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Peter Martyr Vermigli

A Companion to Peter Martyr Vermigli edited by Torrance Kirby, Emidio Campi, Frank A., III James (Brill's Companions to the Christian Tradition: Brill Academic) The great Florentine Protestant reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli (14991562) made a unique contribution to the scriptural hermeneutics of the Renaissance and Reformation, where classical theories of interpretation derived from Patristic and Scholastic sources engaged with new methods drawn from Humanism and Hebraism. Vermigli was one of the pioneers of the sixteenth century in acknowledging and harnessing the biblical scholarship of the medieval Rabbis. His eminence in the Catholic Church in Italy (until 1542) was followed by an equally distinguished career as theologian and exegete in Protestant Europe where he was professor successively in Strasbourg, Oxford, and finally in Zurich. The Companion comprises 25 essays divided among five themes addressing Vermigli's international career, hermeneutical method, biblical commentaries, major theological topics, and his later influence:

Contributors include: Scott Amos, Michael Baumann, Jon Balserak,Luca Baschera, Maurice Boutin, Emidio Campi, John Patrick Donnelly SJ, Max Engammare, R. Gerald Hobbs, Frank A. James III, Gary Jenkins, Robert Kingdon, Torrance Kirby, William Klempa, Joseph McLelland, Charlotte Methuen, Christian Moser, David Neelands, Peter Opitz, Herman Selderhuis, Daniel Shute, David Wright, and Jason Zuidema.

W.J. TORRANCE KIRBY is Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Director of the Centre for Research on Religion at McGill University. He has published extensively on the thought of Richard Hooker, including the recent Brill Companion to Richard Hooker (2008). His monograph The Zurich Connection and Tudor Political Theology (2007) addresses Vermigli's political writings.

PROF. DR. DR. H.C. EMIDIO CAMPI is Director of the Institute for Swiss Reformation History and occupies the chair in Church History at the University of Zurich. He jointly edited Vermigli's Commentary on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (2006) and Petrus Martyr Vermigli: Humanismus, Republikanismus, Reformation (2002).

FRANK A. JAMES III is Professor of Historical Theology and Provost of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Boston. His books include Peter Martyr Vermigli and Predestination (1998) and a translation of Vermigli, Two Theological Loci: Predestination and Justification (2003).

The central aim of this Companion is to examine the unique contribution of the great Florentine reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562) to the emerging hermeneutics and exegesis of Early Modern Europe, where scholars, philosophers, and theologians of the Renaissance and Reformation engaged classical theories of interpretation with new methods drawn from Humanism and Hebraism. The revival of classical learning in the Renaissance inspired a renewed interest not only in the study of Greek letters but also in the language of the Hebrew Bible. For Christian humanists the study of Hebrew was put on par with that of Greek and Latin. 'Trilingual colleges' where Hebrew, Greek, and Latin were taught, were established in France, England, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere (e.g. College de France, Corpus Christi College, Oxford and St John's College, Cambridge). Entire schools of Christian Hebraists emerged, often working in close contact with Jewish scholars or Jewish converts to Christianity. Vermigli's biblical commentaries provide an extraordinarily rich mine for the confluence of Humanism and Hebraism, as well as late-medieval scholasticism. Peter Martyr Vermigli was an Italian humanist and reformer whose distinguished career in the Catholic Church in Italy, until his flight north in 1542, was followed by one equally distinguished in Protestant Europe, where he taught in Strasbourg, Oxford, and Zurich. As Professor of Old Testament he was one of the pioneers in acknowledging and harnessing the work of the medieval Rabbis, just then becoming widely available through the Bomberg Bible (1517). During his lengthy training as member of the Augustinian canons regular of the Lateran Congregation, he acquired significant exegetical tools through his mastery of the three biblical languages of Hebrew, Greek and Latin, as well as thorough grounding in classical, patristic and medieval literature, and an extensive knowledge of the philosophy of Aristotle while a student at the University of Padua which he attended for eight years. In the course of this extensive academic training Vermigli developed a unique hermeneutical method, faithful to the original texts but spiced with numerous loci/topica on a wide range of subjects relevant to controversies of the time. These latter were gathered together from his various biblical commentaries in 1576 by a disciple, Robert le Maçon or Masson, Sieur de la Fontaine, minister of the French congregation in London, and published in the famous four-volume Loci Communes. The Loci went through fourteen editions between 1576 and 1656, and was destined to become the favourite source for seminarians from Zurich to Harvard well into the seventeenth century, even Outselling Calvin's Institutes for decades.

Peter Martyr Vermigli was a reasonable and reasoning partisan of the Protestant cause in the sixteenth century, when reason too often gave way to mere polemic. He wrote major works on the Eucharist and celibacy, and his lectures on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics were posthumously published. For the most part, however, he earned his living by lecturing on the Christian Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. Most biblical commentators are assigned to one 'school' or another within the history of interpretation. A very few can be said to be genuinely unique; Vermigli is one of those. This means that he can be studied both for his own sake as well as for the impact he made on subsequent interpreters.

Vermigli's significance in the history of biblical exegesis is threefold. First, it is evident that he arrived in northern Europe from Catholic Italy with impressive credentials as a biblical interpreter, including mastery of the three 'biblical languages'. This helps us to understand better the phenomenon known as the 'Italian Evangelism' of the spirituals. His first Strasbourg period (1542-47), whose lecture series survive only in the Lamentations and Genesis commentaries, provides crucial insight into the formation of these proto-Reformers, many of whom, like Juan de Valdés, remained in the attitude of Nicodemites. Secondly, Vermigli's skill in Hebrew and Aramaic led him to employ the recent Bomberg Bible which printed medieval rabbinical commentaries surrounding the Hebrew and Aramaic texts on each page. He was a pioneer in the Renaissance development of `Hebraism,' not only through a return to the original language of the Hebrew scriptures, but to the significant body of interpretation by their rabbinical interpreters, a mine for scholars left largely untapped hitherto. These interpreters were distinctive in promoting philological exegesis as an alternative to the traditional fourfold hermeneutical method inherited from the Patristic era (i.e. literal, moral, allegorical, anagogical). Thirdly, Vermigli moved away consciously from the fanciful, often allegorical, exegesis of the Middle Ages, towards the newer, more`philological methods of interpretation developed by Renaissance humanists. This meant seeking the most correct texts available from which to extract the original meaning. Taken together, these elements in Vermigli's method signalled a return to a tradition dating back to Jerome's sort of Hebraism, and overcoming the contrived and arbitrary sort of exegesis then prevalent.

The contributions gathered in this Companion include lectures given at the Third International Conference of the Peter Martyr Society hosted in Montreal by the Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University, in August 2007. The conference built upon two important previous consultations held to investigate the thought of Vermigli: the first also hosted by the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University in 1977,' and the second hosted at Kappel am Albis, Switzerland by the Institut fur Schweizerische Reformationsgeschichte, University of Zurich in 1999.2 In addition to these major conferences the annual meetings of the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference continue to provide an annual forum for panels covering a range of topics on Vermigli's thought. The Peter Martyr Library (PML) is witness to the increased scholarly commitment to this project of rehabilitating a seminal sixteenth-century thinker.'

Given that Vermigli was first and foremost a biblical scholar, it is time for his chief works to be analyzed in light of their contribution to Renaissance and Reformation theories of interpretation. Once the Renaissance motto 'ad fontes!' had become well established and the revival of classical authorities secured, the traditional scholastic fourfold exegesis gradually gave place to a new understanding of the `literal' sense of the text. Vermigli's first biblical lectures in Protestant Europe were on the Minor Prophets, but only traces of them have survived. He subsequently lectured on the Hebrew elegy known as Lamentations; for this work, Vermigli had few Protestant or Catholic models and relied mostly on the Jewish commentaries. After commenting on Lamentations, Vermigli began to lecture on the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures; Of these lectures on the Pentateuch, only those on Genesis 1-43 have survived in their entirety. Genesis not only begins the Hebrew Scriptures but also provides the doctrinal foundations for both the Jewish and Christian faiths. When Vermigli set to work, he had assembled a vast array of Jewish and Christian sources from which to work, which included: the Genesis commentaries of the medieval Jewish scholars Ibn Ezra and Rashi, the Jewish chronicle Seder Olam, two Targums to Genesis, the Jewish homiletical commentary known as Genesis Rabbah, and works of Protestant Reformers on Genesis, viz. the Genesis commentary of the humanist reformer Johannes Oecolampadius, the Genesis annotations of Huldrych Zwingli and Sebastian Munster, and Wolfgang Capito's work on Genesis chapter one (a Hexcemeron); Aristotle and Aquinas were so familiar to his audience that he usually used them without reference and usually without attribution. All of these sources Vermigli anthologized and incorporated into his commentary.

Since the method of lecturing in Early Modern Europe continued the tradition of scriptural commentary, using texts (sometimes as 'pretext') to develop articles of dogma, the whole theological curriculum is on display in such lectures. In Vermigli's case this is all the more evident since he was a master of composing scholia, following the model of Aristotelian topica and scholastic method developed from the earlier qucestio into the formalized structure epitomized by Aquinas. Such was his reputation for scholasticism that when his chief scholia were gathered into the Loci Communes and published posthumously, the treatise came to be widely regarded as of his own compilation, even by Karl Barth. The irony of this label 'scholastic' being derived from Vermigli's biblical exegesis is part of the history we wish to uncover and place in context in this volume of essays. In addition, the work of scholars such as Robert Kingdon, J.P. Donnelly and Richard Muller serves to shift the question of Vermigli's supposed 'Calvinism' to a focus rather on a 'Reformed' identity with two chief centres, viz. Zurich and Geneva. The Zurich connection, of which Vermigli became an outstanding representative at the pinnacle of his career, offered an alternative perspective On such concerns as, sacramental and political theology as well as exegesis. Thus, in seeking to define the hermeneutics of Vermigli, a redefinition of some basic assumptions of Reformation studies is also in order.

The essays in this volume begin with Vermigli's international career and then address in turn his hermeneutical method, his biblical commentaries, his theological loci, and finally the reception and influence of his thought. Even before his break with Rome and departure from Italy in the summer of 1542, Vermigli had already become familiar with the work of the evangelical exegetes in Strasbourg—Martin Bucer in particular. By autumn of that first year north of the Alps, he was already ensconced at Bucer's invitation as professor at the recently founded (1538) Senior School at Strasbourg, whose prestige and reputation for quality was rapidly attracting students from all across Europe. The departure of Calvin for Geneva and the death of the Hebraist Wolfgang Capito, both in 1541, made this a natural appointment. In his essay R. Gerald Hobbs shows how Vermigli employed the characteristic methods of the upper Rhine school in his lectures on the Old Testament, none of which were however published during these years. After an interlude in Oxford as Regius Professor, he returned (1553-56) to his Strasbourg post. During these years he honed his skills as a Hebraist and exegete; the fruits of these endeavours are evident in the rich and magisterial commentaries he published after taking up his last position in Zurich upon the death of the resident Hebraist, Konrad Pellikan. R. Gerald Hobbs examines Vermigli's activity in the context of the Strasbourg school as the formative stage in the career of the great biblical interpreter.

In 1548, in the wake of the Interim imposed by Emperor Charles V in the German lands and the death of Henry VIII in England, Vermigli accepted an invitation from Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, and moved from Strasbourg to Oxford, where he took up the distinguished position of Regius Professor of Divinity, from which his predecessor Richard Smyth had recently and forcibly been evicted. The Florentine took his place as a member of a university which had hitherto proved firmly opposed to reform and palpably hostile to his presence. While in Oxford, Vermigli lectured on Romans and I Corinthians, both of which Pauline texts he saw as exceptionally pertinent to the contemporary situation of the church. He became a close and trusted confidant of Cranmer and was intimately invOlved in the formulation of the 42 Articles of Religion, the revision of the secOnd Edwardian Prayer Book, and in Cranmer's abortive attempts to reform the canon law. Charlotte Methuen's essay seeks to situate Vermigli's use and understanding of Scripture in the context of the University in which he worked for the five`years at the apex of his career (1548-1553), and considers the extent to which his exegetical methods and his theological methodology were both similar to and different from those which he encountered in Oxford. Dr Methuen also investigates the extent to which Vermigli's exegetical lectures can be viewed as informing the theology of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer. In his chapter on Vermigli and the Schola Tigurina Emidio Campi pursues the narrative of reformer's career to its final phase in Zurich from 1556 until his death in 1562.

