Eucharistic sacrifice and the patristic tradition in the theology of Martin Bucer, 1534-1546

Thompson, Nicholas James (2000) Eucharistic sacrifice and the patristic tradition in the theology of Martin Bucer, 1534-1546. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The Reformation debate over eucharistic sacrifice threw the relationship between Scripture and Tradition into sharp relief. While apologists for the status quo appealed to Scripture, they usually admitted that it could not be defended without an appeal to Tradition as well. For the Reformers, on the other hand, the "sacrifice of the Masses" epitomised the triumph of the human words and institutions over the Word of God. The Mass was replaced with new liturgies consistent with what the Reformers held to be a scriptural doctrine of the sacrament. Martin Bucer is widely recognised as the "ecumenist" among the Reformers. His irenic activity was directed not only at securing unity within the Evangelical movement, but also at mending the divisions which the Reformation had opened in the wider European church. From 1534, Bucer sought to reassure adherents of the traditional church that Evangelical doctrine was consistent not only with Scripture but with the decrees of the councils and popes, the writing of the church fathers and even the scholastics. He sought as well to engage them in a joint reformation of the church based on the historical consensus ecclesiae. This study assesses Martin Bucer's theology of eucharistic sacrifice in terms of this broader project. Its development is traced from his earliest published attack on the Mass in 1523, but the focus of the study is Bucer's writing between 1534 and 1546. This period covers his involvement in the Second Colloquy of Leipzig (1539) and the secret colloquy of Worms (1540). It also covers his involvement with Hermann von Wied's attempt to introduce the Reformation to the Archdiocese of Cologne in the wake of the First Colloquy of Regensburg (1541). Two works are considered here. The first is Constans defensio (1543): Bucer's response to the Antididagma (1543) in which the Cologne cathedral chapter attacked the archbishop's reform proposals. The second is Bucer's De vera et falsa caenae dominicae administratione (1546). In both Bucer appealed to the fathers. This time, however, he did so to distinguish his understanding of eucharistic sacrifice from that of Johannes Cropper, the Catholic theologian who had collaborated with him on the Worms-Regensburg Book. Their debate clarifies ambiguities in the articles on the Mass which emerged from the Colloquies. It also sheds light on Bucer's own understanding of these articles. During the era of the colloquies, Bucer seems to have been ready to countenance the continued use of the Mass of the Roman rite in the Catholic territories of Germany, but subject provisos. Firstly, the private Mass would be abolished. Secondly, congregational communion would be encouraged at public Masses. Thirdly, the Roman Canon would be subject to a "suitable interpretation," and the priests and people would be instructed in it. The suitable interpretation would involve the following components. Firstly, the people would be warned against superstitious faith in the opus operatum. The opus operatum would be interpreted in terms of Bucer's later theology of sacramental efficacy: i.e. as the exhibitio of the body and blood of Christ and its faithful consumption. The "application" of Christ's sacrifice to non-communicants, living and dead would be understood as thanksgiving and intercession offered by Christ's members through, with and in Christ their head. The "merits" of the saints would be understood as their intercession for the church militant. "Offering" for the dead would be understood as the church's recognition of its communion with those who had died in Christ, and its hope to share with them in the resurrection. While Bucer and Cropper failed to agree on the nature of Christ's presence in the eucharist, both agreed that, considered as a whole, the Last Supper fulfilled the types of the Old Testament sacrifices. It did so as realised memorial. In both God's past deeds were recalled with thanksgiving. Material goods were presented which "represented" both the people's thanksgiving and the fruits of God's action in the past. A portion of this offering was eaten in God's presence. A portion was set aside for the use of the poor. In both rituals, priest and people anticipated the completion of God's promises. For Israel, this fulfilment was Christ. For the church it was the perfect unity of Christ and his body.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Hazlett, Dr. Ian
Date of Award: 2000
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2000-71209
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 May 2019 10:49
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2022 12:27
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.71209

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