Thursday, December 30, 2010

More on Ella on Bullinger

The following quote from Ella’s book (pp168-170) indicates quite a different view of Calvin to most scholars:

“Though many scholars have emphasized Calvin's dependence on Melanchthon, Zwingli and Bucer, few have compared Calvin’s Institutes with Bullinger’s works. Walter Hollweg in his Heinrich Bullingers Hausbuch written in 1956 devotes an entire chapter to Bullinger’s enormous influence on Calvin’s Institutes, in particular the 1550 version. He states that Calvin is not guilty of plagiarism but leaves the impression that Calvin avoids the charge merely by rewording Bullinger in the numerous passages taken from him. Hollweg points out that Calvin not included Bullinger’s themes and Scriptural proofs but even the examples Bullinger gives to illustrate them. Gillian Lewis, writing in 1986 has obviously little to say about Bullinger’s influence as Calvin is his subject. However, soon after writing of Calvin’s death, Lewis turns her (sic) gaze on Bullinger and, not surprisingly, but rather critically says that Bullinger sat like a spider in the centre of the web of the Reformation. When we turn to evidence given in the recent works of Fritz Büsser, especially his Die Prophezei of 1994 in which he compares Calvin closely with Bullinger, we find there is just cause to question the idea that is so dominant in today’s Reformed churches that Calvin, under God, was the rock on which the Reformed faith was built.

As one studies the growth of Calvin’s Institutes from the six chapters of the first 1536 edition to the eighty chapters of the last 1559 edition one is amazed at the industry of the author. However, it is a compendium of Wittenburg, Strasburg and Zurich theology with very little new thought in it. Indeed, the doctrines which are outlines in it were fixed Reformed doctrines long before the major editions of the Institutes were written. Thus any influence this work has had on the theological development of other countries such as Holland, England, Scotland and the New World, is because of the thorough-going Reforms of Saxony, Pomerania, Hessen, the Palatine and the Swiss and Upper German states which had already produced enough spiritual giants to transform Protestant world theology. Though Calvin’s name alone is on the title page, its contents proudly proclaim the names of Zwingli, Melanchthon, Bucer, Capito and Bullinger besides Calvin’s own. This goes also for Calvin’s church order which is built solidly on the Strasburg orders. The one big difference between the French-speaking Reformation and the Swiss-German Reformation is that the former viewed the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as methods of establishing church discipline whereas the latter saw them as modes of preaching the gospel to all who would receive it. Unlike Calvin, Zwingli and Bullinger never sought to discipline their people by threats of exclusion from the privileges of sitting under the gospel.”

The section of Hollweg’s book is chapter 3 of the second part: “Der Einfluss des Buches auf die Insitutio Calvins und den Heidelberger Katechismus” (pp235-238). Hollweg cites a letter dated 18 August 1545 from Leonhard Soerinus from Znaim and Bullinger’s subsequent reply concerning Soerinus’s query about Bullinger’s opinion of the Institutes.

More on Zwingli and the Lord’s Supper

An earlier post considered the stimulating article of Peter Opitz that considered Zwingli’s liturgy for the Lord’s Supper, Aktion und Brauch des Nachtmals, that Zwingli prepared in 1525. This work represents a the climax of a growing understanding of the Lord’s Supper since the moment Zwingli considered Scripture freed from the traditions of the Roman church.

We know, for example (as referred to in an earlier post) that the 18th of his Sixty Seven Theses (developed for the First Zurich Disputation of 1523) declares:

“That Christ, having sacrificed himself once, is to eternity a certain and valid sacrifice for the sins of the faithful, wherefrom it follows that the mass is not a sacrifice, but is a remembrance of the sacrifice and assurance of the salvation which Christ has given us.”

Clearly, by 1523 Zwingli opposed the Roman view of the mass being a resacrifice of Christ. It also appears that in this same year that he began to reject transubstantiation. This may be deduced from a letter written 15 June 1523 to his former tutor at Basel, Thomas Wittenbach, who was then living at Biel. Zwingli wrote: “Just as you can dip someone a thousand times in the water of baptism but if he has no faith it is in vain, so too, I think, the bread and the wine remain unchanged to the unbeliever.”

The following is the footnote from G.R. Potter, Zwingli (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976) pp150,151:

“‘Ego haud aliter hic panem et vinum esse puto, quam aqua est in baptismo, in qua frustra millies etiam ablues eum, qui non credit.’ This long and important letter was not intended to be a full discussion of the subject but an indication of the way Zwingli’s thoughts were moving. He does however indicate clearly that it is the faith of the recipient that is effective and alone matters. It is unprofitable to enquire how it works for the believer: ‘quicquid hic agitur, divina virtute fieri, modum autem nobis penitus ignotum, quo deus illabatur animę, neque curiosos esse in hac re oportere, quam soli fideles sentiant.’ It is apparent that it was the problem of the veneration paid to objects, to images and statues, which was the urgent issue at the moment. This forced a consideration of the veneration of the reserved sacrament, and hurriedly and without any full argument Zwingli comes out against this practice. For him the believer received the body and blood of Christ at the time of reception, but there was not opus operatum irrespective of any faith, and the bread, after consecration and apart from the commemorative act of the Last Supper, remained plain bread and could not be adored without idolatry.”

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ella on Bullinger

George Ella has written Henry Bullinger: Shepherd of the Churches (Durham: Go Publications, 2007). As far as I can ascertain, there appear to be very few reviews of this work or even mention of it in the literature. I have referred to the work in some previous posts. Ella takes the view that Calvin was greatly influenced by both Bucer and Bullinger. This area of research deserves greater attention. Ella raises many interesting perspectives but is somewhat light on documentation backing up his conclusions.

The following is an excerpt from Ella’s book (pp167,168):

“In February 1536, whilst Bullinger was working on the Helvetic Confession, he met Calvin for the first time. At this theological workshop, Bullinger announced that the First Helvetic Confession should be a continuation of the Swiss Reformation as expressed in Zwingli’s In Expositionem Fidei ad Regem Christianum Expositio of 1531 which was re-published parallel with the Confession. This work was a systematic presentation of the Christian faith which Zwingli had given to Francis I. Bullinger’s aim was to show that Luther’s wild criticism that Zwingli was a heretic and an Anabaptist had no grounds whatsoever. It was merely because Luther was ignorant of Zwingli’s written works and confessed that he could not understand his spoken words and was basically very prejudiced. In his forward to the Expositio, Bullinger said that he was reprinting it as ‘an answer to all slanderers of the evangelical faith and evangelical preaching and to give them an apologeticum quondam absolutum. So as to bring the work up to date on Reformation issues, Bullinger added a treatise on the Protestant Lord’s Supper and the Roman Mass and a liturgy to be used at the communion service. Without needing to speculate as to whether Calvin’s work as Ford Lewis Battles says of Calvin’s Seneca Commentary, ‘a learned parroting of various classical views’, it does appear that Calvin wanted to do for French readers what had already been done for readers of the various German dialects between 1520 and 1536. Calvin’s action is most untypical of the Reformers, however, in that his Institutes gives few sources and Calvin does not acknowledge his obvious enormous reliance on the works of other, first generation, Reformers. It was as if, in seeking to support and teach the second generation of Protestants in France, Calvin wished to be seen as going entirely his own way.

It is interesting to note how scholars, in writing on one subject as a notable event, tend to close their eyes to others which occurred at the same time, and which would make their eyes to others which occurred at the same time, and which would make their subject less remarkable. M. Howard Reinstra, Director of the H.H. Meeter Center for Calvin Studies in his Preface to Ford Lewis Battles’ edition of the 1536 Institutes says, ‘1536 was not a particularly memorable year’, and he goes on to day of Basle, ‘In that year, in that city, an aging scholar dies, and a younger scholar published the first edition of his ‘little book’, as he affectionately called it.’ This reference to the death of Erasmus and the debut of Calvin as a systematic theologian leaves out the historical fact that the First Helvetic Confession was drawn up on Basle early in 1536, thus paving the way for the Reformed Church which Calvin was to join thirteen years later at the singing of the Consensus Tigurinus. It also fails to see the historical and theological importance of the drawing up of the Helvetic Confession in which the leading Swiss-German Reformers distanced themselves from the popish teaching which they saw in Luther’s attitude to the sacraments. Furthermore, it fails to appreciate the lasting importance of Bullinger’s extended publication of Zwingli’s Expositio, a work which is still highly favoured amongst Reformed scholars and still in print and which outlined long before 1536 elements of Reformed teaching on the Lord’s Supper which Calvin was not to acknowledge until 1549.”

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More Again on Bullinger and the English Church

Bullinger’s sermons from The Decades on the sacraments were published in English by the Parker Society as Sermons on the Sacraments by Henry Bullinger. The following is taken from the preface:

“Henry Bullinger was regarded as one of the most learned men of his time; and was distinguished also, for his piety, christian wisdom, and moderation. All the Fathers of the English Reformation held him in great esteem; and to many of them he afforded a hospitable refuge from the Marian persecution. He afterwards did good service to the Church of England by the letters which he addressed to different individuals in this country, during the disputes which grew up in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, respecting Ecclesiastical affairs. For although Bullinger himself, in common with many of the continental Protestants, preferred the disuse of the sacerdotal Habits, and had acquiesced in the Presbyterian Discipline, yet he constantly exhorted those of the Puritan faction in England to abstain from dividing Christ’s Church merely for the sake of their scruples respecting a particular kind of dress: and he, moreover, counseled the English Bishops that ‘it ought especially to be provided that there should not be any high authority given’ to those of the ‘Presbytery’. By this decided expression of his opinion, Bullinger greatly served the cause of Order; insomuch that in a joint Letter written to him by Bishops Grindal and Horn, those eminent persons attribute chiefly to his instrumentality the favourable change which, they inform him, had taken place in the feelings of the people toward the Church. Bullinger, in fact, was one of those who offered to make Edward VI the temporal Defender of the reformed continental Churches, and had expressed a willingness to have Bishops after the model of the Anglican Church. He, therefore, regarded those restless persons who were for abolishing Episcopacy in England, as no better than selfish innovators who, like the ‘seditious Tribunes of Rome,’ were, ‘by virtue of the Agrarian Law,’ for so bestowing ‘the public goods that they might enrich themselves.’

