If Only Someone Would Translate These…

Polanus-setThe Heidelblog is devoted to recovering the Reformed confession. In this context the word confession has two senses. In the first sense it refers to the official, ecclesiastical, public, constitutional documents to which ministers and elders subscribe and to which members of Reformed churches assent, e.g., the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort, and the Westminster Standards. These are what we might call the Six-Forms of Unity. They summarize the theology, piety, and practice of the believing, confessing Reformed churches across the globe. There is a second sense of the word confession, however. It refers to the tradition within which these documents arose, from which the framers drew, and in which they must be interpreted. The confessional documents themselves are widely and easily available. The primary sources, however, are another matter. When I began to investigate the Reformed tradition c. 1980 the only way I knew to access the Reformed tradition was to read Calvin, Berkhof, Hodge, and Van Til. In seminary I got a copy of Ursinus’ lectures on the catechism (thanks to the Den Dulk Foundation) and we had access to bits and pieces of Turretin and a few others but by and large the texts of the Classic Reformed period (16th and 17th centuries) were locked away from most students.

In recent years that has been changing. Today we have a growing number of translations available through the Classic Reformed Theology series (here and here) published by Reformation Heritage Books. That series has produced two works with two more important texts in the pipeline. Stay tuned! Today we have access to a translations of Turretin, Witsius, a Brakel, Ames, and others. Now there is a new project in the works which, should it come to fruition, will be immensely significant.

Logos is working to produce a first-ever translation of the Syntagma Christianae Theologiae of Amandus Polanus (1561–1610).  Syntagma is Greek for body and it’s sometimes a synonym for Syntaxis or system. This massive Latin survey of Christian theology in the Reformed tradition, first published just 8 years before the Synod of Dort, is 10-volume work. It was the most significant systematic theology published in the first half of the 17th century. It was widely read and influential. He published a small handbook (Partitiones), like Berkhof’s Manual, which was translated and there is an English translation of a section of the Syntagma on predestination but the whole system has never been translated and is largely unknown today, especially in the English-speaking world. He is so lost to us that there is a German-language Wiki page but no English-language Wiki page for Polanus.

Polanus was an Old Testament scholar (he published a work on Hosea in 1601) and theologian in Basel. Born in Breslau (today, Poland) where Ursinus was born, and where he received what today we call a classical education. He studied Reformed theology in the 1580s in Basel, Geneva, and Heidelberg. He earned his doctorate in 1590 and taught Old Testament in Basel beginning in 1596. He became Rector (president) of the University in 1600.

You can get a feel for Polanus’ theology in a few places on the web:

Christian Locatell is organizing this project for Logos but if it is to see the light of day, it needs your support. If you love Reformed theology, if you want access to classic Reformed texts, if you want to learn Reformed theology from the sources that informed the Synod of Dort and the Westminster Assembly, then this is the sort of project that you should support.

10 comments

  1. Dr Clark — I believe you have a typo in the first paragraph.

    > There is a second sense of the word *confusion*, however.

    I think the word ‘confusion’ here should be ‘confession’.

    • Indeed!

      Thank you. WordPress has made spell-correct function really aggressive and I have to fight with it now. Sometimes it changes words behind my back. Really. Because I never make mistakes. Well, hardly ever.

  2. It is indeed interesting that we are now accessing some more rare texts; but I have enough difficulty synthesising Perkins and Sibbes. Should I be have such problems?

    • There are challenges in reading older texts but the key is to read them slowly and in their own context. There’s a lot on which to chew in just a little bit of Perkins. The older writers embedded a lot of information and analysis in small spaces.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “synthesizing.” Sibbes and Perkins were both conforming (as opposed to Independent or Presbyterian) Reformed writers with a lot in common. Both wanted believers to know Christ personally. by grace alone, through faith alone and they wanted their hearers and readers to grow in godliness and piety. I doubt they would have seen much difference between their theologies and pieties.

      Dever on Sibbes is very good. Paul Schaeffer on the Cambridge scene is very good.

  3. Is there any plan to bring this translation of the Syntagma to print proper should the project succeed? I’d be very interested in this project, but I really don’t care much for electronic versions of theological works.

    • While nothing is definitive yet, Polanus would be a great candidate for print if we are able to fund the translation. Lexham Press, the publishing arm of Logos Bible Software, does produce print materials. I would definitely love for this to be one of them. But first things first. Let’s get this translation in production!

    • The first step is gauging interest in the project. Once we get a sufficient amount of pre-orders to warrant investment, then we will move on to the logistics of translation. We already have a very good translator in mind, but we won’t be able to announce anything definitively until we know there is enough interest.

      Thanks for your interest in the project.

  4. This is an exciting announcement. I just hope I live long enough to see the finished product. And I second the motion to put it in a proper paper and ink format once completed. I get a headache reading a lengthy blog on a computer or tablet. I could never make it through 10 volumes in that format.

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