(1482 to 1531)
Johannes (or Husschyn, Hussgen, Heussgen, Huszgen, Hausschein) Oekolampad was the reformator of Basel. He was born in Weinsberg 1482 and died 24. November 1531 in Basel.
Oekolampad was the son of a respectable Weinsberger citizen and his wife, coming from the family of senators in Basel (Pfister). He first went to elementary school in Weinsberg and later to Latin school in Heilbronn. 1499 Oekolampad signed up for the Arts Faculty in Heidelberg. Here he encountered the humanistic thoughts of Jakob Wimphelings.
After his masters examination Oekolampad moved to Bologna to study Law as his father wished. Soon he returned to Heidelberg and started studying Theology. Between 1506 and 1508 Oekolampad worked in Mainz as teacher of the Princes of Palatinate. 1509 he finished his studies and was ordinated as priest a year later. He took care of the parish in Weinsberg.
Studying Hebrew and Greek Oekolampad spent some time in Tübingen, Stuttgart and Heidelberg from 1513 to 1515. Here he got to know Johannes Reuchlin, Philipp Melanchthon und Wolfgang Fabricius Capito and turned to humanism. 1515 he followed Capito, who preaches at Basel’s cathedral. Oekolampad worked as assistant to printer and publisher Johannes Froben, who prepared to print the New Testament of Erasmus of Rotterdam. Erasmus helped to deepened Oekolampads knowledge of the old languages and of theology.
After finishing his studies of Theology at the University of Basel, Oekolampad returned to his hometown in 1516. Besides working as a preacher he studied the Old Testament and became friends with Conrad Pellikan und Willibald Pirckheimer. In spring of 1518 Capito called him to Basel’s cathedral to be minister. Shortly afterwards he was ordinated as priest at the cathedral of Augsburg. At the same time Johannes Oekolampad achieved a Doctorate in Theology and published his translation of ancient church officials and of a Greece grammar book.
Shortly before Oekolampad arrived in Augsburg there had been the famous dispute between Cajetan and Luther. Thus he was unable to evade the argument, although he himself strongly favoured the humanistic tradition. Impressed by Luther’s writings he argued with Johannes Eck (Canonici indocti Lutheri) and in 1520 Oekolampad left Augsburg. He turned to become a monk in Brigittenkloster Altomünster in order to sort things out. Here he finished his translation of ancient church officials and started to understand the justification by faith alone. He published his point of view in 1521 with his essays "Iudicium" and "Paradoxon". He had to leave the cloister because he had turned to the new believe. Coming through Mainz and Heidelberg, he decided to move to Basel permanently in 1522
Working for the publisher Andreas Cratander he continued his translations. Oekolampad only started to take sides in the disputes about reformation in Basel at Easter 1523. He did so holding a lecture about biblical prophets. Shortly afterwards he was called to be a professor against the will of the university and the Princes of Basel. His influence did increase when he was ordinated as priest in St. Martin in 1525. Discussing the reformation openly Oekolampad secured his position while losing a lot of friends " Erasmus being one of them. Talking in public he gained new acquaintances and friends, among them Ulrich Zwingli, Willibald Pirckheimer, Martin Bucer und Martin Luther. His quarrels with Luther startet in 1525, discussing mainly the Lord’s Supper. Oekolampad favoured the symbolic emphasis and published various writing about it (Genuina expositio, Antisyngramma).
Although Johannes Oekolampad was well known in Basel he never gained as much influence as Zwingli in Zurich. This is why the senate of Basel took so long to close some cloisters (1525) and to offers freedom of denomination (1528) under pressure of the citizens. With much hesitation the Catholic Services was abolished in 1529. Oekolampad did welcome the Reformation but was disappointed that he could not stop uprising and destruction of Catholic pictures.
Oekolampad married Wibrandis Rosenblatt in 1528. They had three children. Wibrandis married his friend Capito after his death (1531); thereafter she was wife to (1541) Martin Bucer. She died in 1564 being a widow to three Reformators
After the successful reformation Oekolampad tried to make the church a peaceful and just place. Working on the order of reformation he managed to do so. Besides theological rules the new order prepared for the reopening of the university, which had to close down during reformation. Oekolampad helped to continue teaching in the cathedral. The university itself was not opened until after his death in 1532.
Oekolampad strongly favoured the new church order; he took care of its just enforcement. He suggested giving power not only to the ministers but to presbyter as well. Although this idea was not realised in Basel, Martin Bucer introduced it in Strasbourg and John Calvin in Geneva.
During the first disputes in Baden (1526) Oekolampad lead the Evangelistic party. Two years later Zwingli took the lead in the Bern dispute. Nevertheless as a theologian he was responsible for its success and he accompanied Zwingli to Marburg (1529). Working with Martin Bucer he furthered the new denomination in Ulm, Memmingen und Biberach.
Oekolampad presented conflicting positions towards "Wiedertäufer". On the one hand he preached against their believes, on the other he always tried to convince them of the "right way" and to avoid death penalties. Nevertheless he never accepts coexistence neither with "Wiedertäufern" nor with Catholics. But he never favoured violent prosecution of "Wiedertäufer".
Oekolampad never was a born leader or the founder of a special Protestant Church. But his intellectual power and his charisma account for his special impact. His contemporaries praised his organising abilities and his qualities as a theologian teacher. Max Bertschi wrote after the death of Oekolampad in a letter to Bullinger that Oekolampad was "of remarkable piety and knowledge". Bucer said about Oekolampad "we never had a better theologian". On the one hand it were his famous editions, commentaries and theological writings and on the other hand it was his work as a preacher and pastor that account for Oekolampad importance to the reformation. Basel became a centre of Protestantism and later it was the famous shelter of many foreign refugees. And his idea of church order was taken on by Calvin and thus moulded Reformed Protestantism.
Frauke Brauns, Bielefeld