Monday, June 18, 2018

Why Stay Protestant? by Matthew Schultz

https://medium.com/@MatthewSchultz/why-stay-protestant-435b5e1006a0

A very good overview of the issues that touches on other areas in life (social, arts, music, aesthetics, etc.) that apologists and theologians usually don't mention in this whole issue of Roman Catholicism vs. Protestantism.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Calvin's Geneva: A High Percentage of Illegitimate Children, Abandoned Infants, Forced Marriages, and Sentences of Death

A person going by the moniker "Clement Li" contends John Calvin was "a serial killer, mass murderer and a terrorist." Here's an example of one of the facts entered as supporting evidence:
In Geneva,there was little distinction between religion and morality. The existing records of the Council for this period reveal a high percentage of illegitimate children, abandoned infants, forced marriages, and sentences of death. 
This is but one fact among many (part of a cumulative case line of reasoning). The assumption appears to be that Calvin's presence in Geneva was so negative, it resulted in illegitimate children, abandoned infants, forced marriages, and the final coup de grâce, death.

"Clement Li" thinks facts like these demonstrate John Calvin was "a psychopath." Subsequently, "Calvinist followers" should "pick up a book and do a little research on their spiritual leader they would know that they’re following the beliefs of a serial killer, mass murderer and a terrorist." Those "Calvinist followers" may be "decent people," but, says Li,  "I don’t think Calvinists are Christian."

I did not locate any information as to exactly who this person is. Ironically, the phrase "Clement Li" has an entry in the online Urban Dictionary,  "Clement Li: One who exaggerates all things to the highest degree. Exaggeration cannot pass this point, because it is at max." I mention this at the outset because perhaps this person's written corpus is intended to be farcical (if so, the spirit of Andy Kaufman lives on).

Well then, let's pick up the book this fact is said to come from and do a little research as directed. We'll see with this quote, finding the exact genesis of these facts is not an easy task. We'll see also, the "high percentage" aspect was a later addition.

Documentation
Documentation for the quote is provided: Will Durant, The Reformation, pp. 472-476  (a few links are also provided, but are not relevant to this specific quote). There's a blatant irony to this documentation. "Clement Li" didn't actually put this documentation together, but rather plagiarized it word-for-word from another web-page. In fact, every historical tidbit (in the exact order) that "Clement Li" put forth in the blog entry was plagiarized from another web page. The blatant irony, therefore, is that Calvinists are being directed to pick up a book and do a little research by someone who didn't bother to pick up a book and do a little research.

The quote (or at least part of it) is found in Durant's book on page 476. Durant first cites an eyewitness account in favor of Genevan society:
Cursing and swearing, unchastity, sacrilege, adultery, and impure living, such as prevail in many places where I have lived, are here unknown. There are no pimps and harlots. The people do not know what rouge is, and they are all clad in seemly fashion. Games of chance are not customary. Benevolence is so great that the poor need not beg. The people admonish one another in brotherly fashion, as Christ prescribes. Lawsuits are banished from the city, nor is there any simony, murder, or party spirit, but only peace and charity. On the other hand, there are no organs here, no voice of bells, no showy songs, no burning candles or lamps [in the churches], no relics, pictures, statues, canopies, or splendid robes, no farces or cold ceremonies. The churches are quite free from idolatry.
 Durant counters this positive presentation by saying,
The extant records of the Council for this period do not quite agree with this report: they reveal a high percentage of illegitimate children, abandoned infants, forced marriages, and sentences of death. (47) Calvin's son-in-law and his stepdaughter were among those condemned for adultery.(48)
(47) Beard, The Reformation, 252; Muir, John Knox, 108.
(48) Smith, Reformation, 174-
For the "extant records of the Council for this period," Durant does not directly cite the extant records of the Council for this period. Rather, he first cites Charles Beard, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century (1885), p. 252. There isn't anything specific to verify the "high percentage of illegitimate children, abandoned infants, forced marriages, and sentences of death" on this page,  other than a footnote which sort of says the same thing:


Beard's footnote is citing a biography of Calvin, Paul Henry, Das Leben Johann Calvins des grossen Reformators, Volume 2, p. 78, not the extant records. The English translation of this page from Henry's text can be found here. When one consults Henry, this author is not relying on the extant records, but is rather summarizing a comment from the preface (xv) of Jacques Augustin Galiffe Notices généalogiques sur les familles Genevoises vol. III (Genealogical Notices of Genevan Families) (this footnote is not found in the English translation of Henry).  That text says,


This comment from Galiffe is also not providing statistics from the extant records. Galiffe is saying he could build a negative case against Calvin and the success of Geneva, mentioning some of the key phrases found in Durant's quote. Galiffe says,
To those who imagine that Calvin did nothing but good, I could produce our registers, covered with records of illegitimate children, which were exposed in all parts of the town and country; hideous trials for obscenity; wills, in which fathers and mothers accuse their children not only of errors but of crimes; agreements before notaries between young women and their lovers, in which the latter, even in the presence of the parents of their paramours, make them an allowance for the education of their illegitimate offspring; I could instance multitudes of forced marriages, in which the delinquents were conducted from the prison to the church; mothers who abandoned their children to the hospital, whilst they themselves lived in abundance with a second husband; bundles of law-suits between brothers; heaps of secret negotiations; men and women burnt for witchcraft; sentences of death in frightful numbers; and all these things among the generation nourished by the mystic manna of Calvin. [link]
The next source referenced is Edwin Muir, John Knox, Portrait of a Calvinist, 108. This appears to be the source Durant used for "sentences of death." The author states, "Yet, between the years 1542 and 1546, fifty-eight people were executed in it and seventy-six banished... In sixty years one hundred and fifty heretics were burnt in Geneva." Durant again is citing a biography, not the extant records. Muir also says the following, without any documentation;
The severity of this rule, which made Geneva the admiration of the faithful and earned for it the name of ‘The City of God,’ had the disadvantage of making new crimes spring up wherever an old one was eradicated. Vice concealed itself and throve underground; in spite of the magistrates’ watchfulness there was an inexplicably large number of illegitimate children whom their horrified mothers were forced by terror to expose in the streets; while through fear or sycophancy many people added to the general tyranny: fathers and mothers accused their children not of minor offences merely, but of crimes, and informers were everywhere. 
I suspect Muir's source for these words was also Galiffe. His work was popular among those that were against Calvinism. For instance, Jean M. Vincent Audin, a Roman Catholic author, quotes from the same pages here. Audin states, "M. Galiffe, who intends to die in the bosom of Protestantism will be believed, at least! Behold how he already, with the whole energy of his soul, rejects all communion with that mean, bastard, intolerant reformation which Calvin sought to impose on his fellow citizens!"

Audin may be wrong about "the bosom of Protestantism." This source claims Galiffe converted to Roman Catholicism. Interestingly, while Paul Henry (sympathetic to Calvin)  utilizes Galiffe, elsewhere in his biography of Calvin he alludes to him as a tainted source against Calvin. Others say likewise. This source includes his work on Calvin with those whose interpretation "is replete with unhistorical orientation."

Conclusion
I know Durant is considered a fine historian. Look though at the trail that had to be followed. Durant cited Beard. Beard cited Henry. Henry cited Galiffe. Most of Durant's comment originated from Galiffe, and Galiffe was not actually providing evidence from the extant records to prove his point. In Durant's second reference (Muir), no actual proof or documentation is put forth.  

One thing also to notice is a comparison of Durant's version with all the suspected original source, Galiffe. Durant says the extant records "reveal a high percentage." He may have taken this from Muir who says, "inexplicably large number." I suspect Muir also used Galiffe's comment. Galiffe though uses neither description. 

Neither source cited by Durant had definitive proof for to solidify Durant's assertions. Neither cites the extant records when making their specific points. Sure, they allude to the Genevan records in their respective books, but not at the specific places Durant cited them. While certainly Calvin had influence in Geneva, how is it possible to prove that the "high percentage of illegitimate children, abandoned infants, forced marriages and sentences of death" were the necessary and direct result of Calvin? Simply because Durant wrote it (he simply did the equivalent of a cut-and-paste from other sources, some hostile sources) doesn't make it true.   

