Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene

Scholae, Pietas, and the Studia Humanitatis

An addendum to recent posts on schools and schooling in David Chytraeus’ Catechismus. In an essay on Thedore Beza and humanistic studies, Scott Manetsch notes the salutary connection for Beza between philology and piety–though only the latter is absolutely essential.

The reformer [Beza] was instrumental in drawing to the [Genevan] academy several of Europe’s top philologists: most notably, Joseph Scaliger (the son of Julius Caesar Scaliger), Matthew Beroald, Cornelius Bertram, and Isaac Casaubon. Nonetheless, Beza insisted, the study of classical philology must not be divested from Christian spiritual formation. From the pulpit in Geneva, Beza cajoled his congregation in the early 1590s: “You students, whether old or young, never separate your studies and the humane letters from the true knowledge of salvation….And you fathers and mothers, be very careful and diligent to teach your children likewise their catechisms as much as their humane letters…” Likewise, Beza insisted, ministers of the Gospel should be trained in the studia humanitatis. But, if one had to choose between a humanistic education and Christian piety, there was little doubt as to which was more important: better to have an unlearned but godly pastor, than a wicked minister who was well-versed in the classics. (“Psalms before Sonnets: Theodore Beza and the Studia Humanitatis,” in Robert J. Bast and Andrew C. Gow, eds., Continuity and Change: The Harvest of Late Medieval and Reformation History [Brill, 2000], p. 411)

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.