Friday, October 15, 2010
Zwingli’s emphasis on the Word of God and the Spirit
Zwingli commenced his ministry at the Grossmunster in Zurich on his 35th birthday on 1 January 1519. He announced that on the very next day he would commence a continuous exposition of the Gospel of Matthew. In point of fact, he had already commenced preaching the continuous exposition on whole books of the Bible in 1516 during his stint at Einsiedeln in Canton Schwyz just beyond Rapperswil at the southern end of Lake Zurich.
A case could be made that 1516 was the year in which Zwingli became a reformer. If so, a case could be made for the commencement of the Reformation in 1516 which would predate 31 October 1517 and the 95 Theses of Luther.
Certainly from 1516 Zwingli had a clear conviction that Scripture is the very Word of God. This spurred him on to study the text of the Bible in its original languages and to be meticulous in interpreting it. In the Prophezei (where preachers and students met five times a week to study the Bible) the Old Testament was first read in Latin from the Vulgate, then in Hebrew, and finally in Greek from the LXX. The Hebrew and Geek texts were expounded in Latin followed by an exposition in German.
Stephens wrote: “The authority of the Bible lay in its being God’s word, and Zwingli opposed this to man’s word, as he opposed truth to error. The tradition of the church, even when expressed by councils or pope, was in the end man’s word and not God’s. In this conflict Zwingli frequently referred to Romans 3:4 ‘Let God be true, though every man be false’” (W.P. Stephens, ‘Zwingli: An Introduction to His Thought’ (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992) p 32).
The following indicates the approach that Zwingli took in interpreting Scripture:
“Before I say anything or listen to the teaching of man, I will first consult the mind of the Spirit of God (Ps 84 (AV 85): ‘I will hear what the Lord will speak.’ Then you should reverently ask God for his grace, that he may give you his mind and Spirit, so that you will not lay hold of your own opinion but of his. And a firm trust that he will teach you a right understanding, for all wisdom is of God the Lord….. You must be theodidacti, that is taught of God, not of men” (G.W. Bromley, ‘Zwingli and Bullinger’ LCC XXIV (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1953) pp88,89; Z I 377.7-20).