Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bullinger and sola fide

Bullinger has often been accused of compromising sola fide and of espousing a synergistic understanding of salvation. The following quotation from Archilla’s celebrated The Theology of History and apologetic Histogriography in Heinrich Bullinger: Truth in History will clarify Bullinger’s understanding:

“Bullinger’s understanding of faith upon the promise of Christ as the basic human response in the covenant dispels any doubt about his commitment to sola fide. The question might arise out of a cursory reading of De testamento, where the polemic is against the rebaptizers. But elsewhere Bullinger mainly argues in the context of an anti work-righteousness polemic. Doubt on this issue could also arise from Bullinger’s emphasis on the human response as faith and love. Yet that love for him, as we have shown, flows from the faith that relies solely on Christ. And even that very faith is a gift of God, a work of the Spirit:

‘Furthermore, that faith by which we believe that Christ fulfilled the law, and that he himself is our righteousness and our perfection, comes about neither from our nature nor from our merits, but rather out of god’s grace it is poured in by the Holy Spirit who is given into our hearts. This Spirit by remaining in our hearts, sets our breasts on fire with love and with earnest application to the divine law, so that we may legitimately attempt to expound and apply it by deeds. This earnest application and this attempt even if it never becomes fully realized, on account of the natural disposition of the flesh or human weakness which remains in us unto the end of our life, God nevertheless approves out of grace, but of course on account of Christ: so no one whosoever among the pious trusts in this other fulfillment, but rather in the first, because it is the only perfect one.’(Decades III.8)”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More on Calvin and Genesis 17

Paul R. Williamson in his “Abraham, Israel and the Nations: The Patriarchal promise and its covenantal Development in Genesis” argues that Calvin viewed Genesis 15 and Genesis 17 as two stages in the same divine-human covenant. That is his understanding of what Calvin wrote in his commentary on Genesis:

“The first was a declaration of gratuitous love; to which was annexed the promise of a happy life. But the other was an exhortation to the sincere endeavor to cultivate uprightness …He (God) does not… speak of this (covenant) as a new thing: but he recalls the memory of the covenant which he had before made, and now fully confirms and established its certainty… Therefore, by these words, he intends nothing else than that the covenant, of which Abram had heard before, should be established and ratified: but he expressly introduces the principal point, concerning the multiplication of seed, which he afterwards frequently repeats.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Calvin and Genesis 17

Bullinger’s treatise on the covenant, De testamento, was an extended exegesis of Genesis 17. It is an interesting exercise to compare Bullinger’s conclusions with the thoughts of both Luther and Calvin on Genesis 17. Lillback has made such a comparison in his “The Binding of God” and in his article “The Early Reformed Covenant Paradigm: Vermigli in the context of Bullinger, Luther and Calvin” in Frank A James III (ed) “Peter Martyr Vermigli and the European Reformation: Semper Reformanda.”

The following are some sections taken from Calvin’s commentary on Genesis 17:

“Now that word summarily contains this declaration, that god enters into covenant with Abram: it then unfolds the nature of the covenant itself, and finally puts to it the seal, with the accompanying attestations (p442).”

“In this single word we are plainly taught, that this was a spiritual covenant, not confirmed in reference to the present life only; but one from which Abraham might conceive the hope of eternal salvation, so that being raised even to heaven, he might lay hold of solid and perfect bliss. For those whom God adopts to himself, from among a people – seeing that he makes them partakers of his righteousness and of all good things – he also constitutes heirs of celestial life. Let us then mark this as the principal part of the covenant, that he who is the God of the living, not of the dead, promises to be a God to the children of Abraham (p450).”

“As formerly, covenants were not only committed to public records, but were also wont to be engraven in brass, or sculptured on stones, in order that the memory of them might be more fully recorded, and more highly celebrated; so that in the present instance, god inscribes his covenant in the flesh of Abraham. For circumcision was as a solemn memorial of that adoption, by which the family of Abraham had been elected to be the peculiar people of God (p451).”

"and it is common to all sacraments to have the word of God annexed to them, by which he testifies that he is propitious to us, and calls us to the hope of salvation; yea, a sacrament is nothing else than a visible word, or sculpture or image of that grace of God, which the word more fully illustrates. If, then, there is a mutual relation between the word and faith; it follows, that the proposed end and use of the sacraments is to help, promote and confirm faith. But they who deny that sacraments are supports to faith, or that they aid the word in strengthening faith, must of necessity expunge the name of covenant; because, either God there offers himself as a Promiser, in mockery and falsely, and from which it may confirm its own assurance (pp451,452).”

Calvin and Genesis 17

Bullinger’s treatise on the covenant, De testamento, was an extended exegesis of Genesis 17. It is an interesting exercise to compare Bullinger’s conclusions with the thoughts of both Luther and Calvin on Genesis 17. Lillback has made such a comparison in his “The Binding of God” and in his article “The Early Reformed Covenant Paradigm: Vermigli in the context of Bullinger, Luther and Calvin” in Frank A James III (ed) “Peter martyr Vermigli and the European Reformation: Semper Reformanda.”

The following are some sections taken from Calvin’s commentary on Genesis 17:

“Now that word summarily contains this declaration, that god enters into covenant with Abram: it then unfolds the nature of the covenant itself, and finally puts to it the seal, with the accompanying attestations (p442).”

“In this single word we are plainly taught, that this was a spiritual covenant, not confirmed in reference to the present life only; but one from which Abraham might conceive the hope of eternal salvation, so that being raised even to heaven, he might lay hold of solid and perfect bliss. For those whom God adopts to himself, from among a people – seeing that he makes them partakers of his righteousness and of all good things – he also constitutes heirs of celestial life. Let us then mark this as the principal part of the covenant, that he who is the God of the living, not of the dead, promises to be a God to the children of Abraham (p450).”

“As formerly, covenants were not only committed to public records, but were also wont to be engraven in brass, or sculptured on stones, in order that the memory of them might be more fully recorded, and more highly celebrated; so that in the present instance, god inscribes his covenant in the flesh of Abraham. For circumcision was as a solemn memorial of that adoption, by which the family of Abraham had been elected to be the peculiar people of God (p451).”

"and it is common to all sacraments to have the word of God annexed to them, by which he testifies that he is propitious to us, and calls us to the hope of salvation; yea, a sacrament is nothing else than a visible word, or sculpture or image of that grace of God, which the word more fully illustrates. If, then, there is a mutual relation between the word and faith; it follows, that the proposed end and use of the sacraments is to help, promote and confirm faith. But they who deny that sacraments are supports to faith, or that they aid the word in strengthening faith, must of necessity expunge the name of covenant; because, either God there offers himself as a Promiser, in mockery and falsely, and from which it may confirm its own assurance (pp451,452).”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bullinger and Marriage

Rebecca Giselbrecht of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History at Zurich has an article on Bullinger’s wife Anna Adlischwyler in the latest edition of Zwingliana. The following is an excerpt from this article:

Heinrich Bullinger II, the reformer, was interested in marriage from a pragmatic theological point of view but was also a romantic – even authoring a love song for his wedding. Already in February 1525, the twenty-one year old Bullinger shared his expert advice on marriage in a reply to a letter from his student Marx Rosen. Bullinger specifically defined masculine marital behavior in his letter to Rosen, depicting the woman as a mere object and portraying her to be the weaker vessel, as he pieced together a picture of the female sex using Bible citations. He also made it clear to Rosen that a woman was not to be beaten.

By personally pursuing Anna Adlischwyler, Bullinger created an interesting legal situation when he ignored the social mores of marriage and its usual third party facilitation. Instead, Bullinger sent Anna a very lengthy letter asking for her hand. With logical and forceful arguments for marriage and the Reformed faith, Bullinger pressed his intentions, trying to convince Anna that life in the convent was neither biblical, not God’s will for her future. After declaring his personal integrity, financial situation, and love for Anna, Bullinger, who was all of twenty-three years old wrote: ‘Yes, you are young, and God did give you such a body, and did not create you so that you remain an eternal madam and do nothing so that fruit comes form you.’ He tells her not to stay a virgin stuck between the walls of a convent, and closes with instructions: ‘Read my letter three or four times, think about it, and ask God so he tells you what his will is in this matter.’ Bullinger’s first letter is remarkably similar to The Complete Teaching on Christian Marriage, a tract that he had begun to write two months previously on his 23rd birthday, 18 July 1527.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bullinger’s advice to Calvin

In response to the Gnesio-Lutherans re the Reformed understanding of the Lord’s Supper (in particular, the Consensus Tigurinus) Calvin, in tandem with Beza, drafted a reply that would be sent to Westphal. Calvin sent his draft to Bullinger for his comments as Bullinger had previously stated re this effort: “May the Lord give you His Holy Spirit so that the enterprise will be to His honor and a blessing to many. I await your answer with longing.”

But when Calvin’s full draft was received in Zurich it was deemed not on the ball enough re the Lord’s Supper, especially its attitude to the Augsburg Confession. Furthermore, it was a very aggressive attack on the Gnesio-Lutherans without sufficiently analyzing their position. It was more a case of playing the man rather than playing the ball. Bullinger was given the task of conveying the comments of the ministers at Zurich to Calvin. The following is an extract of Bullinger’s letter to Calvin:

“It appears to us, dear Calvin, that you proceed far too roughly against our opponents. Three or four times, you call them ‘good-for-nothing’ and you reproach them because of the cows of their country and their nearness to the polar seas and you call Westphal a ‘beast’. Well, we admit freely that they deserve such harsh treatment but – not from you and not from us. It will be more to our favor to remain charitable. It was exactly invective like this in Luther’s writings which put off many sincere people. Your written response, therefore, should be, in our opinion, thoroughly moderate in tone, so that one will in every respect appreciate that the author simply aims at the upkeep and defence of the truth. He retains his Christian dignity and leniency in spite of these stormy and violent times. We wish, as far as is possible, to give Westphal, this verbose and belligerent man, no further opportunity to squabble. In Saxony and northwards to the Baltic Sea there are many thousands of well-meaning people whose friendship, as you mention, we should cultivate. Perhaps, however, exactly these people would feel insulted by your offensive statements. As you use general terms of abuse concerning cold and icy people, beasts and ne’er-do-wells, it would be better to strike them out and name the renewer of the sacrament controversy by his correct name, Westphal, so that everyone will know that we are proceeding against him.” (Pestalozzi, p389)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bullinger’s commencement as Antistes of Zurich

The following is part of Zwingli’s address to the magistrates in Zurich in assuming the role of Antistes. Zwingli had been one of three Leutpriesters.