If, according to "Clemet Li" the mere presence of John Calvin resulted in high percentage of illegitimate children, abandoned infants, forced marriages and sentences of death, the burden of proof falls on the person making the assertion, to prove a necessary connection.  Quoting attributes of Genevan society (via Durant) and linking them necessarily to Calvin is not good history. The error is known as the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. The reasoning is "Because Calvin was in Geneva, therefore all these things happened." Well, maybe some of the things were the direct influence of Calvin, maybe they were not.  If it was Calvin's influence in Geneva that produced all of those unfortunate things, then so be it. However, I would need to see a bit more proof. Certainly Calvin had influence in Geneva. Certainly Calvin believed in capital punishment. Certainly Calvin was concerned about the morality of Geneva. Certainly Calvin believed in maintaining Genevan laws. To blame him though for illegitimate children, abandoned infants, forced marriages...  these are charges that require more than, "this historian said this... this historian said that..."

Friday, June 01, 2018

Luther: The Devil Can So Completely Assume the Human Form...'Tis Only the Devil in the Shape of a Woman

Here are a few Martin Luther quotes that appeared on the CARM discussion boards. Luther is said to have believed humans are engaging in sex with devil and producing offspring:
“The Devil can so completely assume the human form, when he wants to deceive us, that we may well lie with what seems to be a woman, of real flesh and blood, and yet all the while ’tis only the Devil in the shape of a woman. ‘Tis the same with women, who may think that a man is in bed with them, yet ’tis only the Devil; and…the result of this connection is oftentimes an imp of darkness, half mortal, half devil….”
“How often have not the demons called ‘Nix’ drawn women and girls into the water, and there had commerce with them, with fearful consequences.” 
Why would someone post these quotes? They appear to have been posted by someone with sympathies to the Mormon church in response to a Lutheran participant. A Lutheran applied 2 Tim. 3:3-4 to Mormonism, saying her members prefer "myths to the truth."  The Mormon then prefaced these Luther quotes by saying,
Before you throw too many more rocks through your glass house in a vain attempt to hit the house next door, a question for you: Are you expecting people to believe that people in YOUR church didn't refer the following myths as the truth? I mean, antis whose own church's founder taught that men and women often have sex with the devil and produce half-human, half-demon children-----isn't that a textbook case of rocks from a glass house, or of criticizing a mote in someone else's eye while the accuser has a phone-pole-sized log in her own eye?????
The argument here is that Lutherans should not criticize Mormon beliefs as myths or tales if in fact the originator of Lutheranism (Martin Luther) believed in myths as well. The argument appears to be that since Luther believed in mythical changelings having sex with humans and producing offspring, there's no basis to criticize anything similarly strange in Mormonism. The argument though doesn't follow: the "myths" being referred to in Mormonism are those found in their books of divine revelation. Luther's "myth" holds no such divine pedigree. Search through the official documents of the Lutheran church, and one will not find doctrinal approval for changelings, Nixes, or half-human-half-demon children. 

What though of these quotes? Did Martin Luther really write the words cited above? Did he really believe that the devil was masquerading as human and producing offspring? Let's take a look at these Luther quotes to determine their authenticity.

Documentation
No documentation was provided, but the same person posted the quotes here also claiming, "As quoted by John Mark Ministries." I found two web-pages from John Mark Ministries using these quotes. The first page, Quotes From Luther (2003) appears to have been written by the founder of JMM, Rowland Croucher (but I'm not entirely sure). What's interesting is that Croucher(?) listed a number of undocumented Luther quotes taken from someone who had posted them on an open newsgroup. Croucher(?) determined the quotes probably came via this page, from a person that said he "didn't keep track of the exact citations" because he compiled them for his own "amusement." Croucher(?) then goes on to defend Luther, saying at one point, "...we see that these quotes were not collected out of serious or honest interest, but merely for someone’s careless amusement. Thus, the sincerity and reasonableness of both the compilers of the quotes page and the users of these quotes is called into question."  The second JMM page is simply entitled, Martin Luther (2005). This page also contains a number of "shock" undocumented Luther quotes that appear to have been originally posted by someone going by the moniker,"Mark T." The page simply ends with this vague comment, "Despite the previous posts which discredit Martin Luther, all the good that he did for the Christian faith in the first half of the 1500’s. must be remembered." No documentation is provided for the quotes in question from this other web page.

There are a number of books using forms of this quote (example #1, example #2, example #3, example #4, example #5). Based on the form of the quotes and their usage, I suspect they originally came from the English version of  Jules Michelet's nineteenth-century book, The Life of Luther Written By Himself. This book quotes Luther saying,
"The devil can so completely assume the human form, when he wants to deceive us, that we may very well lie with what seems to us a woman, of real flesh and blood, and yet all the while 'tis only the devil in the shape of a woman: Satan, according to St. Paul, has great power over the children of unrighteousness. 'Tis the same with women, who may think it is a man in bed with them, yet 'tis only the devil; and when it is considered that the result of this connexion it oftentimes an imp of darkness, half mortal, half devil, such cases are peculiarly horrible and appalling. How often have not the demons called Nix, drawn women and girls into the water, and there had commerce with them, with like fearful consequences. The devil, too, sometimes steals human children; it is not unfrequent for him to carry away infants within the first six weeks after their birth, and to substitute in their place imps, called in Latin supposititii, and by the Saxons kilkropff. 
Michelet does not document this material (nor does the original French version of this book). In this section, of the sparse documentation given, most of it points to the Tischreden (Table Talk). I suspect Michelet took this quote from one of the earliest published version of the Table Talk, Tischreden oder Colloquia Doct. Mart. Luthers (1566). Elsewhere in the book (French also), Michelet mentions "Tischreden (Table Talk) (Frankfort, 1568)." Here is the 1568 edition. These early editions were put together by someone who knew Luther,  John Aurifaber. LW points out "In this form the Table Talk became widely known" (LW 54, Introduction), so it would make sense that this was the version used by Michelet.  On page 213 of the 1568 edition, the following appears to be the text Michelet drew from:



The same text is found on page 300 in the 1566 edition; the 1570 edition has a clearer scan (see page 272), see also Sämtliche Werke, Volume 60, 37-39, and WATR 3, 517-518.

Almost the entirety of this version of the Table Talk was translated into English by Captain Henry Bell (1652): Dris Martini Lutheri Colloquia Mensalia: Or, Dr Martin Luther's Divine Discourses at His Table, etc. The page in question can be found here (minus the first paragraph). Bell's version of the Table Talk was republished as a two-volume set in the nineteenth century with updated English, but this section was curiously left out (it should fall on pages 128-129). A revised English version of this section though was published in 1827: Table Talk: Or, Selections from the Ana. Containing Extracts from the Different Collections of Ana, French, English, Italian, and German. With Bibliographical Notices. The statement can be found here (also leaving out the first paragraph), and is reproduced below.

The Table Talk was not written by Luther. It's a compilation of remarks Luther is purported to have stated.  I'm not sure Aurifaber actually heard Luther make the comments in question. Aurifaber did not have a lot of personally recorded remarks of Luther's. To publish his edition of the Tischreden, he relied heavily on the notes of others, particularly Anthony Lauterbach's redactions  (see Smith's discussion here). WATR 3, 515-516 (3676) includes a Latin / German entry that has similar characteristics to that presented by Aurifaber, but the source is "Math. L" and also includes a possible date: November or December, 1537. Aurifaber did not begin recording remarks he heard Luther utter until 1545. It is possible though Luther made the same sort of comments twice (if he made them at all), yet Aurifaber's version was heavily redacted and edited. This section appears more like polished narrative.    

Both Aurifaber's version and the parallel statement found in WATR 3 (3676) have been popular because of the strange story the entry relays, a version of the Mélusine myth / or succubus story. The paragraph from Aurifaber (left out of the English translations) specifically says "wie denn die Melusine zu Lucelburg auch ein solcher succubus oder Teufel gewesen ist." That story forms the first part of the Table Talk comment below. A comparison of the collected Mélusine myths though show that the Table Talk version has significant differences, making the comparison seem forced. The majority of the Mélusine stories I found typically denote her as hiding her serpent form. In the Table Talk story, the woman is deceased, but appears to returns to life, then disappears after a particular set of words are spoken.  The similarity appears to be that the Mélusine was considered to be a type of demonic succubus, as was the deceased woman. 

