Theses of Berne

1528. In November 1527 the Bernese city council resolved to hold a disputation upholding the sole authority of the Word of God in religious affairs. Bishops from Constance, Basle, Lausanne, and Wallis with delegates from all the Swiss cantons were invited. The Zurich council agreed on 7 December, with Zwingli* announcing to Oecolampadius* that all was ready. Delegates from Schaffhausen, St. Gall, and Constance assembled in Zurich on 1 January 1528, setting out with 300 armored men to the borders of Berne. The disputation began on 5 January and lasted until the twenty-sixth. Berthold Haller and Francis Kolb of Berne with Zwingli's aid prepared ten theses for debate, and these were begun with Kolb reading the first thesis: “The Holy Christian Church whose only Head is Christ, is born and nourished out of God's Word and hears not the voice of a stranger.”

The daily sessions ended with the Bernese city council abolishing the Mass and church images. Zwingli preached two sermons attacking them; Bullinger recounts that a priest robed for the Mass heard Zwingli and refused to hold it any longer. The Acts were published by Christopher Froschouer on 23 April 1528. The heart of the matter is found in thesis III: “Christ is the one wisdom, justice, redemption and satisfaction for the sins of the entire world: therefore to confess any other ground of salvation or merit for sin is to deny Christ.” In spite of Luther's letter to Zwingli of 7 March that nothing had been done, these theses became the vehicle of Bernese entry into Swiss Protestantism. The Reformation came to that Swiss city, as to so many others, in a formal debate.