The Oxford Treatise and Disputation On the Eucharist

Few issues in the Reformation provoked so much controversy—or spilled so much blood—as debates over the Eucharist. For the Roman Catholic Church, the doctrine of transubstantiation was not merely based in Scripture and rooted in tradition and official church teaching; it was the keystone of the whole sacramental system through which the Church claimed spiritual authority as the mediator of salvation, and for ordinary believers, was the focal point of sincere, though often superstitious, devotion. For many Protestants, however, it was an absurdity contrary to both reason and sound theology, and obscured the central role of faith in receiving Christ and His benefits.

One of the most significant Reformation-era texts on the Eucharist, The Oxford Treatise and Disputation on the Eucharist displays Peter Martyr Vermigli at the height of his powers. Recently arrived in England to teach at Oxford during the reforming reign of Edward VI, Vermigli used a university controversy over his eucharistic theology as an opportunity to take the offensive against transubstantiation, the strongest bulwark of Catholic traditionalism in Edwardian England. His Treatise offered a crisp and compelling statement of the Reformed doctrine of the Eucharist and objections to transubstantiation, while the Disputation locks horns with a series of Catholic disputants on the biblical, philosophical, and historical issues at stake. This volume is essential reading for any who wish to understand the contours of this crucial doctrinal controversy.


Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499–1562) was born in Florence and educated in Padua before rising through the ranks of the Augustinian order in Italy. A secret convert to Protestantism in the 1530s, he eventually fled north to Germany in 1542, before holding a series of influential posts at Strasbourg, Oxford, and Zurich. He ranks alongside John Calvin and Heinrich Bullinger as among the chief architects of the Reformed Protestant tradition.

Joseph C. McLelland (1925-2016) was a Presbyterian minister and the McConnell Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Dean of the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University. He devoted decades of his life to the study of Peter Martyr Vermigli and was among the founding editors of the Peter Martyr Library.


The Peter Martyr Library, begun in 1994 by the Peter Martyr Vermigli Society, is a scholarly project to make available to a modern audience, in critical edition translations from the Latin, the key writings of Italian reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli. Published by Truman State University Press until 2017, the Peter Martyr Library is now overseen and published by The Davenant Institute, now for the first time in paperback.