Context
A Gentleman had a fair young wife which died, and was also buried. Not long after, the Gentleman and his servant lying together in one chamber, his dead wife in the night time approached into the chamber, and leaned herself upon the Gentleman's bed, like as if she had been desirous to speak with him. The servant (seeing the same two or three nights one after another) asked his master, whether he knew, that every night a woman, in white apparel, came unto his bed? The Gentleman said. No: I sleep soundly (said he) and see nothing. When night approached, the Gentleman, considering the same, lay waking in bed. Then the woman appeared unto him, and came hard to his bed-side. The Gentleman demanded who she was? She answered, I am your wife. He said. My wife is dead and buried. She said. True: by reason of your swearing and sins I died; but if you would take me again, and would also abstain from swearing one particular oath, which commonly you use, then would I be your wife again. He said, I am content to perform what you desire. Whereupon his dead wife remained with him, ruled his house, lay with him, ate and drank with him, and had children together. Now it fell out, that on a time the Gentleman had guests, and his wife after supper was to fetch out of his chest some banqueting stuff: she staying somewhat long, her husband (forgetting himself) was moved thereby to swear his accustomed oath; whereupon the woman vanished that instant. Now seeing she returned not again, they went up into the chamber to see what was become of her. There they found the gown which she wore, half lying within the chest, and half without; but she was never seen afterwards. This did the Devil, (said Luther) he can transform himself into the shape of a man or woman.
The Prince Elector of Saxony (John Frederick,) having received advertisement of this strange accident, sent thereupon presently unto me (said Luther,) to have my opinion what I held of that woman, and of the children which were begotten of these two persons? Whereupon I wrote to his Highness, that in my opinion, neither that woman, nor those children, were right human creatures, but devils; for the devil casteth before the eyes a blaze, or a mist, and so deceiveth the people; insomuch that one thinketh he lieth by a right woman, and yet is no such matter; for, as St Paul saith, the devil is strong by the children of unbelief. But inasmuch as children, or devils, are conceived in such sort, the same are very horrible and fearful examples, in that Satan can plague and so torment people, as to beget children. Like unto this is it also with that which they call the Nix, in the water, who draweth people unto him, as maids and virgins, of whom he begetteth (devils) children. The devil can also steal children away, (as sometimes children within the space of six weeks after their birth are lost,) and other children, called Supposititii, or Changelings, laid in their places. Of the Saxons they are called Killcrops.
Conclusion
There is a tedious fact about the first quote worth mentioning. From an examination of Aurifaber's German text, the English Table Talk translations, and Michelet's original French version,  it appears the English translator of Michelet, William Hazlitt,  took some liberties with the French text by adding a sentence. The French text reads,
Le diable peut se changer en homme ou en femme pour tromper, de telle manière qu'on croit être couché avec une femme en chair et en os, et qu'il n'en est rien; car, suivant le mot de saint Paul, le diable est bien fort avec les fils de l'impiété. Comme il en résulte souvent des enfans ou des diables, ces exemples sont effrayans et horribles. C'est ainsi que ce qu'on appelle le nix, attire dans l'eau les vierges ou les femmes pour créer des diablotins. Le diable peut aussi dérober des enfans; quelquefois dans les six premières semaines de leur naissance, il enlève à leur mère ces pauvres créatures pour en substituer à leur place d'autres, nommés supposititii, et par les Saxons, kilkropff.
The English translator (Hazlitt) appears to have added, "'Tis the same with women, who may think it is a man in bed with them, yet 'tis only the devil." This addition does no actual harm to the gist of the French text (Hazlitt does say he added to Michelet's work), but this sentence is also not found in Aurifaber's German account.  In regard to the overall account, Aurifaber's version of the Table Talk was already heavily edited and pieced together (see Smith's explanation of this redacted version), so Hazlitt has added yet another layer to an already suspect narrative. Interestingly, Hazlitt included the Mélusine tale / Succubus Myth in his English version of the Table Talk, minus Luther's comments (see Addendum #1 below).

There is another tedious problem. I see some ambiguity as to whose story it actually is. The German text states, "Doctor Martin Luther sagte, „daß er selbs von H. Johanns Friederich, Kurfürsten zu Sachsen, eine Historien geHort hätte." Bell's translation states, "In Germanie (faid Luther) was heretofore a Noble Familie, which were born of a succubus, and fell out thus..." Hazlitt states, "Dr. Luther said he had heard from the elector of Saxony, John Frederic, that a powerful family in Germany was descended from the devil, the founder having been born of a succubus. He added this story..." Is the story from John Frederick or Luther?

I've actually been through some of these quotes previously (2013), probably because of comments from the same Mormon-leaning CARM participant. In 2013, one of the sources being used was the Internet article, Changelings An Essay by D. L. Ashliman, 1997. This author stated,  "Luther was very much a product of his own times with respect to superstitious beliefs and practices." This should come as no surprise. For instance, a "Nix" appears to be a type of water-demon, something a German boy would learn about as a child. Luther held to a lot of odd beliefs that were part of the medieval culture in which he lived. 

Is it possible Luther made the comments reported in the Table Talk? Yes, but the version in the Table Talk appears heavily edited to form a compelling account woven together with a folk tale (especially when compared to WATR 3, 3676). While Luther may have had medieval views like those found in Aurifaber's Tischreden account, it's interesting to see the caution Luther had in interpreting the "sons of God" and the Nephilim of Genesis 6. This would be the perfect opportunity to speculate on beings from the spiritual realm cohabiting humans.  Luther refers to the "sons of God" being those who "fell away from the worship and Word of God and became entirely worldly, with the result that they corrupted not only the church but also the state and the home" (LW 2:32). The "giants" that were born were "arrogant men who usurped both the government and the priesthood" (Ibid.). They were giants in the sense of being "not men of huge mass of body, as in the passage in Numbers, but unruly and mischievous men, the way the poets depict the Cyclopes, who fear neither God nor men but pursue only their own desires and rely on their own power and strength" (LW 2:34). There is also a contrast with "the true sons of God, namely, Noah with his children" (LW 2:37).

As I've looked at this, the majority of proof for Luther's view relies solely on the Table TalkThe Table Talk is not something Luther wrote, it's statements Luther is purported to have said. Often, the contexts do not say enough to establish Luther's dogmatic lifelong opinion on a particular subject. Luther does make passing comments about changelings elsewhere (LW 47:254, 260, and LW 24:92-93). To simply demonstrate the incongruity with the second-hand nature of the Table Talk and more legitimate texts from Luther, note the following. In the quotes under scrutiny, the union of devil and human is said to produce "an imp of darkness, half mortal, half devil…." Elsewhere though,  Luther denies the Devil can beget human children. In his exposition of Genesis 6, Luther stated:
Moses simply calls the sons of the patriarchs, to whom the promise of the Seed was given, "sons of God"; they were the true church. When they yielded to the seductions of the Cainite church, they also proceeded to gratify the desires of the flesh and to take wives from the Cainite race, likewise concubines, as many as they wanted and whomever they chose. Lamech and Noah observed this with grief; and for this reason, perhaps, they married rather late (LW 2:10).
Here, too, the Jews come up with a variety of foolish ideas. They describe the sons of God as incubi from which that notorious and ungodly race was begotten; they further maintain that the sons of God are given this name because of their spiritual nature. The less extreme among them, on the other hand, prove these foolish ideas to be false and describe the 'sons of God' as the sons of the mighty. Lyra neatly disposes also of this idea by pointing out that the punishment of the Flood was not a punishment upon the mighty alone, but upon all flesh, just as the punishment of the Last Day will be.
So far as incubi and succubi are concerned, I do not deny, but believe, that the devil may happen to be either a succubus or an incubus; for I have heard many relate their very own experiences. Augustine, too, declares that he heard the same sort of story from trustworthy people whom he felt compelled to believe. It delights Satan if he can delude us by taking on the appearance either of a young man or of a woman. But that anything can be born from the union of a devil and a human being is simply untrue. Such an assertion is sometimes made about hideous infants that resemble demons very much. I have seen some of these. But I am convinced either that these were deformed, but not begotten, by the devil, or that they are actual devils with flesh that they have either counterfeited or stolen from somewhere else. If with God's permission the devil can take possession of an entire human being and change his disposition, what would be so remarkable about his misshaping the body and bringing about the birth of either blind or crippled children?" (LW 2:10-11) (alternate English text).
Addendum #1: William Hazlitt's Table Talk Version of the Succubus Myth
Dr. Luther said he had heard from the elector of Saxony, John Frederic, that a powerful family in Germany was descended from the devil, the founder having been born of a succubus. He added this story: A gentleman had a young and beautiful wife, who, dying, was buried. Shortly afterwards, this gentleman and one of his servants sleeping in the same chamber, the wife, who was dead, came at night, bent over the bed of the gentleman, as though she were conversing with him, and, after awhile, went away again. The servant, having twice observed this circumstance, asked his master whether he knew that, every night, a woman, clothed in white, stood by his bed-side. The master replied, that he had slept soundly, and had observed nothing of the sort. The next night, he took care to remain awake. The woman came, and he asked her who she was, and what she wanted. She answered, that she was his wife. He returned: my wife is dead and buried. She answered, she had died by reason of his sins, but that if he would receive her again, she would return to him in life. He said, if it were possible, he should be well content. She told him he must undertake not to swear, as he was wont to do; for that if he ever did so, she should once more die, and permanently quit him. He promised this, and the dead woman, returning to seeming life, dwelt with him, ate, drank, and slept with him, and had children by him. One day that he had guests, his wife went to fetch some cakes from an adjoining apartment, and remained a long time absent. The gentleman grew impatient, and broke out into his old oaths. The wife not returning, the gentleman, with his friends, went to seek her, but she had disappeared; only, the clothes she had worn lay on the floor. She was never again seen. (link)

