Ulrich Zwingli by William Boekestein

     I confess this promised review is late.  My fault, no because its a bad book (far from it), rather I don’t really like writing reviews. I either like the book or I don’t, and a review must be more. 
     To start, let me say that I received a free copy without expectation of a good review. It is a fine biography of one of the Reformation’s unsung heroes, Ulrich Zwingli.
     The book is organized into a chronological sequence of his life, but into spaced are discussions of his evolving theology.  For instance, Zwingli’s view of baptism changed overtime, first coming close to believer’s baptism (like the Anabaptistboof the time) before moving back to a form of infant baptism. The author writes that Zwingli questioned “the expedience (not the right) of infant baptism, and deemed it better to put off the sacrament to years of discretion… On mature reflection he modified his views.”p. 99-100.  Zwingli saw this issue also as a question of obedience to a society where civil and religious affairs were intertwined.  To not agree was to fragment the state, unity was a necessity. 
     Boekestein writes about two areas of Zwingli’s life that have caused controversy and mistrust.  First, Zwingli engaged, as a Catholic priest, in a series of sexual encounters with prostitutes.  The author correctly notes, ” Zwingli was guilty of a sin that was appallingly common among clergy of the day”.  Zwingli, although did not live in continual sin, offered a straightforward apology of his sins.  Years later, he petitioned his bishop for permission for his priests to marry.
     In the second, Boekestein, could have been more clear.  It was commonly taught by his critics, that Zwingli wore a sword into his last battle because he fought like a soldier.  The author notes that Zwingli had a sword on when died in battle, he was giving aid to a soldier when he was wounded.  What is missing is that Zurich required all, including chaplains, to wear a sword into battle.
    The author gives a short “further reading” list.  The list is missing two readable biographies; “Zwingli, A Reformed Theologian” by Jaques Courvoisier and “‘Christ our Captain’: An Introduction to Huldrych Zwingli” by Jim West. 
     The sixteenth century was a complex time in which the state and religion were bound up together.  This book
places Zwingli in that time.  This a fine book and should be read.

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