Servetus

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Singalphile
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Servetus

Post by Singalphile » Sat Aug 16, 2014 12:26 pm

Hi.

I was curious about what sort of theological positions would get a person burned at the stake not so long ago (~550 years). Michael Servetus was one such a person (and I don't think there were many). So I've been reading some excerpts/quotes of his writings, and I can't see anything very troublesome.

He was (and perhaps is) described as a harsh, arrogant heretic (*), but I haven't yet found evidence of it in his own works. On the whole, so far, his writings (and life) seem relatively thoughtful, humble, inspiring, and Christ-centered. His non-theological observations are interesting, too.

I am inclined to read more. Does anyone know if there's a good translation/compilation available and worth reading? If his writings are truly insulting, bizarre ranting, then I don't want to waste money. I read that transcripts of his trial(s) were made. Does anyone know if that's available? That may shed light on things.

Thank you.

(P.S. I am basically Trinitarian (I think), but that particular discussion is not of great interest to me.)

Wikipedia Entry
Some excerpts from his writings
A few of his English works: The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity, Life and Teachings, Restoration of Christianity
This free, online book looks very interesting: Calvin and Servetus : the reformer's share in the trial of Michael Servetus historically ascertained
... that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. John 5:23

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Paidion
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Re: Servetus

Post by Paidion » Sat Aug 16, 2014 12:57 pm

I was curious about what sort of theological positions would get a person burned at the stake not so long ago (~550 years). Michael Servetus was one such a person (and I don't think there were many).
There were many Anabaptists (who later became Mennonites and Hutterites) and others who were put to death in the middle ages. Basically, anyone who didn't agree with the main church, whether Catholic or Protestant, was put to death. Many Anabaptists were drowned in derision ("If they insist on being baptized again, WE'LL baptize them again.") I don't know how many of the "heretics" of the day were burned at stake. Even Martin Luther, the respected father of Protestantism had Anabaptists put to death.

I think many who post to this forum (including myself) would not have escaped if we had lived in the middle ages. Indeed, when I see hatred expressed toward fellow disciples, I sometimes wonder whether religious executions would still take place even in Canada and Unites States, if it were not illegal and the probability of the executors being tried for murder. Even in our day, executions of "heretics" or those of other religions are still carried out in some countries.
Last edited by Paidion on Sat Aug 16, 2014 1:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Paidion

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TheEditor
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Re: Servetus

Post by TheEditor » Sat Aug 16, 2014 1:02 pm

Hi Singlephile,

How bizarre! Just last night I was reading on Google Books about Servetus, reading some scanned histories written in the 1700s. It appears he changed a few points of his Christology over the years, and frankly, it looks as though his views were really not that far from what many on this forum, even professed "trinitarians" would believe.

It appears where he got himself in real trouble was running afoul of Calvin. They have copies of letter he echanged with Calvin. Toward the end of his life, Servetus wrote a book in which he was extremey scathing of the Papacy, but he wrote annonymously. Calvin apparently knew Servetus had written it and alerted the prelacy accordingly. Later when Servetus dropped in to Geneva, well, we know what happened. If you can wade trhough it (keeping in mind that the "f"s are "s"s) it makes for an interesting read.

One part I found interesting was a contemporary of Calvin was going through Calvin's notes on Acts and found Calvin had written a comment regarding "that Spanish dog" (apparently Calvin held a grudge). The commentator inserted his own note in Latin (and thankfully due to Google Translate, I came up with the meaning), it read "How am I your dog Calvin? Does not your heat (possibly enthusiasm) make (alas!) your dog a miserable ash?"

Regards, Brenden.
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backwoodsman
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Re: Servetus

Post by backwoodsman » Sat Aug 16, 2014 1:06 pm

I see you found one book on archive.org, but at least two of the others are also available there, as well as more that may be helpful:

http://archive.org/search.php?query=%28 ... ervetus%29
http://archive.org/search.php?query=%28servetus%29

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Paidion
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Re: Servetus

Post by Paidion » Sat Aug 16, 2014 1:17 pm

(keeping in mind that the "f"s are "s"s)
I'm going to make a minor point, Brenden. It's not that the efs ("f"s) are eses ("s"s); its that the eshes ("ʃ"s) are pronounced the same as eses("s"s).

When the s-sound occured at the end of a word the "s" was used. When the s-sound occurrred at the beginning or somewhere in the middle of a word the "ʃ" was used. I think if you look as some of the words in this writing which END in "s", you will see that the regular "s" is used.

Languages other than English do this. If you take a course in Hellenistic Greek, you will find that the s-sound at the end of a word is written as "ς", while the same sound occuring at the beginning or somewhere in the middle is written as "σ".
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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Singalphile
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Re: Servetus

Post by Singalphile » Sat Aug 16, 2014 1:46 pm

Paidion wrote:There were many Anabaptists (who later became Mennonites and Hutterites) and others who were put to death in the middle ages. Basically, anyone who didn't agree with the main church, whether Catholic or Protestant, was put to death.
That first sentence is true (and sad), Paidion, but I don't think that too many people were killed by burning, at least by Protestants/Reformers, which is what I meant to say. As for the second sentence, having an opinion alone couldn't get anyone killed. Many Christians might have been unsure or unorthodox in their understanding of certain matters without finding it necessary to express their views. Hopefully, very few Christians would still promote the death penalty for espousing and teaching "heresy". I'd like to think that, anyway.
TheEditor wrote:It appears he changed a few points of his Christology over the years, and frankly, it looks as though his views were really not that far from what many on this forum, even professed "trinitarians" would believe.
That's what I thought. Given the various (mis)characterizations of his views, I'm not sure what they were exactly. He did agree, generally, with most of us about he papacy and infant baptism. I am interested in his other views.

Thanks, backwoodsman. I started "A Stricture on Schaff's Account of Servetus". I have to stop myself now b/c I have to get going soon and I want to finish this post. :)
... that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. John 5:23

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TheEditor
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Re: Servetus

Post by TheEditor » Sat Aug 16, 2014 8:17 pm

Thanks for the correction Paidion. I knew there was some finer deliniation, but I didn't know what it was. :)

Regards, Brenden.
[color=#0000FF][b]"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery."[/b][/color]

Singalphile
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Re: Servetus

Post by Singalphile » Sun Aug 17, 2014 11:42 pm

I've been reading one of the interesting archive.org books. Servetus did apparently (or allegedly) use some strong language:

https://archive.org/stream/calvinservet ... 0/mode/2up
https://archive.org/stream/calvinservet ... 4/mode/2up
https://archive.org/stream/calvinservet ... 0/mode/2up

Some of his ideas seem odd, and maybe he was overly polemical and speculative, but it seems clear that those who killed him were far more guilty of any actual wrongdoing. I was reading some of Michael Servetus, His Life and Teachings (which is very favorable towards its subject). Interesting stuff, and I see nothing very wrong (only some unnecessary speculation).

According to this, he affirmed a trinity of "divine essentials" but rejected a "trinity of person". (What exactly all that means, I don't know.)

He makes observations that I've heard Steve and others make, such as that "the Son" appears to always refer to Jesus (the "Word") post-incarnation, that the apostles baptized in the name of Jesus alone, which was thus apparently the same as baptizing in the "name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit," and a few others that I can't remember now. And he appeared to hold a view of baptism and the Lord's Supper very similar to (most of) ours in a time when that alone could get you killed.

I tried to read a little of his own writings here, but I couldn't deal with all the fs.

I would be interested in his thoughts on Christian life/living in his time.
... that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. John 5:23

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