English Evangelicals and Tudor Obedience, c.1527–1570


The heart of this book lies in the important discovery that a pivotal Tudor argument in favor of the Royal Supremacy—the argument from Psalm 82 that earthly kings are ‘gods’ on this earth—is in fact Zwinglian in origin. This teaching from Psalm 82, which originated in Zurich in the mid-1520s, was soon used extensively in England to justify the Supremacy, and English evangelicals—from Tyndale to Cranmer—unanimously embraced this Protestant argument in their writings on political obedience. The discovery of this link shows conclusive, textual proof of the ‘Zurich Connection’ between Swiss political teachings and those popular under Tudor kings. This study argues, then, that evangelical attitudes towards royal authority were motivated by the assumption that Protestantism supported ‘godly kingship’ over against ‘papal tyranny’. As such, it is the first monograph to find a vital connection between early Swiss Protestant similar teachings on obedience and later teachings by evangelicals.

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Biographical Note

Ryan M. Reeves, PhD (2011), University of Cambridge, is Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Dean of the Jacksonville Campus.

Review Quotes

"This book proposes an important revision of the traditional understanding of the theology of political obedience within the nascent English Protestant tradition […] This is a significant contribution to our understanding of Early English Protenstantism."
David Carter, Princeton University. In: Revue D’Histoire Ecclésiastique.

"Reeves’s splendid study shows there is ‘no evidence of a division between English and Reformed Protestants on the issue of obedience prior to the late 1550s’ (p. 198) and that ‘in Tudor England, one could be thoroughly committed to obedience and be nevertheless ardently Protestant’."
Donald K. McKim in The Journal of Theological Studies, 2014.

"Eminently readable".
Aude de Mézerac-Zanetti, Université de Lille. In: The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vl. 68, No. 3 (July 2017), pp. 626-628.

Table of contents

1. ‘Ye Gods’: Political Obedience from Tyndale to Cromwell, c.1528–1540
2. English Evangelicals, Persecution, and Obedience, 1540–1547
3. Henrician Rhetoric and Godly Josiah: Obedience and Edward VI (1547–1553)
4. ‘That Outrageous Pamphlet’: Obedience and Resistance, c.1553–1558
5. ‘If the Prince Shall Forbid’: Divisions over Evangelical Obedience in the 1560s


All those interested in Tudor England, the history of political thought, especially resistance theory and obedience, Protestant history, the English church, and early English evangelicalism; those interested in the history of Anglicanism and Protestant theology.

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