Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Forgotten Reformer: Oswald Myconius

Forgotten Refomer: Oswald Myconius

Okay, so I am not yet done with this series. I have time for (at least) one more. This one is Oswald Myconius. Born in 1488 as Oswald Geisshussler in Lucerne Switzerland. He was a good student and during his studies in Rothwyl he met Berthold Haller. Oswald went to Basle in 1514 to be a teacher. It was probably Erasums who called him Oswald Myconius, which he then took to himself. Many scholars changed their names during this time. Making their name Greek apparently is some sort of status symbol or something. He became a teacher in the city and there he made the acquaintance of Ulrich Zwingli. It is with Zwingli that Myconius becomes life long friends. Myconius married while in Basle as well. During this stay in Basle, Myconius also became friends with Oecolampadius and Wolfgang Capito. Yet, Myconius would not stay in Basle forever. He went to take a teaching position in Zurich in 1516. There is some evidence to show that Myconius was already teaching some Reformational truths during his time in Zurich including claiming that the pope was not to be followed if he contradicted the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, Myconius is in Zurich before Zwingli and laying some ground work for the Reformation there. Although it is to be remembered he is only the head teacher at the Cathedral School, and not yet a pastor. But in 1518, it is Myconius who convinces the Cathedral chapter to extend the call to Ulrich Zwingli to be the pastor. Together Zwingli and Myconius begin to spread Reformational truth to the people of Zurich. Yet, the partnership was only to be for a year as Myconius then went back to Lucerne with hopes of spreading the Reformation to Lucerne. He was often attacked and was ultimately unsuccessful in Lucerne. But in 1522, Myconius took a position as pastor of Einsleden, where Zwingli had preached from 1516-1518 and Leo Juda from 1518-1522. Thus, there he stood in a line of Reformational preachers, and did not have to endure the attacks upon the gospel and the false slanders of his character. He did not stay long as by the end of 1523 he is in Zurich teaching the school there again. He returns to the pulpit in 1531 upon the death of John Oecolampadius as the head pastor of Basle. It is there that he aids in the editing and publication of the First Confession of Basle. He stays there laboring until his death in 1552.

Myconius was an early convert to the Reformation and worked for it everywhere he went. He was not able to reform Lucerne, but he was the school teacher there. He did aid in the reformation of Zurich. In fact, he played a large role in getting the people to call Zwingli to the pulpit and then returning again in 1523 as the battle reached its climax. He filled an important slot upon the death of John Oecolampadius as the head pastor of Basle. In doing so he helped keep Switzerland on track in the Reformation despite losing Zwingli and Oecolampadius in one year. His election to the post in Basle shows how highly regarded he was by his contemporaries as Basle usually promoted from within, but they went out of the city to get Myconius. With the publication of the First Confession of Basle, he helped usher in the age of Confessions, and he helped in the formation of the First Helvetic Confession, which united all of Reformed Switzerland in 1536. Myconius along with Grynaeus were responsible for the Latin publication of the confession.

Myconius was Zwinglian in his view of the Supper. A view he defended from all detractors. But he was not a robot merely regurgitating the views of his friend Zwingli. Myconius held that Christ really did descend into hell, a view not commonly held by many reformers, and Myconius was eager to find common ground with the Lutherans. Much more so than the rest of the Swiss Reformers. But Myconius was never able to find that common ground. Nevertheless, he did not stop trying.

Oswald was also apparently a little bit of a hot head. Once he came home in Zurich to find that his house had been ransacked and his wife and child were very shaken by the experience. Oswald tracked the man, who was a Swiss mercenary soldier, and confronted him in the street. This of course ended badly for Oswald, who would recover from his injuries. In Basle he would also yell back at people who occasionally heckled him from the congregation. I guess times were a little different back then.

Myconius is forgotten because of his largely secondary role in the Reformation, never being the one who actually reformed any town (although neither did Calvin). Still, Myconius was a member of that original cabal or Swiss reformers. For that reason alone we ought to remember Oswald Myconius, an original reformer.