Book presentation: Synopsis Purioris Theologiae

17 September 2014

Book presentation: Synopsis Purioris Theologiae

After almost four centuries, the Synopsis Purioris Theologiae is returning to Leiden. Four professors from Leiden wrote this textbook on Reformed Theology from 1620-1625. In the seventeenth century, generations of theologians grew up with this. Since 2010, a team of about fifteen scholars – classists, theologians, philosophers, historians – have been working on making this standard work available again in a Latin-English edition, provided with an introduction and annotations. On Friday 26 September, the first of three parts will be presented at a celebratory meeting in Leiden.

Synopsis Purioris Theologiae:The first part is dedicated to the memory of Prof. Dr. Willem J. van Asselt (1946-2014) who, as chair of the Research Group on Classic Reformed Theology, worked with much enthusiasm on this project, but is unfortunately no longer with us to witness the completion of the it. The first copy will be received by H.J.J. Lenferink Drs., the mayor of Leiden. After the presentation, the translator, Prof. Dr. Riemer Faber (Waterloo University, Canada), will give a lecture about ‘The Language(s) of the Synopsis’, and volume editor Dr. Dolf te Velde will give an explanation of the Synopsis under the title, ‘Theology as team work’. Initial responses to the publication will be given by Dr. Jo Spaans (chief university lecturer in Cultural History, University of Utrecht) and Prof. Dr. Marcel Sarot (professor of Fundamental Theology and dean, Tilburg School of Catholic Theology).

The Synopsis Purioris Theologiae (SPT) was published in 1625 to commemorate the Synod of Dordrecht held six years previously (1618-1619). It is considered to be the start of the theological application of the principles drawn up during the Synod of Dordt. The four authors – J. Polyander, A. Walaeus, A. Thysius and A. Rivetus – were all professors at the University of Leiden. The work is a collection of fifty-two disputations, a much used genre in university education at the time, in which the professors from Leiden set out their position in brief. In a short time, the textbook gained great popularity and dominated the theological field for at least a quarter of a century. The title – Synopsis of a Purer Theology – might suggest otherwise, but through its moderate stance compared with, for example, Remonstrantism, the handbook possibly also exerted a pacifying influence. The Synopsis went through six editions in Latin: after the seventeenth century editions in 1625, 1632, 1642, 1652 and 1658, Herman Bavinck arranged a reprint in 1881. In 1964 and 1966, a Dutch translation appeared. Despite the great importance of this work for the knowledge of Reformed theology in the seventieth century and the application of it in later centuries, hitherto there has been no translation into any other languages.

The Research Group on Classic Reformed Theology is filling this gap by means of the publication of a scholarly, carefully annotated Latin-English parallel edition of this work, including a historical and theological introduction and the indexes necessary to make this work accessible for further research. In the footnotes to the Latin edition, the numerous references to the classics, Church fathers, and Medieval and contemporary theologians are indicated as much as possible. The footnotes to the English edition are intended to unlock the content of the text. For a proper understanding of the Synopsis, constant historical, theological and philosophical expertise and contextual knowledge are required. In the context of the team and plenary sessions, through an intense and careful process, the members of the Research Group on Classic Reformed Theology are pooling their collective expertise in various areas in order to make the Synopsis internationally ‘readable’ for an interested audience.

Practical information
Date: Friday 26 September 2014, 2:30 pm to 5 pm.
Location: ‘Vossius Conference Hall’, University Library (2nd floor, South Hall), Wittesingel 27 in Leiden
Costs: This program is provided free of charge by the Research Group on Classic Reformed Theology, the Scaliger Institute and Brill Publishers
Registration is appreciated:

About the publication (book cover)
This bilingual edition of the Synopsis Purioris Theologiae (1625) makes available for the first time to English readers a seminal treatise of Reformed Scholasticism. Compiled by four professors of Leiden University (Johannes Polyander, Andreas Rivetus, Antonius Walaeus, and Anthonius Thysius), it gives an exhaustive yet concise presentation of Reformed theology as it was conceived in the first decades of the seventeenth century. From a decidedly Reformed perspective, the Christian doctrine is defined in contrast to alternative or opposing views (Catholic, Spiritualist, Armenian, Socinian). Both on an academic level and on an ecclesiastical level, the Synopsis responds to challenges arising from the immediate context of the early seventeenth century. The disputations of this first volume cover topics such as Scripture, doctrine of God, Trinity, creation, sin, Law and Gospel.

Dolf te Velde, Riemer A. Faber, Willem J. van Asselt & William de Boer (eds.), Synopsis Purioris Theologiae. Synopsis of a Purer Theology. Latin Text and English Translation, Volume 1, Disputations 1-23 [Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions, 187; Texts & Sources, 5] (Brill: Leiden, 2014).

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