THEODORE BEZA (Latin : Theodorus Beza; French : Théodore de Bèze or
de Besze; June 24, 1519 – October 13, 1605) was a French Protestant
* 1 Biography
* 1.1 Early life
* 1.2 Teacher at Lausanne
* 1.3 Journeys on behalf of the Protestants
* 1.4 Settles in
* 2 Literary works
* 2.1 Humanistic and historical writings
* 2.2 Theological works
* 2.3 Beza\'s Greek
* 3 See also * 4 Notes * 5 References * 6 External links
Nicholas, who was unmarried, during a visit to Vézelay was so pleased with Theodore that, with the permission of his parents, he took him to Paris to educate him there. From Paris, Theodore was sent to Orléans in December 1528 to receive instruction from the famous German teacher Melchior Wolmar . He was received into Wolmar's house, and the day on which this took place was afterward celebrated as a second birthday.
Young Beza soon followed his teacher to
Bourges , where the latter
was called by the duchess Margaret of
He received the degree of licentiate in law August 11, 1539, and, as his father desired, went to Paris, where he began to practice. To support him, his relatives had obtained for him two benefices, the proceeds of which amounted to 700 golden crowns a year; and his uncle had promised to make him his successor.
Beza spent two years in Paris and gained a prominent position in literary circles. To escape the many temptations to which he was exposed, with the knowledge of two friends, he became engaged in the year 1544 to a young girl of humble descent, Claudine Denoese, promising to publicly marry her as soon as his circumstances would allow it.
In 1548 he published a collection of Latin poetry , Juvenilia, which made him famous, and he was widely considered one of the best writers of Latin poetry of his time. Some cautioned against reading biographical details in his writings. Philip Schaff argued that it was a mistake to "read between his lines what he never intended to put there" or to imagine "offences of which he was not guilty even in thought."
Shortly after the publication of his book, he fell ill and his
illness, it is reported, revealed to him his spiritual needs.
Gradually he came to accept salvation in Christ, which lifted his
spirits. He then resolved to sever his connections of the time, and
TEACHER AT LAUSANNE
He was received by
Beza found time to write a Biblical drama, Abraham Sacrifiant , in
which he contrasted Catholicism with
Clément Marot 's death in 1544,
About the same time he published Passavantius, a satire directed against Pierre Lizet , the former president of the Parliament of Paris , and principal originator of the "fiery chamber" (chambre ardente), who, at the time (1551), was abbot of St. Victor near Paris and publishing a number of polemical writings.
Of a more serious character were two controversies in which Beza was
involved at this time. The first concerned the doctrine of
predestination and the controversy of Calvin with Jerome Hermes Bolsec
. The second referred to the burning of
JOURNEYS ON BEHALF OF THE PROTESTANTS
Théodore De Beza by an unknown artist, inscribed in 1605
In 1557, Beza took a special interest in the
Waldensians of Piedmont
In the autumn of 1558, Beza undertook a second journey with Farel to
Worms by way of Strasburg in the hopes of bringing about an
intercession by the Evangelical princes of the empire in favor of the
persecuted brethren at Paris. With
False reports reached the German princes that the hostilities against the Huguenots in France had ceased and no embassy was sent to the court of France. As a result, Beza undertook another journey with Farel, Johannes Buddaeus , and Gaspard Carmel to Strasburg and Frankfort, where the sending of an embassy to Paris was resolved upon.
SETTLES IN GENEVA
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Upon his return to Lausanne, Beza was greatly disturbed. In union with many ministers and professors in city and country, Viret at last thought of establishing a consistory and of introducing a church discipline which should apply excommunication especially at the celebration of the communion. But the Bernese, then in control of Lausanne, would have no Calvinistic church government. This caused many difficulties, and Beza thought it best in 1558, to settle at Geneva. Here he was given chair of Greek in the newly established academy, and after Calvin's death also that of theology. He was also obliged to preach.
He completed the revision of
Pierre Olivetan 's translation of the
More important than this polemical activity was Beza's statement of his own confession. It was originally prepared for his father in justification of his actions and published in revised form to promote Evangelical knowledge among Beza's countrymen. It was printed in Latin in 1560 with a dedication to Wolmar. An English translation was published at London 1563, 1572, and 1585. Translations into German, Dutch, and Italian were also issued.