“I swear according to the mandate imposed by my lords of Zurich to teach and preach the holy gospel and Word of God to which I am called, from the Old Testament and the New Testament, faithfully according to my rightful Christian understanding and ability, and not to meddle with any doubtful dogma or wayward, unauthorized teaching but follow the ruling of the general synod which is called twice yearly, Furthermore it is my duty and will to serve the Lord Mayors, Council and Citizens with faithfulness and a good disposition as my rulers and support the well-being and piety of the city and canton by preventing harm and providing admonition as much as lies in my power. I shall be obedient and true to them and their appointed constables and officials and to their commands and strictures in reverential and equitable matters and remain in attendance loyally and void of any menace.”

Ich schwöre, das heilige Evangelium und Wort Gottes, dazu ich berufen bin, treulich und nach rechtem christlichem Verstand auch nach Vermög alten und neuen Testamentes, laut meiner Herren von Zürich erlassenen Mandates, zu lehren und zu predigen, und darunter kein Dogma oder Lehre, die zweifelhft, noch nicht uaf der Bahn und anerkannt ware, mit einzumischen, sie sei den zuvor der allgemeinen, ordentlichen Versammlung, die jährlich zweimal gehalten wird, angezeigt und von derselben anerkannt worden. Ueberdies soll und will ich einem Bürgermesiter und Rath, auch die Bürgern, als meiner ordentlichen Obrigkeit true und hnold sein, gemeiner Stadt und Landes Zürich Nutz und Frommen fördern, ihren Schaden wenden und davor warmen, so weit ich’s vermag, auch ihr und ihren bestellten Vögten und Amleuten, ihre Geboten und Verboten, in geziemenden, billigen Sachen gehorsam und gewärtig sein, truelich und ohne alle Gefährde.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ella on Bullinger and Calvin

The following is Ella’s assessment of the relationship of Calvin vis-à-vis Bullinger (George Ella, Henry Bullinger: Shepherd of the Churches):

“It is this author’s contention that Calvin, with all his obvious abilities as a Reformer, has been placed on a pedestal which rightly belongs to Bullinger who eclipsed his French friend in almost all areas. Indeed, had it not been for Bullinger’s strong leadership over Calvin and the enormous influence Bullinger exerted on his doctrine and the fatherly and brotherly way Bullinger supported Calvin in all his battles, Calvin would never have remained in Geneva from 1541-1564 and never have been half the Reformer he was. Bullinger’s advantage over Calvin was that Zurich at that time, as Bullinger repeatedly testifies, was a City of a Hill in the spiritual sense that church and state lived in almost constant, peaceful harmony. On the other hand, the scene at Geneva was one of turbulence and strife both with each other. We never hear of Bullinger denouncing his fellow ministers, citizens and Council in the denigrating way Calvin did the ministers, Church, citizenship and Council of Geneva up to the last few years of his life. It must be also be said with equal truthfulness that the peace of Zurich was largely Bullinger’s making and the problems which arose in Geneva, which Bullinger was invariably looked upon to solve, were often because of Calvin’s lack of diplomacy and lack of control over his temper, tongue and pen.”

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Yet More On Bullinger and Luther

The following is an extract of Bullinger’s letter to Bonifacius Amerbach dated 14 March 1545:

“He (ie Luther) has ranged and raved in public writings against the living and the dead to such an extent that we cannot conceal it. We respond, however, modestly, I imagine, for these very good men and especially for the church for which we are ministers, defending our integrity and that of others in a forthright manner.”

In his Wahrhaftes Bekenntnis of 1545 Bullinger described Luther’s Brief Confession in the following way:

“This book is so full of devilish unchristian insults, lewd filth, impure speech, anger roguishness, rage, and fury that all who read it … must wonder that such an aged, quite experienced, and well respected man should write so crudely before everyone.”

At the end of Wahrhaftes Bekenntnis Bullinger appended Luther’s Kurzesbekenntnis or Brief Confession for comparison to indicate his willingness of his work to be openly inspected and compared to that of Luther’s.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bullinger and the Covenant in his De prophetae officio

Bullinger writes the following in his work on the role of prophets:

“For testament, which also is the title for all of Scripture, surely stands for the content of all of Scripture. Neither is this to be wondered at as something recent or devoid of meaning. For by the word testament we understand the covenant and agreement by which God agreed with the entire human race, to be himself our God, our sufficiency, source of good and horn of plenty. And this he would abundantly prove by the gift of the fertile earth and the incarnation of his son. Man, however, ought to pursue integrity, that he may stand before this God with a perfect and upright mind, that he may walk in his ways and commit himself totally to him, as to the highest and most loving Father.”

De prophetae officio sig. Aivv-Avr

Sunday, October 9, 2011

More on Bullinger and Luther

In response to Luther’s attack on Zwingli and Oecolampadius in his Brief Confession, Bullinger wrote the following:

“Or should Luther be allowed to write so furiously while we cannot even once publish Zwingli’s pious and useful work with a modest preface. Yes, we will protect our teaching – not with our own abilities but through the power and help of Christ.”

(from Bullinger’s letter to Ambrose Blarer of 5 September 1544)

On another occasion, he wrote:

“I would rather die than disown the simple and certain truth of our church for a dream of concord. Better concord with the truth and discord with Luther than concord with him and discord with the truth.”

(from Bullinger’s letter to Bucer, May 1544 as quoted in Pestalozzi, p227)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

More on Luther and Zurich

As is well known, in Luther’s exposition on Genesis (based on his lectures in Wittenberg in July 1543), Luther labeled Zwingli a “Schwärmer” and an enemy of his understanding of the sacraments. Bullinger reacted to this and Luther’s recent rejection and criticism of Froschauer’s Bible and wrote the following in his letter to Joaichim Vadian:

“Luther has never ceased, both publicly and privately, to condemn Zwingli and ourselves. We have written to him privately, just as was decreed, but he did not respond, disregarding us and criticizing us sharply.”

(Die Vadianische Briefwechsel VI, p322)

Luther had claimed that Zwingli had broken their Marburg agreement by publishing his Exposition of the Christian Faith and sending it to Francis I of France.

Melanchthon reacted to Luther’s action by writing to Frecht:

“the pain which I feel over the renewal of the sacramental controversy would still not be relieved.” He further wrote to Bullinger:

“Before this letter has arrived you will have perhaps already received doctor Luther’s abominable work in which he renews the war over the Lord’s Supper. He had not blunder so impetuously on this matter until now. My hope for peace in our churches is gone. We will only advance our enemies, who are protected by monkish idolatry. Our churches will be torn apart again! This cuts my heart to pieces.”

(Corpus Reformatorum: Opera quae supersunt Omnia, V, p476)

Bullinger also wrote the following to Melanchthon:

“Luther insults not only us, but the holy Christian church, whose servants we are after the call of god; he insults the Lord Jesus Himself, He, the highest leader of the congregation, our king and high priest, whom we follow and serve.”

(Pestalozzi, p220).

Calvin also wrote to Bullinger to encourage him not to be too harsh with Luther:

“I hear that Luther has at length broken forth in fierce invective, not so much against you as against the whole of us. On the present occasion, I dare scarce venture to ask you to keep silence, because it is neither just that innocent persons should be harassed, nor that they should be denied the opportunity of clearly themselves; neither on the other hand, is it easy to determine whether it would be prudent for them to so so. But of this I do earnestly desire to put in mind, in the first place, that you should consider how eminent a man Luther is, and the excellent endowments wherewith he is gifted, with what strength of mind and resolute constancy, with how great skill, with what efficacy and power of doctrinal statement, he hath hitherto devoted his whole energy to overthrow the reign of antichrist, and at the same time to diffuse far and near the doctrine of salvation.”

(Calvin Opera XI, p774)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jim West’s Book on Zwingli

Jim West has produced a book on Zwingli. Jim is a Zwingli expert and Zwingliphile. The books lets Zwingli speak for himself. It is a helpful read though the downside is that there is little on Zwingli and Bullinger.

Here is a link to the book which can be purchased as a pdf file:

http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/christ-our-captain-an-introduction-to-huldrych-zwingli/16584676

Zwingli’s Works Online

The staff of Zwingliana have been very busy beavering away and have made available Zwingli’s works online. The links are:

For Zwingli’s works: http://www.irg.uzh.ch/static/zwingli-werke/index.php

For Zwingli’s letters: http://www.irg.uzh.ch/static/zwingli-briefe/index.php

A big THANK YOU to everyone at the IRG in Zurich!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bullinger on Luther

The following is a citation from Bullinger’s letter to Eberhard von Ruemlang, the town clerk of Bern. The letter is dated 8 March 1539. The citation comes towards the end of the letter:

“I recognize Luther as a man who has erred and is able to err, who ought to be admonished about error and controlled. I do not approve of those who have determined to build a bookcase out of our new understanding.”

(Corpus Reformatorum: Johannis Calvini Opera quae supersunt Omnia, X, p322)

The following quote is from Bullinger’s letter to Luther on 30 August 1539 which appears to be the last correspondence between Bullinger and Luther. The letter responds to Luther’s charge that Zwingli was guilty of Nestorianism:

“Most learned Luther, we have read your treatise on the councils and fathers which is clearly necessary and suitable for our time. May the Lord strengthen you so that you may continue to battle and destroy the rule of the antichrist with zealous perserverence and unshakeable bravery. It grieves us very much that you do no honor our great and learned man, Ulrich Zwingli.”

(Weimar Ausgabe, Briefwechsel, VIII, p546)

Luther and the Zurich Reformers

The quote from Luther’s Table Talk in the previous post contrasts with Luther’s letter of 1 December 1537 in reply to a letter the Swiss sent him in January 1537 stating their position concerning the theological issues dividing the Swiss and the Germans. Bullinger was so pleased with Luther’s reply that he wrote the following to Myconius in his letter of February 1538:

“Luther’s answer is clear, simply, thoroughly unadorned, and fully Christian. He does not attack our writing concerning the Lord’s Supper, rejects nothing, does not order us to do anything, and expresses himself simply; at the conclusion he recognizes us as brothers and asks for our friendship, and also allows those interpretations that are not wholly agreed upon to stand. In short it was good. One should not deride it.”

(quoted in Pestalozzi p 206)

But this apparent positive attitude of Luther to the Swiss was not to last very long!