We need not, therefore, be surprised to find that among the writings of the continental Reformers, those of Bullinger were held in marked estimation by the Anglican Divines. An example of this occurs in the circumstance, that the University of Oxford selected Bullinger’s Catechism as one of those books which the Tutors were required to use, for the purpose of imparting sound religious principles to their Pupils…… The reason given in the Preface (ie of the English translation of The Decades) for selecting the Sermons of Bullinger for translation, in preference to the ‘worthie works’ of other ‘famous Divines’ of that time, is, that some of the ‘sort’ of Ministers for whom the labour was undertaken complained ‘that Calvin’s manner of writing in his Institutions is over deep and profound for them… Therefore questionless no writer yet in the hands of men can fit them better than Master Bullinger in these his Decades, who in them amendeth much Calvin’s obscurity with singular perspicuity; and Musculus’ scholastical subtility with great plainness and even popular facilitie.’”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Opitz on Zwingli and the Lord’s Supper

Peter Opitz, who heads the Institute for Swiss Reformation History in Zurich, recently delivered at the Sixteenth Century Conference this past October in Montreal a paper on Zwingli and the Lord’s Supper.

The paper is entitled: “At the Table of the Lord: to Zwingli’s View on the Lord’s Supper.” It can be downloaded via Jim West’s blog:

In this paper, Opitz takes issue with the often assumed view of Zwingli: that Zwingli “spiritualized” the Lord’s Supper with a result that Christ was not “really” present and that, therefore, the elements of bread and wine are mere “empty signs”.

Opitz draws attention to the liturgy for the Lord’s Supper developed by Zwingli in 1525: Aktion und Brauch des Nachtmahls. In this context, I believe that 1525 to be a critical year as it was the year that Bullinger gave input to Zwingli re the Lord’s Supper and, thereby, re the covenant.

Opitz’ focus on Zwingli’s liturgy is important. For it is one thing to scour Zwingli’s works and then piece together Zwingli’s thoughts on the Lord’s Supper. I have pointed out in a previous post that many of Zwingli’s earlier writings were “negative” in that they were attacking the Roman view. It is another thing to consider Zwingli’s liturgy as this gives us a window as to how he actually regarded the Lord’s Supper in practice.

The 18th of his Sixty Seven Theses (developed for the First Zurich Disputation of 1523) declares:

“That Christ, having sacrificed himself once, is to eternity a certain and valid sacrifice for the sins of the faithful, wherefrom it follows that the mass is not a sacrifice, but is a remembrance of the sacrifice and assurance of the salvation which Christ has given us.”

It can be seen for this statement how many people rush to the conclusion that, for Zwingli, the Lord’s Supper was primarily a “remembrance”. However, Opitz explains that, for Zwingli, the Lord’s Supper is a celebration of remembrance. It is also a liturgical activity commanded by Christ.

Opitz explains this as follows: “Zwingli names what happens during the Lord’s Supper, a ‘realization’ or an ‘assurance’ of the reconciliation of the person with God. The Lord’s Supper is thus a celebration of an event that has occurred and is therefore essentially a thankful, joyful and confessional meal. Zwingli’s liturgical blueprint Aktion und Brauch des Nachtmals is an attempt to put this theological idea into a liturgical form…..According to Zwingli, Christ called his church to act in a certain manner after his death, namely to celebrate Communion continuously until the eschatological meal at the accomplishment of his kingdom (Luke 22:30)”.

Opitz also explains that, for Zwingli, the Lord’s Supper is celebrated in the “Gefletz” – ie on he very level at which the congregation is seated. Zwingli’s practical instructions involved a sermon, the reading of 1 Corinthians 11:20-29 and then the passing of the bread and wine around the church by the members themsleves. Thus, as the bread was passed around everyone could break off a piece ‘with his own hand.’ For Zwingli, the Lord’s Supper was truly a gathering at the table of Christ. Christ is the host. He makes the invitation: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-burden, and I will give you rest.”

John 6:47-63 would have been read during the distribution of the elements. This was to underline the fact that “Christ describes Himself as the true spiritual ‘bread of life’, and in the ‘I’ form invited people to come to him. It is Christ’s intention to give peace to the ‘weary and heavy-lade’. Therefore, eating and drinking the elements occurs under the ‘promise of peace’ from the host – Christ. The church is invited to come to the table that Christ has prepared, just like beggars in the parable of the dinner (Luke 14:15-24)”.

Opitz also points out that, for Zwingli, “Therefore the Lord’s Supper does not only remind of Christ’s death, but rather the entire life of God’s Son among with people: A life of caring for the ‘tax collectors’ and ‘sinners’. Here, in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Christ’s death for the sins of the world, Christ’s earthly deeds and his care for the poor, sick and lost, and the outlook at the kingdom of God are present”.

The emphasis on “table fellowship” also points to a growing and deepening relationship between the believer and God and between the believer and other believers. It is the church militant in fellowship with the church triumphant: “the Lord’s Supper becomes the place where Christ’s entire life and work is present as a scene: His earthly life, his suffering on the cross, his being at the right hand of the Father, promising to celebrate the meal again in the future kingdom”.

Thus, Opitz cites from the preface of Zwingli’s liturgy: “Necessary and helpful in no small way, for the spiritual memory of the death of Christ, to strengthen faith and brotherly loyalty, for improving life, and for protecting Christians from the vices of their own heart.”

In other words, the Lord’s Supper serves to aid the believer to keep on dealing with sin in his or her life God’s grace is offered but the believer is cautioned about misappropriating God’s grace. That is why Opitz points out: “It is no coincidence that in Zwingli’s liturgy, not only the famous words consecrating the Lord’s Supper are provided. The whole passage, where Paul outlines a “Christian Order for the Lord’s Supper’ in 1 Corinthians should be read”. That is, the warning passage was always read.

Finally, Opitz cites Zwingli against Eck where he appeals “to the Spirit of Christ and its (sic – he means 'his') multi dimensional effects in the sacraments”:

“Preach the salvation given by God and lead the human senses towards this salvation; at the same time; they spark faith, a faith which is also promised to your neighbor, and they lead to brotherly charitable love. And this is all effectuated, when it occurs, by the one and the same spirit”.

Opitz concludes his paper by declaring that Zwingli did not spiritualize the Lord’s Supper. Rather, “the table was the point where the vertical, spiritual dimension, and the horizontal, human dimension, could meet.”

To Professor Opitz we say: Vielen Dank für Ihre aufschlussreichen Gedanken!

More on Bullinger and the English Church

The following is taken from Gulley’s dissertation:

On August 12 (1538), Nicholas Eliot in England wrote Bullinger a brief note stating that the latter’s books ‘are wonderfully well received, not only by our king but equally so by the lord Cromwell ….’ He concluded with an interesting comment: ‘Your writings have obtained for you a reputation and honor among the English, to say nothing of other nations beyond what could possibly be believed.

In September of that year Partridge wrote again to Bullinger from Frankfort giving the official account of the distribution of Bullingers letters and books. Upon arriving in England, Partridge and his companions made a call upon Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who received Bullinger’s book ‘most courteously.’ They asked Cranmer to deliver on their behalf a copy of the book intended for Henry VIII. At first the Archbishop refused, saying that Cromwell should perform that service, but after reconsideration, he agreed to make the presentation on two conditions; first, he must read the book lest he be guilty of recommending something of which he knew nothing, and secondly, provided the youths would be present at the presentation in case the king had any questions. As it happened, the copy was sent to the king by Cranmer and evidently was received favourable, for the king expressed the desire ‘to those around him, that it should be translated into English.’ A third copy was presented to Cromwell who was so pleased with the present that he read through it immediately, ‘notwithstanding he was overwhelmed with business.’ Indications are that a copy was sent to Bishop Ridley of London, for we are informed that he inquired of Bullinger and desired to write ‘in reply.’ A fifth copy was presented to Sir Edward Wooton, who received the book ‘with the greatest satisfaction,’ and promised to be at Bullinger’s service ‘if he can oblige in any way.’ The sixth copy was presented to Bishop Latimer who was most eager to write in reply. Partridge commented to Bullinger of the presentation: ‘Nothing, believe me, was ever more gratifying to him in the whole course of his life, than the present you sent him.’”

This excerpt from Gulley’s dissertation “The Influence of Heinrich Bullinger and the Tigurine Tradition upon the English Church in the Sixteenth Century” (Vanderbilt) pp 37-40 clearly underlines Bulinger’s influence on the English Church.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bullinger and the English Church

I have just had access to a copy of Frank Gulley’s dissertation: “The Influence of Heinrich Bullinger and the Tigurine Tradition upon the English Church in the Sixteenth Century” (Vanderbilt). I believe Gulley became professor of Church History at Vanderbilt. From time to time this dissertation is referred to in the literature. It is full of insightful comments and probably hasn’t received the recognition it justly deserves. Although Carrie Euler mentions the work in the bibliography of her Couriers of the Gospel: England and Zurich, 1531-1558 Torrance Kirby appears to make no mention of it in his The Zurich Connection and Tudor Political Theology. I hope to do a few posts citing sections of Gulley’s dissertation.

