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Dogmen- und Theologiegeschichte
Reformierte Bekenntnisschriften. Bd. 1/1
1523–1534. Bearb. v. E. Busch, H. Faulenbach, H. H. Eßer, J. F. G. Goeters (†), F. Krüger, D. Meyer, A. Mühling u. W. H. Neuser.
Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag 2002. XII, 583 S. 8°. Geb. EUR 98,00. ISBN 3-7887-1906-0.
Else Marie Wiberg Pedersen
Neben dem angegebenen Titel in dieser Rezension besprochen:
Reformierte Bekenntnisschriften Bd. 1/02: 1535–1549. Bearb. v. M. Bucsay (†), E. Busch, E. Campi, Z. Csepregi, H. H. Esser, A. Marti, Ch. Moser, A. Mühling, W. H. Neuser, P. Opitz, E. Saxer, J. G. J. van Booma u. A. Zillenbiller. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag 2006. VII, 490 S. 8°. Lw. EUR 78,00. ISBN 978-3-1887-2197-8.
These two volumes of Reformierte Bekenntnisschriften comprise only part of the numerous confessions, declarations and articles from the family of reformed churches during the 16th century, namely a collection of different documents from the years 1523–1549. They were planned for more than 70 years by the Council of Evangelic Churches in Germany; and already in 1930 its forerunner, the German Evangelical Church Committee published The Confessions of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession. However, the collection will not be complete until the third volume covering the years 1550–1558 will be published in the near future. That this collection has taken such a long time to appear has to do with the very »soul« of the reformed churches who strictly maintained the reformation principle of »the reformed church always reforming« (ecclesia reformata semper reformanda). In contrast to the Evangelical-Lutheran churches who concluded their normative confessional formation by 1580 (with the Book of Concord), the Reformed churches continued formulating new confessions in an unfinished plurality. Consequently, collecting and working together this variation of confessions has been a difficult task.
When going through the rich and impressive plurality of reformed confessions, declarations, and articles, I was reminded of The Reformation Wall in Geneva. The wall in detail depicts most of the key reformers of the 16th century, Calvin dominating its centre like an Old Testament patriarch. Two very central persons are missing though, namely Zwingli and Luther, who started the reformation.
However, when one turns away from the wall, one sees two stone cubes placed on top of a small stair, meant to symbolize Luther and Zwingli. As my guide book told me in a lapidary explanation to the stones: »Zwingli and Luther also took part in the reformation«. Such a lapidary treatment of Luther and Zwingli is far from reflected in these rich volumes presenting the reformed confessions. Quite to the contrary, the present work on the confessional developments within the reformed family treats of all aspects of the Reformed churches’ reformations and confessional developments, including their importance to the reformation in general. The editors reveal an eminent eye for the interconnectedness of the various confessions, whether they influenced each other, sparked off controversy or led to convergence and consensus. But in contrast with the controversies of the 16 th century, this seems to be an ecumenical endeavour from the part of the Reformed churches of the 20th–21st centuries.
The first volume gives a detailed and very informative introduction to both the reformation and the development of the variety of reformed texts, including a survey of the various texts and who collected which texts (9–25). Where the first volume focuses on the Zwinglians and the reformation in Basel and Zurich beginning with Zwingli’s theses from 1523 and ending with the Basel Confession from 1534, the second volume focuses on the Calvinists and the reformation in Geneva (and Zurich) plus the Waldensian reformation in France and a glimpse of the reformation in the Netherlands, starting with the Geneva Theses from 1535. It all significantly culminates in the »Consensus Tigurinus« from 1549, where Calvin formulates a consensus text for Calvinist and Zwinglian reformers on the main divisive issue amongst the reformers: the Eucharist (the issue which has remained divisive between Lutheran and Reformed churches ever since, and which the Leuenberg Fellowship of Lutherans and Reformed has tried to solve in the Leuenberg Concord from 1973). Thus, the structure of the volumes is totally chronological.
Each text (whether a confession, a set of theses or a priestly oath) is furnished with an introduction to its historical context as well as its theological implications. Furthermore, there is a bibliography encompassing both sources (manuscripts) and secondary literature. On this basis, any reader can go further into detail with any of the texts if he or she wishes to do so.
All in all, the two volumes of reformed confessions together form an eminent introduction to and view over an important part of the theological discussions of the 16th century, although they will not be complete before we have the third volume. This unique work in my view only misses two things to be an even more excellent achievement: An index of the main persons and main topics plus a table of the historical events would have been a very helpful supplement in order to find a quick way through the rich and detailed material.