Ulrich (Huldrych) Zwingli (1484 – 1531)


-Appointed priest in Glarus (1506)

-Appointed “people’s priest” in Zurich (1519) – most influential religious position in the city

-Already influenced by the writings of Erasmus

- Spoke out against the indulgences

- 1521 – began reading the works of Luther

-Began advocating the sole authority of scripture; opposed cult of the saints, fasting, worship of Mary

-1523 – Zurich city officials adopted Zwingli’s reforms and became the first Protestant state outside of Germany


-Taught a true “sola scriputra” – scripture alone is the standard – a normative pattern for church life.

-Basic principle: if the Old or New Testament did not say something explicitly and literally, then Christians should not believe it or practice it.

-The ultimate authority would be the Christian community under the sole leadership of Christ and the divinely inspired scriptures.

-This authority is expressed through the civil government acting in agreement with scripture.


-The city council ordered a debate between Zwingli and the representatives of the Roman church (January 1523).

-Zwingli defended the following:

The Gospel derives no authority from the church.

Salvation is by faith alone.

Christ is the sole head of the Church.


-Denied: sacrificial character of the Mass, salvation by works, value of saintly intercessors, binding character of monastic vows, existence of purgatory

Advocated clerical marriage


-The city council declared Zwingli the victor and basically brought the German reformation to Zurich

-Another debate (October 1523) focused on the Mass and the use of images; Zwingli won this one as well. (Mass is not a sacrifice, Eucharist is a memorial, no images, no music)

-The city council voted, however, to make gradual changes: retained Latin Mass; quiet removal of images from cathedrals; priestly vestments no longer used; organs destroyed


-“. . . Everything that is added to the true institutions of Christ is an abuse. . . . The people must be educated in the Word of God so that neither vestments nor songs have a place (in the worship).”

-Conrad Grebel agreed with Zwingli: “Whatever we are not taught by clear passages or examples must be regarded as forbidden, just as if it were written: ’This do not; sing not.’”

-They advocated no audible singing (“sing and make melody in your hearts” – Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19).

-Zwingli taught that public worship should consist of:

Exposition of scripture by trained men

Individual private prayer

Observance of the Lord’s Supper

-Luther was not as strict; he retained much of the ceremonialism of the Church.

-By the end of 1524 even the monasteries were dissolved.

-1525, the Mass was abolished; a simple service in the vernacular was begun: removed pictures, statues, crucifixes, candles, other ornaments; walls were whitewashed, altars replaced with tables, organs torn apart.




Luther and Zwingli


-Agreed on a state Church, “people’s Church” (means as one is born into the state – into the Church also)

-Agreed on retaining infant baptism, but for different reasons:

          -Luther thought sacraments (baptism/Lord’s Supper) could generate faith.

-Zwingli did not find it in scripture, but thought it important that one be “born” into the state church.  The Church should encompass all the people in a given area.

-Disagreed on the Lord’s Supper

-Zwingli: elements symbolized the body & blood

-Luther: spiritual not physical transformation of the elements, Christ truly is present through them

-The relationship between the Word of God and the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper)

-Luther viewed the Word of God and the sacraments as inseparable.  Both mediate Christ’s power and presence.  Thus, they can create as well as demonstrate faith.

-Zwingli viewed the Word of God as creating faith and the sacraments as demonstrating faith.  Word and sacrament are distinct and the Word is greater than the sacraments (McGrath, Reformation Thought, 188).

- “This is my body”                                      “at the right hand of God”                 

          -Luther saw “is” as literal.          -Luther took it as metaphorical.

          -Zwingli saw “is” as metaphorical          -Zwingli took it as literal.


-The differences between the two leaders threatened any possible alliance.  In fact, it was threatening the alliance between Germany and Switzerland.

-Philip of Hesse (German) invited them to Marburg (October 1529) to discuss their differences and come to an agreement; didn’t work.