The following are references to Bullinger’s influence on the English church as cited by Gulley:

“Many years ago Allen Hinds wrote: ‘At the head of the Zurich church was the erudite Bullinger, a man universally respected, and who exercised and continued to exercise a vast influence over the English Protestants of all opinions.’ His judgment was also echoed by the learned Maitland a few years later: ‘A better example of a purely spiritual power could hardly be found that the influence that was exercised in England by Zwingli’s successor, Heinrich Bullinger. Bishops and Puritans argued their causes before him as if he were the judge.’ Even today Bullinger’s influence has been recognized by H.F. Woodhouse: ‘While one can endorse the general statement that the Anglican divines sought from continental Protestants inspiration and guidance, it is possible that a case might be made out that Bullinger, Zwingli’s successor, had more influence than any other single figure, ….’”

The references are:

Allen Hinds, The Making of the England of Elizabeth (New York: Macmillan and co., 1985), p43

F.W. Maitland, “The Anglican Settlement and the Scottish Reformation,” The Cambridge Modern History, ed. A.w. Ward et al (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1902), II, p597

H.F. Woodhouse, The Doctrine of the Church in Anglican Theology 1547-1603 (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1954), p167

Bullinger and Colossians 2:11

This following quote from The Decades in the section concerning circumcision reveals Bullinger’s understanding of Colossians 2:11. Unlike many modern exegetes who spend time comparing and contrasting the pros and cons of a subjective genitive or an objective genitive of te peritoume tou Christou, Bullinger sees this passage through the intimate link between the Old Testament and the New Testament. For Bullinger, circumcision in the Old Testament prefigures the circumcision Christ does on believers through the Spirit.

“The grace of God, therefore, was not tied to the sacrament of circumcision: but yet it was not despised and neglected of the holy saints of the old church, but used to the end for which it was ordained, that is, to be a testimony and a seal of free justification in Christ, who circumciseth us spiritually without hands by the working of the Holy Ghost.” Parker Edition p175)

The Latin is:

Ergo sacramento circuncisionis gratia dei non fuit alligata, sed iccirco a sanctis veteris ecclesię non spreta nec neglecta, sed usurpata in illum finem, ad quem instituta erat, ut esset testimonium et sigillum gratuitę iustificationis in Christo venturo, qui circuncidit spiritualiter sine manibus per spiritum sanctum. . (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p349)

The modern German translation is:

Folglich war die Gnade Gottes nicht an das Sakrament der Beschneidung gebunden. Sie wurde aber deshalb von den Gläubigen der alten Kirche nich verachtet, sondern zu dem Zweck gebraucht, zu dem sie eingesetzt worden war, nämlich um Zeugnis and Siegel zu sein für die freiwillig gewährte Rechtfertigung im künftigen Christus, der geistlich, ohne Hände, durch den Heiligen Geist bescheidet. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, p11)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gordon on Bullinger

R. Ward Holder has just edited The Westminster Handbook to Theologies of the Reformation (Westminster: Louisville, 2010). Holder has recently edited some very interesting and thought provoking works.

In this book, Bruce Gordon (formerly of St Andrews, Scotland) of Yale has written the entry on Bullinger. Gordon does not require any introduction as he has published prolifically. His book on Calvin has been widely acclaimed while The Swiss Reformation won a major prize. Together with Emidio Campi (former professor at Zurich) he edited Architect of Reformation which contains essays on Bullinger.

Allow me to cite Gordon’s article on Bullinger in full:

“Bullinger, Heinrich (1504-75). Bullinger was a Swiss reformer, theologian, and leader of the Zurich church from 1531 until his death. His influence extended across Europe through his publications, correspondence and network of contacts. His best known work was the Decades, but he wrote biblical commentaries, histories, and pastoral tracts, all of which were widely translated. On the whole he remained faithful to the theology of Huldrych Zwingli, though significant modifications arose from polemical battles with Anabaptists, Lutherans, and Catholics, his relations with other Reformers and reform movements, and his pastoral work as head of a large territorial church. He did not write a definitive theological work: his Decades were never intended as a treatise of systematic theology, but without doubt they represent his principal concerns and ideas. Bullinger’s early theology was deeply influenced by Zwingli, Martin Luther, and Philip Melanchthon, particularly his 1521 Loci Communes.

Bullinger emerged as a reformer in the years following the outbreak of the controversy between Wittenberg and Zurich over the Lord’s Supper, and the hostilities dominated his life. From Zwingli he took up the importance of the covenant (De Testamento, 1534), but there was movement in his thought. From the later 1530’s, following his extensive commentaries, a shift toward pneumatology (De origine erroris, 1539) is detectable. This found full expression in the Decades of 1549, where it is placed alongside other key aspects of Bullinger’s theology, including the covenantal continuity of the Old and New Testaments and the Bible as a unified witness to God’s revelation.

Following Zwingli, Bullinger was particularly interested in sanctification and the ethical and communal nature of Christianity. He followed Zwingli in his conception of society as a corpus Christianum in which magistrates exercised authority over the church, whose authority resided in its prophetic witness to God’s Word. He moved beyond Zwingli in his willingness to speak of a spiritual presence in the sacraments, though he rejected any contention, against John Calvin, that the outward forms of the sacraments are instruments by which God conveyed grace. Bullinger’s reformation emphasis on grace alone was always accompanied with the exhortation to the Christian life.

In Bullinger’s mature theology the Spirit and its actions of sanctification, vivification, and communion with Christ are powerful and recurring themes. He emphasized the commandment to love, and in his extensive vernacular, pastoral literature enjoined the faithful to good works in the service of the community. Bulligner was a profound writer on the Christian life, continuously exploring the ways in which Christians should imitate Christ through humility, suffering, and self –negating love.” (pp29,30)

Many of Gordon’s comments are spot on. However, I would like to point out the following:

• I don’t follow the line that Bullinger followed on from Zwingli with respect to the covenant. I would actually like to argue that it was Bullinger who gave significant input to Zwingli re the covenant.
• No mention was made in the short article or either Bullinger’s biblical-historical-theological work The Old Faith nor of the significance of the Second Helvetic Confession.
• Although Gordon does mention Bullinger’s influence across Europe I think special mention should be made of his influence on England – see the works of Torrance Kirby and Carrie Euler for starters.
• I think Gordon is correct to refer to the importance of pneumatology for Bullinger which may, in fact, have been greatly influenced by Zwingli. However, I am not necessarily convinced that there was a shift to pneumatology commencing with De origine erroris. There must surely be a ‘slip of the pen’ in the last paragraph which should read “In Bullinger’s mature theology the Spirit and His (not its) actions …”
• A previous post of mine has referred to the work of Mark Burrows who concludes that Bullinger virtually identified justification with sanctification. I was looking for Gordon’s comment on this as I am still seeking to discover what Bullinger actually said about justification and sanctification.

These comments aside, we must thank Gordon for stimulating more thought on the significance of Bullinger in the 16th century.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bullinger and an Environment for Studying the Word of God

These photos of of the Kreuzgang or quadrangle beside the Grossmunster at Zurich give us an inkling of the sort of environment that Bullinger had for teaching the Word of God to generations of pastors.

Bullinger and Circumcision: Stone Knives

Recently, at a home exhibition, my wife bought a ceramic knife. Apparently it is the must have accessory for the modern kitchen because it is hygienic and can cut very sharply. For example, it can apparently cut tomatoes much more thinly than stainless steel knives.

What has this got to do with Bullinger? It reminded me of a comment that Bullinger made with the respect to stone knives used for circumcision in the Old Testament. In sermon of The Decades Bullinger goes to great detail to see how the ceremonies were fulfilled in Christ. Occasionally he cites writers such as Lactantius but he usually does not refer to the source of his ideas. After referring to knives of stone used for circumcision (at Exodus 4:25 and Joshua 5:2) Bullinger writes the following:

“Moreover, circumcision did signify and testify that God Almighty, of his mere grace and goodness, is joined with an indissoluble bond of covenant unto us men, whom his will is first to sanctify, then to justify, and lastly to enrich with all heavenly treasures through Christ our Lord and reconciler. For that was the meaning of the stony knife; because Christ the blessed Seed, is the rock of stone out of which do flow pure and cleansing waters; and he by his Spirit doth cut from us whatsoever things do hinder the mutual league and amity betwixt God and us: he also doth give and increase in us both hope and charity in faith, so that we may be knit and joined to God in life everlasting, which is the blessed and happy life indeed.” (Parker Edition p174)

The Latin is:

Deinde significabat, imo et attestabatur circuncisio deum omnipotentem ex mera gratia et bonitate cohaerere indissolubili foederis nexu cum hominibus, quos velit sanctificatos iustificare omnibusque coelestibus donis locupletare per Christum. Ideo enim adhibebatur culter saxeus sive petrinus. Christus enim semen illud benedictum est petra, ex qua unde profluunt purificantes, ac ipse nobis spiritu suo resecat, quaecunque amicitiam inter nos et deum mutuam impediunt, idem confert et auget spem et charitatem in fide, ut deo coniungi et cohaerere possimus in aeternum, que est vere beata et felix vita. (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p348)

The modern German translation is:

Zweitens bedeutete, ja bezeugte di Beschneidung auch, dass der allmächtige Gott aus lauter Gnade und Güte durch ein unzertrennliches Band mit den Menschen verbunden ist. Diese möchte er heiligen, gerecht machen und durch Christus mit allen himmlischen Gaben bereichern. Deshalb nämlich wurde ein steinernes Messer verwendet. Denn, Christus, der gesegnete Nachkomme, ist der Fels, aus dem die reinigenden Wasser fließen und er schneidet mit seinem Geist von us alles ab, was die Freundschaft zwischen uns und Gott behindert. Ebenso vermehrt er die Hoffnung und die Liebe im Glauben, damit wir zu Gott kommen und auf ewig mit ihm verbunden bleiben können. Das ist das wahrhaftige, selige und glückiche Leben. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, p10)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bullinger and Sanctification vis-à-vis Justification

Mark Burrows has written an oft cited article: “‘Christus intra nos Vivens’, The Peculiar Genius of Bullinger’s Doctrine of Sanctification”, Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, vol 98 (1987), pp48-69. In this article Burrows concludes that Bullinger sees a very close link between sanctification and justification.