Friday, May 25, 2018

Luther: Whoever First Brewed Beer Has Prepared a Pest for Germany

Above: A product from the LutherBiere line. 

Cyberspace is replete with descriptions of Martin Luther as the beer-guzzling antinomian. Here's a rare instance of the opposite description. Luther is reported to have stated,
Whoever first brewed beer has prepared a pest for Germany. I have prayed to God that he would destroy the whole growing industry. I have often pronounced a curse on the brewer. All Germany could live on the barley that is spoiled and turned into a curse by the brewer.
Multiple sources have used this quote, typically undocumented, particularly in support of Prohibition. It appears versions of this Luther quote only gained popularity around the time of Prohibition in the United States For instance:



And also:
We are told that Martin Luther, who lived four hundred years ago, foresaw the great evil of the beer business and prayed to God for deliverance for Germany from its curse. He is quoted as having said: “Whoever first brewed beer has prepared a pest for Germany.”Then he added: “I have prayed to God that He would destroy the whole brewing industry. . . . . . . All Germany could live on the barley that is spoiled and turned into a curse by the brewer.”
Martin Luther saw a long way ahead when he made that prayer, but it is not yet too late for God to answer and destroy the whole brewing business. It is indeed a curse to the human family and needs to be put out of the way. No doubt many a brewer has laughed in his sleeve at Martin Luther's prayer for the destruction of this great evil, fully believing that because it was not answered immediately, it would never be. It is now most likely that the man is now living who will see the day when Martin Luther's prayer will be answered and the brewing business destroyed. It looks that way now—the nations are turning against “the jolly old brewer.”

There is also an alternate version:
The man who first brewed beer was a pest for Germany. Food must be dear in all our land, for the horses eat up all our oats, and the peasants drink up all our barley in the form of beer. I have survived the end of genuine beer, for it has now become small beer in every sense, and I have prayed to God that He might destroy the whole beer-brewing business, and the first beer-brewer I have often cursed. There is enough barley destroyed in the breweries to feed all Germany. 

Documentation
The quote is typically undocumented. This source claims it is from "Martin Luther in his Table Talks.One of the most popular sources for quoting Luther is the Tischreden, in English known as the Table Talk. The Table Talk is a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students, published after his death. It is a popular source because the comments are witty, and often stand alone, in fact they most often stand alone because the actual historical context of the purported remarks is unknown. 

A version of this particular beer-bashing comment can be found in the TischredenWATR 1:23 states,

This particular saying was recorded by John Schlaginhaufen (he recorded statements of Luther from 1531-1532). LW explains his collections was not published until 1888 (LW 54:125) by Wilhelm Preger. When WATR refers to "Schlag. 49," they are referring to entry 49 found here. "CLM. 943" refers to the Munich codex that Grisar says was the primary source "used by Preger." It was a copy of  Schlaginhaufen's notes ("made by some unknown person about 1551...").  "233b" and "234" then refer to the entry numbers in that handwritten manuscript.  Notice at the bottom WATR 1 refers to "Nr. 2344 (Cord. 442)." This refers also to one of the compilers of the Table TalkConrad Cordatus was one of the earliest to take notes on Luther's incidental statements. Here is statement 442 from Cordatus:
Notice how sparse the comment recorded by Cordatus actually is, basically repeating the sentiment about the first beer brewer being the pest of Germany.  But like many of the Table Talk statements, multiple versions exist. Note the similarities in this Table Talk statement  and this statement!

The English edition of Luther's Works did include Schlaginhaufen's comment (WATR 1:23;1281). It can be found at LW 54:132. They also included the comment from Cordatus (WATR 3:5; 2810b), found at LW 54:172, which had been attached to another comment about Adam. Cordatus took Luther's comments from other sources. He later revised his Table Talk notes, making stylistic changes. Because of this, Luther's Works (English edition) includes only a small sampling of those statements compiled by Cordatus.

Context

No. 1281: Large Proportion of Grain Used to Make Beer
Between December 28 and 31, 1531
“Whoever it was who invented the brewing of beer has been a curse for Germany. Prices must be high in our lands. Horses devour the greatest part of the grain, for we grow more oats than rye. Then the good peasants and townspeople drink up almost as much of the grain in the form of beer. On this account the farmers in noble Thuringia, where the land is very fertile, have learned the rascality of growing woad where good and noble grain used to be cultivated, and this has so burned and exhausted the soil that it is beyond all reason.” (LW 54:132)

No. 2810b: Adam Must Have Lived a Simple Life
Between November 24 and December 8, 1532
“Adam was a very simple and unassuming man, [said Luther]. I don’t think he lighted candles. He didn’t know that the ox has suet in his body, for he wasn’t as yet slaughtering cattle. I wonder where he got the hides. Beyond this, Adam was undoubtedly a handsome man. He lived so long that he saw the eighth generation of his descendants, up to the time of Noah. No doubt he was a very sensible man and well practiced in a variety of trials. He lived most temperately and drank neither wine nor beer.
“I wish the brewing of beer had never been invented, for a great deal of grain is consumed to make it, and nothing good is brewed.” (LW 54:172)
Conclusion
Because there are so many quotes from Luther that prove he drank and enjoyed beer, one may be tempted to conclude that Luther was being inconsistent. If the statement was really made by Luther, I do not think he was inconsistent, because his general concern throughout his life was in regard to the excess of alcohol. There are a great many legitimate comments from Luther about drunkenness. Consider particularly, Luther's 1539 Sermon on Soberness and Moderation (LW 51:289-299). Consider one excerpt:
Eating and drinking are not forbidden, but rather all food is a matter of freedom, even a modest drink for one’s pleasure. If you do not wish to conduct yourself this way, if you are going to go beyond this and be a born pig and guzzle beer and wine, then, if this cannot be stopped by the rulers, you must know that you cannot be saved. For God will not admit such piggish drinkers into the kingdom of heaven [cf. Gal. 5:19–21] (LW 51:293).
Luther preached and wrote against drunkenness throughout his entire life with vigor and force. As biographer Heinrich Boehmer notes, “Luther attacked the craving for drink with word and pen more vigorously than any German of his time. He told even princes his opinion of it, in private and public, blamed the elector himself publicly for this vice, and read the elector’s courtiers an astonishingly drastic lecture” [Heinrich Boehmer, Luther and the Reformation in the Light of Modern Research (London: G. Bell and Sons LTD, 1930), 198]. It appears to me that those in support of Prohibition took one Table Talk comment and ran with it, attempting to make Luther into something he was not.

