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Verantwortlich und frei: Studien zu Zwingli und Calvin, zum Pfarrerbild und zur Israeltheologie der Reformation.

Hans Scholl. Verantwortlich und frei: Studien zu Zwingli und Calvin, zum Pfarrerbild und zur Israeltheologie der Reformation.

Zurich: Theologischer Verlag Zurich, 2006. 254 pp. index. append. bibl. [euro]24. ISBN: 3-290-17403-4.

The six studies included in this volume ostensibly deal with different aspects of Christian freedom and responsibility in the early decades of the Reformation. Written in German by the Swiss pastor and professor Hans Scholl, most of these studies are revised versions of essays previously published over the course of his career. As in the case of many volumes of collected essays, the common thread is sometimes difficult to discern, in spite of the author's best efforts to link the various studies together.

Scholl's overall focus is on the Reformation as it became established in the Swiss, south German, and Genevan areas beginning in the 1530s. Hence he begins with an analysis of the Zurich Reformer Ulrich Zwingli's political and pastoral outlook, highlighting Zwingli's strong sense of the pastor as both shepherd and prophet for his people. Scholl displays an acute sense of the practical pressures facing Zwingli as the Reformer strove to reconcile the demands of biblical righteousness with the pragmatic need of the government to maintain order and fiscal stability. Scholl's second essay follows from the first in that it focuses more specifically on Zwingli's view of the pastorate. Scholl again highlights Zwingli's blend of idealism and realism, and notes Zwingli's sharp criticism of pastors who thought only of their self-interest and attacked the sheep rather than protecting them. Scholl's third study offers an analysis of a lesser-known Reformer, Wolfgang Capito, who was active in the early Reformation in Strasbourg. Scholl underscores Capito's moderation and his unsuccessful attempt to mediate between Luther and Andreas Karlstadt.

Scholl's next two studies center around John Calvin, first considering Calvin's pastoral writings, and then comparing Calvin and Jean-Jacques Rousseau on the issue of social justice. Scholl rightly points out that more attention has been paid to Calvin's polemical and dogmatic writings than to his pastoral works. The comparison between Calvin and Rousseau suffers from the same problem that many such comparisons encounter, namely that the two men lived in very different historical periods, thus making it unlikely to draw many worthwhile conclusions from the exercise. Scholl's premise, that Calvin made an enduring contribution to Christian social ethics that is still visible in Geneva today--the foundation of the Red Cross, various international organizations headquartered in Geneva, and so on--is interesting, but needs more work to be convincing, again given the time gap between the sixteenth and the twentieth centuries.

The most extensive study in the volume is the final one, which examines in detail the prefaces to Robert Olivetan's 1535 French Bible, in particular the fourth preface, directed to the Jews. Scholl skillfully lays out the context of the Bible's appearance and analyzes the fourth preface at length. Many scholars have debated the authorship of the preface, which is only indicated by the letters VFC. Scholl agrees with Bernard Roussel that the letters stand for V[W]olfgang Fabritius Capito, but argues that the preface was still probably written by Olivetan, albeit influenced by Capito, who had been Olivetan's Hebrew instructor. Scholl's analysis highlights the preface's irenic tone, which he describes as being more in the nature of a conversation than of a diatribe. Scholl suggests that if this attitude had been more prevalent among European Christians than Luther's ultimately hostile and anti-Semitic approach, the course of twentieth-century European history would perhaps have been very different. The work offers a translation of the preface to the Jews and a facsimile reproduction of the original French text. Unfortunately, there is no record as to the reception of the preface among Jewish readers, assuming they ever encountered it.

The collected essays include a selected bibliography and a basic index, and would be of benefit to upper-level graduate students and Reformation scholars. Throughout the work, Scholl's writing displays not only his scholarship and years of research, but also his own personal commitment to the relevance of the Reformation for contemporary readers. In the end, the common thread of these essays seems to be his aim to show readers the human and humane face of the Reformed churches and their leaders in the first decades of the Reformation, and to highlight the importance of these characteristics for the contemporary world.


H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies, Calvin College
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Author:Maag, Karin
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 22, 2007
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