late as the initiator of Reformation- Zwingli having begun work in that direction in 1515.  So, congrats, Lutherans- just as was true at Barmen- while the Lutherans slept, the Reformed worked.

According to his own testimony, it was in 1515 that the ‘reformatory’ spirit began to stir in his heart so that when he moved to Einsiedeln (in 1516) to serve the congregation there, he was already pursuing the beginnings of Reformed thought.*

*Jim West, in ‘Christ Our Captain’: An Introduction to Huldrych Zwingli (pp.12-13). Quartz Hill, CA: Quartz Hill Publishing House.

Calvin in the Netherlands

I mentioned yesterday the kind gift sent by Herman Selderhuis which included the book Calvijn en de Nederlanden (by Selderhuis and Apperloo-Boesma).  It’s packed full of fascinating historical tidbits and beautiful, beautiful works of art.  I’d seen a couple of the pieces reproduced in the book but many, many of them were new to me.

I found especially wondrous this portrait of a young John Calvin discussing Scripture with colleagues:

The book also includes an audio CD with examples, 24 of them in fact, of music from the Reformation:

I’ve listened to several of the pieces and they are just fantastic in their simple beauty.

This book is delightful.  Just really delightful.  (And thankfully Dutch is close enough to German that the text is itself not all that difficult to comprehend in broad outline).

Fun Facts From Church History

When Henry VIII of England wanted to divorce his wife, he wrote letters to the leading Protestant/ Reformed theologians asking their advice (as if Henry would take anyone’s advice).  Jackson remarks

On August 13th, [Oecolampadius] writes a most interesting letter upon the attempt of Henry VIII. to obtain a divorce from Catherine. The King had sought through Grynæus the advice of Œcolampadius, who in turn consulted Zwingli. Œcolampadius considered that there was no ground for divorce. Zwingli’s letter in reply is lost; its purport is known from the reply of Œcolampadius; he was adverse, as also was Grynæus.  Capito and Butzer would permit Henry to have two wives!

Melanchthon too thought it a good idea for Henry to remain undivorced and just simply add a new wife to his stable.  In each instance it must be noted that Henry ignored the advice of the theologians and did what he wanted to.  And he made himself the ‘head’ of the Church of England so that he could.

Did You Know…

That on 11 August, 1519, that heretical indulgence-hawker Johannes Tetzel died?  It’s a fact.  The odd thing is, no one did more to kick start the Reformation in Germany than Tetzel.  Had he not had the temerity to drag his lies to Wittenberg, Luther probably would have never gotten upset so badly and pounded his theses on the Church door.

That’s not to suggest the Reformation wouldn’t have happened.  Zwingli had already begun Reform in 1515.

The Works of Heinrich Bullinger

There’s a very, very fine 7 volume edition of Bullinger’s works in modern German which the interested can acquire from the publisher, Theologischer Verlag Zurich, here.  Each work is prefaced by an introduction written by one of the leading Reformation historians.  The translation is really exceptional (since 16th century Swiss German can be difficult) and remarkably faithful to its parent text.

The Post Reformation Digital Library has loads of Bullinger stuff from various electronic digitalizations.

And if English is your sole linguistic haunt you can still enjoy Bullinger’s most extensive theological exposition- his ‘Decades’ – a collection of sermons which are really independent theological treatises.

Whatever you do, in whatever language you can, read Bullinger.  He’s fantastic.  And have a happy Bullinger’s Birthday day.

A Sampling of Zwingli’s Vivid Language

In his ‘Reply to Emser‘ Zwingli opens with this beautiful salvo-

NOT far were you, most nimble Emser (for wild goats should be more nimble than stags), from tearing me away from the very clear light of the celestial word and bringing me over to the side of the Roman Pontiff by that threatening pamphlet of yours against my confutation of the Canon of the Mass which I thrust forth rather than published. It is so grandiloquent that no one can understand its difficult periods unless he descends into a well; so fortified with things more solid than the Scriptures, namely, legends of the saints and trifles more foolish than old wives’ tales, that no one can take it by storm unless he is well equipped with gourds, pumpkins, and rotten cabbage.