At the outset of the second part of the Companion devoted to discussion of the sources of Vermigli's biblical hermeneutics David Wright addresses the profound influence of the Patristic sources. Wright begins by examining what is known of the key stages in Vermigli's broad familiarization with the Fathers, in both his Catholic and his Protestant periods, and proceeds from there to determine the extent and depth of his knowledge, that is, to answer the question how expert a patristic scholar he in fact was. Who precisely were the Fathers for Vermigli? On this basis, Wright places his central focus on the kinds of authority Vermigli accorded to the testimony of the early Fathers, in relation to other competing loci of authority, especially Scripture, with regard to different interpretative tasks at hand, such as ecclesiastical controversy and biblical exegesis. He gives special attention to the influence on Vermigli's evaluation of the Fathers regarding the major currents in his intellectual formation, chiefly scholasticism and humanism as well as the new Protestantism, with a comparative dimension provided by setting him alongside significant contemporaries such as Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger and John Jewel in their appeal to the Fathers. Wright aims to 'fix' the particularities of Vermigli's appreciation of the Fathers, not least given his very unusual distinction among the front rank of Protestant Reformers of having had an earlier career as a Catholic Reformer—and even his other distinction of never having enjoyed high ecclesiastical office in a church undergoing evangelical reform (with the exception of his canonry at Christ Church, Oxford).

The way in which Vermigli handles the Aristotelian-scholastic heritage of western theology and integrates it into his Own biblical commentaries is addressed by Luca Baschera, an associate of today's Schola Tigurina. Baschera deals with the question concerning the penetration of Aristotelianism and scholasticism in Vermigli's thought. He begins by sketching the contours of reformed theology's increasing reception of the Peripatetic and scholastic tradition, concentrating on the one hand, on the issue of the relationship between philosophy and theology, and, on the other hand, on scholasticism. In order to investigate Vermigli's attitude towards the Peripatetic tradition, special attention is payed to his Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics, a work in which his views concerning the relationship between philosophy in general and Aristotelianism in particular with theology come to the fore most clearly. Baschera reconstructs Vermigli's general attitude towards scholasticism on the basis both of his explicit judgements about medieval theology and of his actual use of scholastic terminology and argumentative patterns. Secondly, the issue of the influence of specific currents of scholastic theology on Vermigli is addressed, leading to the conclusion that he might be labeled a Thomist as well as a Nominalist depending on which specific aspect of his thought is taken into consideration. In his reception of both the Peripatetic philosophical and the scholastic traditions, Vermigli reveals a tendency to embrace one of the marked features of Renaissance intellectual culture: namely its eclecticism. However, Vermigli's eclecticism—as that of his fellow reformed theologians—was motivated above all by his deep, theological conviction that scripture alone was authoritative in itself. All human authorities, in the field of both philosophy and theology, should be considered as derivative and subordinate. According to Vermigli, therefore, the biblical interpreter should feel free in any situation to decide (eclectically) which school of thought furnished the most convincing explanation of a given philosophical or theological problem.

Critical editions of the Bible were not an invention of Protestant Reformers. Some years before Luther's first translation of the Bible (1522 New Testament, 1523 first part of the Old Testament), Alberto de Castello produced a first critical edition of the Bible with variants (Venice 1511), Erasmus his Greek edition of the New Testament (Novum Instrumentum, Basel 1516), and the Polyglott of Alcalà was published between 1514 and 1522. From the beginning of the Reformation there was a dramatic increase of interest in biblical studies, critical new translations of the Bible in Latin, German, Italian and French appeared (new English Translations were not influential on the Continent), and many new commentaries were published. From Luther, Bugenhagen, and MelanchthOn in Wittenberg, Oecolampadius, Bucer, and Capito in Basel, Zwingli, Megander, Pellikan, Bullinger, and Leo Jud in Zurich, to Calvin in Geneva, Max Engammare outlines the frame of Protestant Old Testament hermeneutics before Vermigli began his biblical work. Employing Vermigli's own copy of the Hebrew Bible (Daniel Bomberg, Venice, 1524-25), which now belongs to the Genevan Public and University Library, Dr Engammare compares Vermigli's new hermeneutics with his manuscript marginal notes in his copy of the Rabbinic Bible.

It has often been observed that the Reformation produced little in the way of an ordered or 'systematic' theology prior to the period of Early Orthodoxy, with Melanchthon's Loci Communes and Calvin's Institutes constituting two notable exceptions that prove the rule, so to speak. What has been noted of late is that much of the theology of the Reformation period was achieved in the course of biblical commentary by means of a method that self-consciously kept the practice of exegesis and theological reflection in close proximity, namely through composition of the scholium. Two noted practitioners of this particular art were Peter Martyr Vermigli and Martin Bucer, who were colleagues in Strasbourg from 1542 to 1547, and subsequently in England where both were invited by Thomas Cranmer to take up senior appointments at Oxford and Cambridge respectively during the Edwardian Reformation. In his essay on Scriptural hermeneutics and theological method, Scott Amos examines what distinguished Vermigli's and Bucer's hermeneutical approaches, and asks what this comparison reveals about the trajectory of theological method in the years of transition from the Reformation to early Reformed orthodoxy.

In his essay 'Ex parte videntium' Maurice Boutin explores the hermeneutical significance of the structural analogy between Vermigli's Christology and his formulation of the Eucharistic theology in the Tractatio and the Oxford Disputation.' According to Boutin, where Vermigli emphasizes 'seeing' at the basis of the distinction between seeing and sacrament, his Christology remains focussed on the 'two nature' distinction in the 'one person' traditionally held since Chalcedon (451). Such a discrepancy in the proper structure of the analogy between Christology and the Eucharist in Vermigli's theology has been clouded by the focus on transubstantiation theory in the disputation of 1549 and his vigorous rejection of it. He proposes that this discrepancy could be corrected through drawing a distinction among three ways of seeing: viz., by faith, by reason or intellect, and by history—which correspond respectively to apprehension of the sacrament 'by faith', 'by mind and spirit', and 'by the senses'. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologice suggested a similar distinction in his treatment of the question 'Whether the body of Christ as it is in this sacrament can be seen by some eye at least glorified' (IIIa q.76 a.7). Aquinas refers to three senses of sight: `oculus corporeus' or 'corporalis', `oculus intellectualis' or `intellectus' also called `spiritualis', and `oculus fidei'. The latter, the eye of faith, has to be privileged according to Aquinas as long as the human 'condition' of 'homo via tor' prevails. Vermigli's preference also goes to `oculus fidei'. Consequently, Boutin concludes, both the methodology and the content of Vermigli's approach to definition of the sacrament have a distinctly scholastic tone.

The third part of the Companion is devoted to five of Vermigli's major biblical commentaries. Without any doubt Vermigli was an eminent exegete. With his lecture series and massive commentaries on the scriptures the Italian reformer steadily established himself as one of the most important interpreters of the Bible in the sixteenth century. Scholars have already devoted considerable attention to Luther's, Zwingli's, Oecolampadius', Bulliger's and Calvin's influential commentaries on Genesis. The gateway to understanding Vermgli's distinctive contribution to early-modern biblical exegesis is his series of lectures on Genesis. They combine the elements of his Humanism, Hebraism and Scholasticism in a unique approach to biblical interpretation. The lectures were delivered in Strasbourg in 1543-44 and published posthumously by Christopher Froschauer of Zurich in 1569, with a dedication to Bishop John Jewel, Vermigli's former student and disciple in Oxford and Zurich.' NOt only do these lectures introduce his exegetical method and skills, but they relate his approach to the long traditiOn of patristic and scholastic lexaemeral' literature, commentaries on the six days Of creation. For the first time, Emidio Campi addresses Vermigli's interpretation Of Genesis in general and his treatment of the 'history of creation' (Gen. 1:1-2, 4a; 2:4b-25) in particular. The commentary on Genesis, which was published posthumously in 1569 by Josiah Simler but goes back to Vermigli's lectures delivered in Strasbourg in 1542, became an immediate sensation among scholars. The commentary documents the impressive Biblical knowledge as well as the exceptional familiarity of this former Augustinian canon with the rabbinic and Jewish literature, which was not itself a creatio ex nihilo but rather the result of his diligent philological studies during his life as a scholar in Italy.

As a commentator on Scripture, Peter Martyr Vermigli differed markedly from his Patristic and medieval predecessors in both method and interpretation. So argues Gary Jenkins in his exploration of the commentary on the Book of Judges. From a purely polemical standpoint, it is easy to cite Vermigli for simply using his Protestant theology as a prism through which to view and interpret the Scriptures—a new tradition, supplanting an old one. While in some cases this assessment may not be avoided, Jenkins asks whether this judgement unjustly straps Vermigli to a new scholasticism and correspondingly serves to slight his commitment to humanism. Such an assumption may erect an artificial wall between 'heretical' Protestant interpreters and their `orthodox' Catholic antecedents whereby the former are consigned to a confessional limbo outside a putatively 'received' hermeneutical canon. In his approach to the commentary and especially to the scholia of Vermigli's In librum Iudicum, Jenkins considers how far Vermigli existed within the old scholastic canon of interpretation, and to what degree as both Protestant and humanist he rejected or altered it.

While a recent refugee from Catholic Italy, as the newly minted Reformer Vermigli earned a living in Protestant Europe by lecturing on Scripture in Protestant schools in Strasbourg, Oxford, and Zurich. Unlike traditional Christian interpreters, both patristic and scholastic, Peter Martyr rarely resorted to allegory; rather his biblical exposition, in theory and in practice, centred on careful philological exegesis and application. His lectures on the Old Testament book of Lamentations, delivered early in his Protestant career, are an instructive case in point. Peter Martyr faithfully exegetes the lamenter's experience of torture over the fall of Jerusalem and the consequent destruction of the Temple, but also applies this disaster to the interpretation of events in sixteenth century Europe where Catholics were oppressing Protestants (and vice versa, of course), and the Ottoman Turks were knocking on the gates of Vienna. Daniel Shute reconsiders the tradition in Christian theodicy to identify the cause of calamities as God's punishment of the Church's infidelity; for Augustine, Attila was 'the scourge of God'. The Turkish conquests, according to Vermigli's scholium in Lamentations, were a judgment on the empty formalism pervading European Christianity.

Vermigli lectured on Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians in Oxford in the late 1540s in the wake of such important previous expositions of this text by the likes of Konrad Pellikan, Philip Melanchthon, and John Calvin. The epistle itself contains themes of enormous interest to Reformation hermeneutics, including a Christian preacher's use of rhetoric, the notion of schism, and the soteriological message of Christ crucified. Jon Balserak explores Vermigli's treatment of these themes in the context of a comparison of his exegesis with that of other reformers, and in light of the exegetical history of I Corinthians more generally. Balserak highlights distinctive qualities found in Vermigli's exegesis of this New Testament text and particularly those ways in which he deviates from the already well established Protestant exegetical tradition of the epistle.''

Among Vermigli's biblical writings, his commentary on Romans was arguably the most influential." Vermigli clearly set out to expound not only the text; but also to draw out the full theological implications in an extended locus on justification, a doctrine he believed was taught explicitly in the epistle to the Romans. Frank James focuses on Vermigli's most extensive treatment Of justification and its relation to sanctification as articulated in his Romans locus. One Of the important historiographical insights garnered from the study of Vermigli's interpretation of this doctrine is the fact that the Protestant account of justification was not static, but went through a process of theological amelioration from a dynamic view that stressed the complementarity (but not identification) of justification and sanctification towards a more restrictive understanding that stressed a sharper distinction between these 'two kinds' of righteousness. The reformed doctrine of justification first emerged in a period of intensive theological transition. Like other Protestant scholars, Vermigli was a theological pioneer who was casting off his traditional theological training and braving a new world of Protestant theological exegesis. In view of this theological transition, James argues that it is probably more historically accurate to speak of the 'perimeters' of a Protestant doctrine of justification, recognizing that within those boundaries there were considerable differences of interpretation among early Protestant theologians.

The fourth part of this Companion turns to a consideration of some of Vermigli's critically noteworthy theological loci. William Klempa's scrutiny of Vermigli's Christology begins by looking at two letters to the Reformed Church in Poland which he wrote toward the end of his theological career in 1560 and 1561. The aim of these letters, as well as of an earlier one in 1556, was to address and refute the claim of Francesco Stancaro, another Italian-born reformer who was briefly professor of Hebrew at the University of Krakow and who had caused a controversy in the Polish Reformed Church by contending that Christ was mediator only in his human nature. Stancaro's teaching created divisions in the Polish congregations and so they appealed to theologians in Basel, Geneva, Strasbourg and Zurich to assist them. Martyr wrote his two letters on behalf of the Zurich ministers. These letters provide Klempa's point of departure in his essay on Vermigli's 'classical' Christology. Klempa notes Martyr's use of both the Alexandrian and Antiochene principles of biblical interpretation in his approach to the New Testament Christological texts in his response to Stancaro's claim. Klempa also explores Vermigli's Dialogue on the Two Natures of Christ (1561) which was prompted by the Lutheran/Reformed controversy over the Eucharist." He also looks at Vermigli's exposition of the twelve articles of the Apostles' Creed—one of his earliest works, and his sole publication in Italian—as well as the sermons and various biblical commentaries."