As far as I am aware, there has yet to be a detailed study of the works of Bullinger to either sustain this conclusion or otherwise.

The following quotation from The Decades might be a starting point. It occurs in a section where Bullinger discusses circumcision:

“Moreover, circumcision did signify and testify that God Almighty, of his mere grace and goodness, is joined with an indissoluble bond of covenant unto us men, whom his will is first to sanctify, then to justify, and lastly to enrich with all heavenly treasures through Christ our Lord and reconciler.” (Parker Edition p174)

The Latin is:

Deinde significabat, imo et attestabatur circuncisio deum omnipotentem ex mera gratia et bonitate cohaerere indissolubili foederis nexu cum hominibus, quos velit sanctificatos iustificare omnibusque coelestibus donis locupletare per Christum. (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p348)

The modern German translation is:

Zweitens bedeutete, ja bezeugte di Beschneidung auch, dass der allmächtige Gott aus lauter Gnade und Güte durch ein unzertrennliches Band mit den Menschen verbunden ist. Diese möchte er heiligen, gerecht machen und durch Christus mit allen himmlischen Gaben bereichern. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, p10)

Bullinger and the “Conditions” of the New Covenant

In The Decades Bullinger has this to say about the new covenant after pointing out that God’s covenant with mankind is “most excellently of all, most clearly and evidently” seen in Jesus:

“In that testament (ie the new testament) Christ alone is preached, the perfectness and fullness of all things; in it there is nothing more desired than faith and charity.” (Parker Edition p170)

The Latin is:

In eo solus praedicatur Christus perfectio et plenitude omnium, in eodem nihil post fidem et charitatem exigitur. (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p345)

The modern German translation is:

Darin wird Christus allein als Vollendung und Vollkommenheit aller Menschen verkündigt, darin fordert er nichts als Glauben und Liebe. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, p5)

Bullinger’s comment might be compared to the ideas expressed in “Love for God – A Neglected Theological Locus” by John A. Davies in John A. Davies and Allan M. Harman (eds.), An Everlasting Covenant: Biblical and Theological Essays in Honour of William J. Dumbrell (Reformed Theological Review Supplement #4 – Doncaster, Australia: 2010)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bullinger and Philippians 1:21

Not only did Bullinger view human history from the standpoint of salvation history in which God’s covenant with mankind was integral but he also saw his own life in terms of God’s plans for his life. He truly lived according to Philippians 1:21. He recovered from the Black Death of 1564-1565 which claimed the lives of his wife, Anna, and his daughters Margaretha, Elizabeth and Anna (and some of there children). This is not to mention Blarer, Gessner, Froschauer and Bibliander.

While he was very weak his friends assured him of their prayers for him. To this, Bullinger replied:

“If the Lord will make any further use of me and of my ministry in his church, I shall willingly obey him; but if shall please (as I much desire) to take me out of this miserable life, I shall exceedingly rejoice; as I shall be delivered from a wretched age, to go to my Saviour Christ. Socrates was glad when his death approached; because, as he thought, he should go to Homer, Hesiod, and other learned men, whom he supposed he should meet in the other world. How much more do I rejoice, who am sure that I shall see my Saviour Christ, the saints, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and all the holy men, who have lived from the beginning of the world. Since, I say, I am sure to see them, and partaker of their joys, why should I not willingly die, to be a sharer in their eternal society and glory.”

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bullinger’s Importance for the English Reformation

Bullinger’s commentaries began appearing in English in the 1530’s. An extant letter from this period by Nicolas Eliot refers to them. This undated letter to Bullinger from Bullinger’s English friend and pupil expresses the following compliments:

“Not only the church of Zurich, but other churches which are in Christ, bear witness to the skill, and purity, and simplicity of faith, with which you have expounded the whole Bible, and especially the epistles of St. Paul. And how great weight all persons attribute to your commentaries, how greedily they embrace and admire them, (to pass over numerous other arguments) the booksellers are most ample witnesses, whom by the sale of your writings alone, from being more destitute than Irus and Codrus, you see suddenly becoming as rich as Croesus. May God therefore give you the disposition to publish all your writings as speedily a spossible, whereby you will not only fill the coffers of the booksellers, but will gain over very many souls to Christ, and adorn his church with more previous jewels.”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bullinger’s Common Places

Just over two years ago I came across an MA dissertation in the Central Library at Zurich. The dissertation is by David Grant Smith from the University of Virginia (1992) and entitled “The Influence of Heinrich Bullinger on Early English Covenant Theology”. As far as I can see, this work has not been published as a journal article. Nonetheless, the small section I photocopied contains a mine of information and insightful reflection on Bullinger.

The following is an extract from this dissertation where Smith makes some comments on the Common Places which is the English translation of Bullingers Summa:

“In the section entitled, ‘That God has bound man to him, unto salvation and perpetual worship’ we see this important summary, joining the covenant of God with justification by faith:

‘For religion seemeth not so much to have her name of reading as of binding. Are bound unto God, and joined in league through his free mercy (as has been said) by faith. Therefore the covenant of God and true religion are all one. And they are religious, which being (con)federates joined in league with God, do cleave unto his word and honor and serve him despising all other things.’

Here we see what appears to be faith-based and a works-based justification juxtaposed. Bullinger may have been aware of the potential to distort his doctrine legalistically, however; elsewhere in his listing of covenant conditions he adds (to my knowledge, for the first time in his writings) ‘and if it come to pass, that he do err and fall, that therefore he be not without hope of pardon, but that trusting unto God his bountifulness, he repent, and stand unto his mercy, and follow God.’ Although Bullinger uses the word ‘if’ (following the Biblical terminology of 1 John 2:1), the implication may well be that it is impossible for man to keep the covenant conditions perfectly. The law does show Christians what to do and not to do, but man cannot fulfill the law in his own strength. Those justified by faith are endued with the spirit, which impels them to live after the commandment of the law, ‘and that they do’. But this is not perfect obedience because ‘infirmity remains in the faithful throughout their lives.’ Their works are not acceptable of themselves, but because of their reconciliation by Christ, their works are ‘allowed by God’”.

David, if you are reading this out in blogosphere do please make contact. Your work deserves the recognition it justly deserves. I kick myself for not photocopying more of the dissertation when I was in Zurich that time.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bullinger and Humility

Jim West's blog ( has this quote from Bullinger:

All luxurious attire, all pride, and everything unbecoming to Christian humility, discipline and modesty, are to be banished from the sanctuaries and places of prayer of Christians. For the true ornamentation of churches does not consist in ivory, gold, and precious stones, but in the frugality, piety, and virtues of those who are in the Church. Let all things be done decently and in order in the church, and finally, let all things be done for edification. — Heinrich Bullinger

Reading Bullinger and Calvin

It is well attested that Calvin wrote his Institutes to stimulate his readers to read his commentaries and, therefore, reflect deeply on the Scriptures themselves. This is clearly evident from the familiar words Calvin addressed to the reader:

“Moreover, it has been my purpose in this labor to prepare and instruct candidates in sacred theology for the reading of the divine Word, in order that they may be able both to have easy access to it and to advance in it without stumbling. For I believe I have so embraced the sum of religion in all its parts, and have arranged it in such an order, that if anyone rightly grasps it, it will not be difficult for him to determine what he ought especially to seek in Scripture, and to what end he ought to relate its contents. If, after this road has, as it were, been paved, I shall publish any interpretations of Scripture, I shall always condense them, because I shall have no need to undertake long doctrinal discussions, and to digress into commonplaces. In this way the godly reader will be spared great annoyance and boredom, provided he approach Scripture armed with a knowledge of the present work, as a necessary tool” (John T. McNeill (ed.), Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion vol 1, (Louisville: John Knox Press, 2006), pp 4,5)

It is clear that Calvin viewed the Institutes as a “necessary tool” or hermeneutical guide for reading Scripture. In this connection, Ganoczy has expressed the link between Calvin’s Institutes and the text of Scripture in terms of the “first hermeneutical circle” (Alexandre Ganoczy, “Calvin als paulinischer Theologe”, in Wilhelm Neuser (ed.), Calvinus Theologus, (Neukirchen, 1976), pp 39-69. “Hermeneutical circle” is used in the abstract to translate ‘hermeneutisch Leitfaden’). Scripture and the Spirit constitute a “second hermeneutical circle”. Such a ‘hermeneutical circle’ is evident in Calvin’s comment on Romans 3:28 where, in the context of alluding to the epistle of James and the meaning of justification, he urges the reader, “On this subject, see my Institutes” (John Calvin (translator: Ross Mackenzie), The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), p 79).

Calvin was concerned that the Institutes guide his readers through what he referred to as the “labyrinth” of the Scriptures. Thus the concept of sola scriptura was somewhat nuanced.

Bullinger, on the other hand, was concerned that his readers develop the skills to rightly interpret Scripture. His starting point was the perspicuity of Scripture. He believed that God communicates to men and women intelligibly and that this can be discerned through judicious application of rhetoric in interpreting Scripture. Thus, in his commentaries, Bullinger did not deal with every textual or philological detail (contra, for example, Bucer’s commentary on Romans). Bullinger sought to write in a manner characterized by brevity, faithfully pointing out the major thread of the arguments of the particular book of Scripture. In his commentaries Bullinger sought to give a concise overview of the major themes on the book (eg a Pauline epistle) with a view that his commentaries would be aids to assist the reader to preach the message of the book from the pulpit. This accords with Bullinger’s emphasis that to preach the Word of God is the Word of God (Praedicatio verbi Dei est verbum Dei).