-Zwingli said Luther was still too Roman Catholic.

-Luther thought Zwingli was a religious fanatic that had lost touch with reality; said he was no Christian.

-The Swiss and German reformations went separate ways.


-The inability of Luther and Zwingli to agree illustrated a difficulty that would continue to plague the reformers:

“The exegetical optimism of the early Reformation may be regarded as foundering on this rock: Scripture, it seemed, was far from easy to interpret.” (McGrath, Reformation Thought, 189).


-Zwingli and Zurich made alliances with many other Swiss cities to spread the Reformation.

-Eventually war broke out between the reformed cities and the Roman supporters.

-The Roman supporters defeated many of the reformed cities.

- Zwingli died in battle; his body was burned and his ashes were mixed with dung to prevent people collecting them as religious relics.

-Zurich continued as reformed, led by Heinrich Bullinger.


-Now known as the “Reformed” tradition as opposed to “Lutheran”

-Zwingli encouraged other Swiss cities to join their Reformation, several did: Bern, Basel, Geneva (Calvin.)


Summary of Zwingli’s teachings:

The main theses he put forth were (1) that the church is born of the Word of God and has Christ alone as its head; (2) that its laws are binding only insofar as they agree with the Scripture; (3) that Christ alone is man's righteousness; (4) that the Holy Scripture does not teach Christ's corporeal presence in the bread and wine at the Lord's Supper; (5) that the mass is a gross affront to the sacrifice and death of Christ; (6) that there is no biblical foundation for the mediation or intercession of the dead, for purgatory, or for images and pictures; and (7) that marriage is lawful to all. With the friendly cantons of Basel and Bern, Zürich negotiated a Christian Civic Alliance (or League) based on the treaty by which Basel had been received into the Swiss confederacy but also including a common profession of faith.

From: http://www.hfac.uh.edu/gbrown/philosophers/leibniz/BritannicaPages/Zwingli/Zwingli.html



The Anabaptists


-Name given by opponents, to re-baptize; didn’t like the name, only one true baptism, as an adult believer

- preferred the term “Swiss Brethren”

-Began as a reaction against Zwingli in Zurich


-Conrad Grebel (1498-1526) from Zurich; layman

Friend of Zwingli and initially accepted his teachings; in time he disagreed with Zwingli:

Strict biblicism; opposition to infant baptism; distrust of state government; idea of a free, voluntary, confessional Church

He challenged Zwingli on infant baptism, but Zwingli would not budge; he was set on the commonwealth idea of Christianity (state-church).  This had been the dominant idea of the Church since the time of Constantine and Zwingli did not see a need for change.

Fundamental distinctive teachings:  Nature of the Church / Lord’s Supper

-The Church is made up of voluntary, committed, practicing believers rather than a “people’s Church” (inclusive state Church).  One is not born into the Church but is accepted on a profession of faith and a promise to lead a holy life (this is made at one’s baptism).

-The Lord’s Supper is a remembrance, a meal of fellowship- symbol of unity.  It is not to be celebrated in a church building because it might encourage “false devotion.”  It is to be shared in homes in the evening (following Christ’s example) [Grimm, The Reformation Era, 218]

Debated Zwingli on infant baptism (and the nature of the Church) January 17, 1525

The city council declared Zwingli the winner; Grebel and Manz were forbidden to speak further in public about these issues.  Furthermore, anyone who did not have their infants baptized within 8 days would be banned from the city. 

January 21, 1525 – they gathered at the house of Felix Manz’s mother (in Zurich) and discussed the situation further.  Grebel baptized Georg Blaurock (a former priest) who then baptized all the others present (sprinkled/poured).  Within a week 35 of the group had been baptized.  The first Anabaptist congregation was thus started.

 January 30 – Manz and Blaurock and 35 others were arrested.  The city council brought Zwingli and others to debate again and try to convince them of their errors.  Most were released; some held longer, but released within a month.  The Anabaptists continued to teach their beliefs and the council initiated a series of persecutions, which only helped to spread the movement.


