Monday, June 15, 2009

Luther: "Zwingli's death proved I'm right and he's wrong"

Here's the third installment of "Helping Matthew Bellisario Do Research."

Sometimes even when Matthew Bellisario is almost right, he's right for the wrong reasons. Matthew states,

"Scripture Alone was a great system for Luther until someone disagreed with his interpretation, as we can see from above. Luther also fought Zwingli over the words of Christ in the Gospel of John chapter 6 regarding the Eucharist. Zwingli argued to take Christ's words only symbolically or to be taken as "in the mind of the believer" while Luther claimed that the correct interpretation was that of "consubstantiation". They both disagreed on a fundamental interpretation of Scripture. This is a fact. Luther hated Zwingli so much that when Zwingli was killed in battle he said, 'he got what he deserved.... His death proved I'm right and he's wrong;.."[source].

What Mr. Bellisario doesn't tell you is that at the Marburg Colloquy in 1529, where Luther and Zwingli met face to face, Luther and Zwingli agreed on 14 articles of doctrine. They disagreed on point 15: The Lord’s Supper. We could apply the same reasoning to the Canon at the Council of Trent. Not all in attendance held the apocrypha was canonical scripture, therefore, certainty by council is a failure.

I'd like though to focus on the Luther quote. Zwingli died October 11, 1531 in battle. There's really no debate that Luther disliked Zwingli. That he died in battle could have provoked such a negative comment from Luther. Go ahead though and Google search Matthew's 'he got what he deserved.... His death proved I'm right and he's wrong' - you'll get a few different hits, and one of them is Matthew's blog. Matthew didn't get it from the Luther or Zwingli entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia, and I'm fairly certain we can rule out he actually read Luther and mined out this quote. The other Google hit was to this page, which provides no documentation, nor is it in any way close to a primary source.

The quote, if it exists at all (and I'm tempted to say it does not), sounds suspiciously like a Tabletalk comment. So... off to the LW Tabletalk we go:

No. 1451: Zwingli, Too, May Be Saved by God (Between April 7 and May 1, 1532)
“Zwingli drew his sword. Therefore he has received the reward that Christ spoke of, ‘All who take the sword will perish by the sword’ [Matt. 26:52]. If God has saved him, he has done so above and beyond the rule."

No. 94: God’s Punishment of the Godless (Early November, 1531)
“When I was in Coburg these comments about adversaries taught me the meaning of the words in the Decalogue, ‘I the Lord your God am a jealous God.’ It is not so much a cruel punishment of adversaries as it is a necessary defense of ourselves. They say that Zwingli recently died thus; if his error had prevailed, we would have perished, and our church with us. It was a judgment of God. That was always a proud people. The others, the papists, will probably also be dealt with by our Lord God.

No. 157: Luther Stricken with a Sudden Illness (January 22, 1532)
When he overheard us say that if he died it would give great satisfaction among the papists, he said confidently, “But I am not going to die now. I know this of a certainty. For God will not strengthen the papistic superstition through my death so shortly after the death of Zwingli and Oecolampadius. God will not give them [the papists] such an occasion for rejoicing. To be sure, Satan would gladly kill me if he could. Every moment he is pressing me, is treading on my heels. Yet what he wishes will not be done, but what God wills.”

From the On-Line edition of the Tabletalk:

DCCLVII. I wish from my heart Zwinglius could be saved, but I fear the contrary; for Christ has said that those who deny him shall be damned. God's judgment is sure and certain, and we may safely pronounce it against all the ungodly, unless God reserve unto himself a peculiar privilege and dispensation. Even so, David from his heart wished that his son Absalom might be saved, when he said: 'Absalom my son, Absalom my son;' yet he certainly believed that he was damned, and bewailed him, not only that he died corporally, but was also lost everlastingly; for he knew that he had died in rebellion, in incest, and that he had hunted his father out of the kingdom.

The only thing even similar to Matthew's bogus quote comes from Roman Catholic historian, Hartmann Grisar:

Luther was in high glee when news of Zwingli's death reached him. He said: "God knows the thoughts of the heart. It is well that Zwingli, Carlstadt, and Pellicanus lie dead on the battle-field, for otherwise we could not have retained the Landgrave, Strasburg and other of our neighbours [true to our doctrine]. Oh, what a triumph is this, that they have perished! God indeed knows His business well." "Zwingli died like a brigand," he said later, when scarcely a year had elapsed since his death. " He wished to force others to accept his errors, went to war, and was slain." " He drew the sword, therefore he has received his reward, for Christ says: 'All who take the sword shall perish by the sword.' If God has saved him, then He did so contrary to His ordinary ways." "All seek to cloak their deceitful doctrines with the name of the Evangel," so he exclaims in 1532. [source]

"High glee"? That's Grisar's interpretation. As to the first quote, "God knows the thoughts of the heart. It is well that Zwingli...etc." Grisar says it's from "Schlaginhaufen, Aufzeichnungen, p. 1." The word "Schlaginhaufen" is actually a name, John Schlaginhaufen. He was one of the compilers of The Tabletalk. Schlaginhaufen was responsible for the entries 1232 to 1889 in WA, TR 2. They were published for the first time in 1888 by Wilhelm Preger. The entries date from 1531 to 1532. LW states, "Nothing more is known about him until he appears in November, 1531, as one of the young men who lived in Luther’s home and ate at his table." The source Grisar probably used was: Tischreden Luthers aus den Jahren 1531 und 1532 nach den Aufzeichnungen von Johann Schlaginhaufen. Aus einer Münchner Handschrift herausgegeben von Wilhelm Preger (Leipzig: Dörffling & Franke, 1888). The entry as reported by Schlaginhaufen does contain error "Carlstadt, and Pellicanus lie dead on the battle-field" was incorrect. These men did not die in the battle with Zwingli. The particular quote used by Grisar from this edition of the Tabletalk is not available in English.

The other quotes cited by Grisar appear to be Tabletalk entries as well, very similar to the ones I posted above. So, what we have documenting Luther's views on the death of Zwingli are a bunch of quotes from the Tabletalk. That Luther did not mourn the death of Zwingli is probably true. That Catholics, even smart ones like Grisar mine the Tabletalk endlessly and use such descriptive terms as "High glee" do nothing more than poison the well against their arch rival. Take a moment to compare Grisar's quotes with the Tabletalk entries provided above, and ask if Grisar has given an accurate picture of Luther from the Tabletalk.

As to Mr. Bellisario, his historical analysis says that the battle over the meaning of John 6 between Luther and Zwingli provoked Luther to say at Zwingli's death, "'he got what he deserved.... His death proved I'm right and he's wrong." If this is the way Catholics "do" history, Catholic apologetics is in deeper trouble than I previously thought.

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