Restricting Religious Interpretation, with a little Ranting thrown in

I adore when historical artifacts give us a hint at a much larger tale being told.



RSeptember 11, 1542, John Calvin wrote to his friend Pierre Viret about Sebastian Castellio, a young man who had come to study with Calvin in Strasbourg and joined him in the move to Geneva.  Castellio had been appointed Regent at the College de Rive, preached at a nearby church, and had undertaken a number of projects, including a translation of the New Testament into French.  It was this translation which Calvin was writing to Viret concerning:

 Now listen to the freaks of our friend Sebastian, which may both raise your bile and your laughter at the same time. The day before yesterday he came to me, asked whether I was agreeable that his edition of the New Testament should be published.  I replied, that there would need to be many corrections…. [H]e asked me over again, what I thought as to the publication?  I answered, that it was not my wish to hinder the publication, but that I was ready, nevertheless, to perform the promise which I had made to John Girard [printer in Geneva], that I would look it over and would correct, should there appear to be anything that required to be corrected.  This arrangement he refused. He offered, however, to come and read it to me if I would fix a time.  This I refused to do, even were he to offer me a hundred crowns, to bind myself to certain hours; moreover, that I would be obliged sometimes to dispute for a couple hours, perhaps, over some little insignificant word. And so he left me, dissatisfied as appeared.

(Calvin to Viret, Geneva, September 11 1542, in The Letters of John Calvin: Compiled from the Original Manuscripts and Edited with Historical Notes, ed. Dr. Jules Bonnet, trans. David Constable (Boston: The Westminster Press, 1951), 1:326-327)

This is one mans view of an interaction that would contribute to shaping the interactions between these two men as they continued on in an intriguing debate about religion.  I’ve written much, much more about these two, but this snippet of a letter is a fun scene to imagine in of itself.  Catellio wanting to print this translation, Calvin refusing to assist with it (and needing to approve all things being printed in Geneva).  Oh, has it been mentioned that Calvin was working on his own translation of the New Testament?

5 thoughts on “Restricting Religious Interpretation, with a little Ranting thrown in

    1. It was a greatly fun thesis 🙂 At some point I will write even more (I keep saying this… and I keep sprinkling little bits and pieces around…) I have always rather despised Calvin, and working on the thesis didn’t help improve that opinion very much. I actually had to go out of my way to try to understand him better (I wouldn’t write a story without trying to understand the villain at least a little bit, I figured I shouldn’t write history without giving the figures the same consideration). Now, honestly, I kinda feel sorry for the guy.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Sort of… I feel like this argument was actually part of the start of their long-standing feud (which resulted in Castellio having to move from Geneva, and some accusations of heresy coming his way!)


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