The message of the Bible as a whole from the stand point of biblical theology is reflected in particular works of Bullinger that would have been in the hands of the pastors he targeted, viz De Testamento, der alt gloub, The Decades and the Summa christenlicher Religion. His strategy was for his readers to be familiar with these works and, therefore, of the overall message of Scripture. Bullinger expected his readers to draw the lines, as it were, linking his various works which would have been in their hands.

This can be illustrated from the following quote from The Decades 3.viii:

“Touching the likeness and agreement, the unlikeness and difference of both, I mean, the old and new testaments or people, I have therefore spoken the more briefly, because I have in the first sermon of the first decade, and in the sixth sermon of the third decade, aleady handled the selfsame matter. Finally, I have but shortly touched the abrogation of the law, because I did a good while ago set forth two treatises; the one Of the ancient faith, the other Of the only and eternal covenant of God; which treatises I know to be familiar among you”. (Parker Edition p299)

Here, Bullinger directly refers to der alt gloub which was translated into English as The Old Faith. He also refers to De Testamento which, strangely, was not translated into English.

The Latin of the above quote is:

Paucioribus haec de similitudine et congrentia, item de discrimine et differentia utriusque tam veteris quam novi populi et testamenti perstrinxi, quod hoc negotii attigerim sermone 1. Decadis 1., item sermone 6. Decadis 3. denique in negotio de abrogatione legis et quod olim quoque de antiqua fide et de unico aeternoque dei testamento tractatus ediderim, quos scio vobis esse familiarissimos. (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p412)

The modern German translation is:

Nur kurz habe ich geredet über die Ähnlichkeit und Gleichheit aber auch über die Unterschiede beider Testamente und beider Bundesvölker, des alten und des neuen, weil ich dieses Thema schon in der ersten Predigt der ersten Dekade, dann in der sechsten Predigt der dritten Dekade und schließlich in der Abhandlung über die Aufhebung des Gestzes angeschnitten habe, und weil ich bereits früher Abhandlungen veröffentlicht habe über den alten Glauben und über das einzige und ewige Testament Gottes, von denen ich weiß, dass sie euch wohl bekannt sind. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, p133,134)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bullinger viewing the Saints of the Old Testament as Looking unto Christ

The following citation from The Decades 3.viii illustrates that Bullinger’s understanding of the Old Testament is not so much Christocentric but, rather, as looking unto Christ. This quote shows Bullinger’s emphasis on the unity of the old and new testaments, on the unity of the covenant and on the same faith in both the OT and the NT. Salvation, both in the OT and the NT, is by faith through grace. There is no synergism.

“And out of that which I have hitherto said we may also learn, that the ancient saints, which lived under the old testament, did not seek for righteousness and salvation in the works of the law, but in him who is the perfectness and end of the law, even Jesus Christ; and therefore that they used the law and the ceremonies as a guide and schoolmistress to lead them by the hand to Christ their Saviour. For so often as they heard that the law required perfect righteousness at their hands, they did by faith through grace understand, that in the law Christ was set forth to be the most absolute righteousness, to whom all men ought to fly for the obtaining of righteousness. So often as they met together in the holy congregation, to behold the holy ceremonies which God hath ordained, they did not look upon the bare figures only, nor think that they did please God, and were purged from their sins, by that external kind of worship; but they did cast the eyes of their minds and of faith upon the Messiah to come, who was prefigured in all the ceremonies and ordinances of the law.” (Parker Edition p242)

Illud quoque discimus ex praedisputatis veteres sanctos, qui sub veteri testamento vixerunt homines, salutem et iustitiam quaesivisse non in operibus legis, sed in eo, qui est perfectio et finis legis, nempe in Christo, ergo lege edt caeremoniis usos esse tanquam manuductione et paedagogia ad Christum. Nam quoties audierunt perfectam a se legis iustitiam requiri, fide donate ex gratia intellexerunt Christum perfectissimam iustitiam proponi, ad quem pro iustitia consequenda omnes confugere debeant homines. Quoties in loco sacro convenerunt ad contemplanda sacra illa divinitus instituta, non nudas inspexerunt figuras neque putaverunt se propter cultum illum placere deo purgarique a peccatis, sed oculos animi et fidei intenderunt in ipsum futurm Messiam, qui in omnibus caeremoniis et legalibus praefigurabatur. (Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p387)

Aus dem zuvor Erörterten lernen wir auch, dass die einstigen Gläubigen, die Menschen, die unter dem Alten Testament gelebt haben, das Heil und die Gerechtigkeit nicht in den Werken des Gestzes gesucht haben, sondern in dem, der di Vollkomenheit und die Vollendung des Gesetzes ist, nämlich in Christus, dass sie also das Gesetz und die Zeremonien als Hinführung und als Vorschule zu Christus gebrauchten. Denn sooft sie hörten, dass von ihnen vollkommene Gerechtigkeit nach dem Gesetz verlangt wurde, verstanden sie durch den Glauben, der ihnen aus Gnade geschenkt worden ist, dass ihnen Christus als die vollkommene Gerechtigkeit vor Augen gestellt wurde, zu dem alle Menschen hineilen sollen, um Gerechtigkeit zu erlangen. (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006, p78)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bullinger and Justification as the Hinge of Evangelical Doctrine

In The Decades 4.i Bullinger writes: “And although I oftener than once handled this argument in these sermons of mine; yet because it is the hook whereupon the hinge of the evangelical doctrine (which is the door to Christ) doth hang and that this doctrine (to wit, that Christ is received by faith, and not by works) is of many men very greatly resisted; I will for the declaration and confirmation sake thereof, produce here two places only, but such as be apparent enough and evident to prove and confirm it by: the one out of the gospel of Christ our Lord, the other out of Paul’s epistles.” (Parker Edition p37 there is an explanation that the words in brackets are not in the original Latin).

The Latin version is:

Et quamvis hoc argumentum tractaverim semel et iterum in hisce nostris sermonibus, quia tamen in eo volvitur cardo doctrinae evangelicae et hoc dogma (nempe fide, non operibus recipe Christum) a multis acerrime oppugnatur, duos tantum locos, sed maxime illustres pro eius declaratione et confrimatione adducam, alterum quidem ex evangelio Christi domini, alterum ex epistolis sancti Pauli.
(Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p512)

One might compare what Bullinger wrote with what Calvin wrote in the Institutes at 3.11.1 which deals with the “Place and meaning of the doctrine of justification”:

“And we must so discuss them as to bear in mind that this is the main hinge on which religion turns, so that we may devote the greater attention and care to it” (Battles translation).

The Latin version is:

Et ita discutienda ut meminerimus praecipuum esse sustinendae religionis cardinem: quo maiorem attentionem curamque afferamus.

Several lines earlier in this sermon 4.i of The Decades Bullinger writes:

“But the promise is received by faith, and not by works: therefore the gospel, and Christ in the gospel, are received by faith. For we must diligently distinguish between the precepts and the promises. The promises are received by faith: the precepts are accomplished by works.” (Parker Edition, p36)

The Latin version is:

Caeterum promissio fide, non operibus recipitur, ideoque evangelium et in evangelio Christus fide recipitur. Etenim distinguendum erit diligenter inter praecepta et promissiones. Nam hae recipiuntur fide, illa perficiuntur operibus.
(Peter Opitz, Sermonum Decades, p511)

The following are the recent German translations (Heinrich Bullinger Schriften, TVZ 2006) of the same sections.

“Und obwohl ich dies in diesen meinem Predigten schon das eine oder andere Mal behandelt habe, möchte ich dennoch nur zwei, aber zwei überaus deutliche Schriftstellen zur Erklärung und Bekräftigung anführen, weil darin der Kern der Lehre des Evangeliums liegt und dieser Glaubenssatz – dass Christus durch den Glauben und nicht durch Werke empfangen wird – von vielen sehr heftig bekämpt wird: eine Stelle aus dem Evangelium Christi, des Herrn, und eine aus den Briefen des heiligen Paulus.”

“Diese Verheißung wird aber nicht durch Werke, sondern im Glauben empfangen, deshalb wird das Evangelium – und im Evangelium Christus – im Glauben empfangen. Es ist nämlich sorgfältig zwischen den Geboten und Verheiβungen zu unterschieden, denn diese werden im Glauben, jene durch Werke empfangen.”

Bullinger and Climate Change

There was a mini ice age in the middle of the 16th century. Bullinger wrote about it in his Diarium. The mini ice age was so severe that Bullinger considered that it was the judgment of God.

Otto Ulbricht has written “Extreme Wetterlagen im Diarium Heinrich Bullinger” which is to be found in Wolfgang Behringer, Hartman Lehmann dan Christian Pfister (eds), Kulurelle Konsequenzer der kleinen Eiszeit, pp147-175.

The following is a citation from the summary of the article:

“When looking closely at Bullinger’s diary, it becomes clear that he not only sensed the climatic change beginning in the early 1560’s (coldness, frost, hail frozen over lakes, floods), but he also described it as unique and sometimes even as a breakdown of the natural order of things. Adjectives he applied to characterize these changes have strong (and negative) emotional connotations. The extreme weather conditions – sometimes joined by famine – became the most important expression of God’s wrath in his thinking, thus displacing war and pestilence as secondary.

According to Bullinger, the main reason for God’s scorn was heavy drinking. Therefore, he and his colleagues tried to extend mandates against it to leading and secular authorities in Zurich. Religious reasons also played a role in keeping interest rates down throughout the famine of 1570/71. During this crisis, there was a major change in the liturgy through the introduction of common public prayer.”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Carrie Euler on Bullinger

A previous post has referred to Carrie Euler’s book Couriers of the Gospel: England and Zurich which represents many years of meticulous attention to Bullinger’s correspondence. Euler is currently a professor at Central Michigan University.

