Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism Sacred Doctrine

Contarini on Justification (5)

In today’s passage Contarini moves on from “justice” to “justification” and what “to make” means in the expression “to make just” (he does not here discuss whether this Latin term is the best one to render the NT conception expressed by δικαιόω and related Greek terms, but only breaks the Latin word into its components and analyzes the various senses in which these components can be taken). As he had done previously with “justice,” so here he distinguishes different senses in which “to make” can be taken: it can either be taken formally, in the way in which the quality of whiteness “makes” a wall white; or it can be taken efficiently, in the way in which a painters plaster “makes” a wall white.


Thus far let the things we have said about “justice” suffice. Now let us proceed to the other term that is included in the name “justification,” which is “to be made just.” Let us therefore say that “to be made” and “to make”, as far as it pertains to the matter I have proposed, is taken in two senses. For we say that whiteness makes a wall white; we say also that the plastering1 of a painter makes a wall white. By more or less the same reasoning we say that health makes a man healthy; we likewise say that healing makes a man healthy. These two senses differ, for whiteness makes a wall white as form inherent to the wall, and health makes a man healthy as form inherent to the body.. Therefore we shall say that this, so to speak, “making” is formal, and we shall call it “making formally.” But coating [with paint] makes a wall white as the action of a painter, and therefore efficiently. Thus we shall say healing “efficiently makes” a man healthy. (De Iustificatione, p. 589)

  1. I had first thought to take linatio as “covering [with paint],” but was led by the previous translator to take another look, and I am now virtually certain that he was right to take it as “plastering” and I was wrong.

By E.J. Hutchinson

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