Bullinger, Heinrich (1504–1575)

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BULLINGER, HEINRICH (15041575), Swiss reformer, theologian, and church leader. Born in Bremgarten, the son of a priest, Bullinger was educated at Emmerich, where he came under the lasting influence of the Brethren of the Common Life. His move, at age fifteen, to the university at Cologne exposed him more fully to humanism and the study of the church fathers. He returned to his native land in 1523 to become a teacher at the Cistercian monastery at Kappel, southwest of Zurich. Education and its provision were to be lifelong concerns for Bullinger, and in the 1520s he sought to reform the monastery along humanist lines. During this period he became acquainted with the Swiss theologian and reformer Huldrych Zwingli. From 1529 to 1531, during the height of Zwingli's influence in Zurich, Bullinger was the preacher in his native Bremgarten. A military force from Zurich, accompanied by Zwingli as chaplain, was surprised and defeated at Kappel by an army from the central cantons of the Swiss Confederation, also known as the Five Forest Cantons. Zwingli was killed in the battle (11 October 1531). Following the defeat at Kappel and Zwingli's death, Catholic forces expelled the evangelicals from Bremgarten, and Bullinger arrived in Zurich as a refugee. His teaching, writing, and preaching had already earned him a formidable reputation, and in 1531 he received separate calls to head the churches of Berne, Basle, and Zurich. Out of loyalty to Zurich, he accepted a call from the Council was elected head of the church on 13 December 1531.

After Zwingli's death Bullinger had to reconstruct the institutional basis of the Zurich church. This required him to balance conflicting principles. First, the Zurich magistrates and population were no longer prepared to tolerate an independent clergy who used sola scriptura ('Scripture alone', that is, the authority of the Bible as superior to all other authorities), to force political agendas contrary to will of the peoplesuch as Zwingli's war against the Catholics in 1531. Yet Bullinger was not prepared to lead a church in which the clergy were not free to preach God's Word. The compromise, which shaped Bullinger's tenure as leader of the Zurich church, was built around an agreement that the council would give Bullinger a relatively free hand in running the church as long as he controlled the clergy and prevented them from either preaching on political matters or causing scandal through their sermons or in their personal lives. The agreement worked because Bullinger was trusted by the political leaders, with whom he had strong personal contacts, and, with few exceptions, contentious issues were hammered out behind closed doors.

Bullinger was a prodigious theologian, preacher, and historian. He regularly preached two or three times a week, and many of his sermons were printed. As a theologian, his central concern was to demonstrate that the Reformed Church stood in line with the teachings of the early church. In the Zurich tradition, his theology was directed toward pastoral application, emphasized the clarity of Scripture and the role of the Spirit, and drew heavily from the Old Testament. He stressed the practical nature of Christianity and the doing of good works, although he did not accord them a salvific role. Bullinger saw himself primarily as an expositor of Scripture, and most of his major works took the form of sermons or biblical commentaries (The Decades, Sermons on Revelation). On the matter of the Eucharist he remained close to Zwingli, but the influence of Johannes Oecolampadius (14821531) and Philipp Melanchthon (14971560) is now recognized in his writings. He worked closely with John Calvin (15091564) and played a crucial role in the latter's return to Geneva. Their relationship was not especially warm, but they understood the necessity of cooperation, as evidenced by their statement on the Lord's Supper of 1549 (Consensus Tigurinus).

Bullinger was committed to building the wider European community of the Reformed churches. The word "Reformed" was crucial as he had little faith that there would be reconciliation with Luther or Lutheran theology. The seismic split between Luther and Zwingli dominated Bullinger's life as head of the Zurich church. There were sporadic attempts at reconciliation, and Bullinger did have good relations with men such as Melanchthon, but he felt honor bound to defend his predecessor. In contrast, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Reform movements in Eastern Europe, France, Italy, and, most famously, England. His surviving correspondence of around twelve thousand letters bears witness to his work on behalf of the international Reformationall the more remarkable for a man who almost never ventured outside the walls of Zurich.

As leader of the Zurich church, Bullinger gathered in the city a group of humanists (Konrad Pellikan, Theodor Bibliander, Conrad Gessner) whose work on Scripture, history, education, and natural science made Zurich an intellectual center for Reformed Protestantism. Bullinger's own contribution, not sufficiently recognized, was as a historian. In addition, Bullinger's Zurich was also a center for religious refugees from Italy, France, Netherlands, and England. Bullinger stood at the center of this international communication system and was in his day a leading figure of the European Reformation.

See also Calvin, John ; Luther, Martin ; Melanchthon, Philipp ; Reformation, Protestant ; Zurich ; Zwingli, Huldrych.


Bächtold, Hans Ulrich. Heinrich Bullinger vor dem Rat: Zur Gestaltung und Vewaltung des Zürcher Staatswesens in den Jahren 1531 bis 1575. Berne, 1982.

Baker, Wayne J. Heinrich Bullinger and the Covenant; The Other Reformed Tradition. Athens, Ohio, 1980.

Biel, Pamela. Doorkeepers at the House of Righteousness: Heinrich Bullinger and the Zurich Clergy, 15351575. Berne, 1991.

