Huldrych Zwingli is well known as a reformer and theologian of the sixteenth century, but he is not so well known as an educator. Zwingli first wrote this treatise in Latin and it was printed at Basel in 1523, then again in 1526, with the full title of “How One Ought to Bring Up and Instruct Youth in Good Manners and Christian Discipline.” The present English translation, together with a sketch of the educational life of Zwingli, will add new interest to the study of Christian education in the Reformation period.
This brief treatise was written by Zwingli to his stepson. It is a booklet of beautiful and correct advice to his ward. This is a small volume, but of far more value than its size would indicate.
Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531) was a notable Swiss leader of the Reformation. Born to a family of farmers in Wildhaus, Switzerland, Zwingli was educated at the University of Basel, where he earned a Master of Arts degree. Ordained in 1506, his first ecclesiastical post was in the town of Glarus where he stayed for ten years and got involved with politics during a turbulent time in Swiss history. He then took a position in the town of Einsiedeln, where he also furthered his study of Greek and Hebrew, as well as the works of Erasmus. Because of his reputation as a gifted preacher and writer, he was elected the stipendiary priest of Zurich.
Zwingli's theology matured during this period, and it began to show in his powerful sermons. He preached against ecclesial corruption, fasting, the requirement of celibacy on the clergy, the veneration of saints, excommunication, and more. In 1522, Zwingli published a sermon against fasting, "Von Erkiesen und Freiheit der Speisen" (Regarding the Choice and Freedom of Foods), which is considered by some historians to be the first act of the Swiss Reformation.
In 1529, the famous dispute over the interpretation of the Eucharist divided Martin Luther and Zwingli during the Marburg Colloquy, which resulted in two Protestant confessions. The Lutherans presented Charles V with the Augsburg confession, while Zwingli produced his own, "Fidei ratio" (Account of Faith). As the Reformation grew across Switzerland and other nearby countries, cantons (states) were split between those supporting Rome and those supporting the Reformation. On October 9, 1531, the city of Zurich was caught off guard by a declaration of war by an alliance of neighboring cantons known as the Five States (Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, and Zug). On October 11, Zwingli was among the 500 soldiers that died on the battlefield.