Zwingli: An Introduction to His Thought

Zwingli: An Introduction to His Thought

Zwingli: An Introduction to His Thought

Zwingli: An Introduction to His Thought


This book, by a leading Reformation scholar, is the only comprehensive introduction to Zwingli's thought for the student and general reader. In it Stephens discusses the main areas of debate in Zwingli studies and presents a variety of interpretations of his work. In the opening chapters, he places Zwingli in the context of Zurich and Switzerland in the sixteenth century, describes the various influences on Zwingli's development, and outlines his life and work as a reformer. The following two chapters introduce the main themes in Zwingli's thought, and these are related both to the life and work of the man himself as well as the views of other reformers. A final chapter considers Zwingli as a reformer and theologian, emphasizing, as Stephens does throughout the book, Zwingli's relevance today.


All figures in the past suffer from their interpreters, who too often see them as the embodiment or antithesis of their own position. Zwingli is no exception in this. He has in turn been welcomed as the liberal among the reformers or repudiated as the rationalist among them. He has been portrayed as the heroic Swiss patriot dying on the field of battle or dismissed as the preacher turned politician who took the sword and deservedly perished by it.

Zwingli has suffered also from historians who see the Reformation in terms of Luther and who measure every other reformer by him. They see Zwingli in terms of Luther, regarding him as a variant of Luther or, especially if they are Lutheran, as a deviant from him.

There is no final picture of Zwingli and his thought, even though some pictures have undoubtedly had their day. All presentations of Zwingli's thought are inevitably coloured by their authors' standpoint or starting-point and by the selection they make of Zwingli's works.

Thus, to take but one example, a writer's standpoint on the question of how and when Zwingli became a reformer will colour his presentation of Zwingli's thought. For some, Zwingli had essentially Erasmian views of reform until he read Luther. It was through Luther that he became a reformer. After that he was to be understood--as he was by Köhler--as a combination of Luther and Erasmus, a merging of the two streams of Christianity and classical antiquity, or--as he was by others--as a Lutheran reformer who became less Lutheran in the course of the 1520s.

For others, however, Zwingli became a reformer independently of Luther, influenced especially by Erasmus and Augustine, but influenced also by a range of factors and people in the way he developed as a reformer and theologian. In this approach Zwingli's relation to Luther is important but not all . . .

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