Academic journal article Journal of the History of Ideas

Georg Calixtus9 Isaac Casaubon, and the Consensus of Antiquity

Academic journal article Journal of the History of Ideas

Georg Calixtus9 Isaac Casaubon, and the Consensus of Antiquity

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

Georg Calixtas (1586-1656) was one of the most controversial and influential theologians in the Holy Roman German Empire in the seventeenth century. As Inge Mager has observed, rarely has a theologian provoked as wide a variety of responses from both their contemporaries and from later scholars.1 During a time in which the vast majority of Lutherans fought vehemently against any prospect of reunion with the Reformed (German Calvinist) and Roman Catholic confessions, Calixtus struggled as passionately for such a reunion. He believed that if the various Christian confessions could recognize a shared heritage, they would be able to reunite as one church. His views meant that he found himself occupying a space between the Protestant (Reformed and Lutheran) and Roman Catholic confessions, and his teachings were so controversial they sparked the Syncretistic Controversy, a significant theological quarrel that became the central preoccupation of many German Lutheran theologians in the second half of the seventeenth century.2 To date, it is this aspect of his work which has received the bulk of scholarly attention and, as such, the vast majority of this scholarship has been by theologians and ecclesiastical historians.3 It is probably fair to say that when anglophone historians think of Calixtus, if they think of him at all, they do not associate him with Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614).

This article aims to introduce Calixtus to anglophone audiences as a subject for historical attention. It will do so by considering his relationship with Casaubon and the genesis of one of Calixtus's most important ideas: his understanding of the consensus antiquitatis. Despite several monographs and numerous articles concerning Calixtine theology, only a handful deal in any significant detail with his understanding of the consensus antiquitatis and, more specifically, how this understanding was formed. The most fully articulated view comes from Hermann Schüssler, who argued in 1961 that Calixtus found his vision of the early Christian church in the work of the failed Roman Catholic archbishop Marco Antonio de Dominis (1566-1 624).4 Schüssler's approach is illustrative of Calixtine research as a whole, which tends to consider only "theological" aspects and implications of Calixtus's work and therefore does not look beyond those who selfidentified as theologians when attempting to identify possible sources of inspiration for his key ideas. The difficulty with this approach is that the modern category of "theologian" did not emerge until the nineteenth century.

During Calixtus's lifetime, interdisciplinary thought was the norm, and different subjects were not seen as independent pursuits. Calixtus himself studied philosophy, ancient languages, mathematics, and medicine at university before turning his attention to theology. As Jean Bodin observed in the sixteenth century, because these disciplines "are linked together and bound by the same chains, the one cannot be grasped without knowledge of the other."5 It was not until the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that modern notions of science and disciplinarity emerged. As such, to explore the work of scholars such as Caiixtus only through the lens of a modern discipline such as theology is necessarily to limit our understanding of their contributions to early modern thought. This article argues that Casaubon, today remembered as an icon of late Renaissance humanism and for his extraordinary philological skills and reputation as a classicist, is as likely a source of inspiration for Calixtus's understanding of the consensus antiquitatis as a "theological" figure such as de Dominis.

It is anticipated that two implications will arise from this study. First, if Caiixtus had a stronger relationship with Casaubon than has hitherto been considered, it is likely that he was exposed to scholarly activities that have not previously been acknowledged in the literature, such as the critical practices of the humanists in the fields of philology, chronology, and law. …

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