Table Talk and Bullinger

The following quote from Luther’s Table Talk illustrates how perturbed Luther was at Bullinger’s understanding concerning Christ’s presence in the Eucharist:

“Before the world existed God said, ‘Let there be a world; and the world was. So he says here (in the Lord’s Supper), ‘Let this be my body,’ and it is, nor is it prevented by the scoffing of Bullinger, who says that because it isn’t present. For in the former instance he created invisible, in such fashion as he wished.”

(Luther’s Works, Vol. 54, Table Talk (ed. and trans. G. Tappert – Fortress Press, 1967), p89)

Zwingliana in print

The 2011 edition of Zwingliana is now in print. A big thank you to the editorial staff who have worked hard to produce this edition. Here is a summary of the articles of this issue:

Martin Bundi “Zur Dynamik der frühen Reformbewegung in Graubünden: Staats-, kirchen- und privatrechtliche Erlasse des Dreibündestaates 1523-1526”


Christine Christ-v. Wedel “Das Buch der Bücher popularisieren: Der Bibelübersetzer Leo Jud und sein biblisches Erbauungsbuch "Vom lyden Christi" (1534)"


Rebecca A. Giselbrecht “Myths and Reality about Heinrich Bullinger's Wife Anna”


Mark Taplin “Josias Simler and the Fathers: The "Scripta veterum latina" (1571)”



Urs B. Leu “The Hollis-Collections in Switzerland: An Attempt to Disseminate Political and Religious Freedom through Books in the 18th Century”


Christoph Ramstein “ “Pfarrbrüder", "Pfarrconvent" und Schweizerische Predigergesellschaft: Drei historische Beispiele der Zusammenarbeit und des Austauschs unter Pfarrpersonen der reformierten Schweiz im 19. Jahrhundert”

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Moots on Bullinger and Calvin and the Covenant

The following is a another extract from Moots' book:

“Unlike Calvin, who rooted covenants of salvation in the unknowable will of God, Bullinger made those covenants more accessible by putting them in the context of human covenants and agreements. Bullinger casts the biblical covenants as something which God condescended to make with persons, mimicking the covenants persons already made with one another (III. Vi, 169). In writing of the Lord’s Supper and the binding of persons to God and to one another, for example, Bullinger compared the sacraments to human confederacies (V. vi, 238-239). The point here was not to argue that Bullinger thought covenants were an agreement between equals or to make the biblical covenants akin to human covenants, but rather to stress the accommodation of God. The unknowable mystery in Calvin is why God chose to save one person rather than another; the unknowable mystery in Bullinger is the role of God’s will in predestination (IV. Iv, 185-188).”

Bullinger and Calvin and the Covenant

Here is an interesting extract from the recent book by Glenn A. Moots, Politics Reformed: The Anglo-American Legacy of Covenant Theology (2011):

“The most common and most substantial error among those who study the Reformation is to ignore or minimize Bullinger and to focus on Calvin instead. Not only did Bullinger gain a position of influence much sooner than Calvin, but his influence was arguably as extensive as Calvin’s, if not more so. Archives of known correspondence have three times as many surviving letters from Bullinger as from Calvin, and there are potentially thousands more; his influence penetrated every corner of Europe and Britain. By 1528, when Calvin was still relatively unknown, Bullinger had composed scores of theological works and was an internationally recognized authority. His influence far surpassed Zwingli’s. He also outlived Calvin by twelve years, furthering his influence. Bullinger’s works circulated widely in Englad approximately thirty years before Calvin’s works. His influence even in France (acknowledged by Franz Hotman in a letter of 1572) can be attributed in part to his early converting influence on Theodore Beza in 1535. During the sixteenth century, there were well over fifty European printers producing hundreds of editions of Bullinger’s works in at least five languages. Even Geneva may may have been more taken with Bullinger than Calvin, as Genevan printers worked hard to promote French editions of Bullinger’s work. Even the Genevan authorities recognized the importance of Bullinger’s scope, depth, and tone and required that Bulligner’s doctrinal works be published alongside Calvin’s Institutes. Within one hundred years, 400 editions of Bullinger’s works had been printed in Switzerland and 230 editions in other countries. Bullinger’s shadow was least as long as Calvin’s for the next two generations.

Bullinger was the first to appropriate the Abrahamic covenant. In 1523, at the age of nineteen, he was already beginning to employ the traditional testamentum (covenant) in writing. In 1526 he asserted that the New Testament was the fulfillment of the covenant with Israel. By 1534, Bullinger had published his first substantial seminal treatise on biblical covenants, De testamento seu foedere dei unico & aeterno. De testamento was the first great contribution of the Reformation’s ‘Hebraic Christianity’ and the first great work of covenant or federal theology. Peter Lillback considers this study ‘of strategic importance’ and ‘the first study of the covenant produced in the history of the church’. Most important for Reformation political theology, the work provided a seminal definition and defense of civil government just as the greatest progress of the Reformation was about to be made. Together with his Decades, which also addressed covenant continuity, De testamento cemented Bullinger’s reputation as a political theologian. Calvin’s first edition of his Christianae religionis institutio, published two years later, did not contain any detailed discussion of the covenants.”

Monday, September 26, 2011

Calvin and Bullinger on the Covenant

I have just come across a helpful article by Peter Optiz on Calvin and Scripture and cite a section of it here. Opitz’ article is to be found in Herman J. Selderhuis (ed.), The Calvin Handbook (Eerdmans, 2009), pp235-244. The original article is in German and has been ably translated into English by Rebecca A. Giselbrecht who is on the staff of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History in Zurich.

“Calvin’s understanding of the ‘covenant’ is essential to his doctrine of Scripture. Especially during his Strasbourg period, Calvin appears to have grappled intensely with the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. A fruit of this study is found in a comprehensive chapter of the Institutes of 1539, in which he explains the close connection of both Testaments as a dynamic unity with internal differences (CO 1, 225-244). Martin Bucer surely had direct influence on this, and with him the entire circle of the upper-German reformers with their humanistic backgrounds, who in turn had been influences by Zwingli and Bullinger – a fact less heeded by researchers. Bucer, who had already defended the unity of the two Testaments in his commentary on the gospel, enjoyed lively exchanges not only with his colleagues the Hebraists Capito and Hedio from Strasbourg, but also with Heinrich Bullinger. With the encouragement of Zwingli, Bullinger had already argued the one covenant as the scopus of Scripture and received Bucer’s total approval for his defense of it in his De Testamento from 1534. Ever since the 1539 version of the Institutes, Calvin widely expounded Bullinger’s argument for the doctrine of one covenant – not, however, without setting an independent accent that seems to demonstrate the lasting influence of Melanchthon, especially his Loci from 1535. In the Institutes of 1559, the doctrine of one covenant is finally completely integrated into his soteriology; and at the same time, this interpretation of the covenant became the connecting link in Calvin’s theology; particularly between his Christology and his exegesis. Institutes II was thus entitled ‘The Knowledge of God the Redeemer in Christ, First Disclosed to the Fathers under the Law, and Then to Us in the Gospel.’ In Calvin’s first Institutes from 1536 the placement of this doctrine of the law was similar to its placement in Luther’s Small Catechism. From 1539 on, there is a remarkable change. The title of Institutes II.7 reads: ‘The Law Was Given, Not to Restrain the Folk of the Old Covenant Under Itself, But to Foster Hope of Salvation in Christ Until His Coming.’ Thereby the law is expressly defined in alignment with an Old Testament Torah understanding: ‘I understand by the word ‘law’ not only the Ten Commandments, which set forth a godly and righteous rule of living, but the form of religion (formam religionis) handed down by God through Moses’ (Inst. II.7.1). However, because this law depends on God’s electing grace, Christ is already present, even though in Moses’ writing this was ‘not yet expressed in clear words.’ Accordingly, ‘apart from the mediator, God never showed favor toward the ancient people, nor ever gave hope of grace to them.’ For ‘the blessed and happy state of the church always had its foundation in the person of Christ’ (Inst. II.6.2). Therefore the relationship between the Old and New Testaments means: ‘The covenant made with all the patriarchs is so much like ours in substance and reality that the two are actually the one and the same. Yet they differ in the mode of dispensation’ (Inst. II.10.2).”

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bullinger, Usury and the Covenant

Baker has written on his understanding of Bullinger on usury and its connection with the covenant. Bullinger wrote on usury because it was an issue raised by the Anabaptists. The following is an extract from Baker’s book:

“Bullinger’s teaching on usury was fully consistent with his covenant idea. Indeed the covenant condition of piety or love for the neighbor was the basis for his entire social ethic including the realm of economics. In De testamento he listed the loan and other economic matters among the items that were included under ‘that part of the covenant that prescribes integrity and commands that we walk in the presence of God.’ To Bullinger, the second degree of the law was the equivalent of the Love Commandment, and it explained hos sinful man could keep the conditions of the covenant. So when Bullinger referred to the Love Commandment, he meant more than Calvin’s general appeal to Christian love and equity, although that was certainly involved. For Bullinger, the Love Commandment was the summary of the conditions of the covenant, God’s eternal will for His people.

The importance of the covenant is quite evident in Bullinger’s interpretation of the Deuteronomy text (ie Deuteronomy 23:19-20). Since God’s law did not change, Bullinger could not simply apply the prohibition to those historical circumstances as Calvin did. Bullinger agreed with Calvin that the permission of usurious interest was nothing but a temporary privilege. Unlike Calvin, however, he thought that the prohibition among brothers applied only to the dishonorable Wucher, which violated the covenant conditions of love. If Calvin appealed to a brotherhood where interest was authorized, which was quite different from a brotherhood where it was abominated, Bullinger simply suggested that the medieval concept of brotherhood was false. Honorable usury had never been prohibited among brothers – Jews of Christians. This standard had not been altered for Christians but was simply restated in the Love Commandment.

Thus, when Bullinger was confronted with the radicals’ strict and logical application of the communitarian ethic to the contemporary situation, he did not simply equivocate or revise the medieval theory as did Luther and Zwingli. Like Calvin later, he abandoned the ole theory and formulated a new economic ethic that corresponded more closely to the actual economic conditions of his day. Yet, in forming his new economic ethic, Bullinger drew from the record of the covenant. The guide for daily economic activity in Christian society was the Love Commandment, the conditions of the eternal covenant of God.”

