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Puff informs us that homosexuality was described in contemporary documents by a variety of terms comprising a whole semantic field, all of which were used of male anal intercourse; “ketzerei” (heresy) was the most common term and is derived from the Latin “cathari”; “pederasty” denoted the same thing then as it does now; the phrase “Italian wedding” was used in a number of instances to describe male with male sexual activity; and the most widely used word, “florencer” or “to florence” derived from the city in Italy of that name famed in the 16th century and earlier for male to male sexual activity. Hence, when one reads Zwingli (or Luther for that matter) the context in which the word “ketzer” is found may indicate something more than just “heresy” in terms of religious deviation from the orthodox norm. Indeed, the reference may be to the “heresy” of sodomy. In fact, there are two places where Zwingli speaks of “heresy” in just this sense though he carefully chooses his words. In our first instance, in his “The Shepherd” of 1524, in a discussion of the wickedness of the Priesthood, he writes What do the powerless shepherds do now who daily encounter enormous adultery and yet do nothing to restrain it, but often help it, etc.? What do we first want to say about the impure purity of the papists who daily behave worse than dogs before us, constantly bragging about their hypocritical purity. It would be bearable if some of them would remain within natural limits. (Emphasis mine). Zwingli’s denunciation of those priests who go beyond natural limits is a reference to the practice of sodomy among priests so rampant in various parts of Switzerland and beyond, especially to the south. The true, authentic Shepherd does not participate in those activities which exceed natural limits. The next example of Zwingli’s denunciation of sodomistic behavior is found in his Exposition of the 49th Article. Written in 1523, the Exposition of this article also has to do with the behavior of the Priest. The Article itself says “I know of no greater offense than to forbid priests to have wives, yet allow them to engage prostitutes”. But it wasn’t only prostitutes the priests were engaging. But when he [the priest] does not have his own concubine then no one is safe from him, not even his mother or his sister. I shall not speak of how they fared at times, as God well knows. In short, I know of no greater offense than the shameless adultery of priests. It has aided and abetted all other vices.
Though of course Zwingli doesn’t come out and say “sodomites” he doesn’t need to. His verbal clues as well as the situation in which he lives and which he addresses do not require him to use the word. No one is safe….how they fared at times…. All other vices. These are phrases which would have been clearly enough understood by his readers in Zurich and beyond. Zwingli is hesitant to use the term “sodomy” quite frankly because he takes Ephesians 5:3 with utmost seriousness when it declares πορνεια δε και ακαθαρσια
πασα η πλεονεξια μηδε ονομαζεσθω εν υμιν καθως πρεπει αγιοις. But we know, and so did they, what he meant.
As I said a moment ago, Luther too has something to say about homosexuality. In his exposition of Romans 15:33 he notes He also calls this [homosexuality] a dishonor, or shame; for as the nobility of the body (at least in this respect) consists in chastity and continence, or at least in the proper use of the body, so its shame is in its unnatural misuse. As it adds to the splendor of a golden vessel when it is used for exquisite wine, but it contributes to its inelegance when it is used as a container for dirt and refuse, so also our body (in this respect) is ordained either for an honorable marriage or for an even more honorable chastity. But it is dishonored in the most shameful way when it not only violates marriage and chastity but also soils itself with that disgrace which is even worse. Luther was, as everyone knows, quite vociferous at times. In connection with the ongoing war with the “Turks”, he remarks God visits them with the same plague, too, and smites them with blindness so that it happens to them as St. Paul says in Romans 1 [:28] about the shameful vice of the dumb sins, that God gives them up to a perverse mind because they pervert the word of God. Both the pope and the Turk are so blind and senseless that they commit the dumb sins shamelessly, as an honorable and praiseworthy thing. Since they think lightly of marriage, it serves them right that there are dog-marriages (and would to God they were dogmarriages), indeed, also “Italian marriages” and “Florentine brides” among them; and they think these things good. I hear one horrible thing after another about what an open and glorious Sodom Turkey is, and everybody who has looked around a little in Rome and Italy knows very well how God revenges and punishes the forbidden marriage [homosexuality] so that Sodom and
Gommorah, which God overwhelmed in days of old with fire and brimstone [Gen. 19:24], must seem a mere jest and prelude compared with these abominations. On this one account, therefore, I would very much regret the rule of the Turk; indeed, his rule would be intolerable in Germany. Luther the theologian and exegete (in that order mind you) thought little of the “Florentine brides”. We may, or may not, agree with Zwingli and Luther- but we cannot deny that they had a viewpoint concerning homosexuality that is clear and unequivocal.