Théodore de Bèze
Earlier this month I was mooching about the internet, and an interesting little bit of trivia caught my attention. Theodore Bèze’s 500th birthday was coming up. Interest turned to sadness as I realised there would probably be few people—if any—commemorating that day. As a lover of Church history, I find it this day noteworthy. Bèze lived through a dramatic period in Church history, and even played quite an active part in it.
When he was still a young man Bèze’s father had hopes that he’d work in law. Bèze’s uncle, who was his guardian, seemed to harbour hopes that his nephew would join him in the church’s work. But Bèze preferred the life of a student, writing and reading old languages. In time all three would, in a way, get their wishes. Upon accepting the Reformed faith, Bèze fled to Geneva, Switzerland. There he became acquainted with Jean Calvin. Many years before, both men had been at the school of Melchior Wolmar—a German man who introduced Bèze to the old languages and, apparently, Protestantism. Recognising the younger man’s skill in Hebrew, Calvin entrusted Bèze to take over for Clement Marot in translating the Psalms into French. Busy as Bèze should be a phrase, since his services were soon in high demand. He had more than the translation of the Psalms to exercise his scholarly skills. He was active in the Académie of Geneva as both professor and preacher. Eventually, Bèze would take on the duties of the aging Jean Calvin, and even write the reformer’s biography. Bèze’s work would reach further than his adopted city of Geneva. When the neighbouring Valdois suffered persecution, Bèze wrote letters to rally aid from protestants across the nations and denominations. He would later return for a time to his native France, defending his fellow Réformé in front of a courtly audience. Bèze’s advice was even sought by the British during the turbulent Anglican reformation.
All this is an extremely condensed telling of Bèze’s life. I’ve left out so much for the sake of brevity, which is painful considering there were many good points and stories I wanted to mention. And yet his legacy appears to be largely forgotten. But, as an aspiring shennachie, one of my favourite things is to bring the fading memory of stories and personages back into the light. Therefore, to honour Bèze’s 500th birthday coming up in two days, I thought I would tell (at least in part) his story.
Happy 500th, Bèze
Bibliography/ recommended for further information