Ulrich Zwingli: Swiss Reformer Page 4 | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Foundations of the Faith

Portrait of Ulrich Zwingli, from Theodore Beza's Icones, 1580. [CR GU4 B46i]

Ordained as a priest in 1506, Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531) was a devoted admirer of Desiderius Erasmus. He used the Dutch humanist’s 1516 edition of the Greek New Testament to enrich his knowledge of the original text. Unlike Martin Luther, Zwingli experienced no acute religious crisis--he became a reformer through his studies.  A dominant political as well as ecclesiastical force in Switzerland, Zwingli is considered to be one of the more liberal Reformers.

Page from Uplegen und Gruend der Schluszreden. Zurich: Christopher Froschower, 1523. Click for full image.

In 1518, Zwingli was elected preacher at the Minster in Zurich, Switzerland. The start of the Swiss Reformation is credited to Zwingli’s sermons on the New Testament, which he preached in 1519. In 1523, before the Council of Zurich, Zwingli presented and defended his doctrines in a public disputation. His theses included establishing the Bible as the sole basis of truth and rejecting the authority of the Pope, the Mass, saints, fasting, and clerical celibacy. Supported by the city council, Zwingli’s church reforms were rapidly put into effect. Zwingli developed his characteristic interpretation of the sacraments in a series of published sermons that contributed to the development of a Reformed theology. In 1524-25, Zwingli began to develop a purely symbolic interpretation of the Eucharist, producing a series of writings against Martin Luther’s doctrine of consubstantiation.

Page from Eyn kurtze Klaresum und Erklaerung des Christenen gloubes. Zurich: Christopher Froschower, 1532. Click for full image.