Phase One: From Roman Transubstantiation to a Scriptural Notion of the Real Presence

  • Peter Newman Brooks


On 17 June, 1533, Thomas Cranmer wrote to give Archdeacon Hawkins the latest news from England, not only providing his successor as ambassador to the Emperor Charles V with an account of the coronation of Anne Boleyn, but also describing the trial of John Frith who

thought it not necessary to be believed as an article of our faith, that there is the very corporal presence of Christ within the host and sacrament of the altar, and holdeth of this point most after the opinion of Oecolampadius.1


British Library Marginal Note Latin Translation Real Presence Commonplace Book 
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  1. 2.
    C. H. Smyth, Cranmer and the Reformation under Edward VI (Cambridge, 1926), p. 51.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    C. C. Richardson, Zwingli and Cranmer on the Eucharist (Evan-ston, 1949), p. 51.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Although, of course, they were clearly regarded as possessing varying degrees of authority. On Cranmer’s understanding of the relationship between Scripture and the Fathers, cf. G. W. Bromiley, Thomas Cranmer Theologian (London, 1956), pp. 23 f.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    This third school is comparatively recent in origin, numbering among its ranks R. W. Dixon, Cardinal Gasquet and Edmund Bishop, T. M. Parker and G. W. Bromiley. It is interesting to note that two scholars, while opposing a Lutheran phase, have admitted some kind of tunnel period — cf. A.J. Mason, Thomas Cranmer (London, 1898), p. 125: ‘Yet there are not wanting indications that there was a time when Archbishop Cranmer was shaken in the doctrine of transubstantiation, while abhorring the position he afterwards came to occupy.’ AndGoogle Scholar
  5. C. W. Dugmore, The Mass and the English Reformers (London, 1958), p. 182: ‘It is possible that what Cranmer held at this time was the scholastic doctrine of Impanation, but he certainly did not believe in Consubstantiation.’Google Scholar
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    G. Burnet (edited in 7 vols. by N. Pocock), History of the Reformation (Oxford, 1865), vol. 1, pp. 402–403.Google Scholar
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    C. Wordsworth, Ecclesiastical Biography, 4 vols. (London, 1853), vol. III, p. 234, note 3.Google Scholar
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    A.J. Mason, Thomas Cranmer (London, 1898), p. 125.Google Scholar
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    R. Seeberg, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte, vol. IV/1, p. 400, note 1; F. Kattenbusch in Festschrift fir J. Ficker, p. 82; V. Vajta, Die Theologie des Gottesdienstes bei Luther (Lund, 1952), pp. 177–178; and lately,Google Scholar
  11. H. Sasse, This is my Body (Minneapolis, 1959), pp. 101 f.Google Scholar
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    Cf. W. Koehler, Dogmengeschichte, vol. I, Das Zeitalter der Reformation (Zürich, 1951), p. 308: ‘… Luther selbst gebrauchte den Ausdruck nicht.’Google Scholar
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    The precise dating of the collection presents a very considerable problem, but since no work later than the ‘Capitulum Coloniense’ (the 1544 edition of the Antididagma) appears to have been included, it would seem that the commonplaces were gathered together from about the mid-1530s until the early 1540s, a view supported by the judgment of two former Keepers of the Department of MSS at The British Library. Cf. Sir George F. Warner and Julius P. Gilson, Catalogue of Western MSS in the Old Royal and King’s Collections, vol. I [Royal MSS, I A I to II E XI] (Oxford, 1921), pp. 172–173.Google Scholar
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    As Dr Koehler noted, it is incorrect to regard Luther as the aggressor in the conflict, although he was once commonly so depicted by historians. In fact, it was Zwingli who took the initiative. Cf. Walther Koehler, Zwingli und Luther: Ihr Streit über das Abendmahl nach seinen politischen und religiösen Beziehungen, vol. I (Leipzig, 1924), p. 73.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Peter Newman Brooks 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Newman Brooks
    • 1
  1. 1.Robinson CollegeCambridgeUK

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