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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 56. Oswald Myconius, Antistes of Basel.


I. Correspondence between Myconius and Zwingli in Zwingli’s Opera, vols. VII. and VIII. (28 letters of the former and 20 of the latter).—Correspondence with Bullinger in the Simler Collection.—Antiqu. Gernl., I. The Chronicle of Fridolin Ryff, ed. by W. Vischer (son), in the Basler Chroniken (vol. 1, Leipzig, 1872), extends from 1514 to 1541.

II. Melchior Kirchofer (of Schaffhausen): Oswald Myconius, Antistes der Baslerischen Kirche. Zürich, 1813 (pp. 387). Still very serviceable.—R. Hagenbach: Joh. Oecolampad und Oswald Myronius, die Reformatoren Basels. Elberfeld, 1859 (pp. 309–462). Also his Geschichte der ersten Basler Confession. Basel, 1828.—B. Riggenbach, in Herzog2, X. 403–405.


Oswald Myconius (1488–1552),323323    His proper name was Geisshüssler. He is to be distinguished from Friedrich Myconius (Mecum), who was a friend of Luther and superintendent of Gotha (d. 1546). a native of Luzern, an intimate friend of Zwingli, and successor of Oecolampadius, was to the Church of Basel what Bullinger was to the Church of Zürich,—a faithful preserver of the Reformed religion, but in a less difficult position and more limited sphere of usefulness. He spent his earlier life as classical teacher in Basel, Zürich, Luzern, Einsiedeln, and again in Zürich. His pupil, Thomas Plater, speaks highly of his teaching ability and success. Erasmus honored him with his friendship before he fell out with the Reformation.324324    ln a letter of Oct. 5, 1532, Erasmus called Myconius a "homo ineptus et quondam ludimagister frigidus." Epist. 1233. See Hagenbach. Oekol. tend Mycon., p. 329 sq. and 339, where he remarks: "Und doch hatte Erasmus diesen Einfaltspinsel von Schulmeister früher seines Umgangs gewürdigt und ihn vor Vielen ausgezeichnet! Aber der grämliche Mann war jetzt gegen alles erbittert, was mit der von ihm verkannten und gehassten Reformation in Verbindung stand und glaubte sich, vom alten Ruhme seines Namens zehrend, berechtigt, seinem Unwillen jeden beliebigen Ausdruck zu geben."

After the death of Zwingli and Oecolampadius, he moved to Basel as pastor of St. Alban (Dec. 22, 1531), and was elected Antistes or chief pastor of the Church of that city, and professor of New Testament exegesis in the university (August, 1532). He was not ordained, and had no academic degree, and refused to take one because Christ had forbidden his disciples to be called Rabbi (Matt. 23:8).325325    Hagenbach (341): "Myconius hatte keine kirchliche Ordination erhalten, noch viel weniger etwas von dem was man einen akademischen Grad nennt. Er war weder Baccalaureus, noch Licentiat, noch Magister, noch Doctor geworden." Luther was proud to be a doctor of divinity; but Melanchthon and Zwingli were satisfied with their M. A. Calvin, like Myconius, was never ordained, as far as we know, although he was intended for the priesthood. He carried out the views of Oecolampadius on discipline, and maintained the independence of the Church in its relation to the State and the university. He had to suffer much opposition from Carlstadt, who, by his recommendation, became professor of theology in Basel (1534), and ended there his restless life (1541). He took special interest in the higher and lower schools. He showed hospitality to the numerous Protestants from France who, like Farel and Calvin, sought a temporary refuge in Basel. The English martyrologist, John Foxe, fled from the Marian persecution to Basel, finished and published there the first edition of his Book of Martyrs (1554).

On the doctrine of the Eucharist, Myconius, like Calvin after him, occupied a middle ground between Zwingli and Luther. He aided Bucer in his union movement which resulted in the adoption of the Wittenberg Concordia and a temporary conciliation of Luther with the Swiss (1536). He was suspected by the Zürichers of leaning too much to the Lutheran side, but he never admitted the corporal presence and oral manducation; he simply emphasized more than Zwingli the spiritual real presence and fruition of the body and blood of Christ. He thought that Luther and Zwingli had misunderstood each other.326326    Hagenbach (359): "Was Zwingli verneint hatte, das verneinte auch er [Myconius] fortwährend. Nie hätte er zugegeben, dass Leib und Blut Christi ihrer leiblichen Substanz nach in den Elementen des Abendmahls vorhanden seien; nie zugegeben, dass sie auch von den Ungläubigen genossen werden. Was dagegen Zwingli mehr zugegeben, als in den Vordergrund gestellt hatte, den geistlichen Genuss durch den Glauben, das hob er mit Nachdruck hervor. Mit gutem Gewissen glaubte er in den Fusstapfen seines Meisters fortzuwandeln, der so redlich und tapfer in Marburg die Hand zum Frieden geboten hatte."

Myconius matured, on the basis of a draft of Oecolampadius, the First Basel Confession of Faith, which was adopted by the magistracy, Jan. 21, 1534, and also by the neighboring city of Mühlhausen.327327    Bekanthnuss unseres heyl. christenlichen Gloubens, wie es die Kylch von Basel haldt; also called Confessio Mühlhusana. In Niemeyer’s Collectio Confess., 78-84; and in Hagenbach’s biography at the end, pp. 465-476. Comp. also his History of that Confession, and Schaff, Creeds, I. 387 sq. It is very simple, and consists of twelve Articles, on God (the trinity), man, providence, Christ, the Church and sacraments, the Lord’s Supper, the ban, the civil government, faith and good works, the last judgment, feasts, fasts, and celibacy, and the Anabaptists (condemning their views on infant baptism, the oath, and civil government). It is written in Swiss-German, with marginal Scripture references and notes. It claims no infallibility or binding authority, and concludes with the words: "We submit this our confession to the judgment of the divine Scriptures, and are always ready, if we can be better informed from them, very thankfully to obey God and his holy Word."

This Confession was superseded by maturer statements of the Reformed faith, but retained a semi-symbolical authority in the Church of Basel, as a venerable historical document.

Myconius wrote the first biography of Zwingli in twelve, short chapters (1532).328328    It was reprinted at Berlin, 1841, in VitæQuatuor Reformatorum, with a Preface of Neander. His other writings are not important.329329    See extracts in Hagenbach’s biography, pp. 387-462.

One of his most influential successors was Lukas Gernler, who presided as Antistes over the Church of Basel from 1656 to 1675. He formulated the scholastic system of Calvinism, with many subtle definitions and distinctions, in a Syllabus of 588 Theses. In connection with John Henry Heidegger of Zürich and the elder Turretin of Geneva, he prepared the Helvetic Consensus Formula, the last and the most rigid of Calvinistic symbols (1675). He was the last representative of strict Calvinistic orthodoxy in Basel. He combined with an intolerant creed a benevolent heart, and induced the magistracy of Basel to found an orphan asylum. The famous Hebrew and Talmudic scholars, John Buxtorf (1564–1629), his son, John (1599–1664), and his grandson, John Jacob (1645–1704), who adorned the university of Basel in the seventeenth century, fully agreed with the doctrinal position of Gernler, and defended even the rabbinical tradition of the literal inspiration of the Masoretic text against Louis Cappel, who attacked it with great learning (1650).330330    See Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, I. 477 sqq.



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