The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2


CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Swiss Reformers Parallel German Interpretations

I. Zwingli and Juda Hold Similar Views on Antichrist

A different path was marked out for the Reformation in Switzerland, where it spread rapidly. The Swiss Republic had gained its liberty at great sacrifice, and the University of Basel soon became the stronghold of the new learning. In 1505-1507 Thomas Wyttenbach (1472-1526) had already fought against certain doctrines of the church. Later Capito preached on Romans in Basel, and in 1514 Erasmus also made Basel his headquarters, but he did not reside there permanently until 1521. Among these Reformers was HULDREICH (ULRICH) ZWINGLI (1484-1531), who received a strong urge to study the Word in the original tongues. PFF2 333.1

Born at Wildhaus, Zwingli was educated at Berne, the University of Vienna, and at Basel, there studying theology under Wyttenbach. After teaching for three years he was appointed a priest in 1506 in Glarus. His duties as army chaplain with the Swiss guards who fought for the pope brought him to the battlefields of Italy, where he had ample time to observe the variances between professed and practical Christianity. Here he began to preach fearlessly the simple teachings of Jesus. From the very beginning he made it his principle not to cause offense by harmful polemics but to fight error by preaching positive truth. PFF2 333.2

When he had to leave Glarus in 1516, he was cordially received in the monastery of Einsiedeln, famous for its shrine, to which people flocked from far and near. Here, too, he preached the simple gospel. He tried to reach the highest authorities in the church by word and pen, in order to induce them to begin reforms. Therefore, when Zwingli raised his voice with all his power against the seller of indulgences who came to Switzerland in the autumn of 1518, no reproach fell upon him. In the same year he was called to become preacher at Zurich, where his sermons caused many to change their evil habits of life. PFF2 333.3

The main topic of his preaching in 1522 was the supremacy and sufficiency of the Bible. God alone, the Father of Jesus Christ, should be our teacher, not doctors and priests, or popes and councils. Upon the Word alone we have to build our faith. He prepared sixty-seven theses for a public discussion held on January 29, 1523. Every one of these theses was built on sure Scriptural ground. Faith in the gospel of Christ is the only condition to salvation; and Christ, the eternal High Priest, the only mediator between God and men. The papal party was unable to furnish Scriptural proof either for the intercession of saints or for celibacy, the points specially discussed. Thereupon the magistrate of the city of Zurich resolved that Master Zwingli should continue to preach and to introduce reforms, and that all other preachers should proclaim only what they were able to substantiate from Scripture. 1 PFF2 334.1


Perhaps the most interesting chapter which throws light upon Zwingli’s attitude toward the Papacy, we find in his treatise Ueber die wahren Aufruhrer (Against the True Inciters of Sedition). It appeared on December 28, 1524, and was directed against the machinations of Rome as well as against the riotous behavior of the Anabaptists, who caused Zwingli no end of trouble. He writes: PFF2 334.2

“Wherever envy and hatred are found, there is also found the rock of the old Adam. And as Proverbs 10. [12] says: Hatred stirreth up strifes, [therefore] if they do not know better than to speak scornfully against the Papacy and to spread its deceit, they are to be rebuked for not working on their own improvement. Not because they do any injustice to the Papacy, for I know that in it works the might and power of the Devil, that is, of the Antichrist. Yet I cannot approve their proclaiming of the Word of God solely because of their hatred against the Pope. I desire much more that the love of God would be their motive in resisting Antichrist, and to lessen the burdens of their neighbors.” 2 PFF2 334.3

“If we would live Christ like, everybody would fall away from Popedom, because they would recognize that nothing else than deceitful pomp stands behind it. [In this spirit] everything undertaken toward its fall will succeed. And I request that we break the might of the Papacy not by the power of hate, but by the power of love to God and to our neighbor.” 3 PFF2 335.1

“You are protecting all this disorder, this most wicked profession, this antichristian Papacy, although you see the bright shining light and perceive that all nations rejoice that the wickedness of the harlot, who deceived everybody, has been revealed.” 4 PFF2 335.2

“The Papacy has to be abolished or it conceals itself until it suppresses again the gospel. But by no other means can it be more thoroughly routed than by the word of God (2 Thessalonians 2), because as soon as the world receives this [the word of God] in the right way, it will turn away from the pope without compulsion.” 5 PFF2 335.3

Zwingli did not base his ideas concerning the Papacy upon the Apocalypse, because he did not regard this book as apostolic and did not use it for prophetic evidence. 6 PFF2 335.4

LEO JUDA (Jud) (1482-1542) was also first influenced by Wyttenbach at the University of Basel, and became an intimate friend of Zwingli. Zwingli, after being established in Zurich, called this friend to him, and Juda arrived there in 1523. His relationship to Zwingli was somewhat similar to that of Melanchthon to Luther. During the years 1524-1529 he did the main work in translating the Bible into German, which was printed at Froschauer’s well-known press. He also translated the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin. PFF2 335.5

2. JUDA-ROME FULFILLS Revelation 13 and 17

Leo Juda’s quaintly worded Paraphrase Upon the Revelation of S. John interprets the second beast of Revelation 13 as the “kingdome of papacie” taking upon itself “all the power of the ... romyshe Emperour” in persecuting the saints. Revelation 17 portrays the same power as the scarlet woman of Babylon, to be “throwen downe” at the judgment, in the conflict between “Christ and antichrist.” 7 PFF2 335.6


The genuine Reformation in Switzerland produced the first Helvetic Confession, drawn up at Basel by the Reformed theologians in 1536. Accepted and signed by the Reformed cantons and towns, it was sent to the Lutheran leaders assembled at Schmalkalden, in 1537. In both the Helvetic Confession and the Schmalkaldic Articles the Papacy is condemned as the predicted Antichrist. 8 PFF2 336.1

It is also to be noted that there was now a marked tendency to defend the Reformation positions (1) by citing reforming Catholics from the Council of Rheims (991) onward; (2) by appealing to the witness of early Christian fathers before the great Roman apostasy became pronounced; and (3) by citing later dissentients—such pre-Reformation witnesses as the Waldenses of Piedmont, the Wyclifites of England, and the Hussites of Bohemia. PFF2 336.2