1902 Encyclopedia > Juan de Valdes

Juan de Valdes
Spanish religious writer
(c. 1500 - 1541)




JUAN DE VALDES (c. 1500-1541), Spanish religious writer, born about 1500 at Cuenca in Castile, was the younger of twin sons of Fernando de Valdes, hereditary regidor of Cuenca. Juan has often been confounded with Ms twin-brother Alphonso, who was in the suite of Charles V. in 1520, acted as his Latin secretary from 1524, and died in 1532 at Vienna. It has been conjectured that Juan studied at the university of Alcalá. We first meet him as the anonymous author of a politico-religious Diálogo de Mercurio y Carón, apparently written in 1528 and published then or soon after. As this Diálogo reflected strongly on the corruptions of the Roman Church, Valdes got into difficulties with the Spanish Inquisition, and left Spain for Naples in 1530. He removed in 1531 to Rome. On 12th January 1533 he writes from Bologna, where he was in attendance upon the pope, Clement VIL; his criticisms of papal policy had been condoned, inasmuch as in his Diálogo he had defended the validity of the marriage of Catherine of Aragon to Henry VIII. But in the autumn of 1533 he returned to Naples, and seems never to have left it again. His name has been Italianized into Valdesso and Val d'Esso. It has frequently been asserted that he was appointed by Charles V. as secretary to the viceroy at Naples, Don Pedro de Toledo ; but of this there is no evi-dence, and it seems a " harmonizing " conjecture, based on the confusion between Alphonso and Juan. Curione (writ-ing in 1544) calls him "cavalliere di Cesare," but there is no proof of his having ever held an official appointment. At his house on the Chiaja he was the centre of a very distinguished circle, literary and religious, and the influ-ence of his conversations and his writings, chiefly circulated in manuscript, stimulated the desire for a spiritual refor-mation of the church. The first-fruit of his cultured leisure at Naples was a philological treatise, Diàlogo de la Lengua (written 1533) ; but, though his friends urged him to seek distinction by his humanistic studies, his bent was towards the spiritual problems of Biblical interpretation and the deep things of the devout life. Vermigli (Peter Martyr) and Marcantonio Flaminio were leading spirits in the coterie of Valdes, which included Vittoria Colonna and her sister-in-law Giulia Gonzaga. On Ochino, whom he furnished with themes for sermons, his influence was very great. Carnesecchi, who had known Valdes at Rome as "a modest and wellbred courtier," found him at Naples in 1540 " wholly intent upon the study of Holy Scripture," portions of which he translated from the Hebrew and Greek into Spanish, with comments and suggestive prefaces. To his teaching Carnesecchi ascribes his own com-plete adoption of the Evangelical doctrine of justification by faith, and at the same time his estrangement from the policy of the Lutheran schism. Valdes died at Naples in May 1541.
The death of Valdes scattered his band of associates. Ochino and Vermigli abandoned the hope of a regenerated Catholicism, and left Italy. By degrees some of Valdes's writings were translated into Italian and published. They exhibit great originality and penetration, combined wdth a delicate vein of semi-mystical spiritu-ality, and retain a large measure of that personal charm which is attributed to their author in all contemporary notices. Llorente finds traces in Valdes of the influence of Tauler's writings ; any such influence must have been at second hand. Valdes was in re-lations with Fra Benedetto of Mantua, the anonymous author of Del Benefizio di Gesù Cristo Crocefisso, which was revised by Flaminio (reprinted by Dr Babington, Cambridge, 1855). The suggestion that Valdes was unsound on the doctrine of the Trinity was first made in 1567 by the Transylvanian bishop, Francis David (see Socixus, vol. xxii. p. 230) ; it has been adopted by Sand (1684), Wallace (1850), and other anti-Trinitarian writers, and is counte-nanced by Bayle. Some colour has been given to this view by iso-lated expressions in his writings, and by the subsequent course of Ochino, wdiose orthodoxy seems, however, to have been unjustly suspected, from the speculative insight wdth which he presented objections. But Valdes, though he never treats of the Trinity, even when commenting upon Matt, xxviii. 19, reserving it in his Latte Spirituale as a topic for advanced Christians, explicitly affirms the consubstantiality of the Son, whom he unites in doxologies with the Father and the Holy Spirit (Opusc, p. 145). His interest centred in matters of practical rather than of speculative theology : his great aim was the promotion of a healthy and personal piety.
