MARTIN BUCER

1491 - 1551

 

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Introduction:

Martin Bucer, one of the church reformers of the 16th century, was born, 1491, at Schlettstadt, in Alsace. His real name was Kuhhorn (cow-horn), but in accordance with the fashion of his time among scholars, he changed it into its Greek equivalent; Bucer being derived from bous, an ox, and keras, a horn. At the age of 14, he entered the order of Dominicans. At the suggestion of his superior, he went to Heidelberg to study theology, devoting his attention, however, at the same time to the Greek and Hebrew languages. While young, he was appointed chaplain to the Elector of the Palatinate. An acquaintance with the works of Erasmus had already inclined Bucer toward Protestantism, and his views were confirmed by the influence of Luther at the Heidelberg disputations in 1518. Following the example given by Luther at the Diet of Worms (1521), Bucer, became one of the boldest and most decided of the German reformers. In 1523, he went to Strasburg, where he introduced the doctrines of the Reformation. In the disputes between Luther and Zwingli, he adopted a middle course, and endeavoured to make reconciliation between them; but his view of the sacraments, which approached that of Zwingli, exposed him to Luther's harsh reprobation. At the Diet of Augsburg, where he conducted himself with great circumspection and moderation, he generally accorded with the Lutheran views; but, along with other Strasburg theologians, declined to subscribe to the proposed confession of faith, and afterwards drew up the Confessio Tetrapolitana. An agreement, however, was subsequently entered into between Bucer and the Lutherans, and as a disciple of Luther, he appeared at the religious conference of the Reformers held at Leipsic. In consequence of his refusal to sign the Interim - a temporary creed drawn up by the order of the Emperor Charles V - Bucer found his situation irksome in Germany, and therefore accepted the invitation of Archbishop Cranmer (1549), and came to England to teach theology at Cambridge, and assist Paul Fagius and others in forwarding the Reformation. His modesty, blameless life, and great learning gained many friends in England; but his labours were soon interrupted by death, February 27, 1551. His remains were interred in a church at Cambridge with great solemnity; but during the reign of Mary, his bones, with those of Fagius, were taken from their graves, and burned in the market-place. His constant attempts to express himself in language agreeable both to Luther and Zwingli, induced in him at times an obscure, ambiguous, and elusive kind of thought, to which, perhaps, Bossuet refers when he stigmatises Bucer as 'the great architect of subtleties.' Bucer was, of course, exposed to many censures and scandals by the assiduous malice of the Roman Catholic theologians, whose fertile imaginations during the Reformation period were exclusively devoted to the manufacture of indecent calumnies; but by Protestant writers he has been highly commended, and by some has been ranked above even Luther and Melanchthon. His best work is a translation and exposition of the Psalms, which he published under the pseudonym Aretinus Felinus (Strasburg, 1529). Hubert intended to edit the whole of Bucer's writings in ten volumes, but only one volume appeared (Basel, 1577)

 

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UPDATED: 17 April 2014

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