The 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:
- Wes Bredenhof has translated and published the brief synopsis from the front part of the Syntagma on his blog.
- Luca Baschera gives an overview of the Syntagma in The Companion to Reformed Orthodoxy, recently published by Brill.
- There is a fragment of the Syntagma published on Jake Griesel’s blog.
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.