EVENTS OF 1560–63
In the mean time, things took such shape in France that the happiest
In the following year, 1561, Beza represented the Evangelicals at the Colloquy of Poissy , and in an eloquent manner defended the principles of the Evangelical faith. The colloquy was without result, but Beza as the head and advocate of all Reformed congregations of France was revered and hated at the same time. The queen insisted upon another colloquy, which was opened at St. Germain Jan. 28, 1562, eleven days after the proclamation of the famous January edict, which granted important privileges to those of the Reformed faith. But the colloquy was broken off when it became evident that the Catholic party was preparing (after the Massacre of Vassy , on March 1) to overthrow Protestantism.
Beza hastily issued a circular letter (March 25) to all Reformed
congregations of the empire, and went to
Orléans with the Huguenot
leader Conde and his troops. It was necessary to proceed quickly and
energetically. But there were neither soldiers nor money. At the
request of Conde, Beza visited all
For twenty-two months Beza had been absent from Geneva, and the interests of school and Church there and especially the condition of Calvin made it necessary for him to return, as there was no one to take the place of Calvin, who was sick and unable to work. Calvin and Beza arranged to perform their duties jointly in alternate weeks, but the death of Calvin occurred soon afterward (May 27, 1564). As a matter of course Beza was his successor.
Until 1580, Beza was not only moderator of the
Company of Pastors ,
but also the real soul of the great institution of learning at Geneva
which Calvin had founded in 1559, consisting of a gymnasium and an
academy. As long as he lived, Beza was interested in higher education.
COURSE OF EVENTS AFTER 1564
As Calvin's successor, Beza was very successful, not only in carrying on his work but also in giving peace to the Church at Geneva. The magistrates had fully appropriated the ideas of Calvin, and the direction of spiritual affairs, the organs of which were the "ministers of the word" and "the consistory", was founded on a solid basis. No doctrinal controversy arose after 1564. The discussions concerned questions of a practical, social, or ecclesiastical nature, such as the supremacy of the magistrates over the pastors, freedom in preaching, and the obligation of the pastors to submit to the majority of the Company of Pastors.
Beza did not force his will upon his associates, and took no harsh measures against injudicious or hot-headed colleagues, though sometimes he took their cases in hand and acted as mediator; and yet he often experienced an opposition so extreme that he threatened to resign. Although he was inclined to take the part of the magistrates, he knew how to defend the rights and independence of the spiritual power when occasion arose, without, however, conceding to it such a preponderating influence as did Calvin.
Beza did not believe it wise for the Company of Pastors to have a permanent head. He convinced the Company to petition the Small Council to have limited terms for the position of moderator. In 1580 the Council agreed to a weekly rotating presidency.
His activity was great. He mediated between the compagnie and the magistracy; the latter continually asked his advice even in political questions. He corresponded with all the leaders of the Reformed party in Europe. After the St. Bartholomew\'s Day Massacre (1572), he used his influence to give to the refugees a hospitable reception at Geneva.
In 1574, he wrote his De jure magistratuum ( Right of Magistrates ), in which he emphatically protested against tyranny in religious matters, and affirmed that it is legitimate for a people to oppose an unworthy magistracy in a practical manner and if necessary to use weapons and depose them.
Without being a great dogmatician like his master, nor a creative
genius in the ecclesiastical realm, Beza had qualities which made him
famous as humanist, exegete, orator, and leader in religious and
political affairs, and qualified him to be the guide of the Calvinists
in all Europe. In the various controversies into which he was drawn,
Beza often showed an excess of irritation and intolerance, from which
Bernardino Ochino , pastor of the Italian congregation at Zurich (on
account of a treatise which contained some objectionable points on
Sebastian Castellio at
Beza continued to maintain the closest relations with Reformed
France. He was the moderator of the general synod which met in April,
In the following year (May, 1572) he took an important part in the national synod at Nîmes . He was also interested in the controversies which concerned the Augsburg Confession in Germany, especially after 1564, on the doctrine of the Person of Christ and the sacrament, and published several works against Westphal , Hesshusen , Selnecker , Johannes Brenz , and Jakob Andrea . This caused him to be hated by all those who adhered to Lutheranism in opposition to Melanchthon, especially after 1571.
THE COLLOQUY OF MONTBéLIARD
The last polemical conflict of importance Beza encountered from the Lutherans was at the Colloquy of Montbéliard , Mar. 14-27, 1586, to which he had been invited by the Lutheran Count Frederick of Württemberg at the wish of the French-speaking and Reformed residents as well as by French noblemen who had fled to Montbéliard. As a matter of course the intended union which was the purpose of the colloquy was not brought about; nevertheless it called forth serious developments within the Reformed Church.