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Central Role of the Covenant in the Role of the Prophet

Baker rightly points out the centrality of the covenant in Bullinger’s understanding of the prophetic role of the minister when expounding Scripture to the congregation. This may be illustrated from the following quote from Bullinger’s De prophetae officio (1532) in Baker’s translation:

“Thus I admonish you, oh prophet of God, that more frequently, when you are about to expound the Scripture, you should reflect on what the essential point of the holy Scripture is and to which matter all things return. May (Baker rightly assumes here that Bullinger is referring to the Lutherans) say it is the law and the gospel – but incorrectly. For the testament, which is the title of the whole Scripture, is also the essential point of the entire Scripture.”

“So rate ich dir, Prophet Gottes, wenn du daran gehst, die Schrift auszulegen, oft bei dir selbst zu bedenken, welches die Grundlage der Schrift ist und worauf sich alles bezieht. Die mesiten behaupten ja, sie liege in die Unterscheidung von Gesetz und Evangelium, doch das ist kaum zutreffend. Denn das Testament, das der ganzen Schrift den Namen gibt, ist auch die Grundfrage der ganzen Schrift” (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften I, p14).

Bullinger continues at this juncture with:

“Das soll niemandem als neuartig oder gekünstelt erscheinen. Unter dem Begriff Testament verstehen wir nämlich einem Pakt, einen Bund oder eine Vereinbarung” – This ought nobody consider to appear to be something new or something artificial. With the concept of the Testament we understand, namely, a pact, a covenant or an agreement.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Baker on Bullinger and the Covenant

No serious study of Bullinger and the covenant can be made without seriously considering the work of J. Wayne Baker. His major work is Heinrich Bullinger and the Covenant : The Other Reformed Tradition. After criticism by Dowey, Muller, Archilla and others of his major thesis that the covenant is the central underlying theme of Bullinger’s writings Baker followed up with “Heinrich Bullinger, the Covenant, and the Reformed Tradition in Retrospect”, Sixteenth Century Journal, vol 29 (no2, 1998), pp359-376. There is no doubt that Baker is one of few scholars that have read and studied a wide breadth of Bullinger’s works. This is clearly evident form the extensive footnotes in the Sixteenth Century Journal article.

To my knowledge, no one has yet done a detailed analysis of Baker’s work bearing in mind the extensive number of Bullinger’s works he cites. Baker is often cited in the literature but there is rarely an examination of Bullinger’as actual works to evaluate if Baker’s conclusions are accurate or not.

There is no doubt that Baker’s works are stimulating reading. Here is a quote concerning Bullinger and the Anabaptists from Baker’s book published in 1980:

“This, the preservation of the unity of the covenant, was exactly Bullinger’s point when he defended the authority of the Old Testament against the Anabaptists. Christ has not abolished the moral law but only the ceremonies, which He had fulfilled. Although he had thus freed from the Christian from the condemnation of the law, the moral law remained as the holy and correct guide for living and civil society. The Old Testament still had great authority in the church because New Testament Christians were one with the old people of God. ‘These are truly one people of God, in one church and communion, in one covenant or testament; and they have one and the same redemption and salvation, one and the same teaching, one faith, one spirit, one hope, one inheritance, one calling and equivalent sacraments.’ The Anabaptists, however, rejected that whole concept of covenant unity, arguing that Christ made a new covenant of faith. Their rejection of infant baptism rested on their insistence of this new covenant and thus stemmed from their rejection of the Old Testament.

When Bullinger treated infant baptism he again dealt with the covenant. Baptism was a sign of the people of God, a covenant sign equivalent to the circumcision of the Old Testament. The covenant made with Abraham was an eternal covenant, and the Anabaptist contention that Christ had established a new covenant, abolishing the old was erroneous. God’s promise that he would be the God of Abraham and his children remained firm after Christ. Since children had been included in the sign of the covenant in the Old Testament, they also were included in baptism, for God would not be less merciful in the New Testament period than He had been in the Old. The covenant was sometimes called ‘new’ because it had been renewed and confirmed by Christ and because the heathen were now included. Bullinger made several arguments from the New Testament to demonstrate that children were still included in the covenant. Christ said that little children were in the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14), and He referred to children having faith (Matthew 18:6). With regard to the latter, Bullinger explained that the Scripture spoke of faith and the faithful in two ways. First, there were those who heard the word of God and believed; this did not refer to children. But the Scripture also referred to the faithful, which did include children, because ‘they are counted and reckoned among the faithful out of the free grace of God, who has included the children in the covenant.’ Therefore, Christ could not have excluded children from the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Furthermore, Paul clearly taught that baptism was the new sacrament of the covenant, replacing circumcision (Colossians 2:11-2), and he himself baptized entire households (1 Corinthians 1:16; Acts 16:33), which must have included children. Baptism was thus ‘a sign of the people of God and the seal of the covenant.’’

This is a helpful summary by Baker of Bullinger’s thoughts. But I believe Baker errs when he argues that Bulligner developed his understanding of the covenant partly to counteract the Anabaptists. Bullinger was first and foremost a biblical theologian and the covenant is an integral underlying theme of the canon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bullinger and God’s Accommodation in the Covenant

In De Testamento Bullinger emphasizes that God accommodates Himself to mankind in the covenant. This is evident from this following quote from De Testamento :

‘ The following words of Moses, which are set forth in this passage from Genesis 17 :1-14, testify to the fact that God entered into a covenant with us according to human custom : ‘Now when Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said to him : ‘I am the almighty, all-sufficient God. Walk before me and be upright. And I will make my covenant between me and you and between your seed after you in your generations an everlasting covenant, that I may be your God and the God of your seed after you. And I will give to you and to your seed after you all the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession, and I will be their God. And you on your part will keep my covenant, you and your seed in their generations. This is my covenant between me and you and your seed after you. Every male from among you will be circumcised. The male, however,whose flesh shall not have been circumcised on the foreskin, his soul will be blotted from his people, because he has made my pact void.’ These are the words of my covenant, not written down verbatim but brought together and united in a summary. If you examine these words carefully, you will see that God has acted according to human custom at every point.’

Quod autem Deus hominum more foedus nobiscum pepigerit testabuntur sequentia Moses uerba, quae XVII. Gen Cap. In hanc leguntur sententiam, Postquam uero nonaginta & nouem annorum esse coeperat Abram, apparuit ei dominus, dixitque ad eum : Ego Deus omnipotens siue omnisufficienta. Ambula coram me & esto integer. Ponamque foedus meum inter me & te & inter semen tuum post te in generationibus suis foedere sempiterno, ut sim Deus tuus & seminis tui post te. Daboque tibi & semini to post te omnem terram Chanaan in possessionem aeternam, eroque Deus eorum. Et tu quidem pactum meum custodies, tu & semen tuum in generationibus suis. Hoc est pactum meum inter me & semen tuum post te. Circumcidetur ex uobis omne masculinum. Masculus autem cuius caro praeputη circumcisa non fuerit delebitur anima illa de populo suo : quia pactum meum irritum fecit. Haec sunt uerba foederis, non uerbotim appensa sed summatim collecta coprehensaque : quae si perpendas uidebis Deum omni modo morem retulisse humanum.
(De Testamento p5a)

Das aber Gott den Bund mit uns nach menschlicher Gewohnheit eingegangan ist, bezeugen di folgenden Worte des Mose in Genesis, Kapitel 17 : «Als Abraham 99 Jahre alt war, erschien ihm der Herr und sprach zu ihm : Ich bin der Allmächtige und die Allgenugsamkeit. Wandle vor mir, und sei untadelig. Und ich richte meinen Bund auf zwischen mir und dir und deinem Nachkommen von Geschlecht zu Geschlecht als einem ewigen Bund, dass ich dein und deiner Nachkommen Gott sei. Und ich gebe dir und deinem Nachkommen das ganze Land Kanaan zu ewigem Besitz, und ich will ich ihnen Gott sein. Du aber halte meinem Bund, du und deine Nachkommen von Geschlecht zu Geschlecht. Das is mein Bund zwischen mir und euch und deinem Nachkommen : Alles, was männlich ist, das soll beschitten werden. Ein Mann aber, dessen Vorhaut nicht beschnitten worden ist, dessen Seele soll aus seinem Volk ausgerottet werden : meinen Bund hat er gebrochen.« Das sind die Worte Bundes, nich wörtlich wiedergegeben, sondern gesammelt und zusammengefasst. Wenn du diese Worte sorgfältig erwägst, wirst du erkennen, dass Gott ganz der menschlichen Gewohnheit gemäß gehandelt hat.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More on Bullinger and the Unity of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant

In De Testamento Bullinger wrote:

“Many arguments are found in Scripture that first glance seem clearly to distinguish between two covenants, two peoples and two spirits, such as that which we read in Jeremiah 31:31-32: ‘Behold the days will come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and Judah, not according to the covenant I made with their fathers,’ etc. And again in Ezekiel 36:26, ‘I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in your midst.’ Again in Galatians 4:24, ‘These are the two covenants.’ Now I will explain from whence these terms were born and how they should be understood. To begin with, it is certain that the nomenclature of the old and new covenant, spirit, and people did not arise from the very essence of the covenant but from certain foreign and unessential things because of the diversity of the times recommended that now this, now that be added according to the contrariety of the Jewish people. These additions did not exist as perpetual and particularly necessary things for salvation, but they arose as changeable things according to the time, the persons, and the circumstances. The covenant itself could easily continue without them.”


Caeterum cum multa inueniantur in sacris argumenta quae prima statim fronte.
Testamenta duo, spiritus duos, & populos duos, longe lateque inter se uideantur
secernere, quale illud est quod apud Ieremiam legimus, Ecce dies uenient dicit dominus,& feriam cum domo Israel & Iuda testamentum nouum, non iuxta testamentum quod
pepegi cum patribus eorum & c. Item apud Ezechielem, Dabo uobis cor nouum &
spiritum nouum ponam in medio uestri. Item as Galat. IIII. Haec sunt duo testamenta,
consequens est ut nunc edisseram unde ista enata sint, quoue sensu dicantur. Principio ergo certum est ueteris & noui testamenti spiritus ac populi nomenclaturam non oriri ex ipsa foederis substantia, sed ascititηs quibusdam & accidentibus, quae temporum interuallis aliud atque pro diuersitate gentis Iudaicae suadentibus, accessere, non ut perpetua & unice ad salutem necessaria, sed ut mutabilia & pro tempore & pro personarum & caussarum ratione enata, sine quibus ipsum foedus facile subsisteret:



‘Nun sind aber in der Heiligen Schrift viele Äußerungen zu finden, die auf den ersten Blick zwei Testamente, zweierlei Geist und zwei Völker deutlich voneinander zu unterscheiden scheinen. So liest man etwa bei Jeremia 31,31-32 ‘Siehe, es kommen Tage, spricht der Herr, da schließe ich mit dem Hause Israel und mit dem Hause Juda einen neuen Bund, nicht einen Bund, wie ich ihn mit ihren Vätern schloss’ usw. Ebenso im Galaterbrief 4 :24 ‘Diese Frauen bedeuten zwei Bündnisse.’ Daher ist es folgerichtig, nun zu erklären, woher diese Begriffe stammen und mit welcher Bedeutung sie verwendet werden.

