It is the 27th of July 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1656.
It was the year in which Blaise Pascal began his "Provincial Letters." This collection of 18 letters were written under a pseudonym and designed to defend his friend and fellow Jansenist, Antoine Arnauld. The Sorbonne had recently condemned Arnauld as heretical. This decision and the letters mark another turning point in the relationship between the Jansenists and the Jesuits in the Catholic church.
The Jansenists were essentially Augustinian Catholics when it came to the doctrines of grace. The reference to Augustine is to emphasize the nature of the fall, and the inability of men and women to save themselves. Jansenism was developed by the Bishop of Ypres Cornelius Otto Jansen and was popularized by Blaise Pascal.
The primary target of the Jansenists were the Jesuits. And thus, the work of Arnauld that was criticized was Jansenist, and therefore seen as anti-Jesuit. In these provincial letters, Pascal defends the Augustinian doctrines of grace but more famously took on Jesuit casuistry. Casuistry is essentially a philosophical defense of specific actions or decisions based on precedent and established principles. It had a repetition for being tedious and something like splitting hairs. Some see Pascal's attack of the Jesuits and their dependence on casuistry as the beginning of the end for casuistry as a church-sanctioned philosophical method.
It was the year the first Quakers made their way to the new world. Mary Fisher and Ann Austin sailed from Barbados to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The two women were arrested and imprisoned. Quakers eventually made their way to Rhode Island, that haven of religious freedom. Quakers would finally make their way to William Penn's colony and experiment in religious freedom.
Quakers were also in Europe at the time. We know a few of them found refuge in Europe's most tolerant state, Amsterdam. We understand that some Quakers had a good relationship with Baruch Spinoza. Spinoza, the kinda-sorta-Jewish-Deist, was excommunicated from his synagogue in 1656 as well.
Spinoza's parents, along with many other Spanish Jews, were forcibly converted to Christianity in Portugal and eventually fled to Amsterdam, where Baruch's father was a director of the local synagogue. We do not have all the records of his ex-communication from the synagogue, but it is believed that he was excommunicated for his skeptical teachings at Sabbath School. It was not only that he was heterodox, but also apparently a little rough around the edges. The synagogue offered to let him back into fellowship, so long as he stayed quiet. He didn't agree to the deal and spent his life as a wandering philosopher and author. One of the things he did for the Quakers and others was to translate their works into Hebrew.
Hebrew and Semitic languages were usually sparingly taught at the universities and seminaries. The Reformation churches had made inroads in teaching Hebrew and other Semitic languages. Much of the critical work done in the 17th century came from the Lutheran theologian Salomon Glassius who we remember today. He died on this, the 27th of July, in 1656.
Glassius was born in 1593. He attended his local university, the University of Jena, in 1612. Upon deciding to study law, he made his way to Wittenberg in 1615, but illness led him back home where he finished at Jena. It was at Jena that Solomon became friends with Johann Gerhard, the giant of 17th century Lutheranism. Gerhard could read many Semitic languages and impressed upon Glassius the need to train all theologians in these languages. While it might seem like a simple argument, Gerhard and Glassius would argue that precision in Old Testament exegesis was essential for understanding the New Testament and the Semitic world of Jesus. Some Lutherans also held to a tradition that Hebrew was the mother of all languages, an argument that goes back as far as Augustine.
At Gerhard's request, Glassius took Gerhard's position when he died in 1637 as a professor of Hebrew. He was eventually called to Gotha by Duke Ernest to be a court preacher and general superintendent. Glassius is best known for his "Philologia Sacra," a work on Hermeneutics that examined a myriad of models for Biblical interpretation. Glassius's work was especially helpful for its parsing of rabbinic traditions for a Christian audience. Salomon Glassius, giant in post-Reformation Semitic language and study, born in 1593, died on this, the 27th of July, in 1656. He was 63 years old.
When we think about Lutherans and the Old Testament, we naturally think of our good friend and colleague Chad Bird here at 1517—author, podcaster, and speaker. He's an Old Testament Devotional somewhere in the pipeline. But we will read from his "Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul."
"The forgiveness of the Father doesn't wait for us to demonstrate adequate, sincere repentance. It doesn't let us humbly accept a servant position in the household, or a chance gradually to earn our Father's favor again through a life of obedience. Christ's forgiveness precedes our repentance—and calls it forth."
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 27th of July 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who has begun a petition to get the Quaker Oats man taken off the oatmeal box, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by 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.