Friday, May 18, 2018

James MacKinnon: Luther and the Reformation



Here are pdf links to the four volume biography of Martin Luther from James MacKinnon.

Volume 1: Early Life and Religious Development to 1517

Volume 2: The Breach with Rome (1517-21)

Volume 3: Progress of the Movement (1521-29)

Volume 4: Vindication of the Movement (1530-46)

I found these volumes via this link. This set was one of the original biographies I used when I started researching the Reformation. I'm grateful someone has made them available online.  MacKinnon's work is valuable because he was fluent in understanding the Denifle / Grisar (Roman Catholic) distortion of Luther. These are good historical source volumes to have.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Calvin was the Cruel and Unopposed Dictator of Geneva?

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church is said to have pronounced: "Calvin was the cruel and unopposed dictator of Geneva." Different versions of this citation are found in cyberspace, many attributing this opinion to this famous dictionary. In one curious mention, Leighton Flowers argues for the authenticity of the quote (and source) by referring to the authority of Christianity Today and that the same quote was used in "5 articles by Calvinistic brothers... while still standing in defense of Calvinistic soteriology and Calvin’s overall character." If all these pro-Calvin sources use this quote, it must be a legitimate quote and the official opinion of The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.

Dr. Flowers' argument is only partially correct. It's true, if a number of credible sources use the same information, that certainly is an important factor in determining validity. On the other hand, Flowers' argument is fundamentally flawed in that, simply because other sources (including favorable sources) use the quote, this doesn't necessarily prove the authenticity of the quote. Historical accuracy is not determined by taking a poll to see how many people are on the same page.

What then of this quote? Did the respected Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church really publish the exact sentence, "Calvin was the cruel and unopposed dictator of Geneva"? No, they did not. They published a sentence with some similar terms, but not an exact match to that being cited. Is this therefore a legitimate quote? I will argue their negative sentiment towards John Calvin may have been their opinion at one time, but no longer should it be attributed as the official position of The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.

Documentation
Many cyber-occurrences of this quote simply cite it as coming from "The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church." I suspect Christian History Magazine played a significant role in disseminating this particular documentation. To the left is the actual page layout how the quote appeared in their issue dedicated to John Calvin.  While Christian History Magazine is a helpful source for an easily digested overview of Christian history, their documentation is often horrendous. The majority of issues I've thumbed through hardly document anything in a meaningful way. The articles are clever, the layout is appealing, proper documentation though appears to be considered neither, so they typically leave the bulk of such tedium out.

In his defense of the quote Leighton Flowers found better documentation in this link:  "‘John Calvin’ in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by FL Cross and EA Livingstone, (OUP: New York, 1974, 2nd ed.), p. 223." Flowers posted this reference back in 2017. Had I been involved in this discussion, I would have asked Dr. Flowers if he had actually read page 223 in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church to confirm this quote. I suspect he would have either said "no," or quickly done a web-search to see if the book was easily accessible on-line.

In fact, not owning this volume, the very first thing I did was to see if The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church was online. Through the magic of Google Books and the preview feature at Amazon, it is possible to view the bulk of the John Calvin entry in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Via Google, a limited preview of the 2005 edition is available. One thing to notice immediately is that the Calvin entry occurs on different pages in the 2005 edition (pp. 268-270), not page 223.

More importantly, the striking thing to notice is that the quote in question does not appear in the "John Calvin" entry in these online versions. Searches of the complete book of key terms in the sentence do not return any positive hits from any of the pages in this book. I was not not the first person to realize this. The person criticizing Leighton Flowers on this quote went so far as to refer to it as one of many "fake citations," also saying, "After some research I could find no such quote in any edition of ODCC dating back to 1997." I likewise searched through a number of online editions and did not locate anything similar to "Calvin was the cruel and unopposed dictator of Geneva." It's completely missing. It certainly does seem like a fake citation!

