Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Today on the Almanac, we introduce you to the story of Joachim Camerarius.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 12th of April 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Oh boy- quite a character today- an underrated fellow who ties together all sorts of cool and weird reformation stuff- let’s get to it.

On the 12th of April in 1500, Joachim Camerarius was born in Bamberg- just north of Nuremberg in Bavaria (southern Germany).

You might remember talking about Albrecht Durer the other day- that famous Renaissance artist- Durer was from Nuremberg, and Camerarius would be a lifelong fan and friend- even writing a treatise on Durer’s first Melancholia.

Camerarius would study at Leipzig, Erfurt and Wittenberg. In the 1520s (right in the middle of Reformation madness), he made friends with Philip Melanchthon. So, we find in Camerarius another character linking Renaissance intellectual pursuits and Reformation theology. But Camerarius’ intellectual pursuits were amongst the more peculiar at Wittenberg and amongst the Lutheran Reformers.

To be fair- Camerarius seems to have been an able theologian, and Melanchthon asked him to help him with the Augsburg Confession of 1530. Camerarius also translated Latin classics, wrote on historical topics, and has a posthumous collection of 180 works.

But for Joachim, it seems that astrology was the final frontier. He believed that in this remarkable age- this “rebirth” and “reformation” had opened up the world to be better understood by those at the forefront of the new ways of learning (and this was an ordinary human ambition during those epochs when the world seems to be open to new ideas and new methods of gathering information seem to upend how we used to understand the world)

Camerarius was keen on seeing in the natural world the fingerprints of God and knowledge of God’s vibrant designs. Like Melanchthon and many others, he saw astrology (a kind of astronomy) as a means for divining God’s more extensive plans for the universe. Joachim saw God’s revelation in physiognomy, chiromancy, and dream interpretation. God tells us about the fates of individuals using their facial features, the lines on their palms, and through their dreams. These extremes drew criticism from Luther and others, but this kind of work made him popular with magistrates and leading citizens who gobbled this stuff up like your great aunt and her horoscopes.

Once again, from a distance, it might seem laughable. Astrology and Astronomy (as we understand them) were a lot closer, perhaps even indistinguishable. The impetus behind Copernicus was not dissimilar to that which motivated the Camerarius and Melanchthon- even Nostradamus, John Dee, and other wack-a-doos. Like much in the development of any science, the early days look more like a spectrum from “helpful” to “absurd” as the science is being refined.

The Duke of Wurttemberg invited Camerarius to come to the University of Tubing and reorganize it in the style of Wittenberg (Melanchthon's impact on Wittenberg and through it the rest of German higher education is a story for another time).

As a man with respect across the Reformation divide, he was a correspondent with the Catholic King Francis I of France when that Monarch tried to figure out what to do with the Calvinist ascendency in his lands. Later, Emperor Maximillian II (the grandson of Charles V) asked Camerarius to reconcile the Catholic and Reformation confessions- obviously unable; he died in April 1574. He was 74 years old.

The Last Word for today comes this the Tuesday of Holy Week.

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.

They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."

Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 12th of April 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man who reminds you that “the fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars but ourselves” He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man who will not be making an astrology pun as those can be Cancers that Pisces people off; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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