Zunächst ist also sicher, dass die Begriffe ‘Altes und Neues Testament’,’Geist’, und ‘Volk’ nicht aus dem Wesen des Bundes erwachsen sind, sondern aus gewissen beigezegonen und äußerlichen Umständen, die hinzutraten, weil die unterschiedlichen Zeitläufte, entspechend der Unstetigkeit des jüdischen Volkes, das eine Mal dies, das andere Mal jenes empfahlen. Sie sind also nicht aus ewigen und heilsnotwendigen Gründen entstanden, sondern als veränderliche Dinge, die der Zeit, den Personen und den Umständen entsprechend aufgekommen sind. Der Bund selbst kommt aber leicht ohne sie aus.’ (HB Schriften I, p80)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Was Bullinger Erastian?

The following is an extended extract from Jean-Marc Berthoud’s celebrated lecture of 2004 :

“Let us here remove some unnecessary misunderstandings as to Bullinger´s position on the relation of the Church to the State. As a defender of Chalcedon he refused any confusion between the spiritual and the temporal orders. The Magistrate was not to usurp the proper spiritual function of the Church: the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments. The Church, on the other hand, was not to pretend to any kind of rule over the Magistrate, as was the case with the Roman theocratic system. But one must add that the absence, for political and theological reasons, in the Zurich arrangement of 1531-1532 of that clear institutional distinction between Church and State, for which Calvin was later to fight so strenuously in Geneva, made the balance between the spiritual and temporal powers in Zurich unduly (and dangerously) dependent on the stature both of the Magistrates and of the Pastors. Once Bullinger was gone, and with him his great spiritual and political authority, the State would increasingly be tempted to dominate the Church. Nothing on the institutional level would then hinder this growing appetite for the usurped authority of the State in the spiritual sphere. This historical fact "“ that of the ulterior Erastian subordination of the Church to the State "“ may in part explain why Bullinger, the historical representative of the faithful Zurich Church, has today become so utterly unknown, even in his native canton. The institutionalisation by Calvin of a clear distinction between Church and State was certainly more biblical (and less dangerous) than Bullinger´s political accommodation and, in the long run, certainly more productive both spiritually and politically.

But it is best here to let Bullinger speak for himself. An important part of his Decades is given to a detailed exposition of the Ten Commandments. The sixth commandment "“ Thou shalt commit no murder "“ is separated into its two aspects: the interdiction of homicide and the description of the function of the Magistrate. In passing, it is interesting to point out that the duties of the Magistrate are usually dealt with under the fifth commandment, that ordering children to honour their parents. On this question of the biblical teaching on homicide and on civil authority, Bullinger devotes no less than four sermons in the first volume of the Parker Society edition of the Decades, some 95 pages in all. The titles of each of these sermons in the Second Decade merit attention.

* Sixth sermon: Of the second precept of the second table, which is in order the sixth of the ten commandments, thou shalt not kill and of the magistrate.
* Seventh sermon: Of the office of the magistrate, whether the care of religion appertain to him or no, and whether he may make laws and ordinances in cases of religion.
* Eighth sermon: Of judgement, and the office of the judge; that Christians are not forbidden to judge; of revengement and punishment; whether it be lawful for a magistrate to kill the guilty; wherefore, when, how, and what a magistrate must punish; whether he may punish offenders in religion or no.
* Ninth sermon: Of war; whether it be lawful for a magistrate to make war. What the Scripture teacheth touching war. Whether a Christian man may bear the office of a magistrate and of the duty of subjects.

He explains his position, and that of the Zurich Church, in no uncertain terms.

For I know that many are of the opinion that the things of religion and their ordering belong to the bishops alone and not to the kings, princes and other magistrates. But the catholic truth teaches that the things of religion especially belong to the magistracy and that the same not only may but also should and ought to order and promote religion.23

After quoting a number of examples from the Old Testament, he adds:

Who is ignorant, that the magistrate´s especial care ought to be to keep the commonweal in safeguard and prosperity? Which undoubtedly he cannot do, unless he provide to have the word of God preached to his people, and cause them to be taught the true worship of God, by that means making himself, as it were, the minister of true religion.24

Now the exaggeration of this teaching was to lead to what later was to be known as Erastianism and it is known, through Bullinger´s unprinted correspondence with Thomas Erastus in the Palatinate, that the Zurich Reformer played an important role in the formulation of this position.25 But in Bullinger´s mind this by no means implied the subordination of the Church to the Magistrate. It was implicit in his view of the comprehensive character of the Christian faith that the totality of the Commonwealth was included in any truly biblical perception of reality. It is also to be noted that it was his recognition of the necessary and beneficent role of the godly magistrate in affairs of religion that so strongly favoured the great influence Bullinger exercised in the establishment of the Reformation in England, this of course in the context of the English Monarch as the Head of the Church.

For Bullinger, there existed a relation of mutual dependence between the faithful Church and the godly Magistrate. Pamela Biel comments on the need for the Magistrate to hear and heed the preaching of God´s Word, when she writes of the 17th Sermon of the Decades26

Bullinger expends the remainder of the sermon on demonstrating that, as the discernment of right religion is a complicated process, the magistrates ought to seek help in the right ordering of the church. The ministers, as the expert interpreters of God´s word and will, assisted the magistrates in keeping the territory on the path of right religion. The magistrate, for his part, retained the exercise of power such that he still stood as an authority over the minister in all things save the interpretation of Scripture.27

What was important for Bullinger "“ and here we again find his constant aim of attaining to a truly comprehensive faith "“ was not the exact definition of the particular rights and duties of Church and State as separate or even opposed institutions, but what Biel rightly calls "˜the reciprocal relationship between the minister and the magistrate´.28 Is it necessary here to add that his comprehensive way of thinking about every aspect of reality "“ a logic of "˜both and´ - does not function in fields where error and sin are involved. There rules supreme the antithesis "“ "˜either or´ "” the necessary choice between truth and error, good and evil. But Bullinger´s general strain of thought, strongly founded as it was on the original perfect coherence of the unfallen creation, viewed reality in terms of reciprocity, of the logic of "˜both and´, of coherence and complementarity. His words speak for themselves:

To the magistrate is commanded [by God] that he hear the servants of the Church. On the other hand, the servant of the church should follow the magistrate in all these things which the law commands. So the magistrate is not made subject by God to the priests or servants of the church as lords but as servants of the Lord God. Thus the servants of the church as much as the magistrates must be submissive to God in himself and his law. For if a single one of the priests does not speak the word of God, and he is priest only in name, no one of the common people should hold him before their eyes [as a model to follow]; I will be silent about a prince or a magistrate.29

Elsewhere he explicitly affirms with the apostles that, faced with an iniquitous political power, the Christian must "˜Obey God rather than men´.

This priority given to the monarch in the work of the Reformation of the Church comes out very clearly in his 1538 dedication of his book Concerning Sacred Scripture to Henry VIII. There he exhorts the king to take in hand the liberation of what later became the Anglican Church from the errors of Rome. For Bullinger, as Biel puts it,

Henry has the ultimate power and responsibility for the fate of the Church in his land. The potential for positive change in England through Henry dictates Bullinger´s position.30

Bullinger was aware that politics, the art of the possible "“ here the advancement of the Reformation in Britain "“ depended on the wise and prudent use of the historically established powers and institutions of the time. In the 16th Century, without the conversion of those in political authority, there was little hope for the free proclamation of the Word, a ministry without which no Reformation whatever was possible. Biel qualifies what we can call the Erastian tendency of Bullinger´s thinking as follows:

Bullinger did not, however, believe that the king ought to be left to his own devices when it came to matters of religion. Most of Concerning Sacred Scripture argued for the priority of the Bible in all matters of religion and specifically for the position of the ministers as interpreters of Scripture. "¦ The bishops help the king to understand what exactly God wants from him.31

For Bullinger the function of the Christian Magistrate was utterly subsumed under God´s own justice: he was under God´s law and to establish himself as his own law "“ as is the case for all forms of modern democracy "“ was to claim for himself the title of Tyrant or, as we would say today, of totalitarian power. For Bullinger,

The prince, indeed, is the living law, if his mind obey the written laws, and square [separate] not from the law of nature. Power and authority, therefore, is subject unto laws; for unless the prince in his heart agree with the law, in his breast do write the law, and in his deeds express the law [ie God´s law], he is not worthy to be called a good man, much less a prince.32

But Bullinger´s comprehensive mind adds the following caveat to his massive affirmation, showing how necessary a jurisprudential application of the law is essential to true equity, to the exercise of justice.

Again, a good prince and magistrate hath power over the law, and is master of the laws, not that they may turn, put out, undo, make and unmake, them as they list [wish], at their pleasure; but that he may put them into practice among the people, apply them to the necessity of the state, and attemper their interpretation to the meaning of their maker.33

And he continues:

Among all men, at all times and of all ages, the meaning and substance of the laws touching honesty, justice and public peace, is kept inviolable. If change is to be made, it is in the circumstances and the law is interpreted as the case requireth, according to justice and a good end. "¦ It is apparently evident that laws are good and not to be broken, and how far forth they do admit the prince´s epieikeion (Aristotle, Ethics, Lib. V, cp 10), that is the prince´s moderation, interpretation, limitation, or dispensation, lest peradventure that old and accustomed proverb be rightly applied unto them, Law with extremity is extreme injury.34

And he gives as example the necessary difference in treatment, by a judge attentive to equity, of accidental homicide and premeditated murder, even though both acts end up in the killing of a person.

