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), 32–58, at 47, where she notes a “preponderance of Calvinists.”

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  • 4

    Johann Jakob Brucker, Historia critica philosophiae (Leipzig: Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf, 1743), 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 Voetius, Exercitia et Bibliotheca, Studiosi Theologiæ (Utrecht: Johann à Waesberge, 1651), 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., 31–32, 59–60.

  • 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 Heritage, ed. Wendy Helleman (New York, 1990), 119–148, at 142.

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  • 17

    Ibid., 119.

  • 26

    Jean Calvin, Institutio Christianae Religionis Nunc vere demum suo titulo respondens (Strasbourg: Wendelin Rihel, 1539), fols. 30–31; Inst. (1559), 2.2.15–16. Cf. Calvin, Comm. Gen. 4:20; Comm. Isa. 28:29.

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  • 36

    Augustine, De civitate Dei, 11.5; cf. Calvin, Inst. (1559), 1.14.1.

  • 41

    Daneau, Physica christiana, 31–32; Workmanship, fol. 12r.

  • 51

    Between 1540 and 1543, Calvin 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 Calvin, Institutio Christianae Religionis Nunc vere demum suo titulo respondens (Strasbourg: Wendelin Rihel, 1543), fol. 137; Inst. (1559), 1.14.20.

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  • 55

    See Basil, Homilies on the Hexaemeron, 9.1, in Exegetical Homilies, trans. Agnes Clare Way (Washington, D.C., 1963), 135–136.

  • 58

    Lambert Daneau, Enchiridion 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 Vignon, 1575), 30–34.

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  • 60

    Daneau, “Praefatio,” in Physica christiana, fol. *.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 christiana, fol. *.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 Zwingli, Farrago annotationum in Genesim, ex ore Huldrychi Zvinglij per Leonem Iudae & Casparem Megandrum exceptarum (Zürich: Christoph Froschauer, 1527), 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 Junius, Libri Geneseos analysis ([Geneva]: Sanctandreanus, 1594), 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 Lansbergen, Apologia pro commentationibus Philippi Lansbergii in motum terrae diurnum & annuum adversus Libertum Fromondum theologum Lovaniensem et Joan. Baptistam Morinum (Middelburg: Zacharias Roman, 1633), 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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