Bucer, Martin (Butzer)

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Protestant reformer of Strassburg; b. Schlettstadt in Alsace, Nov. 1, 1491; d. Cambridge, England, Feb. 28, 1551. At age 15 he left his poor parents to enter the Dominican house at Schlettstadt. Ten years later he was sent to study at the University of Heidelberg, where he joined the humanist movement and came to admire erasmus. When in April of 1518 luther defended himself against Dominican opponents in a disputation at Heidelberg, Bucer was won to Lutheran theology. He obtained a papal dispensation from vows and in 1521 became a secular priest. In 1524 he was already a chief champion of Protestant divinity at Strassburg and well known as a leading reformer in Germany. As pastor at Strassburg for 25 years, he helped to introduce Protestantism into Hesse, Ulm, Augsburg, and other cities, and was as strong an antagonist of the Anabaptists as of the Catholics. In 1522 he married Elizabeth Silbereisen, a former nun; it was one of the first marriages of a priest. She died of the plague in 1541. A year later he married Wolfgang capi to's widow; she survived Bucer.

His chief work was De regno Christi, published posthumously in 1557. All his life he was a diligent writer, voluminous to a fault. A lack of brevity and clarity prevented him from leaving any book of lasting influence. But his original and powerful mind inspired several Protestant divines, including John calvin and Peter Martyr Vermigli. He was a peaceable man with a strong pastoral sense, laying much emphasis upon catechetical instruction. He strove to give the church authorities a due independence of the secular magistrates in spiritual things and helped to introduce the system of discipline by pastors and elders that Calvin brought to a more highly organized state in Geneva. Calvin worked as his lieutenant in Strassburg from 1538 to 1541. All his life Bucer sought to reconcile Luther with the Swiss, especially in the theology of the Real Presence. He was the chief theologian of the mediating theology known broadly as "receptionism," whereby the Body and Blood of our Lord are believed to be received by faith "with" though not "in" or "under" the elements of bread and wine. In this irenic office he expended tireless energy. He was present at the fruitless Marburg meeting of 1529 between Luther and Zwingli, and attained his main success in the Wittenberg Concord of 1536, which reconciled Luther and the Protestant churches of Upper Germany, though it was repudiated by the Swiss Protestants. These mediating efforts gained him no popularity with stern Protestants on either side. He was present at the Colloquy at the Diet of Regensburg in 1541, when Cardinal Gasparo contarini sought formulas of reconciliation with the more moderate Protestants. Bucer drafted important formulas for the Cologne reformation of 1543 when Abp. Hermann of Wied tried vainly to make the archbishopric a Protestant territory. When charles v enforced the Augsburg Interim of 1548, the situation of many non-Lutheran divines in south Germany became untenable. Bucer sought refuge in England. Through the influence of Archbishop cran mer, he was made regius professor of divinity at the University of Cambridge. His criticism of the first English Prayer Book of 1549 caused Cranmer to make many alterations in the second Prayer Book of 1552. During the reign of Queen mary i his bones were burned in the market square at Cambridge. Three years later, after the accession of elizabeth i, the remains were solemnly reburied in Great St. Mary's Church.

See Also: reformation, protestant (in the british isles); confessions of faith, ii; book of common prayer.

Bibliography: Opera omnia, ed., r. stupperich (Gütersloh 1960); Martin Bucer: Études sur la correspondance, ed. j. v. pollet (Paris 1958). r. stupperich, "Bibliographia Bucerana," h. bornkamm, Martin Bucers Bedeutung für die europäische Reformationsgeschichte (Gütersloh 1952); Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Tübingen 195765) 1:145357. h. eells, Martin Bucer (New Haven 1931). c. hopf, Martin Bucer and the English Reformation (Oxford 1946). p. polman, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques (Paris 1912) 10:101519. e. iserloh, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche (Freiburg 195765) 2:845846.

[w. o. chadwick]