As to the content of the laws applied by the Magistrate, Bullinger speaks in no uncertain terms:

The apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ did bind or burden no man with the laws of Moses [here he of course means not all the laws of Moses but, as Aquinas teaches, only those laws of the Torah specific to the vocation of the Old Testament Israelite nation]; they never condemned good laws of the heathen, nor commended to any man naughty [evil] laws of the Gentiles, but left the laws, with the use and free choice of them, for the saints to use as they thought good. But therewithal they ceased not most diligently to beat into men´s heads the fear of God, faith, charity, justice and temperance; because they knew that they in whose hearts those virtues were settled, can either easily make good laws themselves, or pick and choose out of the best of those which other men make. For it maketh no matter whether the magistrate pick out of Moses´ Jewish laws, or out of the allowable laws of the heathen, sufficient laws for him and his countrymen, or else do keep still the old and accustomed laws which have before been used in his country, so that he have an eye to cut off such wicked, unjust and lawless laws, as one found to be thrust in among the better sort. "¦

For civil and politic laws, I add this much, and say, that those seem to be the best laws, which according to the circumstances of every place, person, state, and time, do come nearest to the precepts of the ten commandments and the rule of charity, not having in them any spot and iniquity, licentious liberty, or shameless dishonesty. Let them moreover, be brief and short, not stretched out beyond measure, and wrapped in with many expositions; let them have a full respect to the matter whereto they are directed, and not be frivolous and of no effect.35

To conclude these quotations drawn from Bullinger´s treatment of the Sixth Commandment in the Decades let us add that our Zurich Antistes in no way condoned any kind of confusion between the spiritual and temporal orders, a confusion leading either to the spiritual tyranny of the Church over the Magistrate or, contrariwise (as is much more common today), the accumulation of all power, both spiritual and temporal, in the hands of the Providential Welfare State. In this 17th sermon, which contains much of his teaching on these matters, Bullinger writes:

But our disputation tendeth not to the confounding of the offices and duties of the magistrates and ministers of the church, as that we would have the king to preach, to baptize and to minister the Lord´s Supper; or the priest, on the other side, to sit in the judgement seat, and give judgement against a murderer, or by pronouncing sentence to take on matters of strife. The church of Christ hath, and retaineth, several and distinguished [distinct] offices; and God is a God of order, not of confusion.36

To characterise Bullinger´s complementary vision of the mutually supportive reciprocal relationship between the temporal and spiritual orders, a distinction which excluded both inchoate confusion and absolute separation, I can do no better, in closing this part of my lecture, than to refer to an astonishing text written in 1941 by a Serbian Orthodox theologian, Nicholas Velimirovitch, at the very moment Hitler launched his divisions in a massive onslaught on the Yugoslav Monarchy. This citation drawn from Velimirovitch´s short theological and historical study, Theodouly: The Serbian people as the Servant of God will, I hope, help us better understand Bullinger´s comprehensive understanding of the mutually dependent relationship, within the wider Commonwealth, of a faithful Church and a God-fearing Magistracy.

What then differentiates Theocracy from Theodouly? It is the difference between an imposed master and a voluntary servant. Theocracy can be of two kinds: clerical or lay. We only know clerical theocracy [ie the clerical tyranny of the Papacy] and it is profoundly despised in Europe; however lay theocracy is well known in the Muslim world, where Caliph and Sheikh or Shah holds a divine authority.37

Of course our modern world knows a kind of "˜atheistic theocracy´ with the total sovereignty of a political power become god, a law unto itself and its own end, its own finality, in the modern totalitarian and democratic state. Speaking of the Patron Saint of the Serbian nation, Velimirovitch continues:

St Sava (1174-1235) by his example instituted and consolidated the reality of the public service of God in such a way that the Archbishop of Serbia became the principal servant of Christ in the spiritual sphere and the King of Serbia the first servant of Christ in the civil sphere. Thus, if the archbishop was the servant of Christ, all the clergy were also constituted servants of Christ; and if the King was also the servant of Christ, then all constituted powers, civil and military were equally established as servants of Christ.

The whole spiritual hierarchy was expected to serve Christ and likewise the whole civil and military hierarchy was also expected to be in Christ´s service. Thus it was not only expected of the Church that it be enrolled under the banner of the service of Jesus Christ, but also the State: the State, no less than the Church, and the King no less than the Archbishop. Theodouly, the service of God, was the way and the purpose of both the Church and the State, each in the entirety of their respective functions.38

Such a comprehensive Orthodox view of the relation of harmony and reciprocal dependence between the godly magistrate and the faithful church would no doubt have found considerable sympathy with the Antistes of Zurich. But such a harmony between Church and State is difficult for us to understand today, confronted as we are with an antinomian and impious State (the Beast of biblical symbolism) and a prostituted spiritual power. The latter is not the Church, become largely spiritually and politically insignificant, but the general relativistic and ideological culture "“ "˜culture´ comes from "˜cult´, worship"“ a revolutionary civilisation establishing in all fields false and destructive norms, radically opposed both to God and to his Commandments.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More on Stephens on Bullinger and the Interpretation of Scripture

An earlier post referred to Peter Stephens’ article in RRR on the interpretation of the Bible in Bullinger’s early works. The following is another excerpt from this helpful article :

‘Bullinger’s other writings in the years after On Scripture express and develop what he says about the relation of the Old and New Testament, in particular the understanding of the covenant, the interpretation of Scripture by Scripture, and the role of the Holy Spirit as author and interpreter. These issues are, of course, related to each other.

Like the other reformers, Bullinger emphasizes that the Spirit is the author and interpreter of Scripture. The inspiration of Scripture underlies what Bullinger says about the Spirit and the biblical writers as authors, but inspiration is affirmed rather than discussed. With the Holy Spirit as the author of Scripture, there is naturally consistency between one part of Scripture and another, so that, for example, the evangelists agree with Paul on the Eucharist. The consistency of Scripture is both expressed and implied in his Reply to Burchard. He maintains that there is no difference between the teaching of Christ, Paul, and the Apostles, and that listening to Christ is not different from listening to the Spirit or listening to the Apostles. He concludes that the Spirit is consistent and, therefore, that he did not later command what he had forbidden through the apostles.

The Holy Spirit, as the author of Scripture, does not, however, override the distinctiveness of the human authors. In his lectures on Romans, Bullinger can speak of Paul as writing inexactly. For Bullinger, the inspiration of Scripture also does not preclude differences in Scripture. Thus there are differences in words. These, however, are not necessarily a problem, as the sense is fundamental rather than the words.

Likewise, the authorship of the Holy Spirit does not preclude other differences between the biblical books. In his second lecture on Romans at Kappel, Bulligner gives a lyrical account of Paul’s virtues. He draws on the praises of Fathers, such as Chrysostom, Macrobius, and Gregory of Nazianzus, in describing Paul as more eloquent than others and his writings as higher than theirs. Paul’s pre-eminence, however, does not derive from his personal qualities, but from the Spirit. All are taught by the Spirit, but the Spirit’s gifts are varied and the grace of God is given more powerfully to one person than to another. In this context Bullinger speaks of Paul as presenting Christ ‘in a lively way in all his epistles’ but as doing it most richly in Romans ‘the chief work of the whole New Testament and the heart of divine Scripture.’ Similarly in Hebrews he refers to Genesis as ‘the finest book’ in the Bible.

Some differences are not explicitly related to the gifts of the Spirit, but have to do with circumstances. Luke and Paul are said to have written more clearly on the cup, but that is because they wrote after Matthew and Mark and were seeking to prevent misunderstanding of the wine as blood. Similarly, Paul is to be preferred to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, although he wrote the same as they did, because he wrote last and wrote against error. Likewise, John related ‘most clearly the stories, speeches, and power of Jesus because he wrote last and much error had arisen.’ Nevertheless, some differences between certain Pauline epistles by the fact that they were actually written by a secretary and not by Paul himself. Again, however, he insists that there is no difference in sense.’

This except clearly points out how Bullinger viewed the unity of the canon. The covenant was the theme that linked the Old and New Testaments. But since the Holy Spirit is the author of all of Scripture it means that Scripture must be interpreted in an wholistic manner before seeking to interpret its constituent parts.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Zwingli and Symbolism in the Eucharist

An earlier post has referred to the doctoral dissertation of Paul Sanders. Sanders is presently the chairman of the Accrediting Council of the European Evangelical Accrediting Association and is based in Paris. He kindly sent me a small section of this unpublished dissertation.

Sanders’ work cautions us against the caricature of viewing Zwingli’s view of the Eucharist as “symbolic” only. Here is part of the introduction of Sanders’ dissertation:

‘L'historiographie a souvent enfermé le zwinglianisme dans le carcan du "symbolisme" eucharistique. Cependant, des recherches récentes ont montré qu'il fallait nuancer les idées reçues sur les conceptions eucharistiques "sacramentaires" du zwinglianisme. Notre lecture de cette littérature nous a fait prendre conscience d'une contradiction apparente.

En effet, en 1549, Bullinger et Calvin conclurent un accord sur les sacrements, reflétant des prises de position sensiblement différentes de celles de Zwingli, du moins celles que l'historiographie lui reconnaît. Or, Bullinger, en tant que successeur de Zwingli, se devait de rester "fidèle" au legs théologique qu'il lui avait transmis.

Aussi avons-nous tenté de répondre à trois questions es¬sentielles :

a) Les historiens ont-ils raison de représenter la théologie eucharistique de Zwingli comme une doctrine "symbolique" ?

b) Comment Bullinger a-t-il géré l'héritage doctrinal reçu de Zwingli sur ce point (non seulement sur le plan des convictions, mais aussi sur le plan de la nécessité socio-historique) ?

c) Quel a été le rôle précis de Bullinger dans la mise en place, avec Calvin, d'une théologie "réformée" de la Cène ?’


Sanders also makes this observation about the conclusion of French scholar Emile G. Leonard :

‘Emile G. LEONARD reconnaît l'importance historique et théologique de Heinrich Bullinger, et voit notamment dans l'adoption de la Confession helvétique postérieure de Bullinger par Genève une victoire de la conception zwinglienne de la Cène - un "zwinglianisme revu et corrigé par Bullinger" - sur la position calvinienne.’