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2005
To prove this, here is the entirety of the entry as it is now published in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church:
Calvin, John (1509–64), French reformer and theologian. Born at Noyon in Picardy, Calvin appears to have been intended for an ecclesiastical career; he obtained his first benefice and received the *tonsure at the age of 12 through the patronage of the Bp. of Noyon. Sometime between 1521 and 1523 he went to Paris, studying arts at the Collège de Montaigu, presumably with a view to proceeding to the study of theology, but from 1528 he studied civil law at Orléans and later at Bourges. Here he became familiar with the ideas of Humanism, and possibly (through the influence of Melchior Wolmar, who taught him Greek) those of M. *Luther. After the death of his father in 1531, Calvin returned to Paris to study letters, publishing his commentary on *Seneca’s De Clementia in 1532.
Calvin’s growing sympathy with the Reformation movement led to his flight from Paris in Nov. 1533, following the outcry against the address delivered by the Rector of the University of Paris, Nicholas Cop, to mark the beginning of the academic year. This oration, generally thought to have been composed by Calvin, shows obvious affinities with both *Erasmus and Luther. In 1534 Calvin resigned his ecclesiastical benefices, and, as the religious situation in France deteriorated and the threat of persecution grew, fled to Basle in 1535. The first (Latin) edition of his *Institutes (q.v.) was published there in March 1536. On passing through *Geneva in July 1536, he was persuaded by G. *Farel to remain there and assist in organizing the Reformation in the city. In Jan. 1537 Calvin and Farel drew up articles regulating the organization of the Church and worship. However, strong internal opposition to their imposition of ecclesiastical discipline arose, centering on the imposition of a confession of faith and the use of excommunication as an instrument of social policy. Meanwhile Geneva was coming under increasing pressure from its powerful neighbor and ally, Berne. On Easter Day 1538, Calvin publicly defied the city council’s explicit instructions to conform to the (*Zwinglian) religious practices of Berne and was immediately ordered to leave the city.
Accepting an invitation from M. *Bucer, Calvin spent the next three years as pastor to the French congregation at Strasbourg. This period proved formative for Calvin, allowing him insights into the management of civil and ecclesiastical affairs denied him in the more provincial setting of Geneva. During this period he produced an enlarged edition of the Institutes (1539), in which the influence of Bucer is particularly evident in the discussion of the Church; a commentary on Romans (1539); the first French edition of the Institutes (1541); and the celebrated Epistle to Cardinal *Sadoleto, then endeavoring to bring Geneva back to the RC Church, in which Calvin vigorously defended the principles of the Reformation. In Aug. 1540 he married Idelette de Bure, a widow.
In Sept. 1541 Calvin accepted the invitation of the city council to return to Geneva and during the next 14 years devoted himself to establishing a theocratic regime. His ‘Ecclesiastical Ordinances’, which again drew heavily on the views of Bucer, were adopted by the city council in Nov. 1541. These distinguished four ministries within the Church: pastors, doctors, elders, and deacons. Other reforming measures included the introduction of vernacular catechisms and liturgy. Ecclesiastical discipline was placed in the hands of a *consistory, consisting of 12 elders and some pastors, which sought to enforce morality through the threat of temporary excommunication; among other things it prohibited such pleasures as dancing and gambling. Popular reaction against this moral control was considerable, culminating in the victory of an anti-Calvin party in the city elections of 1548. This was assisted by popular discontent arising from the large number of Protestant emigrés, largely from France, who sought refuge in Geneva. The difficulties of Calvin’s public life were compounded by personal tragedy: his wife died in March 1549, leaving him to care for her two children by her previous marriage (her only child by Calvin died shortly after his birth in 1542). The trial and execution of M. *Servetus (1553), however, served to undermine the authority of the city council, and by 1555 effective opposition to Calvin had ceased.
From this time onwards Calvin was virtually unimpeded in his promotion of the Reformation in Geneva and elsewhere. His extensive commentaries on the NT were supplemented by a series dealing with OT works. The establishment of the *Genevan Academy (1559) provided an international forum for the propagation of Calvin’s ideas. His influence upon the French Protestant movement (see huguenots) was enormous, Geneva being the chief source of pastors for French Protestant congregations. The publication of French editions of the Institutes exercised as great an influence over the formation of the French language itself as over French Protestantism. Earlier, between 1549 and 1553, Calvin addressed a series of letters to *Edward VI and Protector *Somerset, suggesting reforms in the English Church which would retain an episcopal form of government; from 1555 onwards he offered refuge in Geneva to Protestant exiles from England. In 1559 Calvin was finally made a citizen of Geneva. Until then his status had been that of a legal resident alien in the employment of the city council. He did not have access to the decision-making bodies in the city, save for the appointment of pastors and the regulation of morals. What authority he possessed appears to have derived largely from his personality and his influence as a religious teacher and preacher; even this authority, however, was constantly challenged by the city council until 1555.
Calvin was a more rigorous and logical thinker than Luther, considerably more sympathetic to the insights and methods of Humanism, and much more aware of the importance of organization, both of ideas and institutions. During his time at Geneva, his reputation and influence as an ecclesiastical statesman, as a religious controversialist, educationalist, and author was widespread. His theological insight, his exegetical talents, his knowledge of languages, his precision, and his clear and pithy style, made him the most influential writer among the reformers. His Institutes are still regarded as one of the most important literary and theological works of the period. In CW, he is commemorated on 26 May.
The standard edn. of Calvin’s works is that by H. W. Baum, E. Cunitz, E. Reuss, P. Lobstein, and A. Erichson (Corpus Reformatorum, 29–87; 59 vols., Brunswick, 1863–1900). Opera Selecta, ed. P. Barth and W. Niesel (5 vols., Munich, 1926–36). Many of his works were tr. into Eng. in the 19th cent. under the auspices of the Calvin Translation Society. The collection of Tracts and Treatises by H. Beveridge (1844) was repr., with notes and introd. by T. F. Torrance (3 vols., 1958). Other modern trs. into Eng. incl. that of his Theological Treatises by J. K. S. Reid (Library of Christian Classics, 22; 1954), of a selection of his Commentaries by J. Haroutunian (ibid. 23; 1958), of his Institutes by F. L. Battles, ed. J. T. McNeill (ibid. 20–1; 1961), of his Commentaries on the NT by T. H. L. Parker and others, ed. D. W. Torrance and T. F. Torrance (1959 ff.), and of his Comm. on Seneca’s De Clementia by F. L. Battles and A. M. Huglo (Leiden, 1969). The Lives of Calvin by T. *Beza, orig. prefixed to Calvin’s Comm. on Joshua (posthumously pub., Geneva, 1564; Eng. tr. of the Life, London, 1564), and that prefixed to the edn. of Calvin’s letters pub. Geneva, 1575, together with that attributed to Beza (the work of Nicolas Colladon) prefixed to 2nd edn. of the Comm. on Joshua (Lyons, 1565), are pr. among his works.
Modern studies dealing with Calvin generally incl. E. Doumergue, Jean Calvin: Les hommes et les choses de son temps (5 vols., 1899–1917; comprehensive but uncrit.); J. Rilliet, Calvin 1509–1564 (Paris, 1963); A. Ganoczy, Le Jeune Calvin: Genèse et évolution de sa vocation réformatrice (Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für europäische Geschichte Mainz, 40; Wiesbaden, 1966; Eng. tr., Philadelphia, 1987; Edinburgh, 1988); T. H. L. Parker, John Calvin: A Biography (1975); W. J. Bouwsma, John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait (New York and Oxford, 1988); A. E. McGrath, A Life of John Calvin (Oxford, 1990); B. Cottret, Calvin: biographie ([1995]; Eng. tr., Grand Rapids and Edinburgh, 2000). Works on different aspects incl. E. Choisy, La Théocratie à Genève au temps de Calvin (Geneva [1897]); W. Niesel, Die Theologie Calvins (Munich, 1938; 2nd edn., 1957; Eng. tr., 1956); J. D. Benoît, Calvin, directeur des âmes [1949]; T. F. Torrance, Calvin’s Doctrine of Man (1949); id., Kingdom and Church: A Study in the Theology of the Reformation (1956), pp. 90–164; F. Wendel, CalvinSources et évolution de sa pensée religieuse (Études d’histoire et de philosophie religieuses publiées par la faculté de théologie protestante de l’université de Strasbourg, 41; 1950; Eng. tr., 1963); E. A. Dowey, The Knowledge of God in Calvin’s Theology (New York, 1952); P. [M.] van Buren, Christ in Our Place: The Substitutionary Character of Calvin’s Doctrine of Reconciliation (1957); R. S. Wallace, Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life (1959); W. Nijenhuis, Calvinus OecumenicusCalvijn en de Eenheid der Kerk in het Licht van zijn Briefwisseling (Kirkhistorische Studien, 3; 1959); J. *Moltmann (ed.), Calvin-Studien 1959 (Neukirchen, 1960); H. J. Forstman, Word and Spirit: Calvin’s Doctrine of Biblical Authority (Stanford, Calif., 1962); K. (McDonnell, OSB, John Calvin, the Church, and the Eucharist (Princeton, NJ, 1967); T. H. L. Parker, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries (1971); id., Calvin’s Old Testament Commentaries (Edinburgh, 1986); H. Höpfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin (Cambridge, 1982); S. E. Schreiner, The Theater of his Glory: Nature and the Natural Order in the Thought of John Calvin (Durham, NC [1991]); R. C. Zachman, The Assurance of Faith: Conscience in the Theology of Martin Luther and John Calvin (Minneapolis [1993]), pp. 91–253. P. W. Butin, Revelation, Redemption and Response: Calvin’s Trinitarian Understanding of the Divine-Human Relationship (New York and Oxford, 1995); D. C. Steinmetz, Calvin in Context (ibid. 1995). R. Peter and J.-F. Gilmont, Bibliotheca Calviniana: Les œuvres de Jean Calvin publiées au XVIe siècle (Travaux d’Humanisme et Renaissance, 255 and 281; 1991–4). A. Erichson, Bibliographia Calviniana: Catalogus Chronologicus Operum Calvini (Berlin, 1900); W. Niesel, Calvin-Bibliographie 1901–1959 (Munich, 1961), D. Kempff, A Bibliography of Calviniana 1959–1974 (Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought, 15; Leiden, 1975). J. N. Tylenda and P. De Klerk, ‘Calvin Bibliography 1960–1970’, Calvin Theological Journal, 6 (1971), pp. 156–93; an annual bibl. is included in subsequent issues of the Journal. See also bibls. to calvinism and institutes.
 Cross, F. L., and Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., pp. 268–270). Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1974
There is nothing overtly condescending about Calvin in the above. One wonders how anyone could possibly say The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church referred to Calvin as a "cruel" and "unopposed dictator." I decided to take this a step further and pursue the documentation provided via Leighton Flowers, so I  purchased the 1974 edition. As it turns out, there are some crucial and drastic differences between the 2005 edition and the 1974 edition. The latest edition is a revision of the second edition from 1974. The reason why the page numbers don't match is because the later revision expanded the content by adding new material. E.A. Livingstone explained in the 2005 edition, that to "reflect events and shifts in scholarly opinion over the last eight years or so... In some cases I commissioned completely new articles..."

This appears to be what happened with the "John Calvin" entry. While there are some similarities, the "John Calvin" entry in the later edition is significantly different than what appears in the 1974 edition. The 1974 version does paint a different picture of Calvin, that of the despotic intolerant ruler. For instance, in describing Calvin's first years at Geneva, the text states:
He was appointed preacher and professor of theology and in 1536 published his Articuli de Regimine Ecclesiae. They contained severe regulations concerning admission to the Lord's Supper and required from all Genevan citizens a profession of faith approved by the town council, the refusal of which was to be punished by exile (222).
And also of Calvin's return:
In 1541 Calvin returned to Geneva , where his party had gained the upper hand, and during the next 14 years he devoted himself to establishing a theocratic regime on OT lines. this was effected by a series of Ordinances which placed the government of the new Church in the hands of four classes of men... which, under Calvin, was chiefly a tribunal of morals. It wielded the power of excommunication and had far-reaching powers over the private lives of citizens. These were enforced by new legislation, which inflicted severe punishments even for purely religious offenses and prohibited all pleasures such as dancing and games (223).
The article then mentions the Libertine party "which Calvin succeeded in overcoming by force," (223) and how Gruet, Monnet, and Servetus were either tortured or executed.  Not long thereafter comes the quote under scrutiny: "From 1555 to his death he was the unopposed dictator of Geneva, which, through him, had become a city of the strictest morality." The article goes on to describe "his vindictiveness and his claim to be the supreme authority to decide what is true Christianity and what is not was resented even by his many followers" (223).

