Martin Bucer Gave Edward Advice

Dan Graves, MSL

Martin Bucer Gave Edward Advice

When Reformer Martin Bucer handed his book, The Kingdom of Christ, to John Cheke on this day, October 21, 1550, he was sure that England's King Edward VI would see it. The boy-king was under the supervision of men who were in sympathy with the Reformation. One of them was the royal tutor, John Cheke.

Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, and Zwingli are names from the Reformation that almost everyone recognizes. Martin Bucer's name is not. And yet he was among the five or six most prominent reformers, and was the author of many scriptural commentaries. John Calvin was deeply influenced by his thought.

Martin Bucer began his religious career as a Dominican, but converted to Protestant views in 1521 after reading works of Luther and Erasmus. Excommunicated by the Roman Catholic church in 1522, he moved to Strasbourg where he became a Protestant leader.

With the success of Protestantism, a new problem arose: Whose Protestantism? Each leader interpreted the Bible differently. For example, Lutherans and Zwinglians could not agree on the exact nature of the Eucharist (Lord's Supper). Bucer labored to bring the two sides together, proposing formulas that he thought might be acceptable to everyone. His attempts met with distrust on every side. Luther scornfully said to him, "It is better for you to have your enemies than to set up a fictitious fellowship."

Bucer himself thought that "Those who do not make a whole-hearted effort to do the things that are pleasing to the Heavenly Father" should not "declare themselves citizens and members of the kingdom of Christ." In 1548 he refused to sign a faulty peace agreement and had to leave Strasbourg. Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, invited him to England and made him a professor at Cambridge University.

Bucer's sharp eye quickly saw the needs of his adopted country. Friends urged him to write a practical proposal for reform. He called it De regno Christi (The Kingdom of Christ). "It would seem fitting to write for Your Majesty a little about the fuller acceptance and reestablishment of the Kingdom of Christ in your realm," Bucer said in the preface. He defined the kingdom of Christ as God's total administration by which saints are saved and preserved.

Did the book make any difference? Edward died young and had little influence on England's future. However, when the young king wrote an essay on reforms, it echoed Bucer's ideas, listing the same abuses Bucer had named (including wastefulness, and official corruption); and suggested remedies that could have come straight out of Bucer's work. The Kingdom of Christ championed education and other topics. Edward also became a champion of schools.

Bucer died in 1551; but his story didn't end there. After Edward's death, the Catholic queen, Mary Tudor, considered even the memory of Bucer so dangerous that she had his bones dug up and burned. His tomb was destroyed. When Queen Elizabeth came to the throne, she promptly reversed Mary and had Cambridge restore Bucer's honors.


  1. "A chronology of Martin Bucer""
  2. Hopf, Constantin. Martin Bucer and the English Reformation. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1946; esp. at pp 27, 28.
  3. "Martin Bucer." Encyclopedia Americana. Chicago: American Corp., 1956.
  4. "Martin Bucer." Encyclopedia Britannica, 1967.
  5. "Martin Bucer." Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford, 1997.
  6. "Martin Bucer." Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation.
  7. Schaff, Philip.History of the Christian Church. New York: Scribners, 1910.
  8. Weber, N. A. "Martin Bucer." Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1914.

Last updated June, 2007.

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