Reformation Outtakes

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In the late 1590s, before he became chaplain to King James, a translator of the Authorized Version, a British delegate to the Synod of Dordt, or Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, Samuel Ward was a twenty-something student at Christ College [...]

Zachary Purvis
Wednesday, November 1st 2023

The feel of dirt mattered to Wolfgang Musculus. Common dust and clay and grass accompanied many of his formative experiences like sod stuck to a child’s knee. [...]

Zachary Purvis
Friday, September 1st 2023

Outside the Catholic vicar-general’s house in Geneva, a large mob of priests congealed in the thin sunlight one autumn morning in 1532. Inside, Guillaume Farel, the French Protestant missionary who had stopped in Geneva, was summoned to answer the accusations of ten canons of the cathedral chapter. […]

Zachary Purvis
Saturday, July 1st 2023

There is a myth about theology that it is written in open, expansive, even leisured times of quiet reflection. To write a commentary on a book of Scripture, or a treatise on some point of doctrine, or an entire system of theology, or an individual sermon—well, perhaps not a sermon—happens on its own schedule, taking […]

Zachary Purvis
Wednesday, March 1st 2023

What hath the Reformation to do with stoves? In 1550, Alsatian Reformer Martin Bucer prepared a gift for the Protestant King of England, Edward VI: his monumental book De regno Christi or Kingdom of Christ. Bucer had much for which to be thankful. He had been exiled from Strasbourg the year before, when various rites […]

Zachary Purvis
Sunday, January 1st 2023

Early in the sixteenth century, Thomas Platter traveled with five friends through Switzerland, stopping in a small village en route to St. Gallen to attend the Mass. After Vespers, the early evening service, one of the priests called them heretics because they had come from the city of Zurich, which no longer considered the pope […]

Zachary Purvis
Tuesday, November 1st 2022

Specters haunt the history of church committees. Today’s disciplined clerks, as we know them, harken back to yesterday’s unseen scribes. Every reader of ecclesiastical documents and every lover of polity, decency, and good order remains in their debt. For without them, there would be no surviving record of church business. No committee—therefore no associated team […]

Zachary Purvis
Thursday, September 1st 2022

In 1823, the brothers Guillaume and Adolphe Monod entered a junk shop in Geneva. A mysterious volume, unusually old and musty, caught their attention. When they examined it closely, the smudged ink inside resolved into letters and the letters into words. The script might have misled other men, but Guil­laume and Adolphe came from a […]

Zachary Purvis
John Calvin
Friday, July 1st 2022

The best stories come from boats. Tales of threatening gale winds and thousand-pound tunas are never blasé. Yet old fishermen are not on their oath when they reminisce about the weather they fought or the fish they caught in their youth. The annals of early modern Protestantism are also filled with stories—both striking and true—of […]

Zachary Purvis
Monday, May 2nd 2022

Late in 1538, Martin Luther wrote to his Wittenberg colleague Philip Melanchthon. He had just finished reading Melanchthon’s latest manuscript, On the Authority of the Church and the Writings of the Ancient Fathers, which would be published in 1539. As he thumbed through it, he told Melanchthon that his head swirled with thoughts of Aristotle […]

Zachary Purvis
Tuesday, March 1st 2022

The University Library of Groningen in The Netherlands possesses a remarkable book previously owned by Martin Luther: a 1527 edition of the New Testament by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam. Erasmus’s New Testament, first published in 1516, contained the Greek text, Erasmus’s own translation into Latin, and his technical commentary, which justified the choices he had […]

Zachary Purvis
Saturday, January 1st 2022

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

J. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church