Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism

Contarini on Justification (9)

Now that Contarini has finished his discussion of the multiple senses of “faith” (fides), he appends a note on the multiple sense of “to justify” even when it is used efficiently–this is a further refinement of what he said earlier when, discussing the multiple sense of “to justify,” he divided the possibilities into “to justify efficiently” and “to justify formally.”


If anyone does not understand these things that we have discussed, he will not correctly comprehend the whole matter of which we are treating. Let us add that the expression “to be justified” or “to be made1 just,” even when used efficiently2, as we said above, is still able to be taken in two senses–namely, properly, as when someone, from being an unjust man, is made [efficitur] a just man; [and] also improperly [minus proprie], as when someone becomes more just, and advances from less justice to more justice–for which reason we also say that something is “made warm [calefieri]”3 in two senses. (De Iustificatione, p. 590)

  1. Or “become.”
  2. As opposed to formally.
  3. Words of this kind, and even this word itself, are sometimes used to show that “justification” must mean an intrinsic change in the subject, because of the word’s (Latin) etymology (<-facere, “to make”), though this ignores that 1) Latin etymology is not dispositive for the meaning of a Greek term (δικαιόω); 2) other Latin terms formed in a parallel way do not indicate intrinsic change in the subject; and 3) facere itself can mean “to reckon” rather than “to make,” as it does when followed by a genitive of indefinite value. Contarini does not here use the term in quite the way just described, though, as we have seen previously, he accepts the argumentum ex etymologia, so to speak. He uses the parallel of calefieri in this instance only to show that that kind of term can be used of an absolute change from one thing to its opposite, or to show an increase in degree in a quality that something already possesses.

By E.J. Hutchinson

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