Although it is occasionally said that the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England are generally dependent on the theological position of John Calvin, the details Of the Articles frequently differ from historical positions of Calvin, and there are verbal dependencies on non-Calvinist early Reformation texts. By means of a close examination of the account of Predestination and Reprobation in Book 3 of the Common Places, David Neelands shows that Vermigli was the more likely source of the distinctive features of Article 17 of the English Articles, which in turn leaves unsaid some of the more characteristic features of Calvin's account of these doctrines.

Robert Kingdon turns to the loci on ecclesiology in his exploration of the views of Vermigli on actual contemporary use of excommunication to enforce Christian discipline in the communities with which he was acquainted in sixteenth-century Europe. He notes that there was a significant difference of opinion among leaders in the earliest Protestant communities on the right use of excommunication. There was a general feeling among Protestants that Catholics had gone too far in using excommunication to force Christians to behave in a truly Christian manner. Luther and his followers insisted that justification was by faith alone, and that the sanctification that led to good behaviour could only follow justification. Antinomians concentrated on faith alone and ignored all attempts to improve behaviour. By way of contrast, John Calvin in Geneva was able to persuade a local government to introduce strict discipline, exercised by a new semi-ecclesiastical institution called the Consistory. Professor Kingdon lays out Vermigli's views on the exercise of discipline through excommunication as revealed in hispublished biblical commentaries. Vermigli spent mOst of his career in jurisdictions that accepted a Zwinglian view of discipline, where powers to exercise it were reserved mostly to the civil magistrate, and not tO the church. This was true of StrasbOurg, where he began his career, of England, where he spent a crucial middle stage of his career, and also of Zurich, where he ended his career. CuriOusly, as Kingdon points out, Vermigli seemed to support one view in his writings, but to allow another within the churches in which he lived. Through close examination of Vermigli's career and correspondence, Kingdon aims to gain insight into this apparent paradox in Vermigli's ecclesiological orientation.

The roots of Vermigli's sacramental theology and doctrine of the Eucharist can be traced back to his struggle for a more 'pure religion' in the context of his contact with the Italian spirituali in the late 1530s. Vermigli became acquainted with their leader, Juan de Valdes, at the time of his appointment to the post of Abbot of the house of San Pietro ad Aram in Naples. According to Peter Opitz, Vermigli's eucharistic theology nonetheless has all the connotations of 'Reformed' Protestantism: he rejected the concept of transubstantiation, the efficacy of the sacrament ex opere operato, the sacrifical character of the mass, and the adoration of the host. At the same time, Vermigli strongly affirmed the real character of the sacramental change, the power of the sacraments as resting solely upon God's authority, the Eucharistic celebration as an event whereby the participants are truly nourished by Christ's flesh, give thanks for Christ's sacrifice, and offer themselves anew to God. Against the Lutheran tradition he rejected the manducatio impiorum, the ubiquity of Christ's glorified body, and consubstantiation. He nevertheless firmly maintained that faith is God's undeserved gift to believers, that the power of the sacrament is independent from the merit of the receiver, and that Christ's body is truly, though not 'really' in a sense of an earthly body, present in the Eucharistic celebration. Vermigli also affirmed the necessity of faith for an efficacious reception of the sacraments. According to Dr Opitz, the particularity of Vermigli's heremeneutic in this larger context is that he combines a very high exegetical approach, which tries to do justice to the biblical proof texts on the grounds of his humanistic education, with a great knowledge of and esteem for the scholastic and patristic traditions, an analytical and logical clarity which surpasses most of his colleagues, and an 'ecumenical' intention. Opitz identifies these different lines of hermeneutical tendency and shows how they are woven into a complex, coherent whole. In the process he sheds further light on the knotty question concerning the relationship between Italian humanism and Aristotelianism during the sixteenth century.

Through numerous scholia in his commentaries on the Books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings as well as on the Epistle to the Romans, Vermigli played a key role in defining the political theology of both Zurich and England in the second half of the sixteenth century. His distinctive treatment of the religious authority of the Civil Magistrate in particular cemented a close bond between the Swiss republic and the northern kingdom. According to Torrance Kirby, Vermigli's characteristic exegesis of scripture with its delicate balance of humanist and scholastic propensities exercised a significant influence on the formulation, implementation, and consolidation of the institutions of the Elizabethan constitutional and religious settlement through the end of the sixteenth century. Looking particularly at Vermigli's scholium on Judges 8, Kirby explores Vermigli's incorporation of arguments of the canon lawyers into his exposition of the office of the Civil Magistrate within the context of these biblical commentaries. He also examines Vermigli's critical, humanistic reading of the forged Decretals of Pseudo-Isidore in his evaluation of the authority of canon law.

Vermigli was a famous preacher in Italy, but when he fled persecution to teach at Strasbourg, Oxford, and Zurich, he appears not to have learned German or English. This inevitably restricted his pastoral activity. John Patrick Donnelly offers an account of Vermigli's prayers based on the Psalms. These are drawn largely from the first Strasbourg period, 1542-47." After his death the Latin text of the prayers was published, and went through ten editions with translations into English, French, German, and Czech." There are 297 prayers in all-79 psalms have two prayers. They often compare the on-going troubles of the church with those of Ancient Israel. The mood is more often dark than joyous, probably because many were written during and after the First Schmalkaldic War. Only eleven of Vermigli's sermons have survived. Ten are printed in Life, Letters, and Sermons. One sermon recently discovered deals with a rebellion against Edward VI in England.' Almost all of Vermigli's sermons were given in an academic setting; mostly at Oxford. Four deal with chapters of scripture. One reflects on the resurrection, another on the Lord's Supper, three encourage the study of scripture or theology. One is on the dignity of ministry. Vermigli's inaugural oration at Zurich contrasts his joy to be there with the many troubles of his previous career. Calvin invited Vermigli to serve as pastor of the obstreperous Italian congregation in Geneva where preaching would have been a major concern. Vermigli very politely declined the invitation. He preferred lecturing and writing in Zurich.

Christian Moser's paper on Vermigli's correspondence analyzes extant sources of Vermigli's epistolary, the distribution of senders and recipients, as well as the chronological and geographical circulation of the letters. He compares these findings with what is known of the networks of other leading reformers, such as Theodore Beza, Heinrich Bullinger, and Martin Bucer. On the basis of this empirical study Moser focusses attention of key theological topics in the correspondence and examines these in the light of relevant theological writings of Vermigli and of his correspondents. For the first time in Vermigli research we have in Moser's study a detailed analysis of the epistolary in the light of the sixteenth-century Protestant news networks. Moreover, the discussion of the theological themes in the letters helps to situate Vermigli in the theological debate of his time, as well as to provide an aid to discerning the contours of the development of his theological thought, both of which until now have been explored mainly on the basis of his published theological writings alone.

In the fifth and final part of the Companion, the contributions turn to Nachleben'. Michael Baumann offers an account of the Josiah Simler's funeral `Oratio' as more than simply a biographical work but also as a theological work in its own right in the hagiographical tradition."

Baumann demonstrates that Simler and many other biographers of th reformation era used the lives of the first generation of reformers ti construct legends and traditions for 'Church edification'. He shows tha it was Simler's approach to represent not only Vermigli's vita but also to depict him as one of the founders and pillars of the Reformed tradition Baumann also demonstrates that Simler's famous biography is one 01 the reasons that Peter Martyr as a person and his writings became so influential among reformed theologians for the next two generations. As Jason Zuidema demonstrates in the penultimate chapter of the Companion, Vermigli's relationship with the French Reformation is viewed in most accounts as short-lived and not very substantial. Generally scholarship has noted that his knowledge of the French language was weak, at best, and his direct participation is limited to his involvement in the Colloquy of Poissy in 1561. Dr Zuidema argues that this common picture of Vermigli's influence is a substantial understatement of what can be seen in the actual sources. By re-examining these sources (many of which remain entirely neglected in Vermigli literature to this date), he seeks to draw a more clearly focused picture of Vermigli and the French Reformation. The new picture that develops is one of a respected scholar who had continual contact with and influence on French Protestantism during his life and exercised considerable influence long after his death.

In the final chapter Joseph McLelland relates the history of the posthumous compiling of what is arguably Vermigli's most influential work—the Loci Communes. Indeed the Loci proved to be the vehicle that spread his influence throughout the Reformed world, with no fewer than fourteen editions following the first edition of 1576. The method of pursuing theology by topoi or loci is a singular feature of Renaissance and Reformation learning. Following in this rhetorical tradition, Vermigli 'peppered' his various biblical commentaries with scholia whenever a text seemed to him an appropriate place to raise question or discussion on a particular subject. Some of these are just short paragraphs, while others blossom into full treatises. The gathering together of these loci was contemplated but never executed by Vermigli himself. This task fell to Robert le Macon, Sieur de la Fontaine, minister of the French congregation in London, formerly minister in Orleans. His edition of Vermigli's scholia constitutes a sort of theological textbook, a systematic presentation of Reformed theology modelled to some degree on Calvin's Institutio.

Now that contemporary philosophy regards itself as 'post-modern,' claiming to advance beyond the 'Enlightenment project' with its trust in autonomous reason, it is well to look at the 'pre-modern' scene to see whether alternatives in rationality, at least in epistemology, are available. Martin Heidegger charged classical theism, typified in the Thomist synthesis of nature and grace, with the error of 'onto-theology.' This implied that theology shared the same aim as philosophy, namely the highest Being, rather than personal Deity. His 'linguistic turn' helped end the hegemony of Enlightenment rationalism, and introduced the modern form of hermeneutics. Thus the soil is prepared for a thinking that may recover a right use of reason and a proper ontology. This broad philosophical hypothesis underpins Joseph McLelland's broad re-evaluation of what he has designated Vermigli's `stromatic' theology in his final conclusion to this Companion. Vermigli lived at the frontier of modernity when traditional theism, forged largely by the Platonic worldview of Church Fathers, was being challenged by new texts and new ideas; hence the recent shift in focus of Reformation scholars to the study of 'Early Modern Europe.' Vermigli's lectures on the Nicomachean Ethics stand as the leading exemplary Reformed work of properly philosophical commentary. McLelland shows us that through study of Vermigli it is possible to recognize that Aristotle could be a positive influence in the Reformed tradition of thought. His was not a `scholastic' turn away from scripture but rather the gift of a vibrant new method for interpreting the same. Vermigli's role in the development of philosophy and theology today should be reckoned in terms of his remarkable ability to combine such polarities as humanist aims and scholastic logic, Platonic-Augustinian spirit and Aristotelian-Thomistic method, Reformed hermeneutics and medieval rabbinic commentary.

Part I International Career

1. Italy: Religious and Intellectual Ferment, Joseph McLelland
2. Strasbourg: Vermigli and the Senior School, Gerald Hobbs
3. Oxford: Reading Scripture in the University, Charlotte Methuen
4. Zurich: Professor in the Schola Tigurina, Emidio Campi

Part II Learning Sacred and Profane

5. Exegesis and Patristic Authority, David Wright (†2008)
6. Aristotle and Scholasticism, Luca Baschera
7. Humanism, Hebraism, and Scriptural Hermeneutics, Max Engammare
8. Exegesis and Theological Method, Scott Amos
9. Ex parte videntium: Hermeneutics of the Eucharist, Maurice Boutin
Part III Biblical Commentaries

10. Genesis Commentary: Interpreting Creation, Emidio Campi
11. Judges Commentary: Patristic and Medieval Sources, Gary Jenkins
12. Expounding Psalms: the Preces Sacrae, Herman Selderhuis
13. Lamentations Commentary: Theodicy, Daniel Shute
14. First Corinthians Commentary: Exegetical Tradition, Jon Balserak
15. Romans Commentary: Justification and Sanctification, Frank James III
Part IV Theological Loci

16. Classical Christology, William Klempa
17. Predestination and the Thirty-Nine Articles, David Neelands
18. Ecclesiology: Exegesis and Discipline, Robert Kingdon
19. Eucharistic Theology, Peter Opitz
20. Political Theology: the Godly Prince, Torrance Kirby
21. Prayers and Sermons, John Patrick Donnelly
22. Epistolary: Theological Themes, Christian Moser

Part V Nachleben

23. Josias Simler’s hagiography, Michael Baumann
24. Vermigli and French Reform, Jason Zuidema
25. History of the Loci Communes, Joseph McLelland

Conclusion: Vermigli’s ‘Stromatic’ Theology, Joseph McLelland

Other titles by and about Petrus Martyr Vermigli:

Commentary on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies)by Peter Martyr Vermigli; Emidio Campi; Joseph C. McLelland (Truman State University Press) This volume is techincally superb, and reflects a consistent team effort...clean, lucid, and allied with the best interdisciplinary research.


Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562) was Aristotelian by both training and disposition. After his novitiate (1514-18) as an Augustinian canon at Fiesole in Italy, he spent eight years at the University of Padua studying philosophy and theology His theological studies concentrated on Thomas Aquinas and Gregory of Rimini, introducing the young scholar to Thomism and late medieval Augustinianism. Padua's school of philosophy, made famous through the Italian philosopher Pomponazzi who taught there a generation before, built the foundation of Vermigli's lifelong dedication to Aristotelianism.' When Vermigli studied there, Padua was famous for its studies in Aristotle; this provided Vermigli with a context for his theology, which could be described as "man in an Aristotelian world." At that time, Padua was already notorious for its tendency to Averroism, which implied a double truth dividing philosophy and theology, and its daring speculations on the human soul.

The University of Padua's brilliant array of philosophers included Juan de Montesdoch, who specialized in Aristotle's De anima; Branda Porro, who used Vermigli as his favorite foil in debate; and Marcantonio de Passeri, called Genua, who dominated the school. Genua's support of Averroism—still concentrating on De anima—was important in going back from Averroës to the Greek commentator Simplicius, thus breaking the monopoly of Averroism in the study of Aristotle.3 From Genua, Vermigli learned to mistrust the Latin translations of Aristotle, studying Greek so he could read the Philosopher in the original. Beginning with Boethius (ca. 480524 CE), scholars were preoccupied with Aristotle's logical works, gathered in the collection known as Organon, rather than with his metaphysics and ethics. Numerous medieval Latin translations became available based on Graeco-Arabic editions as well as some directly from the original Greek. The latter included the noteworthy translations of William of Auvergne and William of Moerbeke in the thirteenth century. The preoccupation with logic or dialectic persisted until Renaissance humanism revived interest in cosmology and ontology, including Aristotle's anthropology. Thus at Padua, the study of Aristotle emphasizes "the unity of the agent intellect and the immortality of the soul" rather than moral questions.

Vermigli's career while still in Italy (until 1542) saw his rise in the Augustinian order through the ranks of preacher and lecturer, abbot of St. Pietro ad Aram in Naples (1537-40), visitor and finally prior of S. Frediano in Lucca (1541-42). Besides the honor of enjoying quasi-episcopal authority over half the city, his brief term in Lucca allowed him to gather a prestigious group of teachers for his Academy, which Philip McNair has called "the first and last reformed theological college in pre-Tridentine Italy—a miniature but brilliant university with Martyr as its Rector."

As an evangelical Catholic during this period, Vermigli honed his exegetical skills, using both Hebrew and Greek, through biblical sermons and lectures, without dampening his philosophical bent. By 1541 he was clearly Protestant and a marked man. Leaving Lucca one step ahead of the Inquisition in August 1542, he made his way north in company with Bernardino Ochino, the famous Capuchin preacher and vicar-general. Vermigli sought a teaching position in Zurich where none was available, but at last was called by Martin Bucer to the College of St. Thomas in Strasbourg. Here he lectured on the Old Testament, until in 1548 he joined others who heeded Archbishop Thomas Cranmer's appeal for continental divines to assist the new reformation in England. As regius professor of divinity at Oxford, he lectured on 1 Corinthians and Romans, participated in the eucharistic controversies surrounding the revision of the prayer book, notably the Oxford Disputation of 1549, and was engaged in the reform of ecclesiastical laws when forced to leave England by the death of Edward VI and accession of Mary Tudor.

The practice of commenting on Aristotle to complement biblical lectures was common in Reformed seminaries in the sixteenth century. When Vermigli returned to Strasbourg in October 1553, he took up the custom of lecturing on Aristotle begun by John Sturm and Martin Bucer, selecting Ethica nicomachea, while his friend and disciple Girolamo Zanchi lectured in alternate weeks on Aristotle's Physica. The lectures on Aristotle were cut short after only two and a half years by the divisive quarrel between Lutheran and Reformed scholars over subscription to the Augsburg Confession. In July 1556, Vermigli moved to Zurich to spend the happy remainder of his life, lecturing on the books of Samuel and Kings until his death in 1562. Peter Martyr Vermigli was thus a Peripatetic in both senses of the word—a follower of Aristotle and a wandering scholar.

In Zurich, Konrad Gesner was already teaching philosophy, leaving Vermigli free to concentrate on the Old Testament. Vermigli's lecture notes on Aristotle, some in his own hand and some in a student's, remained unrevised at his death. His colleagues resolved to have them published, engaging Guilio Santerenziano as editor and the local Froschauer press as publisher. With the unfinished manuscript being 436 pages long, one can only imagine its length had Vermigli completed the commentary through book 10. It is indeed a detailed and verbose commentary, sometimes to the point of exhausting both subject and reader. In this it resembles the commentary of Thomas Aquinas, similarly detailed and faithful to the text. Neither one is strongly critical of Aristotle, although Vermigli concludes each chapter by appealing to scripture as the ultimate criterion for truth and showing where Aristotle's views do not agree.


It is obvious that Vermigli maintained his two loves—scripture and philosophy—after his shift from the Roman obedience. The two are on view in this commentary in a unique way, since he is handling a text of Aristotle for the benefit of seminarians. Therefore his burden is to show how Aristotle's thoughts agree or disagree with scripture, a custom originating with Eustratius of Nicaea. Thus he concludes each section with phrases such as "Now let us see how this teaching compares with that of holy scripture' The latter constitutes the authoritative text for him, although on certain key issues the two sources are in agreement. The goal of the commentary was to introduce his students to a classical and influential work of moral philosophy, while making constant comparison with scripture as the final authority. John P. Donnelly comments, "There is never any question of an Averroist double truth in Martyr.

Vermigli adopts an analytical approach: quoting a passage and exegeting its terms, noting traditional opinions, then providing his own assessment with particular reference to scriptural analogies or contrasts. Vermigli begins from the text's scopus—a technical term meaning both "aim" and "extent," used by both Aristotelian and biblical commentators. This threefold method rests on explanation through theological loci, a grammatical and textual analysis, and finally an exposition, which refers to a moral dimension. This method of exposition (as was also true in his biblical commentaries) tempts Vermigli to exhaust the meaning—and the reader—with his minute exegesis. Consider, for instance, his repetitive use of Plato's analogy of the two-way racetrack, to which he finally adds: "lest we omit any significant detail, we should not shrink from remarking that the stadium in ancient times was one hundred and twenty-five paces long, and so eight stadia constitute one Roman (nowadays Italian) mile" [78]. One wonders whether his students would rather he did shrink from such details! Indeed, if Vermigli's lectures had continued proportionately, a complete commentary might have reached some two thousand pages.

In his introduction, Vermigli summarizes the contents of all ten books of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, although his commentary reached only book 3, chapter 2. His knowledge of the entire work is clear from his references; for example, he wrote that book 10 treats of "true and absolute happiness." While he does not reach the crucial concept of analogical predication in book 5 (in relation to justice), he takes occasion in several places (particularly 1.6 and 2.6) to develop the concept of analogy so vital in his own theology, especially regarding the question of sacramental relation.

Vermigli uses a similar analytical method in his biblical commentaries. There too he begins by quoting a passage, then comments in light of earlier commentators, both Christians and medieval rabbis (handily printed in his Bomberg Bible). Here he recasts Aristotle's words with a result "notably clearer than the original." His use of the syllogism and fourfold causality, for instance, is striking. Indeed, Vermigli relies heavily on Aristotle's Analytica priora and Analytica posteriora and other logical works in his understanding of syllogistic formulations and varieties of argumentation. Vermigli often follows his opening definition by showing how Aristotle's four causes are involved. Aristotle's understanding of definition is an essentialist one (compared with later prescriptive and linguistic ones); that is, the Socratic question, "what is X?" implies a realist rather than nominalist answer—definitions convey factual information, providing a causal explanation of the thing defined.

It is perhaps significant that on moving from Strasbourg to Zurich in 1556, Vermigli began lecturing on the books of Samuel. This work is replete with scholia and "employs more philosophical vocabulary and exploits certain Scholastic concepts" more than his previous works. This suggests that the experience of teaching Aristotle in Strasbourg influenced Vermigli's style and content in his final lectureship. Since the polymath Konrad Gesner was already teaching Aristotle at Zurich, Vermigli was free to concentrate on his first love, the Old Testament.


A significant summary of Vermigli's work is provided in the prefatory dedication by the editor, his famulus Giulio Santerenziano. He was no menial in the household, but a valuable companion and fellow student.36 He echoes Vermigli's own words concerning the relation between philosophy (particularly Peripatetic) and scripture. Noting that Aristotle's authority was once "not much less than that of Moses or Paul," he blames the work of Sophists for making theologians wary of philosophy. Their harsh words are not to be taken as applying to "true and sincere philosophy, but to that polemical and garrulous sophistry which is philosophy's rival, and also that philosophy which seeks to judge divine and heavenly matters by human reason?' In bold terms typical of classical theism even in this period, he describes philosophy as "a modest and submissive handmaiden of its queen, theology [pedisquam reginae]:' As to these commentaries, he states that even if Vermigli had written on the first book alone, "it should be published because all interpreters agree that it is the most difficult of the ten." Vermigli's Zurich colleagues who commissioned the work considered it "an almost perfect example of interpreting philosophy" (Santerenziano, "Preface?' A3v).

Vermigli's own introduction is a weighty discourse on the relation between philosophy and theology.37 He begins: "All our knowledge is either revealed or acquired. In the first case it is theology, in the other, philosophy?' He notes that Aristotle's book concerns "the human: how one becomes endowed with virtues, and attains the happiness that may be acquired in this life." He soon considers Paul's warning: "Beware lest anyone prey on you through philosophy" (Col. 2:8). He responds that the true meaning should not disturb the student, for "true philosophy derives from the knowledge of created things, and from these propositions reaches many conclusions about the justice and righteousness that God implanted naturally in human minds ... it is the work of God" [7]. Moreover, Paul identifies philosophy with kenes apates, "empty deceit," which Vermigli interprets as "Stoic fate and impassibility, the perpetual doubt of the Academics, the motionless and idle deity of the Epicureans—who would question that such ideas are 'empty deceit?" On the other hand, he can draw freely on philosophers, poets, and playwrights in their analyses of the human condition: such are "the fruits of reading the poets" [391]. His classic learning, in good Renaissance and humanist tradition, is evidenced by his sources. These include Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Terence, Cato, Euripides, and Euclid. At one point he is able to correct Aristotle's reading of lines from Theognis, quoting the proper Greek text. One classical author popular during the Renaissance was Cicero, whose work De officiis (On Duty) was revived in the Renaissance. His eclectic ethics agree well with Aristotle's. He sums up, "Reason should direct and appetite obey" and "virtue is reason completely developed." Vermigli quotes him some sixty-five times in his writings, twenty-eight of them in Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics. Donnelly warns, however, that "Cicero's influence on Vermigli was probably not as great as the number of citations from his philosophical works might suggest. Cicero was himself an eclectic, and the interlocutors in his dialogues express the viewpoints of nearly all the philosophical schools of the first century before Christ."