Bullinger and Scripture

It is well documented that Bullinger emphasized ad fontes and seeing Christ as the goal of Scripture. Bullinger further emphasized the unity of the Old and New Testament and that the Old is interpreted by the New.The following is an extract of an article by Peter Opitz, ‘Hebräische-biblische Züge in promissio-Verständnis Heinrich Bullingers’ in Sigrid Lehebusch and Hans-Georg Ulrichs (eds.), Historische Horizonte (Wuppertal 2002), pp105-117:

“In einem Brief an Rudolf Asper von 30. November 1523 (De scripturae negotio) schildert der damals 19jährigen Kappeler Lehrer seinem Erkenntnisweg als consequent verfolgen Weg hin “ad fontes sacrarum litterarum, denn es ist besser “aus den Quellen selbst zu trinken als aus den Bächen”. Theologisch getragen ist dieser Weg durch das “solus Christus audiendus,” das er dort ausführlich erläutert, wobei bereits diese Cyprian entlehnte Fassung des reformatorischen Fundamentalartikels andeutet, dass Christus hier nicht nur soteriologsich relevant ist, sondern auch als göttlich autorisierter “Lehrer” in seinem Selbszeugnis gehört zu werden beansprucht.

Wie aber is das Verhältnis von Schrift und Christus genauer zu verstehen? Bullinger macht nun auf seinem humanistischen Weg ”ad fontes” bei der Bibel selbst nicht halt. As Schriftprinzip fordert hermeneutisch, dass “Schrift mit Schrift” ausgelegt werden muss, wie schon Luther, aber keineswegs nur er betont hatte. Ist aber Christus nach Röm 10,4 – so versteht es Bullinger – das Ziel und der Ausleger (interpraes) der Schrift, dann bedeutet christologische Schriftaulegung darauf zu achten, wie Christus selber in Wort und Tat die Schrift auslegt, und wie die ihn bezeugenden neutestamentichen Schriftsteller mit der Schrift von Christus her und auf Christus hin umgehen. “Christus beweist alles aus den alten Schriften und will allein aus ihnen erkannt werden,” schreibt Bullinger 1523 und weist dazu auf Joh 5,39 hin: “Die Schrift ist es, die von mir zeugt!” “Schrift” kann hier nur heißen: die hebräische Bibel. Diese wiederum konstituiert sich durch einem Traditionszusammenhang, wie schon die immanenten vielfältigen Bezüge der Propheten und “Schriften” auf die Tora, aber auch die Tora selber als Geschichtsbuch deutlich machen. In diesen Traditionszusammenhang ordnen sich Christus und die neutestamentlichen Zeugen selbstverständlich ein,wie Bullinger erkennt. Christus bezieht ihn oft ausdrücklich auf sich, exemplarisch bei der Abendmahlseinsetzung, wo er explizit wie implizit an die Passatradition interpretierend anknüpft. Si ist es für Bullinger eine Konsequenz des reformatorischen und christologisch begründeten Schriftprinzips, wenn er sagt: das Neue Testament ist die Auslegung, der authentische “Kommentar” des Alten: “Novum testamentum aliud non esse quam veteris interpraetionem.” Was umgekehrt bedeutet: Das Alte Testament ist die notwendige Voraussetzung zum Verständnis der neutestamentichen Botschaft, und dies nicht in einem lediglich äußerlichen Sinn oder gar als Negativfolie, sondern in seinem positiven Gehalt: Die Kenntnis der altestamentichen Christusverheißungen ist zum Verständnis der neutestamentlichen Christusverkündigung so notwendig wie die Kenntnis Homers bei der Lektüre des Homerauslegers Eustathios.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Was Zwingli a “Zwinglian”?

Earlier posts have pointed out that scholars such as Peter Stephens have demonstrated the importance of considering both “early” Zwingli with the “later” Zwingli when considering his understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Paul Sanders wrote a thesis that is very germane to this: Henri Bullinger et l’invention (1546-1551) avec Jean Calvin d’une théologique réformée de la Cène, la gestion de l’héritage zwinglien lors de la conclusion du et de la rédaction des (1551), thèse de doctorat, Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne, février, 1990.

Results of this thesis are reflected in Sander’s article in Zwingliana - « Heinrich Bullinger et le «zwinglianisme tardif» aux lendemains du ‘Consensus Tigurinus’ » Zwingliana 19/1 (1992). The following is a thought provoking excerpt from this article :

« Zwingli a-t-il modifé sa doctrine de la Cène après le Colloque de Marbourg ? Les écrits fondamentaux à examiner pour y répondre sont l’ (, juillet 1530), la (août 1530 et l’ (Christianae fidei expositio>, juillet 1531). Résumons notre réponse à la question posée.

1. Dans ces écrits, Zwingli a modifié le ton de sa présentation eucharistique. Les écrits d’avant Marbourg avaient un but polémique : détruire la fausse religion et ses vestiges eucharistiques (luthériens). Après Marbourg, Zwingli abandonne toute volonté de réconciliation avec Luther. Son souci de défendre son honneur et sa doctrine a pour résultat une présentation positive de ses vues eucharistiques. Il se donne de manière ingénieuse à l’exercice diplomatique qui consiste à présenter ses idées dans un langage familier à ses destinaires, tout en maintenant le fond de sa pensée sur ce chapitre fondamental de sa doctrine.

2. Zwingli modifie sa terminologie eucharistique. Ne refusant plus ni la notion de sacrement ni la terminologie eucharistique traditionelle, il verse dans ces moules lexicaux classiques des idées nouvelles.

3. Zwingli met l’accent sur le lien entre signum et res signata, après avoir insisté pendant la période symbolique sur une distinction tranchée entre eux : ils sont liés non seulement par les vérités représentées, mais aussi chez le croyant par les sens. Cette communication entre l’espirit humain et les sens dans la célébration des sacrements atténue le dualisme zwinglien de la période symbolique. Zwingli maintient cepednat son refus de toute liaison ontologique entre le signe et la chose signifiée, et rappelle la nécessaire distinction entre eux.

4. La relation entre le sacrement et la grâce est définie pour la première fois dans la période suivant Marbourg. Sur la base doctrinale de la souveraineté du Saint-Esprit, Zwingli refuse catégoriquement tout lien entre grâce et sacrement. L’Esprit doit rester libre et non pas être d’agir lors de la célébration des sacrements.

5. En ce qui concerne la relation entre sacrement et foi, Zwingli innove de nouveau en présentant sa notion de la contemplatio fidei : ce sont les signes qui offrent la réalité spirituelle signifiée à la contemplation croyante. Les signes constituent des stimuli sensoriels qui aident le croyant à saisir de manière indubitable la vérité spirtuelle. Ainsi se formulent chez Zwingli l’originalité de sa doctrine et la nécessité du sacrement.

6. Zwingli introduit, sans le développer de manière détaillée, le thème de la présence du Saint-Esprit. Son affirmation d’une présence spirituelle donne une nouvelle dimension à l’expression de sa pensée. Zwingli n’est plus limité par des présupposé dualistes. Par le moyen de la contemplatio fidei. Christ devient comme présent, une présence encore plus précieuse physique. Si Zwingli qualifie la controverse sur la présence du Christ de querelle de mots, ce qui ne trompe personne parmi les théologiens catholiques ou luthériens, la terminologie eucharistique demeure un véritable problème à résoudre entre protestants.

La mort de Zwingli sur le champ de bataille de Kappel interrompit l’évolution de sa doctrine. Apès avoir mis en pace les structures doctrinales et la terminolgie fondamentale d’une théologie réformée de la Cène, ce sera à Bullinger et à Calvin de développer et de nuancer cette doctrine.>

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bullinger and France

There are several works in French on the significance of Zwingli and Bullinger for the Reformation. Some of these include:

J. Courvoisier, Zwingli, théologien réformé (Neuchâtel: Delachaux et Niestlé, 1965); J.-V. Pollet, Huldrych Zwingli: Biographie et Théologie (Genève: Labor et Fides, 1988); Huldrych Zwingli et le zwinglianisme (Paris: Vrin, 1988); J. Rilliet, Zwingli. Le troisième homme de la Réforme (Paris: Fayard, 1959); A. Bouvier, Henri Bullinger, Réformateur et conseiller œecuménique d'après sa correspondance avec les réformés et les humanistes de langue française, (Zurich-Neuchâtel: Delachaux & Niestlé, 1940).

Bullinger’s influence for Europe, including France, is reflected in the following delivered in a lecture by Paul Sanders at l'Institut biblique de Nogent-sur-Marne:

“C'est en 1536 que les premiers liens se nouent entre Bullinger et les protestants anglais, vraisemblablement à la suite des contacts déjà pris entre l'archevêque Cranmer et Zwingli, en raison de la question posée aux Réformateurs concernant le divorce d'Henri VIII. Au début des années 1550, les rapports avec les Anglais devinrent plus étroits. Edouard VI meurt en 1553, Marie Tudor accède au trône. Sa politique religieuse provoque le départ d'un flot d'Anglais, dont un nombre important sont reçus à Zurich. Ils y trouvent Bullinger, qui est devenu pendant le règne d'Edouard VI, grâce à son attitude accueillante, ses publications et sa correspondance, une sorte d'oracle pour l'Eglise d'Angleterre. L'accueil qui a été réservé à ses Décades en fait foi.

Bullinger et la ville de Zurich jouent aussi un rôle auprès des exilés français. Bullinger compose le traité Von der schweren Verfolgung der christlichen Kirchen en 1573 après le massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy, traduit en latin, en néerlandais, en français et en anglais. Bullinger garde des relations épistolaires et personnelles avec de nombreux diplomates, humanistes et autres hommes importants de France, ce qui fait de Zurich un lieu à l'hospitalité reconnue.

Un nombre important de publications de Bullinger est destiné à réconforter les protestants exilés par la persécution. Toute l'Europe protestante en est touchée. Des exilés protestants de toutes parts (Hongrie, Pologne, Angleterre, France, Danemark, Allemagne) viennent chercher refuge à Zurich.

Cela contribue à forger la réputation de Bullinger: sa notoriété est importante parmi les Réformateurs de son époque. Le nombre très important de visiteurs de nombreux pays que Bullinger reçoit à Zurich explique en partie l'étendue de son influence, la quantité de sa correspondance et le succès de ses publications.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stephens on Bullinger and Interpreting Scripture

Peter Stephens (see earlier post) observes the following with respect to Bullinger and Scripture:

“Bullinger regards three things as essential in reading the Bible: knowledge of languages, the scope of Scripture, and certain methods of interpretation. First, he emphasizes the necessity and usefulness of languages, and what is lost in not having them. In his support, he appeals to theologians, such as Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, and others, who recognized that fruitful theological work was not possible without the knowledge of languages. He even outlines in a practical way a course in Hebrew and Greek, having shown what is lost in not having the original biblical languages.