Gordon, Bruce. "Heinrich Bullinger." In The Reformation Theologians, edited by Carter Lindberg, pp. 170183. Oxford, 2002.

Gordon, Bruce, and Emidio Campi, eds. Heinrich Bullinger (15041575) and the Formation of the Reformed Tradition. Grand Rapids, Mich., 2004.

Bruce Gordon

Bullinger, Heinrich

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Swiss Reformer, successor to Huldrych zwingli; b. Bremgarten, Swiss Canton of Aargau, July 18, 1504; d. Zurich, Sept. 17, 1575. Bullinger's early schooling with the Brethren of the Common Life at Emmerich was followed by a humanistic training at the University of Cologne. His acceptance by the humanistic circle there brought him under the influence of Erasmus and of the new Reformation ideas of Calvin, Luther, and Melanchthon. Dissatisfaction with scholasticism led him to the critical study of the Scriptures, Origen, Ambrose, Augustine, and John Chrysostom. Upon his return to Switzerland, he taught at the Cistercian monastery near Cappel (152329). In 1528 he heard Zwingli preach at Zurich, was converted to his theology, and accompanied him to the disputations at Bern during that year. Bullinger succeeded his father as pastor of Bremgarten in 1529 and married a former nun, Anna Adlischwiler, by whom he had six sons and five daughters. On Dec. 9, 1531, he was chosen pastor of the Great Minster of Zurich to succeed Zwingli, who died in the battle of Cappel, Oct. 11, 1531. In this position, which he held until his death, Bullinger became an important voice in theological debate, particularly in his efforts to find doctrinal solutions to disputes over the Real Presence in the Eucharist that were dividing the Reformers. Together with Oswald myconius and Simon Grynaeus (14931541), both of Basel, he composed the First Helvetic Confession (Zwinglian in tone, but with Lutheran elements) in 1536. This was accepted by the Protestant cantons with the exception of Strassburg and Constance. The second Helvetic Confession (Calvinistic in tone with Zwinglian elements) was also the work of Bullinger and appeared in 1566 at the instance of the Calvinist Elector Palatine, Frederick III (the Pious). It was accepted in the Protestant cantons of Switzerland, Hungary, Scotland, and France (see confessions of faith, ii.)

During his leadership in Zurich, Bullinger offered hospitality to refugees fleeing from France after the terror of the massacre of st. bartholomew's day (Aug. 24, 1572); from Italy through fear of the Inquisition; and from England during the reign of Mary Tudor (155358). His special interest in England appears in his support of Lady Jane Grey in her abortive attempt to succeed to the throne (1553); his advice to Elizabeth in her opposition to the puritans; and his dedication of the third and fourth of his Decadi to Edward VI. Bullinger's theological beliefs shifted sharply away from zwinglianism to cal vinism, especially after he collaborated with Calvin in formulating the Consensus Tigurinus in 1549. Bullinger was a prodigious writer, composing more than 150 works and 12,000 letters. Among his writings are a biography of Zwingli; the edition of the reformer's books; polemical treatises; the Zürcher Chronik and the Diarium, both works of historical value; and the Hausbuch, a popular collection of sermons and articles of faith. He was less active after the plague of 156465, which left him in poor health and which brought death both to his wife and to his daughters.

Bibliography: A complete collection of his writings does not exist. Heinrich Bullingers Diarium (Annales vitae ), ed. e. egli (Basel 1904); Zürcher Chronik, ed. j. j. hottinger and h. vÖgeli, 3 v. (Frauenfeld 183840); Korrespondenz , ed. t. schiess, 3v. (Basel 190406). The Decades of Henry Bullinger, ed. t. harding, 4 v. (Cambridge, Eng. 184952). g. w. bromiley, ed. and tr., Zwingli and Bullinger (Library of Christian Classics 24; Philadelphia 1953), contains tr. "On the Catholic Church." Literature. f. blanke, Der junge Bullinger (Zurich 1942). a. bouvier, H. Bullinger, réformateur et conseiller oecuménique, le successeur de Zwingli, d'après sa correspondance avec les réformés et les humanistes de langue française (Neuchâtel 1940), bibliog. t. schiess, "Der Briefwechsel Heinrich Bullingers," Zwingliana 5 (1933) 396409. p. walser, Die Prädestination bei H. Bullinger im Zusammenhang mit seiner Gotteslehre (Zurich 1957), bibliog. g. wolf, Quellenkunde der deutschen Reformationsgeschichte, 3 v. (Gotha 191523), bibliog. p. schaff, Bibliotheca symbolica ecclesiae universalis. The Creeds of Christendom, 3 v. (6th ed. New York 1919). r. pfister, Neue deutsche Biographie 3:1213. p. polman, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclesiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart (Paris 1912) 10:121011. o. e. strasser, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart 1:151011.

[e. d. mc shane]

Bullinger, Heinrich

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Bullinger, Heinrich (1504–57). Swiss Reformer. Biblical and patristic study, the reading of Luther's and Melanchthon's writings, and Zwingli's preaching, led Bullinger to support the Reformation movement. He succeeded Zwingli as Chief Minister in Zürich, devoting his energies to educational reform, participation in the eucharistic debate amongst Protestants, and voluminous literary activities including influential correspondence with the English Reformers.

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