The biblical criterion is introduced at an early point in Vermigli's introduction [8]. Whereas philosophy begins with action, settling the emotions so that contemplation may follow, "in scripture, speculation comes first, since we must first believe and be justified through faith. Afterwards, good works follow...." Moreover, philosophy's goal is to reach "that beatitude or happiness that can be acquired in this life by human powers: whereas Christian devotion seeks renewal of fquot;the image in which we are created, growing daily in the knowledge of God until we are led to see him as he is, with face uncovered." These ethics will not teach "fear and faith towards God: forgiveness and justification, even though they sometimes "command the same things as God commands in holy scripture." They differ in "form, properties, and principles," having a different rationale and foundation "just as water from rain and from a spring is the same in substance while its powers, properties, and essentials are far different."[9]

Does this moral discipline contradict piety? Vermigli notes its superiority to jurisprudence; both work with "propositions concerning the justice and goodness innate in our minds: but moral philosophy probes more deeply and transmits them with greater clarity. Philosophers also judge "virtue, honesty and justice" more severely. Referring to Cicero, the author concludes with his own praise of philosophy. "What could be more noble than to know oneself? This we know in the first place through philosophy" [10]. Christians are "spurred by the knowledge of pagan ethics: for comparison clearly shows its superiority. Our assessment differs from that of Jill Kraye, who contends that Vermigli saw a clear dichotomy between pagan and Christian moral teaching, since the aim of the former must always be sinful. This negative assessment differs from her earlier more positive statements in which she noted Vermigli's conclusion that "the two ethical systems concurred in their insistence that virtuous habits must be translated into action in order to produce happiness. They differ, however, in their notion of virtue. For Aristotelian moral virtues were acquired through habit, while Christian virtues such as faith, hope, and charity were inspired by the Holy Spirit."43 The latter seems more in accord with Vermigli's regular comparison throughout the commentary, in which he forgives Aristotle his ignorance of the theological virtues, but does not condemn his habitual virtues as sinful. Indeed, although Vermigli will sometimes contrast himself with philosophers, for example, "leave this [the limits of knowledge] to the philosophers" [182], he can also remark that we "point out in Philosophia a certain kind of knowledge" [306].


What may be called Aristotle's motto is: "the present inquiry does not aim at theoretical knowledge like the others (for we are inquiring not in order to know what virtue is, but in order to become good...)" (Eth. nic. 1.2.1103b26-27). Ethics, or moral philosophy, concerns itself with the good life. What are its components or what is Good in itself? What possesses intrinsic value? Plato's answer was to emphasize the irrelevance of material goods. A different way is to take eudaimonia as the goal or end of human desire: the end is the cause. This "happiness" or "flourishing" may take the form of hedonism, notably with Epicurus, or an opposite view, that doing well or excelling constitutes the Good of human beings. Aristotle took the latter position, rejecting Epicurus as an example of false morality and gently disagreeing with Plato as to the (relative) value of externals," The telos of human beings is "happiness: rendered by Vermigli as felicitas or beatitudo, which "corresponds to the Greek eudaimonia and the Hebrew ashre" [75]. This is no mere hedonism, for "living well" entails control of desires to produce moral virtue. Obviously, such moral teaching assumes a certain anthropology, what Aristotle calls psychology, in which his positive assessment of body plays a central role: "the concept of soul as immanent form of a living body (entelechy)."

An important point Aristotle makes in the beginning is to distinguish two kinds of reasoning: "it is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs" (Eth. nic. 1.2.1094b24-28). Vermigli recognizes this methodology, praising Aristotle for using a mixed method, "almost every kind of argument: including induction, enthymeme, comparison, "and sometimes explanations" that are always a posteriori. This basic distinction between two sorts of rational inquiry implies that practical reasoning (the famous concept of phronesis) cannot rely on demonstrative proof—hence the frequency of the adverbium dubitandi "perhaps" in Nicomachean Ethics, which Aquinas attributes to the uncertainty of moral data.

An initial question in approaching Nicomachean Ethics is whether Aristotle's definition of eudaimonia suffers from ambiguity. Aristotle begins, "Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared" to be that at which all things aim." He considers relative goals, concluding that what we desire for its own sake "must be the Good and the chief Good." Desire (orexis) is the arche of action: "The origin of action—its efficient, not its final cause—is choice, and that of choice is desire and reasoning with a view to an end." That is, reason must overrule the irrational part of the soul, the passions, in order to allow the virtues or moral perfections to develop through habitual activity. Happiness results from the perfections of the soul, ultimately the intellectual virtues leading to contemplation of truth and God. It is the very definition of "end" that raises a question related to the distinction between moral and intellectual virtues. The scholarly debate was introduced by Anthony Kenny in his article "Aristotle on Happiness" and continues through J. L. Ackrill and others. For Kenny, book 1 of Nicomachean Ethics seems to teach both an indicative and a gerundive thesis: eudaimonia is both that for which all action is and should be undertaken. Is the Good the best life for humankind, or is contemplation (theoria) the key to perfect happiness, on the ground that it most resembles divinity as book 10 argues? Are virtues means or ends; is telos singular or plural? Vermigli follows the traditional interpretation in reconciling the two views in terms of relative and final goals. The ultimate criterion of eudaimonia is Aristotle's formula: what "we desire for its own sake (everything else being desired for the sake of this) ... must be the Good and the chief Good" (Eth. nic. 1.2.1094a18-22). This suits a theological exegesis in which true and perfect "happiness" is found in contemplating transcendent reality, since the summum bonum is God. Vermigli notes a strong difference between the two disciplines, however, in stating that in philosophy, action precedes contemplation, but in the biblical view, "speculation comes first, since we must first believe and be justified through faith. Afterwards, good works follow" [7]. This reverse order is significant for Vermigli's critique, based on the final criterion of scripture.

Donnelly writes, "morality is understood as the cultivation of virtue, and virtue as the mean between two extremes." The focus is on character: a virtuous person is one with dispositions linked to the goal of happiness, for human nature is teleological. We are moved by passion but must be disposed through habit (hexis) or "state of character" to choose virtue (Eth. nic. 2.5.1105b4-6). The Good is Good in itself: this metaethics assigns objective validity to ethical predicates such as goodness. The will chooses what reason tells it is good. Such moral realism suits Vermigli well, since he accepts the essential psychology and metaethics of both Aristotle and Aquinas. Like Aquinas, he sees the four cardinal virtues crowned by the three theological virtues of faith,`hope, and love, since "gratia non tollat naturam sed perficiat:'

Each chapter ends by comparing Aristotle with scripture, yielding a consistent assessment: Aristotle lacked the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,`and so his moral teaching falls short of absolute truth—the gifts of the Holy Spirit, for instance, "surpass nature" [352]. Yet within its limits, Aristotle's ethics are compatible—in a significant passage, Vermigli states, "the true things that philosophers have either taught or written" have "their own force," since "we do not deny the sentiment that is hallowed by the centuries, which says that any truth set forth by any author proceeds from the Holy Spirit" [66]. Again, "all things have the Holy Spirit as their author, especially if they are true and perfect" [294]. Vermigli illustrates the convergence of the two moral philosophies by acknowledging that "virtuous habits must be translated into actions in order to produce happiness." Aristotle thinks one can acquire virtue through habit ("a virtuous life requires exertion": Eth. nic. 10.6.1177a1), much as Plato taught that the cardinal virtues reflect the functions of the three orders of society, coordinated by justice. For Aristotle, the Good is whatever is being sought according to nature: "the function of man is an activity of soul that follows or implies a rational principle ... human good turns out to be activity of soul in accordance with virtue" While Vermigli agrees with this principle—"we expect the justified to act rightly" [258] —he thinks that Aristotle's habitual virtues require correction, since the distinctively Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love ("the royal way" crowning philosophy's four cardinals [317]) are neither taught (as Socrates sometimes held) nor formed by habit, but inspired by the Holy Spirit [36]. Aristotle "was not aware" of the three evangelical virtues, "not even grace or the inspiration of the Holy Spirit" [22], although his doctrine of the mean is relevant: "the theological virtues also observe the mean" [394]. Similarly, while Aristotle "never wrote explicitly" about God as final end, what he did say "would not conflict" with Christian teaching [178]. Moreover, the ultimate goal of humankind escapes philosophy: "such desire for union with God was alien to Aristotle"[16]; "never did Aristotle come to know—even in dreams—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" [15].

Vermigli's theological position is clear from his teaching that Christian happiness is more stable and secure than Aristotelian since the latter is based in human works, whereas the former is rooted in divine predestination and justification by faith [358]. But he compares Aristotle's teaching on the emotions favorably to that of the Stoics. The latter tended to reject all emotions, arguing for impassibility as the ideal, whereas Aristotle distinguished among emotions, identifying certain higher emotions as befitting the moral life. Rather than apatheia he teaches a kind of eupatheia, or the mean of metriopatheia [325, 329].59 With reason in control of our emotional life, we possess true virtue, adopting actions that are the direct result of our moral beliefs.

Aristotle distinguishes intellectual virtue as the contemplation of unchangeable truths (sophia) and that of changeable truths (phronesis). Plato had equated phronesis with sophia, while the Eudemian Ethics relates it to the Socratic practical philosophy as a moral virtue. In Nicomachean Ethics it becomes an intellectual virtue, the basis of moral excellence. For Vermigli, the value of this moral philosophy lies largely in its clarifying of concepts and its modest attempt to understand the desires and choices of the human mind.


Vermigli's Commentary on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics raises the familiar question of his role in the development of Reformed Scholasticism or Aristotelianism. This issue has been thoroughly examined, thanks to the work of recent scholars such as Brian Armstrong, John Patrick Donnelly, and Richard Muller. Armstrong proposed a bold thesis, that whereas John Calvin was a biblical humanist, a shift took place with Peter Martyr Vermigli, Theodore Beza, and Jerome Zanchi, "the three early reformers who most evidently incline towards the budding Protestant Scholasticism." This concept of Scholasticism involved a doctrinal imbalance, in which one element provides the key, usually the doctrine of predestination. New questions arise: were the threesome simply reverting to an outmoded method of doing theology? Is historic Scholasticism more than a method, dispensing strange doctrine along with its technique? Is this truly "Calvin against the Calvinists" as Basil Hall argued?

The very idea of Scholasticism requires close scrutiny and definition. William Bouwsma claimed that the shift from School theology and method in early modern Europe was not the direct consequence of intellectual renewal as has been supposed. Rather, it had more to do with the emergence of urban culture, social mobility, and "the terrible anxieties" resulting from the change from a "close and traditional human community to the struggle for survival in a totally unpredictable and threatening world:' Erasmus, for instance, claimed to be attacking "not the Schools but their abuse." Certainly the development of the medieval academy and its method of teaching through lectures ("readings" of classical authorities) and disputations (quaestiones disputatae and de quodlibetales) seems rigid in form, but is not thereby a betrayal of scriptural content. A recent symposium on the topic distinguishes "Scholastic" from "orthodox," noting both Alexander Schweizer's claim that a Reformed orthodoxy had developed in which the doctrine of predestination played an architectonic role, and Heinrich Heppe's view that Beza made the doctrine decisive: Beza's notorious Tabula praedestinationis "formed the metaphysical foundation for the development of the later Reformed theology."

Armstrong was correct in noting a Scholastic approach present in Reformed thought from its inception and in tracing an Italian influence. Delio Cantimori anticipated him by analyzing the monastic training of both Vermigli and Zanchi.66 Other scholars such as Robert Kingdon and John Stanley Bray also called for further research on Vermigli in particular. J. P. Donnelly's doctoral research confirmed the significance of the Paduan "practical Aristotelianism" for Vermigli; his close study of the commentary on Nicomachean Ethics leads him to conclude that Vermigli borrows "several methods of argument from the Aristotelian and Scholastic tradition:' also using "terminology, doctrines, and conclusions of Scholastic philosophy [in] elaborating and defending his own theology." Donnelly outlines Vermigli's use of Aristotelian categories in developing his "doctrine of man: with particular regard to the intellect, will, and virtues in his commentary on Nicomachean Ethics. In short, "Vermigli locates man in an Aristotelian universe."

That Vermigli adopts a Scholastic method, and Zanchi even more so, needs to be considered in light of their intention and content, not simply as sufficient evidence of their submission to a non- or antitheological position.69 Vermigli's contemporaries regarded his method as a positive contribution to debate with the opponents of reform. The Renaissance humanist Joseph Scaliger commented, "Peter Martyr, because it seemed to fall to him to engage the sophists, has overcome them sophistically, and struck them down with their own weapons." Vermigli's use of the syllogism is a chief example of his Scholastic method. While Zanchi and Pierre du Moulin outdo him in this regard, Vermigli consistently formulates Aristotle's teaching in a syllogism, often referring to his typology of the form in his Analytica priora. Indeed, Donnelly thinks that Vermigli's syllogistic reasoning "is notably clearer than the original." Most relevant to this volume is Vermigli's use of the "practical syllogism" familiar in moral discourse. The principle along with prescription leads to action: an action is to be done for good; circumstances provide opportunity and means for doing the action; therefore the action is undertaken. As in all syllogisms, "There cannot be more in the conclusion than there is in the premises:' Also, in practical science premises are not "statements of immutable truth, but simply what holds good in general." This symmetry of approximation reflects Aristotle's warnings about distinguishing the kind of discipline engaged in and seeking a method appropriate to it. In Vermigli's case, the relationship between axiom and conclusion is somewhat different, as the impetus for Christian ethics is a form of eternal truth. But he is as firm as Aristotle that the doing of good works remains ambiguous, as befits the pursuit of goodness by justified sinners.