Conclusion
The actual quote is "From 1555 to his death he was the unopposed dictator of Geneva, which, through him, had become a city of the strictest morality." This is certainly different than "Calvin was the cruel and unopposed dictator of Geneva." Missing particularly is the word "cruel" (this word does not appear anywhere in the 1974 entry).  I suspect someone originally only was citing the ODCC saying "unopposed dictator of Geneva," and then someone after that created the version of this sentence attributing its entirety to the ODCC. Perhaps it was Christian History Magazine? Their exact statement was "[Calvin was] the 'cruel' and 'the unopposed dictator of Geneva'. " They published their issue on Calvin in 1986. If they weren't the culprit, they certainly helped in perpetuating this somewhat fake citation.

Robert Godfrey's review of the 1974 edition is revealing. He points out that the 1974 edition was a revision of the 1957 edition. While mentioning improvements, he specifically mentions problems with "John Calvin" entry:
When Professor Paul Woolley reviewed the first edition of the Dictionary in this Journal, he critiqued three entries in particular: one on millennarianism and two on Calvin and Calvinism. The erroneous definition of millennarianism in the first edition has been corrected in the second. Unhappily no such improvement can be seen in the entries on Calvin and Calvinism. While the bibliographies, particularly on Calvin, have been greatly improved and updated, the articles themselves have not been changed at all. The same gross misrepresentations of Calvin and Calvinism are simply repeated. Whoever contributed these articles should have read the good books listed in the bibliographies.
The first article describes Calvin as having “devoted himself to establishing a theocratic regime on Old Testament lines,” and having “prohibited all pleasures such as dancing and games” (p. 223). Calvin is called “the unopposed dictator of Geneva” after 1555 and as lacking “the human attractiveness of Luther.” (Ibid.) The theology of Calvinism is summarized as “extreme emphasis on the omnipotence of God, which takes no account of His justice and mercy” (p. 224). Reformed church polity is described as a “theocratic polity, subjecting the State to the Church” (Ibid.). Calvin’s eucharistic theology is “at times ambiguous, but his thought seems to tend more in the direction of Zwingli” (Ibid.). None of these statements is true and indicate one place in the Dictionary where generalizations long refuted are allowed to stand. Clearly the long years of distortion and misunderstanding are not over for John Calvin or his theological descendants [Robert, G. W. (1976). Review of The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church Edited by F. L. Cross. Westminster Theological Journal, 39(1), 202–203].
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church rewrote their entry on Calvin, so their earlier opinion that Calvin was an "unopposed dictator" is no longer accurate. Leighton Flowers should have gone the extra few steps to verify this quote instead of defending his "credentials" and complaining about if he or his detractor was using "proper research methodology." This quote is yet another example of: just because it's on the Internet, it's not necessarily true.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Calvin Beheaded a Child in Geneva?

I  recently came across a detailed description of Calvin's Geneva from historian Will Durant's book, The Reformation. Durant doesn't pull any punches. He provides  a number of pages describing Geneva as an horrific place to reside, unbearable terrors that resulted from the despotic tyrant, John Calvin.

If anyone is under the illusion that Durant's vague belief in God and rejection of organized religion equipped him to provide a fair and unbiased historical account of the life of John Calvin, this historian concluded his coverage of Calvin with,  "...we shall always find it hard to love the man who darkened the human soul with the most absurd and blasphemous conception of God in all the long and honored history of nonsense" [Will Durant, The Reformation: The Story of Civilization (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957), 490]. That conclusion sums up well Durant's treatment of Calvin. Later in his Dual Autobiography, he and his wife jab the Reformation's seeming rejection of the Renaissance "as pagan" and a reversion "to the gloomy theology of saint Paul and Saint Augustine, leading to the predestinarianism of Calvin and Knox, the Puritan regime, and the replacement of papal authority with the authoritarianism of the state in religion in Germany and Great Britain." Durant did not hide the fact that he was not sympathetic to either Calvin or the Reformation.

It's not that every fact or tidbit offered by Durant on John Calvin is suspected erroneous due to inherent bias. There were unfortunate, oppressive, and deadly results from the strict morality imposed by the Genevan church and state while Calvin was in residence. While every societal atrocity that occurred cannot necessarily be linked to the Reformer,  Calvin cannot be completely exonerated from his role or place in that society (nor would he probably want to be). Calvin, despite his intellectual greatness and piety, was still a man with faults, flaws, and sins. He did have influence in Geneva (at least at certain times), and he was in favor of strict societal discipline. But Durant's Calvin comes off more like a left-over inquisitor from the golden era of the Inquisition, a power-hungry ruthless mogul who transformed Geneva into one of the most oppressive societies in history. Durant's basic tendency is to make Calvin worse than he was by necessarily linking him to a number of historical events (which he may, or may not have been a part of), and also by describing him in an overly negative and lopsided way. Here's a brief snippet of evils attributed to Calvin from Durant to demonstrate this point:
To speak disrespectfully of Calvin or the clergy was a crime. A first violation of these ordinances was punished with a reprimand, further violation with fines, persistent violation with imprisonment or banishment. Fornication was to be punished with exile or drowning; adultery, blasphemy, or idolatry, with death. In one extraordinary instance a child was beheaded for striking its parents (link).
Notice how Durant's thoughts flow: from the crime of speaking words against Calvin, linked to  severe punishment for sexual crimes, then to the beheading of a child, all the direct result of John Calvin. While the last statement will be our main focus, of the sentences here selected leading up to it, Durant provides documentation only for the first, citing this secondary source, which says only, “…to laugh at Calvin’s sermons, or to have spoken hot words of him in the street, was a crime…” This source provides no documentation for the assertion. That's typical of Durant's historical work. Often, primary materials allude his conclusions. He simply cites some other historian making an undocumented assertion. Here, Durant's historical trail dead-ends at a secondary source merely making an undocumented claim.

Given that it's almost impossible in our modern age to examine the subject, "John Calvin" without immediately being bombarded with Calvin's involvement with the execution of Michael Servetus, how is it that, according to Durant, there was an "extraordinary instance" in which Calvin had a child beheaded, and that account isn't center-stage, usurping the Servetus incident?  It sounds outrageous: Calvin had a child executed for simply striking their parents, and that's not more despicable than Calvin having a grown man executed for heresy?  Doesn't the execution of a child typically have more societal emotional capital? Something doesn't add up here.

Documentation: Durant
Durant does document the child's beheading. He first mentions it's from the same source as the previous documentation mentioned above, Charles Beard, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century in its Relation to Modern Thought (Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, 1885), 250. That source states,
Two things are especially to be noticed in the holy reign of terror which Calvin established and left behind him as a legacy to Geneva: first, the vast extension given to the idea of crime, and next, the worse than Draconian severity of the punishments inflicted. Adultery was repeatedly punished with death. A child was beheaded for having struck father and mother. Banishment, imprisonment, in some cases drowning, were penalties inflicted on unchastity.
Similar to the previous assertions, this author does not document his claims. It may be Beard relied on the "Registers of the city of Geneva" (which is mentioned in a footnote at the bottom of the page), or it may be this author simply borrowed the fact from another secondary source. Durant may have realized this lack of  primary evidence and actually provided another source, one of a much better pedigree: Phillip Schaff's History of the Christian Church. In describing "the most striking cases of discipline" in Geneva, Schaff  launches into numerous examples, including, "A girl was beheaded for striking her parents, to vindicate the dignity of the fifth commandment" (link). Schaff though doesn't document this either. Later on in the same section Schaff mentions the Genevan Registers, but it appears to be for a different example. Once again, Durant's trail of facts reaches a dead-end for anyone venturing deep into history.

