Calvin, Daneau, and Physica Mosaica

Neglected Continuities at the Origins of an Early Modern Tradition

In: Church History and Religious Culture

This essay argues that there are overlooked lines of continuity between Jean Calvin (1509–1564) and the Mosaic physics of Lambert Daneau (ca. 1530–1595). Specifically, the essay demonstrates lines of continuity between Calvin and Daneau on the value and errors of natural philosophy, their relation to the patristic hexaemeral literature, and their understanding of Mosaic accommodation. The evidence produced challenges prevailing scholarship which views Daneau’s Physica Christiana as a radical departure from Calvin’s thought or associates Calvin’s accommodation doctrine with Copernicanism alone. Sources used include multiple editions of Calvin’s Institutio, Calvin’s commentaries, Daneau’s Physica Christiana (1576) and Physices christianae pars altera (1580), Johann Heinrich Alsted’s Physica Harmonica, Jacob van Lansbergen’s Apologia (1633), and post-Reformation commentaries on Genesis by Franciscus Junius, David Pareus, and Johann Piscator.

  • 1

    See Ann Blair“Mosaic Physics and the Search for a Pious Natural Philosophy in the Late Renaissance,” Isis 9 (2000) 32–58at 47 where she notes a “preponderance of Calvinists.”

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  • 4

    Johann Jakob BruckerHistoria critica philosophiae (Leipzig: Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf1743) 4:610–643 (Pars I lib. 3 cap. 2); Johann Franz Buddeus Introductio ad historiam philosophiae ebraeorum (Halle: Orphanotropii Glauch-Halensis 1702) 245–264; Daniel Georg Morhof Polyhistor literarius philosophicus et practicus 3rd ed. (Lübeck: Petrus Boeckmann 1732) 2:157–166 (Pars I lib. 2 cap. 3); Johann Heinrich Zedler “Moses Vielwissenheit” in Grosses vollständiges Universal Lexicon aller Wissenschafften und Künste (Halle & Leipzig: J.H. Zedler 1732–1750) 21:1888–1897. These are discussed in Blair “Mosaic Physics” (see above n. 1) 35–37.

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  • 6

    See Gisbertus VoetiusExercitia et Bibliotheca Studiosi Theologiæ (Utrecht: Johann à Waesberge1651) 370; Daniel Wülfer De physica christiana exercitio (Nürnberg: Christophor Gerhard 1656) passim; John Prideaux Hypomnemata Metaphysica in Hypomnemata logica rhetorica physica metaphysica pneumatica ethica politica oeconomica (Oxford: Leonar. Lichfield 1650) 216; Kort Aslakssøn Physica et ethica mosaica (Hanau 1613) 24 45 125 172; and Gerard de Neufville Physiologia seu physica generalis (Bremen 1645) Preface as cited in Thorndike History of Magic (see above n. 5) 7:414–415.

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  • 9

    Ibid.32.

  • 10

    Ibid.31–3259–60.

  • 12

    Ibid.60–61.

  • 13

    Ibid.35.

  • 14

    Ibid.42.

  • 16

    Donald Sinnema“Aristotle and Early Reformed Orthodoxy: Moments of Accommodation and Antithesis,” in Christianity and the Classics: The Acceptance of a Heritageed. Wendy Helleman (New York 1990) 119–148 at 142.

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  • 17

    Ibid.119.

  • 26

    Jean CalvinInstitutio Christianae Religionis Nunc vere demum suo titulo respondens (Strasbourg: Wendelin Rihel1539) fols. 30–31; Inst. (1559) 2.2.15–16. Cf. Calvin Comm. Gen. 4:20; Comm. Isa. 28:29.

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  • 36

    AugustineDe civitate Dei11.5; cf. Calvin Inst. (1559) 1.14.1.

  • 41

    DaneauPhysica christiana31–32; Workmanship fol. 12r.

  • 51

    Between 1540 and 1543Calvin read the 1540 Froben edition of Basil’s Opera omnia printed at Basel. See Anthony N.S. Lane John Calvin: Student of the Church Fathers (Edinburgh 1999) 72 74 82 164.

  • 52

    Jean CalvinInstitutio Christianae Religionis Nunc vere demum suo titulo respondens (Strasbourg: Wendelin Rihel1543) fol. 137; Inst. (1559) 1.14.20.

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  • 55

    See BasilHomilies on the Hexaemeron9.1 in Exegetical Homilies trans. Agnes Clare Way (Washington D.C. 1963) 135–136.