An important question is whether it is the Thomism of Vermigli and Zanchi rather than their Aristotelianism that raises crucial questions for understanding Reformed thought. And in turn, whether this does not mean that the very title "Calvinism" should be dropped in favor of a more appropriate term to designate the broader field of "Reformed:' This would include not only the Zwingli-Bullinger axis of the schola Tigurina, but also Martin Bucer, whom Wilhelm Pauck called "the father of Calvinism."

This sketch of the current debate must recognize the distinct contribution of Richard Muller. His historical analyses of Reformation and post-Reformation writings show that the label "Scholasticism" is misleading. Exploring the issue of continuity and discontinuity, with focus on the quaestio as a determining category, Muller takes issue with Alister McGrath and others that Scholasticism implies a static, propositional, and Aristotelian theology controlled by the doctrine of eternal decrees. He claims that both humanists and Reformers held Scholastic method positively, if critically insofar as it maintained the problematic theology of the later Middle Ages. The continuities are as significant as the discontinuities. This agrees with the conclusions of Catholic scholars such as Etienne Gilson and Josef Pieper, whose studies of the thirteenth-century dispute between Aristotelianism and Augustinism (symbolized by the 1270 condemnation of Averroistic errors taught at the University of Paris and the 1277 condemnation of Thomistic and other views) show the positive melding of philosophy and theology in the "golden age of Scholasticism," compared with the fall into a dichotomy that would develop into the modern antagonism between skepticism and fideism. The medieval synthesis gave place to the turmoil of early modern Europe, whose divergent views—of justification and sacramental presence, to note two thorny problems—remained in uneasy tension until the Reformation and Counter-Reformation hardened lines. The two opposing dogmatisms, to some extent, deserved the disillusionment that led Rene Descartes to turn to a mathematico-scientific model in his quest for truth. It is this unhappy fate that forms the background to the question of Scholasticism's image in both camps.

Vermigli's Commentary on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics illustrates his profound knowledge of Aristotle and his commentators, including both Arabic and Greek, but it shows equally that his final criterion for truth is not philosophy but scripture. There is ample evidence in his close reasoning to show that while he values the contribution of Aristotle to a philosophy of human being and an ethic of virtue, he feels entirely free to criticize his errors and shortcomings in light of a superior Christian revelation. To speak of either "Reformed Aristotelianism" or "Reformed Scholasticism" is therefore to risk missing the very heart of Vermigli's theology: his commitment to "the divine writings" as containing the last word on human happiness and destiny. For him as for Thomas Aquinas, grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it.

The moral philosophy here involves a "divine command" ethical theory, in which the logic of obligation (deon, duty), flows from the axioms of belief in a God who speaks the authoritative word to define authentic human being. Vermigli relates Aristotle's "virtue ethics" to this by founding morality on the divine teleology, the transcendent goal of humanity. This is in contrast to the modern view of autonomous ethics stemming from Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), who based morality on the a priori laws with which our "practical reason" regulates action. Vermigli's text provides opportunity for his own modern commentators to compare his moral philosophy with current debates on ethical theory. So far the literature of the Vermigli revival in the twentieth century has concentrated on his biblical and sacramental theology. His commentary on Aristotle invites research into a new area, in which philosophy bears on theology, and the axiomatics of morality, or "metaethics," is on display.

It is clear that the influence of Peter Martyr Vermigli in Europe and among the Puritans of the new world was largely based on his impressive scriptural commentaries, in an age when biblical authority was paramount. Nonetheless he was also an excellent philosopher, whose commentary on Ethica nicomachea not only does full justice to the text, but also provides a foil for his biblical hermeneutics. Thus his only nonscriptural commentary serves a dual purpose for Vermigli scholars. It enhances his image as a philosophical theologian, and provides a window into the complex world of early modern European philosophical translation and commentary. This involves the relationship between philosophy and theology as well as between Scholasticism and humanism in the period. 

Peter Martyr Vermigli and Predestination by Frank A. James III (Oxford University Press) Predestination and Justification: Two Theological Loci  by Peter Martyr Vermigli and translated Frank A. J. L. James (Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies: Truman State University Press) It is a measure of Peter Martyr Vermigli's influence in England that his regal J portrait by Hans Asper is included in the National Portrait Gallery in London.1 The piercing brown eyes of a rather handsome Peter Martyr look beyond the confines of his gilded frame as he points to his Bible. This portrait captures something of the true spirit of this Italian theologian. It is as if, in full academic regalia, he is instructing his students to concentrate their undivided attention upon this book alone, much as he urged in his Oxford oration: "Let us immerse ourselves constantly in the sacred Scriptures, let us work at reading them, and by the gift of Christ's Spirit the things that are necessary for salvation will be for us clear, direct, and completely open."

Vermigli's fame rested in large part on his erudite biblical commentaries. Wherever his journey led him, he could be found lecturing on the biblical text, whether in his earlier career as a Catholic theologian lecturing monks in Naples and Lucca, or later in Protestant academies in Strasbourg, Zurich, or Oxford. During his lifetime his lectures on 1 Corinthians, Romans, and Judges were published; his lectures on Genesis, Lamentations, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings were published posthumously. Although Vermigli had wide-ranging theological and polemical interests to which he devoted many pages, there is little doubt that his primary calling was as a biblical commentator. Along with Calvin and Bullinger, Vermigli was among the leading representatives of the Reformed tradition of Protestant biblical commentators. To begin to understand Martyr one must appreciate that he was first and foremost a man of the book—a biblical scholar.


Of his biblical writings, Vermigli's commentary on Romans was the most influentia1. It also was the most republished of his biblical writings—going through eight editions from 1558 to 1613.30 The historical evidence indicates that Vermigli lectured on this epistle in at least three locations during his long career and possibly four. Vermigli had long enjoyed an intimate knowledge of Paul's epistle to the Romans well before crossing the Alps to Protestantism in 1542. Although Philip McNair thinks the evidence inconclusive, he does enumerate cogent reasons for the possibility that Vermigli lectured on Romans as early as his triennium in Naples (1537-40). Whatever doubts remain about Naples, there is an eyewitness to his lectures on Romans in Lucca (1541-42). Girolamo Zanchi, who was a novitiate in the Lucchese monastery at S. Frediano and was converted under the ministry of Vermigli, specifically notes that he heard Vermigli lecture on Romans in Lucca.

Recent evidence indicates that Vermigli also lectured on Paul's epistle to the Romans in Strasbourg in 1545-46. A young Frenchman from Lille, Hubert de Bapasme, who had come to Strasbourg to study theology, revealed in a letter dated 10 March 1546 that he had attended Vermigli's lectures on Paul's epistle to the Romans: "This week, I have listened to one of his [Vermigli's] lectures on the New Testament, the epistle to the Romans, chapter twelve. This places Vermigli's lectures on Romans in his fourth year at Strasbourg, that is, the 1545-46 term. Finally, as regius professor of divinity at Oxford, Vermigli again lectured n Romans from 1550 to 1552.

There can be little doubt that his Romans lectures were strategically chosen and employed to further his goal of bringing reformation to England, which had been his charge from Cranmer. Vermigli had already survived the ecclesiastical eruptions that came from his lectures on 1 Corinthians, with the controversy on the Eucharist, and it was time to engage on other doctrinal fronts. Oxford in 1550 was by no means Protestant territory, as Vermigli declared in his sermon: "the Oxford men ... are still pertinaciously sticking in the mud of popery." But Vermigli judged that he had the ultimate weapon in this war of ideas: Paul's epistle to the Romans. Clearly, he set out to expound not only the text, but also to draw out the full theological implications in two extended loci, departing from his usual plan of many shorter loci on a wide range of topics. This time around he concentrated on only two, predestination and justification, doctrines he believed were taught explicitly by Paul in the epistle to the Romans. Hence, he seized the opportunity, which he regarded as a responsibility, to expound in great detail and with full scriptural citations these two distinctively Protestant doctrines. By this time, Vermigli saw himself as England's chief articulator of continental Reformed theology. There is the implicit suggestion that he, like other leading Protestant theologians, should comment on Romans, as if a commentary on Romans were a rite of passage. The Romans commentary marks Vermigli's self-conscious emergence onto the historical stage of mainstream Reformed theologians. This self-perception reflects something of Cranmer's plan to create theological alliances with continental Protestantism, perhaps with England at the helm, which remained a live option until the demise of the Edwardian regime in 1553.


One of the more significant methodological developments of the sixteenth century was emergence of the loci method. Loci communes (commonplaces) are in the most basic sense additional explanations of the biblical text. Like Protestant theologians such as Melanchthon and Bucer, Vermigli employed these commonplaces to elaborate on the biblical text. They are, for the most part, learned discussions on especially important theological doctrines or their practical implications. It is worth noting that Melanchthon's 1520 exposition of the loci theologici of Paul's epistle to the Romans included three fundamental themes arising from the text: justification, predestination, and morals Vermigli may have followed somewhat the pattern of Melanchthon in his Romans commentary.

As regius professor of divinity, Vermigli was obliged not only to give lectures at the divinity school, but also to officiate at theological disputations. Whether there was a direct connection between these disputations and his two Romans loci has generated some scholarly wrangling. S. L. Greenslade has argued that the published version of Martyr's Romans lectures was in fact an "expansion" of his Oxford lectures. Greenslade seems to suggest that the two loci were significant revisions or even later additions to the expanded commentary and therefore bear no direct relationship to the theological disputations. If this reconstruction is accurate, the loci would have no direct connection to the disputations since they would have been composed primarily in Strasbourg and Zurich between 1553 and 1557 instead of in Oxford. However, Jennifer Loach disputes Greenslade's analysis, arguing instead that Martyr's theological loci had their source in the regular student disputations and were "part of the original lectures." Loach believes that although Martyr polished the Romans lectures and loci in Zurich, he did not alter them substantially for publication. This perspective maintains the original Oxford context for the composition of the commentary and the loci. In assessing these theories, there are several factors that bear upon the matter. First, it had been Vermigli's practice in Strasbourg to coordinate his student disputations with his lectures. The evidence indicates, for example, that the locus on justification from his published Genesis lectures corresponds exactly with his theses for disputation, which implies that one was derived from the other. Apparently it had been Vermigli's custom to obtain the loci of his commentaries from the student disputations. Second, it is a matter of historical record that his Oxford lectures on Romans were intertwined with formal theological disputations as part of the regular divinity school curriculum. Indeed, the polemical flavor of the loci reflects the climate of disputation. When the details are factored in, it seems that the commentary and the loci are intimately connected and that both had their origins in Oxford, although Vermigli may have made refinements for publications.

In 1553, Vermigli fled the reign of Mary Tudor to a Strasbourg increasingly dominated by scrupulous hard-boiled Lutherans. Although the Strasbourg senate was quite anxious for Vermigli to assume his former position at the academy as professor of theology, the Lutheran faction, led by John Marbach, strenuously objected to Vermigli's reappointment. In taking the Strasbourg post, Vermigli anticipated the Lutheran opposition to his sacramental theology, as indicated in his letters to Calvin and Bullinger just a few days after arriving in Strasbourg, but he did not expect his view of predestination also to become a bone of contention. In May 1554, Vermigli wrote to Calvin:

I want you to know that this sadly grieves me, along with others, that they [the Lutherans] spread very foul and false reports concerning the eternal election of God, against the truth and against your name.... We here, especially Zanchi and I, defend your part and the truth as far as we can....

Despite the tensions, Vermigli remained in Strasbourg until 1556, when he accepted Bullinger's offer to succeed Conrad Pellican at Zurich. Although warmly welcomed to Zurich by Bullinger, Vermigli found less enthusiasm from one of his new colleagues, Theodore Bibliander. As much as Vermigli wished to avoid it, controversy was brewing yet again. He began lectures on 1 Samuel in August 1556, and by June 1557 Bibliander had begun openly to attack Vermigli's doctrine of predestination. According to Joachim Staedtke, a full-blown Pradestinationsstreit erupted in Zurich. The Zurich faculty sided with Vermigli, and Bibliander was dismissed from his duties in February 1560. Even with Bibliander's dismissal, Vermigli still was to see a third controversy over predestination. In Strasbourg, John Marbach went on the warpath again in 1561—this time Zanchi's doctrine of predestination was the object of Marbach's ire. Vermigli could not stand idle when Marbach brought charges of heresy against his fellow Italian exile Zanchi. Not only did Vermigli display his personal support in a letter to the Strasbourg senate, but he also rallied support from his Zurich colleagues. Unfortunately, when Vermigli had departed from Strasbourg in 1556, Zanchi inherited the Reformed cause against Marbach and the Lutherans.


