The Oxford Treatise and Disputation On the Eucharist

Peter Martyr Vermigli Library Vol. 7

By Peter Martyr Vermigli, Translated and Edited by Joseph C McClelland


Publication Date: November 19, 2018

About this book

Is Christ present in 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.

Paperback | 352 PAGES | 6×9 | PubliSHed November 19, 2018 | ISBN: 978-1949716962

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From the Book

“To the Christian Reader,

Two reasons have moved me to write about the Eucharist: the slanders
of evil men and the desires of my friends. To slight the one would be a
matter of discourtesy, to neglect the other a lack of faith, since it is clear that no small hindrance to the religion of God hangs on it. If my own cause alone were under discussion, I would easily have ignored it, because I do not count my own judgment so great as to think I should be moved by the slanders of adversaries and the empty rumors of enemies. I know it is the part of wisdom to ignore many things, especially of this sort, and I know that Christian charity endures all things, that it seeks not its own but the things that are of Jesus Christ.1 But it is Christ’s cause and not my own that is present here; not my name but the Word of God is being mocked. For the authority of the ministry is so joined to the Word of God that the danger extends to it also. We see how good and godly affairs, no matter how faithfully and wisely handled, proceed with little or no fruit if the one who treats them lacks authority, particularly if he is marred or disgraced by some reproach.

I will not speak of what their insolence has circulated about the disputation I had at Oxford last summer, and how they slandered me to all sorts of men—princes, nobles, commoners, in city and country. For they have done nothing in secret, but every corner, street, house, shop, and tavern still resounds with their lies and boastings and conquests. Nor do I doubt that these evil reports have even reached other lands. Here then was one reason to encourage me to set forth these disputations. Another, as I said at the beginning, is the requests of friends, which I have denied until now. This was as much because I knew there were enough books available on the matter to instruct every devout person sufficiently, as because no one knows my own actions better than myself. I judge them in such a way that I would not have them prevent you (dear reader) from reading better books. But now these friends of mine are greatly disturbed by the false reports of wicked men, and have urged me so much that I yielded at last, acceding to the requests of some and being compelled by the authority of others. What could I refuse the most reverend archbishop of Canterbury, to whom I owe most of all? Or the king’s visitors, who not only were present at these disputations but also presided?

Therefore I deliver this Disputation to you, along with a Treatise on the same matter for its clearer explanation. I have written them all in simple terms, and without style as it were, but faithfully. As to the Disputation, I compared my own with the examples of the opponent. After reading them diligently, I saw that important items had been omitted, and tried to restore them from their writings, within the limits of truth. On other points I saw that they had expanded their arguments and had handled them more precisely in writing than when speaking during the discussion; therefore I also expounded at greater length, though retaining the truth of the matter—but this seldom happened.”

Read a Portion of the book here



Abbreviations Used in this Volume


General Editors Preface


Translators Preface


Translators Introduction


Part One: Treatise on the Sacrament of the Eucharist


Part Two: A Disputation on the Sacrament of the Eucharist


About the Translator


Scripture References


Index of Names, Including Classical And Patristic References


General Index

About the Authors

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 Strasburg, Oxford, and Zurich. He ranks alongside John Calvin and Henrich Bullinger as among the chief architects of the Reformed Protestant tradition.

Joseph C. McClelland (1925-2016) received his Ph.D. in historical theology from New College, Edinburgh, in 1953 for a dissertation on Peter Martyr’s sacramental doctrine. He was Robert Professor of History and Philosophy of Religion and Christian Ethics at the Presbyterian College, Montreal, from 1957 to 1964, McConnell Professor of Philosophy of Religion at McGill University from 1964 to 1993,and dean of the faculty of religious studies at McGill from 1975 to 1985. He served as president of the Canadian Theological Society
(1968-69) and editor of Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses (1973-77). He then served as emeritus professor of McGill University and The Presbyterian College.

A symposium at his retirement has been published as The Three Loves: Philosophy, Theology and World Religions, edited by Robert C. Culley and William Klempa. His books and articles on philosophical and historical theology include God the Anonymous: A Study in Alexandrian Philosophical Theology (1976) and Prometheus Rebound: The Irony of Atheism (1988). His works on Vermigli include The Visible Words of God (1957), Peter Martyr Vermigli and the Italian Reform (editor, 1980), Life, Early Letters and Eucharistic Writings of Peter Martyr (with G. Duffield, 1989), and Early Writings (vol. 1 of the Peter Martyr Library, 1994). He served as consulting editor of The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation Thought and as a general editor of the Peter Martyr Library series.


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