The Zwinglian View of Interpretation

Ulrich Zwingli’s view of the Bible was influenced by his humanist philosophy that he “regarded as an aid to the study of the Bible.”[1] As a humanist and Christian, or a Christian humanist, Zwingli saw the authority of the Scriptures being “based on the call of the Renaissance: back to the sources.”[2] What Zwingli wanted to go “back to” was the “source,” which referred to the Bible as being the source of Christian faith.[3] In this, Zwingli dictated that the “Bible is the revelation of God.”[4] This logic helped influence Zwingli’s doctrine of the Spirit, which was not only something “lacking in Luther and the other Reformers [but sought to explain that] the truth is given to every individual always through the Holy Spirit, and this Spirit is present even if the word of the Bible is not present.”[5] Subsequently, Zwingli advocated seeking wisdom above what is written.[6] Still, as far as Zwingli was concerned, “[Christians] are not called upon to [make] any positive affirmations as to what God can do or may do, in extending mercy to individuals among men,”[7] but, rather, adhere to certain principles are they are clearly revealed to the Christian believer in Scripture.[8] In effect, Zwingli viewed the Scriptures as a means of God being able to communicate “general provisions God has made for saving [humankind] individually from their guilt and depravity.”[9] As a “medium of an external revelation,” Zwingli believed that the Bible impressed upon humankind’s heart, by God’s Spirit, “some knowledge of the only way of salvation through the Redeemer and a sacrifice”[10] as an imparted truth bound by faith in God as Judge of all the earth.[11]

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[1] John F. Hurst, Short History of the Christian Church (New York, NY: Harper and Brothers, 1900), 234.

[2] Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought: From Judaic and Hellenistic Origins to Existentialism (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1968), 257.

[3] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: Volume II: The Reformation to the Present Day (New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010), 62-63.

[4] Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought: From Judaic and Hellenistic Origins to Existentialism (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1968), 257.

[5] Ibid.

[6] William Cunningham, The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1967), 221.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

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