The following is a quotation from the book illustrating her understanding of Bullinger and the covenant.

“Bullinger’s commitment to Old Testament law – a commitment much admired and reiterated by many English evangelicals – stemmed, in part, from his belief in the unity of the Old and New Testament covenant between God and man. As did Zwingli, Bullinger asserted this unity in his early writings against the Anabaptists. In one work written in 1534, however, Bullinger took this argument further than Zwingli. He distinguished between a testamentum (a written testament) and foedus (a covenant or conditional agreement between two parties). Moreover, he maintained that the covenant between God and man was a foedus, and he emphasized its conditional, bilateral nature.

Bullinger’s later writings, however, are much more concerned with the hermeneutical unity of the Testaments, first proposed by Zwingli in his writings against the Anabaptists but extended by Bullinger. The unity of the Old and New Testaments was very useful to Bullinger for two reasons. It allowed him to state that Christianity in its pure (Reformed) sate was the one and original faith, the faith of Adam and Abraham as well as the apostles and other early Christians. It also allowed him to use the Old Testament in his writings. This gave Bullinger more evidence to support Zwingli’s ideas about the place of law and secular authority in Christian societies, and it justified the application of Old Testament laws to those societies.”

Euler has made some very helpful comments here. For example, she is spot on with respect to the admiration of the English evangelicals to Bullinger’s understanding and application of Old Testament law for the believer. I believe the Puritans were profoundly influenced by Bullinger’s understanding of the law and this is reflected in the Westminster Confession. However, I suspect that many English evangelicals actually misunderstood Bullinger on the law. I hope to do some work on this.

Euler is also correct to point out that Bullinger’s understanding of the Old Testament (and of the law in the OT) was important for his understanding of church and state. This is well illustrated in Torrance Kirby’s book Zurich Connection.

Euler also suggested that for Bullinger the unity of the Old and New Testaments allowed him to “use the Old Tesament extensively in his writings”. Actually, this was more because of Bullinger’s canonical understanding of Scripture (he wrote a commentary on Revelation and preached a 100 sermons on it). We might even go so far as to say that Bullinger was a biblical theologian. That is why he did not write in the loci format but constantly referred to the overall message of the canon as is most apparent in der alte Glaube.

However, I do not agree with Euler’s comments on testamentum and foedus. I believe that a linguistic study of Bullinger’s writings with respect to the use of these terms (as well as of pactum) leads us to the conclusion expressed by Lillback and Bierma that Bullinger and Calvin had very similar views of the covenant. In other words, although Euler does acknowledge that there is a debate, Baker’s views can not be substantiated. Nonetheless, Baker has stimulated much thought on the covenant in Bullinger. This is a topic I am seeking to do further work on.

These observations on Euler’s views aside, her book is a mine of information and reflection on the significance of Bullinger for England. Her book provides access to the work of Andreas Mühling’s, Bullingers europäische Kirchenpolitik which may be less readily available to many of us. (pp32-33)

Conference organized by Refo500

Refo500 is organizing a conference in Zurich 8-10 June 2011 with the theme “The Myth of the Reformation). The conference will be hosted by the Institute for Swiss Reformation History. Details may be found at:

The Plenary sessions will be:

Emidio Campi (Zurich)
Was the Reformation a German event?

Bridget Heal (St. Andrews)
Sola Scriptura? The Reformation a non-visual event?

Barbara Mahlmann-Bauer (Bern)
Konversionen in der Frühen Neuzeit

At the Table with the Reformers

This well known painting portrays some of the key figures associated with the Reformation.

The top three from the left are:

Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562)
John Knox (1513-1572)
Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531)

In the original picture:
Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575) is to the left of Vermigli

The second row from left to right are:

John Hus (1370-1415)
Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560)
Hieronymus van Praag (1379-1416)
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Hieronymus Zanchius (1516-1590)
John Calvin (1509-1564)
Theodorus Beza (1519-1605)
William Perkins (1558-1602)
Below Perkins is John Wycliff (1386-1428)

In the original picture:

Martin Bucer (1491-1551)is to the left of John Hus
Matthius Flaccius (1520-1572) is to the right of William Perkins
Behind Flaccius is Johannes Oecolampadius (1481-1531)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bullinger and the Pauline Epistles

Peter Opitz, the director of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History in Zurich, has a comprehensive article on “Bullinger and Paul” in R. Ward Holder (ed.) A Companion to Paul in the Reformation (Brill, 2009), pp243-265.

Opitz show his understanding of Bullinger and the events surrounding the writing of commentaries on particular epistles of Paul. It is well known that Bullinger defended Pauline authorship of Hebrews. In this regard, Opitz writes: “In spite of the counter-arguments that he knows Erasmus has made, he pleads for Paul as its author. In any case the significance and authority of this epistle do not depend on Pauline authorship, but rather on its message. He rates this message very highly: as early as 1526, Bullinger claims that there is no other book in the New Testament that more strongly places the focus on the covenant, brings Christ before our eyes and argues on the basis of the Old Testament writings (HBTS I, p135).”

The following quote illustrates Opitz’s understanding of Bullinger and his contemporaries:

“Bullinger judges the difficult message of Hebrews 6:4, which discusses the impossibility of a second repentance after a fundamental apostasy, as rhetorical exaggeration in the service of paranesis, and points out at the same time that only such an interpretation of the passage, rather than a literal one, does justice to the atonement theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews (In epistolas, p679). The contemporary background is the controversy with some ‘Anabaptists’.

Bullinger consciously places himself in the Zwinglian Christological tradition with his high opinion and defence of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Thus is is no coincidence that Bullinger published his commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews first, and dedicated it to Landgrave Philipp of Hessen. The foreword bears the date 17 August, 1532. Without a doubt, Bullinger had the intention of exegetically underlining the agreement between the Zwinglian and Pauline Christology. At the same time he wished to ensure Philipp’s lasting goodwill, in the particularly difficult times that the ‘reformed’ wing of Protestantism was experiencing after the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 and Zwingli’s death.”

Friday, November 26, 2010

Zwingli and the Eucharist Further Observations

An earlier post has considered Zwingli and the eucharist. Carrie Euler in her meticulously researched book Couriers of the Gospel: England and Zurich, 1531-1558 (TVZ 2006) makes the following observations about Zwingli and the eucharist. As in our earlier post there is a timely reminder to consider the later writings of Zwingli when considering his understanding of the eucharist.

“Zwingli has gone down in history as a ‘memorialist’ and ‘rationalist’, one who maintained the bread and the wine were ‘empty signs’. These charges greatly oversimplify Zwingli’s position and his influence on the development of Reformed Eucharistic theology.

Zwingli’s writings between 1524 and 1529 do vigorously confute any real presence of Christ, corporeal or spiritual, in the supper, but it is misleading to say that the Zurich reformer relegated the bread and wine to the status of empty memorials. In addition to there being a physical similarity between the sign and the thing signified (wine looks like blood), there was, for Zwingli, an emotional and spiritual connection. For the Jews, the Passover lamb did not merely represent the feast of Passover, but liberation from bondage, the actual passing over of the first-born in Egypt the night before the Exodus. Similarly, the supper of the Lord brings to Christians’ minds their salvation through Christ (Zwingli, On the Lord’s Supper, pp225-227).

Zwingli’s later writings provide even more connection between the sign and the thing signified, for in the last years of his life he inclined towards accepting Christ’s spiritual presence in the bread and wine (Gäbler, Ulrich Zwingli, p137). In A Brief Exposition of the Faith (1531), he compared the sacramental signs to a betrothal ring. When a wife beholds the ring on her finger, she does not value it only for its gold substance, but her heart is warmed by the thought of her husband and her bond to him, of which the ring is a symbol (Zwingli, A Brief Exposition of the Faith, pp262-263). In this treatise, Zwingli introduced the phrase ‘sacramental eating’. ‘Spiritual eating’ was ‘trusting with heart and soul upon the mercy and goodness of God through Christ.’ We can do this at any time. But eating Christ sacramentally, Zwingli wrote was spiritual eating in conjunction with the communal celebration of the sacrament. At this time, ‘You do inwardly what you represent outwardly, your soul being strengthened by the faith which you attest in the tokens.’ Here and in his Account of Faith (1530), Zwingli allowed that the sacrament can ‘strengthen’ or ‘augment’ faith, but he was adamant that it could not convey faith. Those who partake of the sacrament without faith do not eat spiritually or sacramentally (A Brief Exposition of the Faith, pp260-261). A spiritual presence for the faithful was far from a bodily presence for all, however. In these later writings, he continued to defy Luther by asserting the spiritual/material divide and rejecting the ubiquity of Christ’s body (A Brief Exposition of the Faith, pp254-258)”.
(Couriers of the Gospel, pp22,23)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Zentralbibliothek Zürich

The Central Library of Zurich is situated in Zähringer Platz. The photo shows the main entrance with the Predigerkirche in the background.

The website to the section of the library that houses its magnificent collection of the works of Zwingli, Bullinger and other writers in the 16th century is:

Dr Urs Leu is the head of this section. He and his colleagues have published prolifically. is the library’s website where many works of Zwingli, Bullinger and others made be downloaded in pdf format. A great tool for access to their works.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Critical edition of Bullinger’s De scripturae sanctae

The latest edition of Zwingliana has a review by Amy Nelson Burnett of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln of the recently published (TVZ 2009) critical edition of Bullinger’s De scripturae sanctae authoritate deque episcoporum institutione et functione (1538). This was a joint effort by Emidio Campi and Philipp Wälchli. Campi was the immediate past professor at Zurich (succeeding Alfred Schindler) while Wälchli is one of the researchers in the Institute for Swiss Reformation History who previously worked on the critical edition of the Second Helvetic Confession.