The second essential element concerns the scope (scopus) of Scripture, to which all the books of the Bible relate. Bullinger begins by referring to the Lutheran idea of law and gospel. He does not explicitly reject it, but simply says that he neither finds fault with it, nor wishes to praise it. For Bullinger, however, all the books of the Bible involve the eternal testament or covenant, which God has made with the human race (Genesis 17 and 22).

It is significant that in the list of the theological terms which Bullinger gives at the end of the book (ie Studiorum ratio), the covenant comes first, before either God or Scripture. The covenant has two parts. First, God binds himself to us and shows and promises who and what kind of God he wishes to be to us. Second, we are to keep this covenant, serve God faithfully, cleave to him alone, and live in innocence and in accordance with his will. The Bullinger adds significantly something which is not in Genesis: that God punishes those who break the covenant. In effect he reads this back from the rest of the Bible, which shows God’s relation to unbelievers. The treatment is the same in both Old and New Testament.”

Stephens’ conclusion is consistent with Bullinger’s insistence on the unity of the canon. Since the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture then “covenant” (berith) in the Old Testament can be legitimately understood (hence Stephens’ comment ‘he reads back from the rest of the Bible’) through the lens of the New Testament use of diatheke (both ‘covenant’ and ‘testament’).

Bullinger and Scripture

At the recent RefoRC Conference that was held in Zurich, one of the presenters made the following observation about Bullinger and his understanding of Scripture:

Bullinger’s hermeneutics appears to be somewhat different from Calvin’s. Calvin clearly viewed the Institutes as a “necessary tool” or hermeneutical guide for reading Scripture. Thus, for Calvin, the understanding of sola scriptura was somewhat nuanced. Bullinger, for his part, sought to stimulate his readers to read the Scriptures for themselves. He would refer to the church fathers or other Reformers when he assessed that they had correctly interpreted Scripture.

The very first sentence in the Preface to Bullinger’s combined commentaries on the Pauline and Catholic epistles indicates the paramount importance that he placed on the Word of God, its perspicuity and its authority:

“First of all, we would like to point out, dear reader, that we have written no laws, but commentaries, which one must verify, and may not be considered as divine oracles. The Bible is the only measuring stick for the truth. Where, then, you notice that I have not been quite correct in my interpretation, lay my commentary aside and follow the Bible.”

What is highlighted by Bullinger in The Decades is that the person who seeks to study the Scriptures must come with a humble heart under the authority of the Scriptures through the help of the Holy Spirit.

The Studium ratio which was completed by Bullinger in 1528 during his time at Kappel and not published until 1594 outlines the hermeneutical approach that was employed by Bullinger. With a healthy respect for humanist exegesis, Bullinger used rhetorical analysis judicially on the biblical texts in their original languages. Indeed, Opitz concludes that “the Reformation principle of sola scriptura demanded a methodologically thought-out ‘philology’, as well as a ‘rhetorical’ analysis of biblical texts.” In this early work of his, Bullinger noted the central position of the covenant as the scopus of the Old and New Testaments.

Bullinger’s method of writing commentaries may be illustrated by his commentary on Romans. It was characteristic of Bullinger not to focus on each and every textual or philological detail. Rather, Bullinger sought to give a concise overview of the major themes of the book (eg Romans) with a view to aid preaching that particular book from the pulpit. In doing so, Bullinger emphasized that to preach the Word of God is the Word of God (Prædicatio verbi Dei est verbum Dei).

Timmerman on Bucer and Bullinger on Understanding Scripture

Dutch scholar Daniel Timmerman (see earlier post) identifies the following difference between Bucer and Bullinger vis-à-vis Scripture.

“Eine weitere Differenz liegt in der Auswertung des Alten Testaments. Wie erwähnt funktionierten >Glaube und Liebe< bei Bucer als ein hermeneutischer Schlüssel bei der Auslegung der Schrift, wodurch das Alte Testament in einem gewissen Maße hintangesetzt wurde. Bullinger aber, der die Einheit des Bundes gegen die Täufer betont, ist weniger an einem Relief innerhalb des christlichen Kanons interessiert. Für ihn lehren auch >die Bücher Mose gerade in den Gesetzen, ja sogar in dem Zeremonien, teils den Glauben, teils die Unschuld<.”

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bullinger and the Interpretation of the Bible

The latest issue of Reformation and Renaissance Review has an article on Bullinger and the interpretation of the Bible by Peter Stephens. Stephens has been progressing writing articles on Bullinger.

The article is W. Peter Stephens “The Interpretation of the Bible in Bullinger’s Early Works” Reformation and Renaissance Review, vol 11 (no.3), 2009, pp311-333. The RRR website lists this as the latest edition of RRR but I don’t understand why the year is 2009.

Stephens is correct to point out that Bullinger emphasizes understanding the message of whole individual books of Scripture, the message of the canon as a whole and the message of the individual books in relation to the message of the Bible as a whole.

The following is the abstract of the article:

“This article notes Luther’s, Melanchthon’s, and Augustine’s influence, but also Bullinger’s independence in interpretation. It explores Bullinger’s rejection of the view that Scripture is obscure and needs the Fathers to interpret it. His underlying position is that Scripture interprets Scripture. Other principles include the comparison of passages of Scripture, interpreting a few texts by many, obscure texts by clear ones, the necessity for languages, the use of rhetoric, the covenant and the sum and scope of Scripture, an emphasis on the natural sense, and the contribution of secular disciplines. A concluding section considers briefly Bullinger’s later use of essentially five principles.”

Other subsequent posts will refer to sections of the paper.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bullinger and Bucer in understanding the message of Scripture




Dutch scholar Daniel Timmerman (Theologische Universiteit Apeldoorn, photo above)has written an insightful article “Bucers Verständnis von Schrift und Schriftauslegung. Ein Vergleich mit Heinrich Bullinger” in Wolfgang Simon (ed.), Martin Bucer zwischen den Reichstagen von Augsburg (1530) und Regensburg (1532) (Mohr Siebeck 2011), pp83-97. Timmerman points out to the centrality of the theme on the covenant in Bullinger’s writings. This is what Timmerman concludes:

“Was Bucer den Skopus der Schrift nennt, heiß bei Bullinger der Status oder Grundfrage. Schon 1532 ist es dem Zürcher ganz klar, dass nur der Bund Gottes die zentrale Botschaft der Schrift sein kann. Sich bewusst distanzierend von dem Begriffspaar Gesetz und Evangelium, weist Bullinger dezidiert auf das testamentum als die Grundfrage der Heilsgeschichte hin. Der Inhalt des Bundes sind die Verheißung der Gnade Gottes und die Verflichtung der Menschen zu einem unschuldigen Lebenswandel. Sowohl die Bücher des Alten als auch die des Neuen Testaments weisen eindeutig auf diesen Bund Gottes, der aus Glaube und Unschuld, fides et innocentia, besteht. In der Sache sind Bucer und Bullinger sich also durchaus einig. Die Rechtfertigung des Gottlosen aus dem Glauben kommt für beide als Zentrum der Schrift nicht in den Blick, die Rechtfertigungsterminologie wird von ihnen selbst nicht oder nur beiläufig erwähnt. Der Hauptinhalt der Offenbarung lässt sich für beide mit Glaube und Liebe bzw. Unschuld charakterisieren.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Zwingli and Remembering




Most people in the English speaking world associate Zwingli with the understanding of the Lord’s Supper primarily in terms of ‘remembering’. However, scholars such as W. Peter Stephens have demonstrated clearly that to appreciate Zwingli's understanding of the Lord’s Supper we have to look at all of Zwingli’s works. In particular, we must also look at the “later Zwingli” (ie around 1530) and not just the “early Zwingli.”

Visitors to Zurich are familiar with the statue of Zwingli just adjacent to the Wasserkirche on the bank of the Limmat. Here Zwingli is holding the Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. The sculptor was apparently a famous one who was commissioned to do several sculptures at the same time. What a pity the relevant authorities did not check the historical facts as the image depicted of Zwingli is not a true one. Unfortunately, it adds fuel to the misconceptions many people have of Zwingli.

The photo above (sorry for its poor quality) is the memorial plaque on the site of the battle field at Kappel-am-Albis where Zwingli died. The writing is very hard to decipher and read because of weathering. The plaque is virtually overgrown by a tree and most locals would probably be struggling to give visitors directions to Zwingli’s Denkmal. It is located only a few hundred metres away from the monastery where Bullinger taught as a young man and where he wrote his early works. Zug and Luzern are only just over the horizon so one can imagine the opposing forces meeting in combat on the field behind the Denkmal.

Remembering is important but it must be based on fact.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Zurich and Iconoclasm

At the end of the RefoRC conference with the theme “The myth of the Reformation” held in Zurich, Peter Opitz, director of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History, took some of the conference attendees aside to give them background to the Reformation in Zurich.

One of the popular “myths” concerning the Zurich Reformation concerns iconoclasm. Iconoclasm first begun as a ‘lay’ response to the fiery sermons of Leo Jud at the St Peter’s Church. A similar pattern took place at the near by Fraumunster.

In time, the Zurich authorities wisely decided that future removal of images be done in an orderly manner. With respect to the Grossmunster the images were returned to the donors where known or systematically destroyed in an orderly fashion. It was not a ‘bull in a china shop’ approach.

Zurich and the Anabaptists

At the end of the recent RefoRC conference with the theme “The myth of the Reformation” held in Zurich, Peter Opitz, director of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History, took some of the conference attendees on a tour of places of key historical interest for the Swiss Reformation.

Opitz showed the place on the bank of the Limmat River (near the Hotel Am Storken across the Limmat from the Grossmunster). One of the ‘myths’ about the Swiss was their seemingly ‘uncivilized’ way of execution of the Anabaptists by drowning in the Limmat. What actually happened was that Muntzer and others were first held in the tower what used to be in the Limmat just beyond the Wasserkirche and only released when they gave an oath that they would desist from spreading their teaching about rebaptism. When they were caught and reconvicted of spreading this teaching they would be imprisoned in the tower for a longer period of time. This was repeated several times with increasing periods of time of imprisonment in the tower. Eventually Muntzer and others were warned of the death penalty if they continued to disobey the authorities. According to the account, Muntzer’s own wife and children urged him not to give up stating that he would continue to disseminate his views on baptism and gladly be drowned for his belief. Technically, Muntzer and others were executed by drowning for their repeated disobedience of the authorities despite the authorities showing them much patience.