« Buttz, Henry Anson Butzer, Martin Buxtorf »

Butzer, Martin


Early Activity in the Protestant cause (§ 1).

The Reformation in Strasburg (§ 2).

Endeavors to Reconcile Luther and Zwingli (§ 3).

The Wittenberg Concord (§ 4).

Critique of Butzer's Attitude in the Controversy (§ 5).

Butzer in England (§ 6).

Death of Butzer (§ 7).

1. Early Activity in the Protestant Cause.

Martin Butzer (Bucer) was born at Schlettstadt (26 m. s.w. of Strasburg) Nov. 11, 1491; d. at Cambridge, Eng., Feb. 28, 1551. He received his first education at the excellent Latin school of his native town, and in 1506 joined the order of the Dominicans. In 1517 he was at Heidelberg, where he studied the writings of the humanists, the Bible, and also the writings of Luther, whose personal acquaintance he made in 1518 and with whom he began to correspond in 1520. Being suspected by his order and accused at Rome, Butzer, who favored the evangelical cause, left the monastery in 1520 to avoid further difficulties, and became an associate of Hutten and Sickingen. The latter called him in 1522 to the pastorate of Landstuhl, and in the same year he married, being one of the first priests to break his vow of celibacy. When Sickingen was defeated by the elector of Treves, however, Butzer had to leave the city, and for a year he acted as evangelical preacher at Wissenburg in Alsace, supported by the council and citizens, but attacked by the Franciscan monks. In 1523 he went to Strasburg, where the Reformation, prepared in different ways, was already in progress. Together with Zell, Capito, and Hedio, Butzer became the soul of the Strasburg Reformation, and by preaching and writing, by letters and journeys, and by personal relations with ecclesiastics and statesmen, he exerted a reformatory and organizing activity, not only in Alsace but also in different countries. He was pastor of St. Aurelia 1524–31, and pastor of St. Thomas 1531–40, having already become in 1530 president of the newly founded church council which was the supreme ecclesiastical authority in Strasburg.

2. The Reformation in Strasburg.

As spiritual spokesman of the Strasburg citizens, who were eager for the Reformation, and as leader of the evangelical ministers, he appeared before the council, which proceeded cautiously and advisedly. He accomplished the abolition of the mass on Feb. 20, 1529, by a decree of the lay assessors, and thus the introduction of the Reformation into the free imperial city Strasburg was made a matter of history. But long before this the reorganization of the divine service and of ecclesiastical life began. Butzer's Ordnung und Inhalt deutscher Messe (1524) was typical of the Reformed order of worship. He devoted special attention to catechetics and published three catechisms between 1524 and 1544, while by the church ordinance of 1534 he introduced the lay presbytery into Strasburg, and in 1539 he inaugurated confirmation in the same city. Together with his friend Johannes Sturm, he laid the foundations of the Protestant educational system in Strasburg, founding the gymnasium in 1538, and the seminary in 1544. In the interest of ecclesiastical discipline he energetically opposed the Anabaptists and such radicals as Carlstadt, Hetzer, Denk, Sebastian Frank, Schwenckfeld, Melchior Hofmann, and Clemens Ziegler.

Outside of Strasburg Butzer brought about the introduction of the Reformation into Hanau-Lichtenberg (1544), while Württemberg, Baden, and especially Hesse owed him much. For the elector of Cologne, Archbishop Hermann of Wied, Butzer, together with Melanchthon, composed an order of reformation (1543). His influence even reached as far as Belgium, Italy, and France.

3. Endeavors to Reconcile Luther and Zwingli.

Butzer's activity in ecclesiastical organization is treated too lightly in most works on church history, which lay their main stress on his efforts toward a union of the two main streams of the Reformation, and especially on his endeavors to reconcile Luther and Zwingli in the eucharistic controversy, which significantly interrupted the course of the main events in the period of the Reformation. When Carlstadt had to leave Strasburg in 1524, Butzer addressed a writing to Luther in the name of the Strasburg ministers, is which he and they expressed their position in regard to 323Carlstadt. Concerning the sacrament of the altar, they taught that the bread is the body of Christ and the wine his blood, but that greater importance should be attached to the commemoration of the death of Jesus than to the question what one eats and drinks. At first Luther answered reassuringly, but in his work Wider die himmlischen Propheten (1525) he attacked the Strasburg theologians. The latter sent an envoy to appease Luther, but he emphasized the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper more than ever, and gave the Strasburgers to understand that they should not be deceived by the light of reason. The Strasburgers now saw themselves driven more and more to the side of the Swiss, so far as the doctrine of the sacrament was concerned. At the Disputation of Bern in 1528 Butzer made the personal acquaintance of Zwingli, with whom he had been corresponding since 1523. Luther again attacked his opponents in his Grosses Bekenntnis vom Abendmahl (1528), but Butzer did not lose hope of coming to an understanding by a personal interview. Together with the landgrave Philip of Hesse, who was animated by the same interest in the union and agreement of the Protestants, he brought about the religious conference of Marburg in 1529. Concerning the question whether the true body and blood of Christ are actually present in the bread and wine, no agreement could be reached; nevertheless, each party was to show Christian love toward the other, so far as the conscience of each allowed. Butzer visited Luther at Coburg in Sept., 1530, and received the promise to examine a new confession which Butzer intended to prepare. Butzer now endeavored to induce the Protestants, at least in southern Germany, to prepare a declaration which should approximately satisfy Luther, since the Swiss opposed every further advance, an additional incentive being the threatening attitude of the emperor toward the Protestants at this time.