Besides, the snares which you cleverly spread, because of their unexpectedness, terrify me more than their real importance warrants; for you did not, as a Christian especially ought, give any warning; you sent no herald with a demand for satisfaction; and you attacked suddenly, not in front but from the rear, one who suspected no such thing; nor did you engage at close quarters, so that at least the clash of arms might give notice of an enemy’s presence, but you skirmished in quite remote parts.

Consequently, not even a rumor of the wrathful ibex who was rashly laying everything waste could have reached me, if it had not by mere chance happened that George Vadian, a man of marked piety and culture, was journeying on certain business in the parts where you were tearing around. While he was at first not a little disturbed by the strangeness of your conduct, yet, having obtained one of your pamphlets—a prisoner, as it were, from your army—he promptly transmitted it to me, and I have treated it a little more kindly than you treated mine.

It’s quite sad that theologians today aren’t masters of prose in the way the Reformers were.  No wonder the 16th century-ers are far more entertaining and memorable than our flat-lining near death through sheer boring-ness contemporaries.

[Thanks to the Logos edition of Zwingli’s works I’m re-reading things I read decades ago and several times since with renewed joy.  And I can share them without having to type them all out!  Thank heaven for whoever invented cut and paste].

The Most Important Collection in English of Zwingli’s Works and Life

Logos is shipping it now. Brilliant!

And on the perfect day really, since it is in fact my 29th wedding anniversary.  So it’s a notable anniversary for a number of reasons.  Perhaps now Zwingli will receive the wider attention amongst English readers/speakers that the beast Luther and the tyrant Calvin have received because their works were widely and easily available.

How To Behave at Home and Abroad

When thou art abroad, come not in company of blasphemous and riotous toss-pots; behave thyself honestly, provoke no man to anger, despise no man, speak ill of no man, desire peace and quietness, honour all men, and strive to do good to every one.

When thou art at home, help forward thy master’s commodity; do not endamage him nor his affairs; if any man either hurt, or doth go about to hinder him, give him warning of it betimes; seek to appease, and hide as much as thou canst, all occasions of falling out and chidings; whatsoever thou nearest at home, do not blab it abroad, and make no tales at home of that that thou nearest abroad.

Be silent, quiet, chaste, continent, temperant, trusty in deeds, true in words, and willing to do any honest and household business. — Heinrich Bullinger

Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, Volume 1: 1523-1552

This is the first of a projected three volume set, which compiles numerous Reformed confessions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries translated into English.

For many of these texts, this is their debut in the Anglo-Saxon vernacular. It provides the English-speaking world a richer and more comprehensive view of the emergence and maturation of Reformed theology in these foundational centuries foundational centuries for Reformed thought and foundational summaries of Reformed doctrine for these centuries.

Each confessional statement is preceded by a brief introduction containing necessary historical and bibliographical background. The confessions are arranged chronologically, with this first volume presenting thirty-three documents covering the years 1523-1552.

Volume one can be acquired here.  Volume two is also available.  Details here.  Reformation Heritage Books are online here.

Today With Zwingli: Answering the Baden Disputants

Zwinglis Antwort an die Boten der Eidgenossen in Baden appeared on 14 June, 1526. The Baden Disputation had taken place just weeks before and Zwingli had been forbidden to attend, so he wrote his response to his critics out and put it in print.

Gnad und frid von gott bevor! Strengen, vesten, fürsichtigen, ersamen, wysen etc. gnädigen, lieben herren! Ich wil üwer ersamen wysheyt zumm kürtzesten antwurt geben über die gschrifft, die ir minen herren zuogeschickt, mich gar unfrüntlich anklagend. Bitt uwer wisheit, die welle min einvaltige antwurt nit verargen.

Although he said his answer would be short, in the critical edition it runs to 13 pages, so though that’s relatively brief, it’s still not very brief.

As usual, it’s peppered with Scriptural proofs for the position Zwingli holds concerning the Mass and salvation. It takes a broadside at Eck and Faber (the two persons most virulent in attacking Zwingli at Baden) and that broadside is classic Zwingli- witty and cutting.

It’s purpose is to urge the Confederation to adopt real reform and not be deceived by Faber et al who only wish to keep the Swiss the servants of Roman corruption.