In which 100 pages becomes 300 words…

I have written a 25 page term paper, a 100+page MA Thesis, a sermon, and a time-travel fiction about this man.   And I keep playing with ideas for an article about him.

Plus I have about a kazillion additional pieces of research I want to do, side papers I want to write, etc….

Now watch as I condense it all into a 300 word (exactly!) flash-biography in response to this weeks Daily Post Challenge!  (and, yes, that counts the footnotes… though not the “Bibliography.”)

Few know the name Sebastian Castellio, but his writing influenced future generations around the issue of tolerance.

Born in 1515 to a catholic, peasant family, he worked hard to attend school in Lyon and was drawn to the Protestant Reformation, especially the works of John Calvin. Castellio would spend time with Calvin.  But they disagreed about a number of issues, fighting somewhat spectacularly.  Castellio ended up having to flee to Basel.  It is there that he would write most of his texts about religious tolerance.  He spoke within his 1500’s Christian context with words that would echo through time, traceable in fine threads reaching into the future of liberal religions.

When Michael Servetus was executed in 1553, Castellio’s wrote (anonymously) condemning such actions:  “To kill a man does not mean to defend a doctrine, but to kill a man.”¹  He would pen many texts arguing against persecution.  He argued what was being held up as the true threats to the Church, claiming that much that much of what was argued as being clear in Scripture was actually unclear.  And he argued against the punishments that were being inflicted for doctrinal and religious disputes.  Spiritual wrongs, he held, required a spiritual sword, not a physical one.

But he was a mere “fly attacking an elephant.”² He wrote against those in power, as a man who held little power himself.  When he died in 1632 he was facing heresy charges, and for long after his death his name was slandered and it was dangerous to identify with his ideas and writings.

Sebastian Castellio
Sebastian Castellio


1) Sebastian Castellio, “Reply to Calvin’s Book,” in Concerning Heretics… ed. and trans. Roland H. Bainton (New York: Octagon Books, 1965), 271.

2) Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, trans. Eden and Ceder Paul (Boston: Beacon Press, 1951).



And I feel like an additional special Thank You has to go out to my librarian-extraordinaire for all her help with the original footnotes…. Because she deserves as much thanks and praise as she can get.
Again, I reiterate, make friends with librarians — they are just all around awesomeness. 🙂
Bibliography: (abbreviated…. 8 pages for the thesis….)

Bainton, Roland H. editor and translator. Concerning Heretics: Whether They Are to Be Persecuted and How They Are to Be Treated. A Collection of The Opinions of Learned Men Both Ancient and Modern. An Anonymous Work Attributed to Sebastian Castellio. Now First Done Into English, Together With Excerpts From Other Works of Sebastian Castellio and David Joris on Religious Liberty. 1965. Reprint, New York: Octagon Press, 1979.

Castellio, Sebastian. “Reply to Calvin’s Book in Which He Endeavors to Show That Heretics Should Be Coerced by the Right of the Sword.” In Bainton, Concerning Heretics, 265-287.

Gammons, Allison. “’Who Will Be Judge?’ Sebastian Castellio’s Quiet Legacy of Tolerance.” MA Thesis, Bangor Theological Seminary, 2013.

Zweig, Stefan. The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin. Translated by Eden and Ceder Paul. Boston: Beacon Press. 1951.



9 thoughts on “In which 100 pages becomes 300 words…”

    1. It’s one of the reasons I’ve become somewhat infatuated with him — I love people who are willing to fight for what they believe, and I also love that he never seemed to care (or perhaps even want) the attention on himself. Most of his work was anonymously printed.


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