Ulrich Zwingli is a name that is mentioned when talking about the Reformation, but it is hard to remember what he actually did. In William Boekestein’s Ulrich Zwingli (Evangelical Press, 2015), we can learn what role he played in that era. I came away from the book with an understanding of Zwingli’s surroundings, sympathy for his struggles, and a sense of camaraderie in shared Protestant doctrines.
This charming biography is part of the “Bitesize Biographies” series put out by Evangelical Press, and a hearty bite is what Boekestein has given the reader. We are led from Zwingli’s birth to his death in twelve easy chapters. The political and theological backdrop which shaped his upbringing is aptly illustrated, with the role of mercenary soldiers and battle in Swiss civilization providing the foundation from which the tale of his life is constructed. There are plenty of episodes from his life scattered throughout the biography to add a touch of adventure, from plague, battles, and “the affair of the sausages” to rioting reformers and murder plots.
How Zwingli’s transformation from Catholic humanist to Swiss Reformer affects politics and society is also well described. Theology also takes up a sizable section of the pages. Zwingli’s stress on the supremacy of Christ and Scripture alone are repeatedly brought to the attention of the reader. His differences with Catholic doctrine, Luther’s view of the Lord’s Supper, Anabaptist practices are noted and explained.
Boekestein has taken a great amount of information and woven it into a narrative that does not lose the reader. While the book does not contain any citations, it does give some options for further reading, as well as an appendix listing Zwingli’s Sixty-Seven Articles. I would consider this a good summer read for those interested in learning more about church history. It would also be an appropriate book for middle-school/early high-school students, and I plan to assign it to my 13 year-old.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews in order to provide this review.