4. The Wittenberg Concord.

The outcome of these endeavors was the Wittenberg Concord, which was agreed upon with Luther in 1536 by a delegation of Upper German theologians under the direction of Butzer. In this Concord the concession was made to Luther that the body and the blood of Christ are truly and essentially present with the bread and with the wine and are so given and received, the only modification being that the unworthy, but not the unholy, actually receive the body of the Lord. By this agreement a certain sort of theological understanding was reached between Luther and the South Germans, but the rupture between Butzer and the Swiss was accomplished.

5. Critique of Butzer's Attitude in the Controversy.

Whatever views be held of Butzer's efforts for union, especially in the eucharistic controversy, his honest intention and his unselfish zeal to serve the Church are beyond all question. His diplomatic tactics were not always such as to inspire confidence, and they gave offense to other parties besides Luther. Butzer himself felt it afterward and honestly acknowledged that he had not always interfered in a discreet manner. The whole subject of controversy was of less interest for Butzer than for Luther, hence Butzer's readiness to make concessions and ever new formularizations. The real success of his endeavors was that the South Germans were not only induced to make common political cause with the North Germans, but were also drawn into the communion of Lutheranism, in spite of their peculiar doctrine of the Lord's Supper. The fact that Melanchthon, influenced partly by Butzer, took an intermediate position, and was thus drawn nearer to Calvin, was also far-reaching in its importance for the future formation of the Evangelical Church in Germany. The outcome of the Schmalkald War and the defeat of the Protestants (1547) gave the emperor power to settle the religious troubles by the Augsburg Interim (see Interim) in 1548, which was accepted by the majority of the intimidated diet and was to be forced upon the city of Strasburg. This was most energetically opposed by Butzer and his younger colleague, Paul Fagius, on the ground of the Romanizing character of the document. But when the council, yielding to the force of circumstances, accepted the Interim, Butzer perceived that he could remain in Strasburg no longer, and he accepted a call to England, whither he had been invited, together with Fagius, by Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, the soul of the Reformation in England.

6. Butzer in England.

In Apr., 1549, both arrived at London, and were met by Cranmer and King Edward VI. The king wished them to translate the Bible from the original into Latin, this version being intended to serve as the basis of an English version for the people. The work was commenced at once. At the end of the summer of 1549 Butzer and Fagius were to go to Cambridge as teachers and assist in the education of candidates for the ministry. Fagius arrived first, but died of a slow fever (Nov., 1549). In Jan., 1550, Butzer commenced his lectures at Cambridge, which were attended by large crowds of students, some of whom afterward exercised a powerful influence in the Anglican Church. Butzer was directed to examine the Book of Common Prayer, and was thus led into a public disputation held on Aug. 8, 1550, to expose the opposition of the English bishops (who still leaned toward Rome) to evangelical principles and innovations. At the request of the young king, Butzer wrote his De regno Christi, which he prepared in less than three months. This work was intended to teach the true nature of God's kingdom and the means by which it might be realized in earthly form in a country like England. This work was Butzer's last.

7. Death of Butzer.

Scarcely had the king expressed his warm approval and the university conferred the degree of doctor of divinity unconditionally, a thing which never happened before, when Butzer died after a short illness. He was buried with great honor in the principal church at Cambridge; but in 1556 his body was exhumed and publicly burnt. Four years 324afterward, however, Queen Elizabeth again honored his memory.

Paul Gruenberg.

Bibliography: A complete collection of Butzer's works has never been made, that begun by his associate K. Hubert never getting beyond the first volume, Basel, 1577 (known as Tomus Anglicanus because it contained mostly writings published in England). A bibliography of Butzer's published works and literature about him was issued by F. Mentz and A. Erichson in Vierhundertjährige Geburtsfeier M. Butzer's, Strasburg, 1891. Consult: J. W. Baum, Capito und Butzer, Strassburgs Reformatoren, Elberfeld, 1860 (from the sources); I. B. Rady, Die Reformatoren in ihrer Beziehung zur Doppelehe des Landgrafen Philipp, Frankfort, 1890; C. Conrad, Martin Butzer, Strasburg, 1891; A. Erichson, Die calvinistische und die Altstrassburger Gottesdienstordnung, ib. 1894; H. von Schubert, in Beiträge zur Reformationsgeschichte, pp. 192–228, Gotha, 1896; A. Ernst and J. Adam, Katechetische Geschichte des Elsasses bis zur Reformation, pp. 42–72, Strasburg, 1897; F. Hubert, Strassburger Katechismen aus den Tagen der Reformation, in ZKG, xx. (1899) 395–413; A. Lang, Der Evangelienkommentar Butzers und die Grundzüge seiner Theologie, in Studien zur Geschichte der Theologie und Kirche, vol. ii., Leipsic, 1900; S. M. Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli, passim, New York, 1903; J. Kostlin, Martin Luther, ed. G. Kawerau, passim, 2 vols., Berlin, 1903; J. M. Reu, Quellen zur Geschichte des kirchlichen Unterrichts, Gütersloh, 1904; J. Ficker, Thesaurus Baumianus, Strasburg, 1905; Moeller, Christian Church, vol. iii., passim; Schaff, Christian Church, vol. vi., passim.

« Buttz, Henry Anson Butzer, Martin Buxtorf »
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