Reconceiving the Clerical Corps: How Heinrich Bullinger Resists the Expectations of Confessionalization

Jon Delmas Wood


The traditional concept of priesthood aroused much interest and animosity in the Reformation. Huldrych Zwingli led efforts to expand priesthood beyond a sacramental subset of Christendom to encompass instead the sum of all the baptized. He redefined clerical identity as a humanistic/linguistic corps of “prophets.” Heinrich Bullinger shared in Zwingli’s mission to preserve a ministerial corps, and yet he found it increasingly necessary to modify the mold of “minister-as-prophet.” Bullinger carefully re-appropriated some aspects of a “priestly” identity for the clerical corps. In the process, he created a fruitful – perhaps even unique – hybrid of humanism with eschatology. The upshot was a model for church-state relations that cannot be reduced to the expectations of propositional dogmatism commonly associated with the theory of confessionalization.


clerical identity; Reformed priesthood; humanism; eschatology; dogmatism; confessionalization; Heinrich Bullinger

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