When the edition of the acts of the colloquy, as prepared by Jakob
Andrea, was published, Samuel Huber, of Burg near Bern, who belonged
to the Lutheranizing faction of the Swiss clergy, took so great
offense at the supralapsarian doctrine of predestination propounded at
Montbéliard by Beza and Musculus that he felt it to be his duty to
denounce Musculus to the magistrates of
As the colloquy was resultless, a debate was arranged at Bern, Apr. 15-18, 1588, at which the defense of the accepted system of doctrine was at the start put into Beza's hands. The three delegates of the Helvetic cantons who presided at the debate declared in the end that Beza had substantiated the teaching propounded at Montbéliard as the orthodox one, and Huber was dismissed from his office.
After that time Beza's activity was confined more and more to the affairs of his home. His wife Claudine had died childless in 1588 after forty years of marriage, a few days before he went to the Bern Disputation. He contracted, on the advice of his friends, a second marriage with Catharina del Piano, a Genoese widow, in order to have a helpmate in his declining years. Up to his sixty-fifth year he enjoyed excellent health, but after that a gradual sinking of his vitality became perceptible. He was active in teaching until January 1597.
The saddest experience in his old days was the conversion of King
Henry IV to Catholicism, in spite of his most earnest exhortations
(1593). In 1596 a false report was spread by the Jesuits in Germany,
France, England, and
He died in
HUMANISTIC AND HISTORICAL WRITINGS
In Beza's literary activity as well as in his life, distinction must be made between the period of the humanist (which ended with the publication of his Juvenilia) and that of the ecclesiastic. Combining his pastoral and literary gifts, Beza wrote the first drama produced in French, Abrahm Sacrifiant; a play that is an antecedent to the work of Racine and is still occasionally produced today. Later productions like the humanistic, biting, satirical Passavantius and his Complainte de Messire Pierre Lizet... prove that in later years he occasionally went back to his first love. In his old age he published his Cato censorius (1591), and revised his Poemata, from which he purged juvenile eccentricities.
Of his historiographical works, aside from his Icones (1580), which have only an iconographical value, mention may be made of the famous Histoire ecclesiastique des Eglises reformes au Royaume de France (1580), and his biography of Calvin, with which must be named his edition of Calvin's Epistolae et responsa (1575).
But all these humanistic and historical studies are surpassed by his theological productions (contained in Tractationes theologicae). In these Beza appears the perfect pupil or the alter ego of Calvin. His view of life is deterministic and the basis of his religious thinking is the predestinate recognition of the necessity of all temporal existence as an effect of the absolute, eternal, and immutable will of God, so that even the fall of the human race appears to him essential to the divine plan of the world. Beza, in tabular form, thoroughly elucidates the religious views which emanated from a fundamental supralapsarian mode of thought. This he added to his highly instructive treatise Summa totius Christianismi.
Beza's De vera excommunicatione et Christiano presbyterio (1590), written as a response to Thomas Erastus's Explicatio gravissimae quaestionis utrum excommunicatio (1589) contributed an important defense of the right of ecclesiastical authorities (rather than civil authorities) to excommunicate.
BEZA\'S GREEK NEW TESTAMENT
Of no less importance are the contributions of Beza to Biblical
scholarship. In 1565 he issued an edition of the Greek
In the preparation of this edition of the Greek text, but much more in the preparation of the second edition which he brought out in 1582, Beza may have availed himself of the help of two very valuable manuscripts. One is known as the Codex Bezae or Cantabrigensis, and was later presented by Beza to the University of Cambridge; the second is the Codex Claromontanus , which Beza had found in Clermont (now in the National Library at Paris).
It was not, however, to these sources that Beza was chiefly indebted,
but rather to the previous edition of the eminent Robert Estienne
(1550), itself based in great measure upon one of the later editions
Although some contend that Beza's view of the doctrine of predestination exercised an overly dominant influence upon his interpretation of the Scriptures, there is no question that he added much to a clear understanding of the New Testament.
* ^ History of the
* This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Jackson, Samuel Macauley, ed. (1914). "Beza, Theodore". New Schaff–Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (third ed.). London and New York: Funk and Wagnalls. * Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Beza, Theodore". Encyclopædia Britannica . 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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