AbstractLanguage and church unity: Calvin’s 1545 Catechism in Latin
In 1545 Calvin wrote a catechism. He defended the fact that he had done it in Latin, saying: “I judge it useful that there should be public testimonies, whereby churches which, though widely separated by space, agree in the doctrine of Christ, may mutually recognize each other.” Although he was constantly being accused by the Roman Catholic Church of being a schismatic, Calvin’s ecumenical intentions were above re-proach. At every opportunity he stressed the sinfulness of schism from a church that bears the marks of the true church. By the time of the Reformation Latin wasn’t regarded any more as a “holy” language, but as a role model for other languages. Although the reformers increasingly propagated the use of the vernacular in religious service, they still maintained cor-respondence with each other in Latin and wrote many of their treatises in this language. The art of printing presented the same phenomenon: both vernacular and Latin (especially academic works), were produced and distributed. Calvin’s “Catechism” of 1545, written in Latin, was soon translated into many languages, even into Greek and Hebrew. Thereby Calvin reached his goal of promoting unity of faith between the different reformation churches. The fact that the catechism was written in Latin gave it a special status as church-historical document: a symbol of Calvin’s hope for church unity.
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