Vermigli lectured on Romans in Strasbourg in the school year 1545-46, but those lectures have not survived; there is no way to determine how he understood predestination in those lectures. Vermigli did, however, address the subject the previous academic year (1543-44), when he devoted an entire locus to predestination in his Genesis lectures. This is the earliest substantial extant expression of his teaching on predestination. Although it is brief in comparison to the later locus on predestination in his Romans commentary, one finds there a coherent understanding of the doctrine that differs little from the more substantial locus in the Romans commentary. The earlier treatment arose in connection with the Old Testament text of Genesis 25 and was narrowly concerned with a single question, that is, to explain the different destinies of Jacob and Esau. But in the Romans locus, Vermigli aims to provide a full exposition of the doctrine of predestination. It is significant that he places his locus De praedestinatione immediately after his exegesis of Romans 9. This is Vermigli's way of suggesting, not so subtly, that St. Paul himself was an advocate of this doctrine. The commentary on Romans was not published until 1558, but the lectures on which it is based were delivered in Oxford between 1550 and 1552. One would be remiss not to presume that these Oxford lectures bear some relationship to previous lectures on Romans in Lucca and Strasbourg."

Like most Protestant theologians in the turbulent sixteenth century, Vermigli unfolds his doctrine of predestination against a Catholic opponent; in this case, the object of his theological antipathy is the Dutch theologian Albert Pighius junctures during his Protestant sojourn he became embroiled in controversy on predestination.

This was probably not Vermigli's first encounter with the Dutchman, for as McNair suggests, it is likely that the two men met in Bologna in 1533. It is possible that Vermigli harbored some animus against Pighius because of his strong opposition to Calvin on free will and predestination. Pighius seems to have been selected as a foil in the Romans locus because Vermigli saw him as the champion of contemporary Pelagians. Vermigli's tone throughout the locus suggests that he is engaged in the ongoing historical battle with Pelagianism, of which Pighius was only the latest and one of the best representatives. Vermigli did not see himself as a theological innovator, but as belonging to a theological tradition that was inspired by Augustine, which approached Paul and Scripture in much the same way." As one who belonged to the Augustinian tradition, Vermigli was duty-bound to defend the bishop's doctrine of predestination against Pelagianism.

As an heir to Augustine's soteriological legacy, Vermigli embraced and defended a thoroughgoing doctrine of gemina praedestinatio (double predestination). It is "double" in that both election and reprobation issue from the one will of God. Vermigli does not hesitate to interpret the story of Jacob and Esau in Romans 9 as a manifestation of Jacob's election and Esau's reprobation I according the sovereign free will of the Deity. It is viewed as a twofold preordination arising out of the one propositum Dei, which inevitably results in eternal salvation and eternal damnation.

Vermigli develops the doctrine within a causal construct. That is to say, on the matter of election (which he identifies with predestination), God's will in eternity is seen to be the exclusive cause. The effect of this election assumes Augustine's anthropology by viewing all humanity as a massa perditionis, doomed to eternal condemnation unless God intercedes. Divine election is portrayed positively as the rescue of the doomed sinner, who can do nothing to secure his own deliverance. After being elected from the mass of fallen sinners in eternity past, prompted by the Holy Spirit, and granted the gift of faith, the elect embrace Christ in time and thus inherit eternal life. In sum, Vermigli taught what was subsequently termed unconditional election.

Like his Geneva colleague, Vermigli did not shy away from the thorny matter of reprobation. Two important features disclose his view of reprobation. First, he sees reprobation as a passive expression of the sovereign will of God. By passive willing, Vermigli intends readers to understand something more than mere divine permission, but less than an active willing. For him, God is not to be pictured as sitting back and simply permitting humans to reap what they sow. Rather, God orchestrates events, yet without compulsion, to produce his predetermined salvific result. "To reprobate," is characteristically described as "not to have mercy" or "to pass over." Throughout his discussion, Vermigli is careful to avoid any suggestion of a detached Deity capriciously heaving helpless victims into a lake of hellfire. His view of reprobation is much more nuanced: it portrays God as actively rescuing some sinners, but deliberately and mysteriously bypassing others, knowing full well the inevitable consequence.

Another major feature of Vermigli's view of reprobation is the distinction between reprobation and condemnation. Reprobation refers to the decision not to have mercy in eternity past, and its cause lies in the inscrutable sovereign will of God. Condemnation, on the other hand, has a temporal referent, where causality lies within the matrix of original and actual sins. For Vermigli, "sins are the cause of damnation but not the cause of reprobation."God's role in condemnation centers on the intention and execution of the general principle that sins must be punished. Condemnation, however, is the expression of divine justice. So then, the true cause of condemnation is found in sinful individuals, but the true cause of reprobation lies in the unfathomable purpose of God (propositum Dei).

Vermigli's doctrine is an unequivocal double predestination, but he differs from other Reformers, such as Ulrich Zwingli. The latter advocates a strict sym metrical double predestination, but Vermigli constructs an asymmetrical version of this doctrine. According to Vermigli, God does not deal with the elect in precisely the same way he deals with the nonelect. For the elect, God is not only the ultimate eternal cause for the attainment of eternal life, but by granting the gift of faith through the Holy Spirit, he is also the temporal cause of the reward of eternal life. Vermigli, however, does not maintain that parallel with regard to reprobation and condemnation. Although the ultimate eternal cause of election and rejection is precisely the same (the inscrutable will of God), the cause for condemnation does not correspond to the cause for eternal blessing. Those who finally are condemned have only themselves to blame.

Scholars have been divided as to the proper categorization of Vermigli's doctrine of predestination. Reinhold Seeberg describes it as "extreme supralapsarian." More recently, Richard Muller has challenged this characterization of Vermigli's doctrine of predestination. While acknowledging the absolute sovereignty of the propositum Dei, Muller insists that Vermigli exhibits an "essentially infralapsarian definition of predestination." It is, however, difficult to deny that Vermigli does at times seem to reflect a supralapsarian view, while at other points he seems to be an infralapsarian. The ambiguity can be resolved by recognizing the medieval distinction between sub specie aeternitatis (from the perspective of eternity) and sub specie temporis (from the perspective of time). When addressing the ultimate cause of predestination or reprobation, Vermigli tends to express himself from the vantage point of eternity (propositum Dei aeternum). From the perspective of sub specie aeternitatis, the divine will acts prior to anything temporal, including the fall and its consequences, thus implying a supralapsarian orientation. However, the eternal divine will (propositum Dei aeternum) is manifested in history, and this is the principal sphere in which Vermigli articulates his doctrine of double predestination. Therefore, when addressing the question of predestination and reprobation sub specie temporis, the fall of Adam is the fundamental presupposition of all soteriological activity. In this sense, which is most often the case in the locus, there is a distinctly infralapsarian cast to Vermigli's thought.


Scholars generally assume that Vermigli's doctrine of predestination derives principally from interaction with Protestant theologians, among whom Bucer is acknowledged as probably the most influential. There is a cogency to this line of thinking, especially in view of the close personal relationship between the two in Strasbourg (1542-47) and then again in England (1549-51). It is surmised that Vermigli, a Protestant neophyte, would have fallen under the sway of Bucer, whose predestinarian views were well known. Vermigli was indebted in many ways to Bucer, but there is such divergence in their respective conceptions of predestination that it is unlikely he exercised decisive influence on Vermigli's predestinarianism. Further, it is impossible that Vermigli had come under the spell of Calvin, whose full articulation of double predestination would not take place until nearly a decade later. Neither is Luther a likely source of Vermigli's doctrine; Luther seems never to have held much appeal for the Italian

While it is true that the Spanish Reformer Juan de Valdes was espousing a full-fledged doctrine of gemina praedestinatio to his followers in Naples in early 1538, he was probably not a key influence on Vermigli. In all likelihood Vermigli was the teacher and Valdes the student when it came to the matter of predestination. If neither Vermigli's encounter with northern Reformers nor the influence of Valdes can adequately explain the intellectual origins of Vermigli's doctrine of double predestination, then two medieval options remain: the views of Thomas Aquinas or Gregory of Rimini. Aquinas was a more rigorous predestinarian than many admit, but the differences between his predestinarian vision and that of Vermigli suggest that Aquinas, although an intellectual contributor, is unlikely to have been a primary source. Gregory of Rimini, however, drew out the full implications of Augustine's doctrine of predestination and concluded with the most rigorous doctrine of double predestination in the later Middle Ages. Josiah Simler informs us that the young Vermigli read and approved of the writings of Gregory while a student at the University of Padua in the early 1520s. A comparison of Vermigli's doctrine and that of Gregory reveals an extraordinary degree of compatibility. Linguistic and conceptual parallels abound. Time and again, the same issues are isolated and resolved with the same theological conclusions, often employing the same terms, and always based on the twin sources of Scripture and Augustine. Despite differences in historical circumstances and in degree of treatment, there is extraordinary continuity between the two Italian Augustinian. When all the evidence is taken into account, it becomes almost certain that Vermigli was an heir to Gregory's late medieval intensification of Augustine's doctrine of predestination.


Vermigli's adoption of the distinctive doctrine of gemina praedestinatio illustrates that soteriological continuity between late medieval and Reformation thought could obtain. The intellectual origins of Vermigli's thought suggest that his predestinarianism was derived in significant measure from his encounter with the academic Augustinianism of Gregory of Rimini. Thus, with regard to gemina praedestinatio, Peter Martyr Vermigli, one of the codifiers of Reformed theology, appears to have been a kind of intellectual offspring of late medieval Augustinianism. This is not to suggest that this doctrine underwent no development at the hands of Vermigli or in the intellectual exchanges between Vermigli and his Protestant conferees after his apostasy from Catholicism. It does suggest, however, that Vermigli's predestinarianism, inspired by Gregory, was one of the intellectual tributaries that flowed into the broader current of Reformed theology. It was the absorption of this intensified Augustinian theology of Gregory of Rimini that perhaps explains the speed with which Vermigli was received into the upper ranks of Reformed Protestantism. It would seem that the Reformers at Strasbourg in 1542 recognized in Vermigli a kindred spirit and a ready-made Protestant.

The "Italian Stranger," as John Strype christened Vermigli, first set foot on British soil in late 1547. Vermigli was not invited to Oxford merely for his academic reputation and achievements, but rather because he was needed to promote Protestantism in England. As Simler surmised, Vermigli was "the one person most suited for this task [of reformation] because of his singular learning and incredible skill at many things." To fortify Vermigli for the mission ahead, the honor of doctor of divinity was bestowed in February and he was formally appointed regius professor of divinity in March of 1548. Greenslade concludes that of the early holders of the regius chair in theology, "Peter Martyr was unquestionably the most learned."

A crucial Protestant doctrine to be disseminated to the English church was justification." The Italian stranger wasted little time in pressing the matter with his students. Soon after beginning his lectures on Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, he devoted a locus to justification at the end of the first chapter. This locus is thoughtfully crafted and one of the clearest and most concise articulations of an early Reformed doctrine of justification. Vermigli had already proffered a brief introductory exposition in his Genesis lectures, which is his earliest extant treatment of the doctrine. As with the doctrine of predestination, it was not until the Romans commentary that Vermigli took the opportunity to present his definitive articulation of the doctrine of justification.

It may well have been that Vermigli was prompted to return to this doctrine yet a third time in his Protestant career, when he got wind of a quarrel in Cambridge concerning Bucer's teaching on the same subject. The difficulty arose in June 1550 when Dr. John Young, fellow at Trinity College Cambridge, challenged Bucer to a public disputation. There were three theses to be disputed, the last of which dealt with justification: "We are so justified freely by God, that, before justification, whatsoever good works we seem to do, it is sin, and provokes God's wrath against us. But being justified, we necessarily do good works." After the public disputation, Young continued to attack Bucer's view of justification, saying that he was in "serious error." Bucer responded to Young in his own public lectures and in the university pulpit, defending "this chief article of religion." This controversy was short-lived, largely because Bucer succumbed to the winter chill and died. The Cambridge debate was a sober reminder to Vermigli that doctrinal reform was still an urgent necessity in England.

