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.”

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