Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Martin Bucer: A Reformer and His Times

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Martin Bucer: A Reformer and His Times

Article excerpt

Martin Bucer: A Reformer and His Times. By Martin Greschat. Translated by Stephen E. Buckwalter. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004. xii + 340 pp. $34.95 (paper).

Published originally in German in 1990, this excellent translation and update of Greschat s important work has finally been made available in English. This translation includes an additional chapter that summarizes Bucer research since the German edition was published. Involved in the preparation of a critical edition of Bucer s work, Greschat ably places Bucer s work in its historical and political context. Greschat leads the reader through Bucer's life (1491-1551), beginning with his desire for learning as a youth, his development as a reformer in Strasbourg and later champion of the reformation in Europe, ending with his exile and move to England.

Three things stand out in Greschats work: first, while Bucer, unlike many of the other reformers, came from the lower classes, he did not rally against the nobility or challenge the civil authorities. Rather, Bucer had a very strong sense of the place of, and need for, civil authorities. He constantly called on them to exercise "Christian discipline." Thus, while the Lutherans noted two marks of the church, preaching the gospel and administering the sacraments, Bucer added a third; namely, discipline (p. 241). To his dismay, however, while the civil authorities insisted on the right to impose discipline, it was never exercised.

Second, Bucer was consistently treated, for much of his life, as the "underdog" or "unheralded" reformer, often overshadowed by others, such as Zwingli, Luther, Calvin, Bullinger, Sturm, or ZeIl. Strasbourg, where the supporters of Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin were proclaiming their views alongside the voices of the enthusiasts and the emerging Anabaptists, was the ideal location for Bucer. There he was in the very midst of the controversy about the shape which reformed church and society ought to take. …

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