  • 58

    Lambert DaneauEnchiridion ad Laurentium sive summa et praecipua totius christianae religionis capita. Liber utilissimus iis omnibus qui brevissimam augustinianae doctrinae epitomen ex ipso Augustino et quidem jam sene habere volunt multis mendis et glossematis quibus antea scatebat ex veteri manuscripto repurgatus et commentariis illustratus (Genève: Eustache Vignon1575) 30–34.

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  • 60

    Daneau“Praefatio,” in Physica christianafol. *.ij.r: “Na[m] inter Christianos Origenes in libris Περὶ ᾽Αρχῶν (quodipsius opus præter cætera egregium plerique censent) & qui post eum Examera scripserunt ita in diversas sententias discedunt ut nihil certi ex eorum scriptis videatur definiri posse.”

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  • 61

    Daneau“Praefatio,” in Physica christianafol. *.iiij.r–v: “Illud modo dicam in eo me breviter complexum quicquid apud veteres & sanctissimos Patres vel contra Philosophos: vel adversus hæreticos disputatum unquam legeram nec quæstionem esse a me ullam iniectam quam antea illi no[n] tractarint: nec ullam prætermissam quæ illi non tractarint: nec ullam prætermissam quæ ad eoru[m] scripta cognoscenda usum aliquem videretur habere potuisse.” My translation. Cf. Daneau “Epistola” in Physices christianae pars altera fols. ¶ iij v—¶ iiij r.

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  • 67

    Cf. Ulrich ZwingliFarrago annotationum in Genesim ex ore Huldrychi Zvinglij per Leonem Iudae & Casparem Megandrum exceptarum (Zürich: Christoph Froschauer1527) 5 (Gen. 1:5): “… sed sese nostris sensibus accommodans (ut clarius ac facilius opera eius cerneremus atque intelligeremus) singulis diebus aliquid operatus est …”

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  • 78

    Franciscus JuniusLibri Geneseos analysis ([Geneva]: Sanctandreanus1594) 7: “Nam Mosi consilium fuit non ut subiecta ipsa minutatim Philosophico studio declararet sed tantum ut a posteriore (quæ popularis est docendi ratio) res ipsas ostenderet.”; Franciscus Junius Praelectiones in Genesios in Opera Theologica 2 vols. (Geneva: Peter & Jacob Chouët 1613) 1:15: “Prætereà altera accedit ratio: quod Spiritus S. in his rebus loquitur non philosophice sed populariter sive δοξαστικῶς id est non ut res sunt sed ut videntur esse. Nam prout est locorum intervallum: ita solet acies oculorum nostrorum hebescere: & res quamvis per se majores tamen aliis quæ propinquio res sunt videxi minores adeo visus noster ex intervallo (ut Basilius loquitur) ἀμβλυώετας.” (Gen. 1:16); David Pareus In Genesin Mosis Commentarius (Frankfurt: Jonas Rhodius 1609) 118: “Simplicior est ratio Chrysostomi Homilia 2. In Genes. Quam & Basilius attingit Hom. 1. In Hex. Mosen historiam suam ruditati Iudæorum attemperasse. Erant enim homines terreni tantum sensibilia sapientes. Tantum igitur sensibilium Dei operum descriptionem Moses aperte persequi voluit quorum contemplatione ac sensu ad intellectum sublimiorum rerum & ad ipsius invisibilis Dei conditoris agnitionem populus quasi infans eveheretur omissa doctrina de cœlestium spirituum formatione quæ captum eius longe superatura videbatur & quam satis ei fuit obscure per nomina cœli & exercitus cœlorum quasi per transennam ostendi.”; Pareus In Genesin Mosis Commentarius 126; Johann Piscator Quaestiones in Pentateuchum seu quinque libros Mosis quarum explicatione loca obscura declarantur: et insuper in quatuor libris posterioribus versio Tremellio-Iuniana examinatur (Herborn 1624) 12: “… Moses opera creationis imperfecte narrasset …” (Gen. 1:6); idem 16: “Sic dicuntur respectu nostri sensus & judicii oculorum.” (Gen. 1:16). Cf. Williams The Common Expositor (see above n. 47) 176–177.

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  • 79

    Jacob van LansbergenApologia pro commentationibus Philippi Lansbergii in motum terrae diurnum & annuum adversus Libertum Fromondum theologum Lovaniensem et Joan. Baptistam Morinum (Middelburg: Zacharias Roman1633) 49 citing Calvin Comm. Gen. 1:15. Cf. Howell God’s Two Books (see above n. 22) 162 266 n. 86.

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