The following is a list of his writings.
(1) Diàlogo de Mercurio y Carmi, 8vo (no date or place of print-ing; 1528 ?). An Italian translation, by Nicolo Franco, was printed at Venice without date, and reprinted at the same place in 1545. Both with the original and the translation is generally found a Dià-logo on the sack of Rome in 1527, by Alphonso de Valdes, printed at the same time. Both are ascribed to Juan in the reprint Dos Didlogos of 1850. (2) Diàlogo de la Lengua, written in 1533, first printed at Madrid, 1737, reprinted 1860 and 1873. (3) Qual Maniera si devrebbe tenere a informare . . . gli Figliuoli de Christiani delle Cose della Religione (no date or place of printing ; before 1545, as it was made use of by the Italian translator of Calvin's catechism, 1545). No Spanish original is known. It was reproduced as Latte Spirituale, Basel, 1549, and Paris, 1550. A Latin version, by Pier-paolo Vergerio, was published in 1554 and again in 1557 ; it has been translated into German twice, into Polish, into English by J. T. Betts, 1882, and into Spanish by Ed. Boehmer, in Revista Cristiana, Madrid, February 1882 (also separately published). (4) Trataditos, first published at Bonn, 1881, from a manuscript in the Palatine Library at Vienna. An Italian translation, I Cinque Tratatelli Evangelici, was published at Rome, 1545, reprinted 1869. An English translation, by J. T. Betts, is in XVII. Opuscules, 1882. (5) Alfabeto Christiana, Venice, 1545, an Italian translation of an unpublished and lost Spanish original. An English version, by B. B. Wifl'en, was published in 1861. (6) Ciento i Diez Concideranones ; the ori-ginal is said to have been published, and all copies suppressed by the Spanish Inquisition ; thirty-nine of the Concideraciones were published with the Trataditos from a Vienna manuscript. An Italian translation, by Celio Secondo Curione, Le Cento et Died Divine Considerationi, was published at Basel, 1550, 8vo. A French translation, by Claude de Kerquifinen, was published at Lyons, 1563, 8vo, and Paris, 1565, 8vo. The English translation by Nicholas Ferrar was published at Oxford, 1638, 4to, at the instance of George Herbert; it was reprinted at Cambridge, 1646 ; a new translation, by J. T. Betts, was issued in 1865. A translation into Spanish from the Italian, by Luis Usoz i Bio, was published in 1855. (7) Seven Doctrinal Letters, printed with the Trataditos, from a Vienna manuscript, and translated by J. T. Betts in the XVII. Opuscules. (8) Comentario Breve . . . sobre la Epistola de San Pablo a los Romanos, Venice, 1556 ; translation and commentary, edited by Juan Perez de Pineda, reprinted 1856 ; English version, by J. T. Betts, 1883. (9) Comentario Breve . . . sobre la Primera Epistola de San Pablo a los Corintios, Venice, 1557 ; translation and commentary, edited, reprinted, and translated as No. 8. (10) El Evangelio de San Mateo, translation and commentary, first published in 1881, from a Vienna manuscript; English version, by J. T. Betts, 1883. (11) El Salterio, translation of the Psalms from Hebrew into Spanish, published wdth the Trataditos, from a Vienna manuscript. (12) At Vienna is an unpublished commentary in Spanish on Psalms i.-xli. (13) Sand mentions a commentary on St John's Gospel, which is not known to exist.
The notices of Values in Sand (Biblioih. Antitrinitar., 1684, p. 2), Bayle, and
Wallace (Antitrin. Biog., 1S50, ii. S) are very inadequate. The revival of interest
in him is due to M'Crie, Hist. Re/, in Italy, 1827, and Hist. Ref. in Spain, 1829.
But the full knowledge of his life and teachings was first opened up by Benjamin
B. Wiffen, whose Life of Valdes was prefixed in 1S65 to the new translation of
the Considerations. Since then important discoveries have been made in the
Aulic Library, Vienna, by Dr Edward Boehmer; compare his Span. Reformers
of Two Centuries, 1S74, and Lives of the Twin Brothers, J. and A. de Valdes, pre-
fixed to Biblioth. Wiffeniana, 1S82, also separately, with introd. by J. T. Betts.
For an interesting sketch of Valdes, see Benrath's Bernardino Ochino, 1875.
Respecting his theological standpoint, compare Bonet-Maury, Early Sources of
Eng. Unit. Christianity, trans, by Hall, 1S84. (A. GO.)






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