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

Hemmingsen on the Sabbath and Christian Festivals (11)

In today’s post, consisting of assertiones 27 and 28, Hemmingsen distinguishes his view of Christian festivals from what he considers both gentile and Romanist perversions. Here, one can clearly see how he separates his advocacy for the edifying effect of the “memorials of the saints” from the “invocation of the saints,” which he believes to be idolatry.

Assertions concerning the Jewish Sabbath and the Festivals of Christians (Continued)

  1. The festivals of the gentiles were appointed not for making their souls rejoice with piety and virtue, but for filling up their bodies; from this fact, the Greeks call drunkenness μέθη [methē], because, when the sacred rites had been completed, they were free for gormandizing.1 In doing this, they thought that they were doing something pleasing to their gods, that is, to the demons, and soon they day following a festival was called a harsh ἐπίβδα [epibda, “the day after a festival”], because they were struggling from the effects of drunkenness after the festival. Would that many who want to be thought Christians were not beating the gentile Greeks in the drinking contest, and this chiefly at festivals.
  2. The festivals of the papists, particularly those of the saints, are appointed for the most shameful idolatry, namely, for the invocation of the saints, which the Devil introduced into the world, for three reasons in particular: namely, to rob Christ, the only Mediator, of his honor; to bring disgrace upon the saints who have died; and to bring ruin upon the idolators who invoke the saints and have them as their partners in eternal punishments.2


As a side note, Hemmingsen likes to talk about the ἐπίβδα. He seems to have gotten it from his teacher, Philip Melanchthon. Thus in On the Law of Nature: A Demonstrative Method, after quoting Pindar’s fourth Pythian Ode and Melanchthon’s translation of it, he comments:  “Ἐπίβδη [the day after a festival], which Philip calls postfestum [after the festival], is the day that follows some festival filled with banquets, at which men have made themselves merry and given themselves to liberally to drinking. When he says that this will be harsh–namely, because of drunkenness–he signifies that the result will be that those who have done badly will, at some point after the doing of their deeds, be tormented by the consciousness of their crims, and will pay the penalty” (166-7).

  1. Hemmingsen uses a very rare word here, ingurgitatio, which means “immoderate eating and drinking.” The etymological point he seems to be making is that he believes that there is a connection between μέθη, the Greek word for “drunkenness,” and the verb μεθίημι [methiēmi, “to set loose, let go, relax, free oneself,” reflected in his use of the Latin term vacabant, “they were free.” (μέθη, and the related word for wine, μέθυ [methu] should in fact, according to LSJ, be compared to “Skt. mádhu ‘sweet, sweet drink, honey’, OE. medu ‘mead’, Slav. med[ucaron] ‘honey’, etc.”)
  2. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

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