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Martin Bucer

Martin Bucer (or Butzer) (1491-1551), German Protestant reformer, was born in 1491 at Schlettstadt in Alsace.

In 1506 he entered the Dominican order, and was sent to study at Heidelberg. There he became acquainted with the works of Erasmus and Luther, and was present at a disputation of the latter with some of the Romanist doctors. He became a convert to the reformed opinions, abandoned his order by papal dispensation in 1521, and soon afterwards married a nun.

In 1522 he was pastor at Landstuhl in the palatinate, and travelled hither and thither propagating the reformed doctrine. After his excommunication in 1523 he made his headquarters at Strassburg, where he succeeded Matthew Zell. Henry VIII of England asked his advice in connexion with the divorce from Catherine of Aragon.

On the question of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, Bucer's opinions were decidedly Zwinglian, but he was anxious to maintain church unity with the Lutheran party, and constantly endeavoured, especially after Zwingli's death, to formulate a statement of belief that would unite Lutheran, south German and Swiss reformers. Hence the charge of ambiguity and obscurity which has been laid against him. In 1548 he was sent for to Augsburg to sign the agreement, called the Interim, between the Catholics and Protestants. His stout opposition to this project exposed him to many difficulties, and he was glad to accept Cranmer's invitation to make his home in England. On his arrival in 1549 he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. Edward VI and the protector Somerset showed him much favour and he was consulted as to the revision of the Book of Common Prayer. But on February 27 1551 he died, and was buried in the university church, with great state.

In 1557, by Mary's commissioners, his body was dug up and burnt, and his tomb demolished; it was subsequently reconstructed by order of Elizabeth. Bucer is said to have written ninety-six treatises, among them a translation and exposition of the Psalms and a work De regno Christi. His name is familiar in English literature from the use made of his doctrines by Milton in his divorce treatises.

A collected edition of his writings has never been published. A volume known as the Tomus Anglicanus (Basel, 1577) contains those written in England. See JW Baum, Capito and Butzer (Strassburg, 1860); A Erichson, Martin Butzer (1891); and the articles in the Dict. Nat. Biog (by AW Ward), and in Herzog-Hauck's Realencyklopädie (by Paul Grunberg).

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.