Bullinger wrote this work in 1538 and dedicated it to King Henry VIII of England. This was one year before Bulligner wrote De origine erroris III and De omnibus scripturae libris. The work consists of two books, as may be apparent from its title. The first deals with Scripture while the second (and much longer work) focuses on church structure and leadership.

The following are some quotes from Burnett’s review:

“His chief concern in Book I is to assert the superiority of Scripture against the Roman church’s claim to judge Scripture and to be the custodian of extra-scriptural tradition. Bullinger does this by attesting both to Scripture’s antiquity – God spoke to Adam and the patriarchs long before Moses put the first books of the Bible into writing, let alone before the church established the canon – and to its completeness, since it contains all that is necessary for piety.”

“Book II deals with more practical matters of church structure. Bullinger describes how the leadership of God’s people was entrusted fist to the prophets, then to the levitical priesthood, and finally to the ministers of God’s word, who are bishops or overseers. Bullinger’s understanding of the church’s leadership is non-hierarchical: his only distinction is between the ministers and those he calls ‘clerics’, the deacons or assistants and disciples or students who are preparing for the ministry. As a consequence, his discussion of the ‘institution and function of bishops’ is a broad description of the preparation fro the tasks of ministry. He includes in it a plea for adequate financial support for ministers and emphasizes the need to maintain the schools and libraries essential fro educating the boys who will enter the ministry. Bullinger focuses on the chief responsibilities of ministers, to preach, to pray, and to administer the sacraments – but he also refers to the more specialized functions of the prophets, who expound God’s word, and doctors, including professors and schoolteachers. Last but certainly not least, he rejects the claims of the bishop of Rome to headship over the church, providing his own exegesis of the Scripture texts used to support papal primacy, describing how the church fathers regarded the bishop of Rome, and condemning the corruption of the Roman hierarchy from the pope on down.”

“Bullinger also refers several times to Erasmus’s handbook for preachers, Ecclesiastes, which had been published three years earlier, even incorporating lengthy quotations from it into his text.”

Ecclesia semper reformanda

Emidio Campi has an article “Ecclesia semper reformanda: Metamorphosen einer altehrwürdigen Formel” in the latest edition of Zwingliana Vol 37 (2010), pp1-20. Campi was the previous professor at Zurich and head of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History.

The following is the abstract of the article:

“The purpose of this essay is to examine the history of the old formula ecclesia semper reformanda that is the church is always in need of reform. This phrase is constantly attributed to the Reformers, but in fact can be found throughout the bimillenial history of Christianity, from the early monastic movement to the medieval forms of dissent, in the documents of the Council of Trent and in the treaties of the Protestant Orthodoxy, in the decree of ecumenism of the II Vatican Council and in the Constitution of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. However, reform of the church is not mere change, and certainly not ‘modernization’. Reform of the church comes, as the Reformers understood it and Karl Barth in the mid 20th century reiterated it, from the leading of God’s word, made present in the power of the Spirit. After reviewing recent deliberations of ecumenical bodies the paper concludes that ecclesia semper reformanda is much more than a confessional slogan. To be really universal the church is always to refocused on Christ the Saviour as he is presented to us in the Scriptures.”

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bullinger’s Understanding of the Law

To ascertain Bullinger’s understanding of the Law we would need to carefully study a range of his works covering several decades. It does appear that Bullinger considered that the giving of the law at the time of Moses was precipitated by the idolatry which arose during the time the Israelites spent in Egypt and which was reflected in several events of flagrant idolatry in the wilderness wandering. Bullinger’s view was that there was nothing new in the giving of the law at the time of Moses but, rather, the enscripturating of the ‘conditions’ of the covenant that were in place beginning with Adam. For Bullinger there was no place for synergism and the covenant was based on the grace of God who accommodated Himself with mankind and entered into a covenant relationship with mankind. A subsequent post will look at the ‘conditions’ of the covenant that Bullinger refers to.

Bullinger, thus, wrote that many years prior to the prophecy of Jeremiah 31 that God’s law was written on the hearts of the holy fathers.

For example, in chapter 5 of The Old Faith (der alt gloub/Der Alte Glaube) Bullinger writes:

“Besides this, the Lord gave unto Noe certain laws; but none other than even such as he had given to his forefathers, and written on their hearts”
(translation by Miles Coverdale)

“Darüber hinaus gab der Herr Noah einige Gesetze, jedoch keine anderen als jene, die er seinen Vorfahren gegeben und in die Herzen geschrieben hatte”
(translation by Roland Diethelm)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bullinger and the Proleptic Sacrifice of Christ

In chapter 5 of The Old Faith (der alt gloub/Der Alte Glaube) Bullinger refers to the faith of Abel as demonstrated by the sacrifice of Abel which was acceptable and pleasing to God.

Bullinger makes this interesting comment:

“Inasmuch then as it cannot be denied, but that all they which are saved are just and righteous be made righteous through the blessed Seed, and Abel was justified; it followeth that he was made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ. In that he did sacrifice, it is a token and fruit of a heart that was thankful and feared God. It was no such enterprise, that he would cleanse and make himself acceptable unto God through that outward sacrifice. For certain it is, that no outward oblation purifieth man within; but the grace of God, granted unto us through Jesus Christ, purfieth us aright. And the outward sacrifices of the old fathers, beside that they were tokens of thankfulness, praise, and magnifying of God, as it said afore, were figures of the only perpetual sacrifice of our Saviour Christ: and in this behalf they were even as much as sacraments of things to come.”
(translation by Miles Coverdale)

“Da unbestreitbar gilt, dass alle Frommen und Gerechten allein durch den Glauben an den gesegneten Samen gerechfertigt worden sind und Abel gerechtfertigt ist, folgt, dass er durch den Glauben an Jesus Christus gottgefällig geworden ist.

Dass er aber opfert, ist Zeichen und Frucht seiner dankbaren, gottesfürchtigen Gesinnung und nicht etwa der Vesuch, sich durch ein äuβerliches Opfer zu reinigen und Gott wohlgefällig zu machen. Denn es ist gewiss, dass kein äuβerliches Opfer den innersten Menschen rein macht, sondern dass allein die Gnade Gottes, die uns durch Jesus Christus erwiesen worden ist, wahrhaftig reinigt. Die äuβerlichen Opfer der alten Gläubigen waren nebst dem, dass die Zeichen der Dankbarkeit, des Lobs und Preises Gottes waren, vor allem, wie oben erwähnt, Bilder, die auf das einmalige und immerwährende Opfer unseres Heilands Christus vorauswiesen. Deshalb waren sie so etwas wie Sakremente der künftigen Dinge.”
(translation by Roland Diethelm)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bullinger and Back to the Future –Who were the First Christians?

In chapter 1 of The Old Faith (der alt gloub/Der Alte Glaube) Bullinger commences by arguing that the faith of the “holy men” from the time of Adam was essentially the same as those after the coming of Christ and, therefore, they can be termed ‘Christian’. Bullinger is seeking to emphasize the unity of the message of the canon from Genesis to Revelation.

“Now it is true, that all prophecies were then first fulfilled, and the true salvation performed; yea, from that time forth were all the glorious treasures of Christ so richly declared and poured out among all people, as they never were afore. Notwithstanding the same salvation in Christ Jesu was promised long afore, and so opened to the holy old fathers, that they have had no less sight of Christ Jesus in the spirit than we, and put their trust in him as well as we; though among us it be clear and open, or performed and fulfilled, that among them was somewhat darker, and therefore looked for with heart’s desire, as a thing to come. Moreover, it is not I that first bring forth this meaning concerning the antiquity or oldness of our christian faith. For the holy bishop Eusebius Caesariensis, which lived above eleven hundred years ago, and likewise many other christian doctors, hath also taught and written the same more clearly before me. For Eusebius, in the first book De Ecclesiastica Historia: saith plainly: ‘all they that in their estate are noted according to the generations, to reckon backward from Abraham unto the first man, though they had not the name of christian men, (for at Antioch, certain years after the ascension of Christ, was that name given to the faithful Acts xi) yet, as pertaining to the religion and substance, they were all Christian.’

For if this word Christian be as much to say, as one that putteth his trust in Christ, through his doctrine fastened unto faith, unto the grace and righteousness of God, doth cleave with all diligence to God’s doctrine, and exerciseth himself in every thing that is virtuous; then verily those holy men, whom we speak of first, were even the same that christian men boast themselves now to be. All these are the words of the foresaid old christian doctors. But to the intent that no man shall think, how that we build upon men, and upon a strange foundation, therefore will we first declare our mind out of the scripture, and allege somewhat more the better understanding of the matter.”
(translation by Miles Coverdale)

“Nun stimmt es zwar, dass erst damals alle Prophetezeiungen erfüllt worden sind und die wahre Rettung vollendet worden ist. Auch wurden est seit damals die herrlichen Schätze Christi so reichlich wie nie zuvor allen Völkern verkündet und mitgeteilt. Dennoch ist diese Rettung in Christus Jesus längst verheißen und auch den heiligen Patriarchen bildhaft gezeight worden, so dass sie nich weniger als wir Christus Jesus im Geist gesehen und auf ihn vertraut haben, obschon uns alles klarer vor Augen gestellt und erfüllt ist, was bei ihnen noch dunkel war und sie erst in der Zukunft mit Sehnsucht erwarteten. Dazu kommt, dass ich nich als Erster diese Ansicht über das Alter unseres christlichen Glaubens zur Sprache bringe. Denn vor mir haben dies schon der heilige Bischof Eusebius von Caesarea, der von elfeinhalb Jahrhunderten lebte, und andere christliche Lehrer kalr gelehrt und geschreiben. So sagt Eusebius im ersten Buch seiner Kirchengeschichte klar: >Alle Menschen, die in der Generationenfolge von Abraham zurückgerechnet bis zum ersten Menschen stehen, waren wenn auch nicht dem Namen nach Christen< - denn der wurde erst einige Jahre nach der Himmelfahrt Christi den Gläubigen zu Antiochia gegeben, Aporstelgeschichte 11.26, so doch ihrem Glauben und Wesen nach. Denn wenn das Wort >Christ< jemanden bezeichnet, der Christus vertraut und durch dessen Lehre am glauben, an der Güte und an der Gerechtigkeit Gottes festhält, mit eifrigen Bemühen göttlicher Weisung anhängt and alles das tut, was tugendhaft ist, dann waren die genannten heiligen Männer das, was heute die Christen ze sein bekennen usw. So weit die Worte dieses alten christlichen Lehrers. Damit aber niemand auf den Gedanken kommt, ich stütze mich auf Menschen und auf eine sachfremde Grundlage, wollen wir von nun an unser Vorhaben mit Belegen aus der Schrift stützen und zum besseren Verständnis genauer auf die Sache eingehen.”
(translation by Roland Diethelm)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bullinger as a Theologian

G.W. Bromiley unfairly described Bullinger’s writings as “pedestrian” compared to those of Zwingli. However, he failed to give due consideration to the context of Bullinger’s works.