-Felix Manz (1498-1527) a priest in Zurich

Followed Zwingli except on Baptism (sprinkling/pouring, immersion), state-church.

They said he was inconsistent on Baptism.

Had their own Bible studies; concluded baptism was for adult believers.

They were brought before the city council and ordered to stop having their own meetings.

Ordered to baptize their infants or leave town.

They decided to continue teaching adult, believer’s baptism; practiced sprinkling at first then immersion.

Opposed close connection between state & church.

Manz was drowned by order of the city council.

Many others drowned; many burned at the stake.

50,000 were executed in 1535.


-General teachings of the Anabaptists


Return to simplicity of the early church

Some lived in communes.

Rejected authority of the state – as citizens of the Kingdom of God they rejected the state

Some practiced a radical egalitarianism – all are equal; poor & uneducated are equal to the rich & educated; women and men are equal.

Some called each other “brethren” to distinguish from others called Christian by being born in a Christian state.


Menno Simons
1496 - 1561

-Ordained a Catholic priest at Utrecht, 1524 (Netherlands)

-Questioned transubstantiation early in his priesthood, after he began studying scripture seriously.

-He heard of someone being beheaded for being baptized a second time – so he studied the NT and could not find infant baptism; rejected it.

-Also studied the church fathers, Luther, Bucer, Bullinger (other reformers)

“When I noticed from all these that writers varied so greatly among themselves, each following his own wisdom, then I realized that we were deceived in regard to infant baptism.”

-300 Anabaptists, including Menno’s brother, were killed on one occasion; this caused Menno to search even more seriously for the truth

-Further executions along with his search convicted him of what he had accepted intellectually.

-Tried preaching his new ideas to his Catholic parish.

-He joined the Anabaptists that same year, 1536.


-The Church offered pardons to anyone who would deliver Menno – no takers

-Menno worked in Groningen, Friesland, Amsterdam

-Wrote several books:

*      Christian Baptism (1539)

*      Foundation of Doctrine (1540)

*      True Christian Faith (1541)

-Went to N. Germany; more tolerant there

-Died after a brief illness, buried in his own garden


Jacob Hutter (d. 1536)

-Swiss pastor who fled to Moravia to join the Anabaptists

-Reorganized a “Bruderhof” (communal living) in Auspitz

-The incident at Munster (Melchiorites) had made the authorities determined to get rid of the Anabaptists    (Some radical Anabaptists forcefully took over Munster, the new Jerusalem, while awaiting the return of Christ)

-Hutter had become the main leader of the Anabaptists.

-Hutter was arrested; authorities tried to force him to recant his ideas

-Hutter was burned at the stake, Feb. 2, 1536

-His followers adopted his name, Hutterites

-His death inspired many to become missionaries

80% of the missionaries were killed; continued to spread rapidly












Reformers and Anabaptists


*      Rejected sacramentalism (only two)

*      Rejected distinction between clergy & laity

*      Rejected ritualism

*      Emphasis on grace in justification

*      Emphasis on priesthood of all believers



*      Baptism

*      Infant vs believer, disciple

*      The Church

*      State Church vs independent

*      Eucharist

*      Real presence vs symbolic, memorial


Four Main Characteristics of Anabaptists (Shelley, 253-5)

*      Discipleship

*      Transformation of one’s daily life

*      Love – Pacifists – Peace – Communal living – Redistribution of wealth

*      Congregational view of church authority

*      Separation of Church and State


Reform            vs             Restitution

Cluny                                        Waldo

Wyclif                                       Bohemian Brethren




Zwingli                                     Anabaptists


Anglican                                   Puritans




(One of four main branches of the Reformation)

Reformers                                                        Restitutionists

Lutheran                                                           Anabaptist

Reformed (Zwingli, Calvin, John Knox)