Documentation: Edward Babinski
This story of Calvin and the beheaded child is peppered throughout the Internet.  One of the best hits comes from Edward Babinski, a self-professed former fundamentalist who is now some sort of agnostic with an ax to grind against Calvin. Babinski came upon the same sentence from Schaff and states,
Schaff does not footnote the “beheading” incident, though he does provide on that page and the next a few footnotes regarding other incidents of prohibitions and their penalties in Geneva. He also lists the sources he consulted when writing his book (sources are listed at the beginning of each section). In this case, judging by nearby footnotes and by his source list for that particular section, he most likely obtained his information from either the Registers of the Council of Geneva, or, “Amedee Roget: Lʼeglise et lʼetat a Geneve du vivant de Calvin. Etude dʼhistoire politico-ecclesiastique, published in Geneve, 1867 (pp. 92). Compare also his Histoire du people de Geneve depuis la reforme jusquʼa lʼescalade (1536-1602), 1870-1883, 7 vols.”
Notice Babinski made an effort to track down where Schaff got his information from. Babinski says Schaff may have taken the information directly from the Registers of the Council of Geneva (more on this source later).  In the literature of source material section, Schaff doesn't directly cite the Registers (but he does reference them in his footnotes). The next source, Lʼeglise et lʼetat a Geneve du vivant de Calvin. Etude dʼhistoire politico-ecclesiastique is available here. Babinski mentions specifically "pp. 92" of the 1867 edition, but there doesn't appear to be anything remotely relevant to the story in this book, nor specifically on page 92. Babinski simply is repeating the reference as Schaff  noted it, that the book is 92 pages long.  Babinski then directs his readers to compare this source with seven volumes of "Histoire du people de Geneve depuis la reforme jusquʼa lʼescalade." I'm not sure how comparing a 92 page book to seven volumes is supposed to make this child's beheading more clear. The reason why is Babinski's "Compare also his..." is what Schaff wrote in his literature on the subject section, "Comp. also his..." Even though Babinski is quoting Schaff directly, the narrow focus of this beheaded child is getting obfuscated by Babinski's presentation of Schaff's basic bibliography of the literature about sixteenth century Geneva.

Despite this bibliographic rabbit trail, Babinski does provides some other interesting clues about this story: the year of the execution and the child's name. Quoting an old book from Paul Henry, he states, "Another child in 1568, for having struck his parents was beheaded," but again, documentation from this source is lacking. Then Babinski quotes an unknown English translation of Jean Picot who states, "Philippe Deville was beheaded in 1568 for having beaten his father and step-mother." This is documented, "Jean Picot Professeur dʼhistoire dans la faculte des lettres de lʼAcademie de cette ville] Histoire de Geneve, Tome Second (Published in Geneva, i.e., A Geneve, Chez Manget et Cherbuliez, Impreimeurs-Libr. 1811) p. 264." Here is page 264 from the 1811 edition. The text reads, "Philippe Deville fut décapité en 1568, pour avoir battu son- père et sa belle-mère." Babinski then states,
Picot and Schaff do not agree on the gender of the beheaded child, and my first source, Dr. Henry, only mentions that it was a “child,” not specifying its gender. Picotʼs History of Geneva provides the most complete information concerning the incident, including the childʼs name and the date of the beheading. The archives of Geneva are vast and include not only the Registers of the Council and the Registers of the Consistory, but many other records as well (that the Calvin scholar, Robert Kingdon, lists by category in Vol. 1 of his English translation of the Registers of the Consistory). Though massive, the Genevan archives could probably be searched by focusing on the year of the beheading and the childʼs name that Picot has given, and they could probably supply more information, such as the childʼs age when s/he was beheaded. — E.T.B.]
Babinski is correct, some of these massive archives can be searched. He's correct that Robert Kingdon  released the detailed Registers of the Consistory of Geneva in the Time of Calvin Volume 1: 1542-1544 (Grand Rapids:William B. Eerdmans Publishing company, 1996). It's an invaluable English reference, but unfortunately, I don't think the English version ever made it past volume one after Kingdon's death in 2010. Hathi Trust though lists thirteen volumes of the Genevan registers in French. The relevant volume would be volume 3 which covers the years 1565-1574. I  searched a number of key terms  (including, "Philippe Deville," "Philippe de Ville," "Philippe de la Ville, Philippe la ville" "décapité," to name a few).  I did not come across anything relevant. In full-disclosure, I do not have physical access to these French volumes. I'm relying on online search engines from Google Books and Hathi Trust.

Conclusion
I appreciate that Babinksi mentions the discrepancy in the accounts, that it could either be a boy or a girl (this source claims Philippe Deville was female). There are though some other interesting details if one combines the accounts presented (and also assumes all the accounts are of the same historical  event). Schaff adds the beheading took place "to vindicate the dignity of the fifth commandment." While this may have been the actual reason, it also could simply be Schaff's added comment or inference rather than something specifically noted in the Genevan records about this incident.

The (unknown) English translation of Picot says it was not simply striking of the parents, but rather a beating of a father and step-mother. It makes one wonder exactly how old this child was that it beat both parents. This "beating" should  at least rule out that it was a young child having a temper tantrum "striking" the parents in adolescent defiance. Even if it was an older teenager, it would not justify the death penalty in our day and culture,  but it does make one wonder exactly what the other details may have been to provoke such a harsh sentence in that time period. How severe was this beating?

If all these historians are describing the same event, there is one blatant fact mentioned by Paul Henry and Jean Picot that, for some unknown reason, Will Durant, Charles Beard, and Philip Schaff left out. It was also a fact mentioned but downplayed by Mr. Babinski: the year of the incident: 1568, in which some of the accounts say the beheading took place. What was John Calvin, the despotic tyrant doing in 1568?  Was he staring down the child in Genevan court as a prosecutor, boldly proclaiming God's law was broken and the child must be punished with death? Was he watching the beheading of a child for breaking God's law? No, Calvin was at rest in his grave. He died May 27, 1564. If 1568 is the correct year, the best Calvin's detractors can do with this event is to argue the beheading was the result of Calvin's earlier influence in Geneva. This connection would need to be proven as a necessary connection from the historical record, not simply assumed (post hoc ergo propter hoc).

Did Geneva behead Philippe Deville in 1568? Despite not finding any specific corroborating primary evidence, I assume they did. As to the specifics, and why they invoked the death penalty, I don't know. Yes, I think Geneva went overboard with discipline, yes there were unfortunate atrocities committed by the state; yes Calvin played his part in both until his death in 1564. But, Geneva played its part in the progression of piety and practice away from Rome, and of eventually separating the church from the state (which took a long time!). There is a tendency to think that once the Bible was made central in the church and the Papacy was defanged, all of the medieval worldview and practices would immediately fall away. No, this took time. Geneva demonstrates the dissonance of a church seeking to reform according to the Bible and still function with aspects of the medieval structure of government. It didn't work.

Addendum
Here were some other sources mentioning the 1568 beheaded child. More will be added as I come across them.
 "Le manque de respect aux parents constitue alors une atteinte à la loi sur laquelle il n'est pas question de transiger :un enfant du village de Genthod, Damian, fou de colère, insulte sa mère: «Diablesse! diablesse!» en lui jetant des pierres. Il est fouetté publiquement, pendu à une potence et n'échappe à la mort qu'en raison de son jeune âge.Son aîné, Philippe de Ville, est décapité pour avoir battu père et mère. Son aîné, Philippe de Ville, est décapité pour avoir battu père et mère" (link).
"En 1568, Philippe Deville fut décapité pour avoir battu son père et sa belle-mère" (link).

"In 1568 Philippe Deville was beheaded for striking his father, and the year before Antonia Sambuzide was condemned to prison for taking her husband by the beard" (link).
"To understand what the word 'severity' means, let it be added that certain men who laughed during a sermon were imprisoned for three days; another person had to do public penance for neglecting communion on Whit-Sunday; a girl was beheaded for striking her parents; several women were imprisoned for dancing; and a lady was expelled from the city for expressing sympathy with the 'libertines,' and abusing Calvin and the Consistory" (link).
"Calvin allowed a girl to be beheaded (for the heinous crime of striking her parents) during his reign of terror in Geneva 400 years ago. This atrocity is not exactly a secret; it is soberly reported by leading historians; but it is the sort of fact that is not taught." (link).