E.A. Dowey is closer to the mark.

“Bullinger’s theology may be chatacterised as:

1. biblical in root
2. orthodox and catholic in intent
3. dominated by churchly motifs in expression
4. historical in conceptuality
5. comprehensive in scope”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Zwingli on the Lord’s Supper in 1524

Over at Jim West’s blog (Zwingliusredivivus) there is a post on Zwingli’s letter to Matthew Alber (#41 of Zwingli’s works listed in Peter Stephens’ The Theology of Huldrych Zwingli). It is worth checking out.

The post gives the link to the website of the Central Library of Zurich ( where Zwingli’s letter can be downloaded as a pdf file.

This letter gives us a glimpse of Zwingli’s understanding of the Eucharist in 1524 and how he was emphatic in opposing transubstantiation. A timely reminder that many of Zwingli’s earlier works were ‘negative’, such as opposing transubstantiation.

Bullinger and the Exposition of Scripture

Kok noted that Bullinger wrote his commentaries “for the sake of the inexperienced and moderately educated (Scripserunt illi eruditis, ego rudibus et mediocribus).”

Leith has summarized from the Third Sermon of the First Decade (The title of this sermon is ‘Of the Sense and Right Exposition of the Word of God, and by What Manner of Means it may be Expounded’) Bullinger’s principles of expounding Scripture as:

(1) the rule of faith
(2) love of God and neighbor
(3) the historical situation
(4) scripture interpreted in the context of scripture
(5) a heart that loves God and continually prays to God for the Holy Spirit.

Significantly, Leith makes the observation, “From what has been said and from what follows this would seem to be a fair summary of Calvin’s own hermeneutical principles.”

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 (His omnibus addimus iam omnium efficacissimum verbum dei exponendi canonem: pectus dei et gloriae eius amans, non superbum, non ambitiosum, non hæresibus, non pravis corruptum affectibus, quod precibus indesinentibus vocet spiritum sanctum, per quem prodita et inspirata est scriptura, ut per eundem etiam explicetur ad gloriam dei et fidelium incolumitatem - in Peter Optiz, Heinrich Bullinger Werke – Dritte Abteilung: Theologische Schriften, Band 3: Sermonum Decades quinque de potissimis Christianae religionis capitibus (1552), Teilband 1, (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 2008), p54).

(Joel E. Kok, “Heinrich Bullinger’s Exegetical Model: The Model for Calvin?” in Richard A. Muller and John L. Thompson (eds.), Biblical Interpretation in the Era of the Reformation, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), pp241-254; John H. Leith, “Calvin’s Doctrine of the Proclamation of the Word and Its Significance for Today” in Timothy George (ed.), John Calvin and the Church: A Prism of Reform, (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990), pp206-209, pp214,215)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bullinger and the Law in De Testamento

In De Testamento Bullinger concludes that the “holy patriarchs” (Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph) were pleasing to God without the “ceremonies” (29a). In citing Galatians 3:16-17 he affirms, “Hence the patriarchs were saved by the blessing of the covenant, not of the law or of the ceremonies”. Significantly, Bullinger emphasizes at this point that the law which “originated later does not make void this covenant established earlier by God in Christ”.

Bullinger’s understanding is that because of the idolatry of Israel at the time of Moses so “it was pleasing to the wise and merciful Lord to come up and aid the collapsed covenant with certain props”. This is explained as follows, “God restored the main points of the ancient covenant, but unfolded it more fully, and inscribed it on tablets of stone with his own finger” (30a). That is to say, Bullinger understood that at the beginning the covenant was written on the hearts of the patriarchs but was codified in stone later on because of the covenant unfaithfulness of Israel. That is why, in his discussion of Genesis 17 earlier on, Bullinger makes this observation about “the record of the covenant”, viz “I should explain why there is no mention of legal records. Indeed, in place of such records are the words of Moses which we have already quoted, or, if you prefer more abundant words, the whole canonical Scripture” (6a). Bullinger’s assertion that the ‘conditions’ of the covenant were inscribed on the hearts of the patriarchs is directly alluded to in (45a): “The Lord did not bother to have any records written for the ancient patriarchs, for they bore the covenant in their hearts, inscribed by the finger of God”.

Bullinger further explains concerning the “ceremonies” in that “when they continued to be unfaithful and wicked, the burden of worthless ceremonies was thrown on their shoulders, ceremonies that the patriarchs did not have. Nevertheless, it is evident that the burden was imposed for an urgent reason, for this aim and with this plan, so that they would not introduce the worship of strange gods” (30a). In referring to the worship of God in Psalm 50 in this context, Bullinger employs some mental gymnastics to conclude, “Therefore, God instituted his own worship, and he declared that it was pleasing to him (Psalm 50), which he actually despised, so that, with this plan, he confirmed the covenant, and in addition to that he enveloped the mystery of Christ in these ceremonies as types”. In making this analysis Bullinger cites Tertullian, “For Tertullian, in his Against Marcion, book 2, says, ‘No one should blame God for the burden of the sacrifices, or the troublesome scrupulosities of the ceremonies, and oblations, as if he had desired such things for himself who clearly exclaimed, ‘What are the multitude of your sacrifices to me and who requires them from your hands?’ (Isaiah 1:11-12)’” (30b).

In Bullinger’s understanding, contrary to what he has to say about the “ceremonies”, he points out, “Now, therefore, in respect to the Decalogue and civil laws, no difference at all has arisen regarding the covenant and the people of God. For everywhere the love of God and the neighbour, faith and love maintain the mastery” (31a). In the same breath Bullinger underlines that “all the ceremonies were fulfilled by Christ, by whom alone it proclaims. Since they were types and shadows of eternal things, they become obsolete. So, that ancient religion, which was thriving in that golden age of the patriarchs before the law was brought forth, now flourishes throughout the entire world, renewed and restored more fully and more clearly by Christ and made perfect with a new people, namely, the Gentiles, as though a new light had been introduced into the world”. Bullinger firmly defends his view that it is not correct to “stigmatize…all the fathers preceding the coming of the Lord by the name of carnal Israel” because “antiquity also had the spiritual Israel”.

(see 'The One and Eternal Covenant of God' in An Everlasting Covenant: Biblical and Theological Essays in Honour of William J. Dumbrell (Reformed Theological Review Supplement Series #4, 2010) pp201-233)

See Steven Coxhead “Paul and the New Covenant Paradigm” in An Everlasting Covenant: Biblical and Theological Essays in Honour of William J. Dumbrell (Reformed Theological Review Supplement Series #4, 2010) pp119-144 for an interesting analysis which appears to have some parallels with Bullinger.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bullinger and the Covenant as the Source of our Religion

In De prophetae officio (1532) Bullinger wrote (sig. Aivv-Avr): “For testament, which also is the title for all of Scripture, surely strands for the content of all Scripture. Neither is this to be wondered at as something recent and devoid of meaning. For by the word testament we understand the covenant and the 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”.

Hence Bullinger concludes that the covenant is “the source of our religion and the first chapter of it” (haec nimirum religionis nostrae origio & illud caput primarium est).

Bullinger and the Unity of the Old and New Testaments

Having thus surveyed in a broad sweep the message of the law, the prophets, the Gospels and the writings of the apostles in De Testamento, Bullinger summarizes his thoughts on the unity of the covenant on folio 25a. In the sub-section with the subtitle “The unity of the covenant” Bullinger states, “There is therefore one covenant and one church of all the saints before and after Christ, one way to heaven, and one unchanging religion of all the saints (Psalms 14 and 23)”. With respect to the era of the Old Testament and the era of the New Testament he points out that “The times are different, but not the faith”.

Bullinger also inserted a sub-section on “The source of the terms ‘old’ and ‘new’ covenant (folio 28b). After a brief consideration of Jeremiah 31:31,21, Ezekiel 36:26 and Galatians 4:24 he concludes, “…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 unnecessary things because 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 necessary things for salvation, but they arose as unchangeable things according to the time, the persons, and the circumstances. The covenant itself could easily continue without them”. Taken at face value it may seem to indicate here that Bullinger is seeing a sort of hiatus between the period of Abraham and that ushered in by the coming of Christ with respect to the law rather than an understanding of progressive revelation.

(see 'The One and Eternal Covenant of God' in An Everlasting Covenant: Biblical and Theological Essays in Honour of William J. Dumbrell (Reformed Theological Review Supplement Series #4, 2010) pp201-233)