Having decided to address the topic again, Vermigli went all out. His most extensive treatment of justification occurs in his Romans locus following his exegesis in the first eleven chapters of his commentary on Romans. By this placement, he means to suggest to the reader that Paul is the primary source for this doctrine; it is, according to Vermigli, "the scope and aim of all that Paul has said so far." Further confirmation that his doctrine is Pauline is his repeated reliance upon the first eleven chapters of Romans throughout his exposition.

The polemical tone in the Romans locus should be seen against the larger backdrop of the Council of Trent. This locus affords him the opportunity to engage in his first extensive interaction with the council. Five years had passed since the Council formally addressed the doctrine of justification, and Vermigli had time to reflect upon its canons and decrees and upon their theological implications. This locus is, in many respects, his response to that important council.

Throughout his Romans locus, two other antagonists were in view. Although he makes fewer direct references, Vermigli's sharpest jibes are reserved for Richard Smith, the only adversary who actually wrote a book against Vermigli, contesting his doctrine of justification. Smith's Diatriba de hominis iustificatione adversus P. M. Vermelinum clearly targets Vermigli in the title, but in the book itself, Smith is primarily concerned to attack Luther and Melanchthon. Because he had been ousted from his regius professorship at Oxford in order to make room for the Italian Protestant, Smith had reason to be upset with Vermigli. As for Vermigli, he felt the sting of Smith's personal attacks for he wrote to Bucer that Smith's book was "stuffed so full with maledictions, accusations, and the bitterest contempt, that I think I never have heard before of any tongue so unbridled in abuse." For his part, Vermigli is quite dismissive of Smith, whom he charges with plagiarizing from Johannes Eck and Pighius.

The Dutchman Albert Pighius resurfaces in the locus on justification. For Vermigli, the Dutchman was a much more formidable opponent than Smith, because more than other Catholic theologians Pighius offered a substantive biblical defense of the Catholic position. Vermigli gives primary attention to Pighius's Controuersiaru[m] praecipuarum in Comitiis Ratisponensis tractatarum. Vermigli may have selected Pighius because of his notable reputation as a defender of papal authority. Indeed, Pighius was cited as a theological authority by Cardinal Seripando during the intensive debates on justification at the Council of Trent. What makes Pighius particularly interesting, however, is that he is a moderate Catholic who was a noted advocate of the doctrine of double justification, explicitly rejected at Trent.


It is evident that Vermigli continued to think carefully about the doctrine of justification after his earlier lectures on the subject in Oxford. One of the notable features to emerge in his outlook was the ethical orientation of the doctrine of justification. For him, if justification was to be rightly understood it must be directly related to godliness." In this regard, Vermigli was in lockstep with the Swiss Protestants, who tended to stress the positive relationship between justification and piety (or sanctification), although they were careful not to fuse the two doctrines. This pastoral insight is reflected clearly in the Romans locus, for Vermigli wastes no time in declaring that justification "is the head, fountain and summit of all piety"; therefore, "one ought to be certain of it above all things."

Vermigli develops his doctrine of justification under three propositions: that good works do not justify, that faith justifies, and that faith alone justifies. From the start, Vermigli sets his jaw against the perceived Pelagianism of the Catholic church. For an Augustinian like Vermigli, whose most basic theological presupposition was that all humanity after Adam's fall is massa perditionis (a mass of perdition), Pelagianism was intolerable. Crucial for understanding Vermigli is the fact that the whole edifice of his doctrine of justification is built upon the foundation of an intensive Augustinian anthropology. For him, this was not simply a clash between individual theologians, but of theological systems.

In many respects, Vermigli provides a conventional Protestant understanding of justification. It is obvious from`the opening section of his locus that justification in the strict sense is a legal pronouncement of God. Vermigli specifically employs the legal term "forensic" (forense) to describe this judicial proceeding. Justification, then, as he makes clear, belongs to the legal domain and, as such, addresses the theological problem of the legal guilt inherited by all of Adam's progeny and how it is that a righteous divine judge reaches a verdict of "not guilty."

If justification is fundamentally a legal or forensic matter for Vermigli, then the question of how the guilty sinner is legally absolved of the deserved punishment comes to the fore. To describe this divine judicial proceeding, he employs the concept of imputation (imputatio). In general, he sees two movements of imputation. First is the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the elect sinner. When the divine verdict is rendered, it will not be on the basis of the sinner, but on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ that the sinner is judged. Second, Vermigli speaks of the nonimputation of sins, by which he means that sins are not counted against the sinner because they have been imputed or transferred to Christ. Thus he states: "He [Christ] justifies those whom he takes to himself, and bears their iniquities."

This double imputation brings a dual legal benefit—acquittal and the right to eternal life. Because Christ has taken their sins and transferred his righteousness to them, sinners are thereby pronounced forgiven, hence justified. The second benefit is entrance into a new relationship with the divine judge. Vermigli remarks that the "chief and principal part" of forgiveness of our sins is "that we are received into the favor of God." For him, this acceptance into the favor of God is particularly identified with adoption, which also has a legal connotation. With the idea of adoption, Vermigli's understanding of justification is not merely forensic, but also entails a relational component.

It is significant that Vermigli's forensic understanding of imputation necessarily requires an extrinsic view of justification, which is to say, the act in which Christ's righteousness is imputed to an elect sinner only has reference to the sinner's legal status. Such an act is external to the sinner and does not itself bring inner renewal. The imputed righteousness of Christ, technically speaking, does not penetrate and transform the soul of the sinner as is required in the Catholic notion of gratia inhaerens, but remains external to the sinner. Justification, then, in the forensic sense, is not iustitia in nobis but iustitia extra nos.

It has been noted that Vermigli never actually employs the distinctively Protestant phrase simul iustus et peccator (simultaneously righteous and sinful). However, close examination reveals that the idea (if not the terminology) is clearly present in the locus. This is not necessarily significant, in view of the fact that Calvin fails to employ the phrase in the definitive 1559 edition of the Institutes, yet he unmistakably embraces the idea. It is difficult to avoid the idea of simul iustus et peccator when Vermigli writes: "`to justify' means to ascribe righteousness to one by judgment or declaration [and] does not make him righteous in reality." Vermigli's intensive Augustinian anthropology, with its stress on the radical impact of sin on all humanity (including infants) presses him to conclude that even the Christian is both fully a sinner in himself and fully righteous in Christ. Augustinian anthropology again seems to determine Vermigli's stance on this question.

Vermigli's understanding of forensic justification is not particularly unusual. Indeed, it corresponds generally with the Reformed branch of Protestantism. What is unusual is the inclusion of regeneration and sanctification under the rubric of justification. Like his friend and mentor Bucer, Vermigli had long espoused a threefold justification, which includes three distinguishable but inseparable components: regeneration, justification, and sanctification. This threefold character of his doctrine of justification was explicit in his earliest treatment of this doctrine in his Strasbourg exposition of Genesis in 1543 and his 1548 lectures on 1 Corinthians in Oxford. Perhaps the most surprising feature of the Romans locus is that, unlike both previous loci on justification, he does not speak explicitly of a threefold righteousness. Apparently, Vermigli has continued to read and think on this subject and has concluded that there are better ways to say what he means. He has not substantially altered his view, but he has reconfigured somewhat the relation of justification to regeneration. Vermigli had always held that regeneration and justification are distinct but not separate. In previous treatments, regeneration had been construed as a constitutive part of justification, but in the Romans locus it undergoes a change of status from a constitutive element to a necessary precursor. In the Genesis commentary, regeneration is explicitly identified as belonging to forensic justification. In his commentary on 1 Corinthians, regeneration is still viewed as belonging to justification, but in a different category. In the Romans commentary, regeneration no longer comes under the aegis of justification. Now regeneration provides the context but is not the cause for justification. This progression in the relationship between regeneration and justification is a departure from Vermigli's early Augustinian training, but a movement toward a more self-consciously Protestant understanding of the relationship between regeneration and justification. This development reflects the trend in Protestantism to distinguish more sharply sanctification from justification.

It would seem, then, that Vermigli embraces both a strict forensic understanding of justification and a broader moral understanding, which stresses the necessary relationship between forensic justification and its accompanying benefits of regeneration and sanctification. When speaking of justification in the strict or proper sense (propria significatione), he has in view only the divine acquittal and its basis. But when speaking more broadly of justification, he considers both the cause and the effect of the divine acquittal. Forensic justification, which is based on the imputed righteousness of Christ alone, is necessarily preceded by the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, who then produces sanctification or moral transformation in the sinner. It is one of the hallmarks of his understanding that these three blessings may be distinguished, but never separated.

Vermigli still retains the crucial distinctives of a Protestant understanding of justification—original sin, a dynamic view of faith (fides apprehensiva), forensic justification based exclusively on the imputed righteousness of Christ, and simul iustus et peccator. But his particular conception of justification includes both regeneration and sanctification under the general meaning of justification. While it is his clear conviction that justification, properly speaking, is forensic, he is not content to speak of forensic justification alone. In Vermigli's mind, one cannot properly deal with the immense problem of original sin by considering only the legal dimension; one must also deal with the moral implications. Adam's fall, according to Vermigli, brought legal guilt, spiritual death, and moral corruption. The redemptive work of Christ countered each of these three effects, bringing forensic justification, regeneration, and sanctification into close accord. Certainly he would argue that to break the law of God is not only a legal violation, but a moral infraction as well. In essence, Vermigli invests justification with a comprehensiveness equal to the magnitude of original sin.

Vermigli certainly saw himself as a Protestant and as an opponent of Catholicism, as his rejection of the decrees of Trent suggests. He does indeed differ from Lutheranism by placing the principle of "distinct but not separate" at the forefront of his formulation rather than stressing the discontinuity of justification and sanctification. While his formulation differs from the later Lutheranism, Vermigli is generally in accord with Protestant theologians of his day, such as Bucer, Oecolampadius, Zwingli, and later, Melanchthon.

The evolution in Vermigli's thought issued from his continued study of the Scriptures, but cannot be separated from his deep involvement in the English Reformation. There was in Vermigli a Cranmer-inspired sense of responsibility to display, as much as possible, his doctrinal uniformity with continental Protestantism. Apparently there was a growing recognition that he belonged to a distinctive branch of Protestantism—the Reformed branch. With this recognition comes a sense of duty to present his teachings in such a way that the Reformed uniformity is evident. This is not to suggest that he simply imitated Reformed theologians, but that there is a basic theological commonality. Vermigli came to see himself as England's chief spokesman for continental Reformed theology, and Paul's epistle was the ideal vehicle to fulfill his responsibility. One may conjecture that Vermigli's understanding of his role as a representative of the Reformed tradition may explain the polemical tone of the locus. A proper understanding of his Romans commentary, then, signifies Vermigli's emergence as a mainstream Reformed theologian.


The sixteenth-century Reformed theologian Josiah Simler informs us that sometime during Peter Martyr Vermigli's three years in Naples (1537-40) "the greater light of God's truth" dawned upon him. This "greater light" was the doctrine of justification by faith alone. In Naples, Vermigli found himself in the company of the Spanish Reformer Juan de Valdes, who had gathered around him a small flock of high-ranking Italian prelates, noblewomen, and literati. To these eager disciples, Valdes clandestinely taught a Protestant-inspired doctrine of justification by faith alone. To the inner circle, Valdes gave books from the pens of Protestants; to Vermigli, he gave books by Bucer and Zwingli, with the result that by the time Vermigli departed from Naples in the spring of 1540, he was, in the words of Philip McNair, "wholly justified by faith."

After arriving in Zurich from Italy in 1542, Vermigli's understanding of the doctrine of justification underwent a maturation process. To be sure, he had already embraced the distinctive elements of a Protestant view, but over the course of the next twenty years he refined and clarified his understanding of this important doctrine. Certainly his intensive Augustinian soteriology initially put him in good stead with other Protestants. The Augustinian anthropology, which directly informed his view of justification, was compatible with the views of Protestant theologians, most of whom were deeply indebted to the same anti-Pelagian writings of the North African bishop. In a sense all the Protestant theologians stood on the shoulders of Augustine. Even while in Italy, having entered the clandestine world of Italian Evangelism and in a close association with Juan de Valdes, Vermigli had encountered and imbibed the teachings of the Protestants, including the doctrine of justification by faith alone. By the time he arrived in Zurich in 1542, he had already crossed the theological Rubicon.

If his Augustinian theological heritage accounts for Vermigli's early view of justification, how might one account for the distinctively Protestant conceptions also present? The answer lies principally with Bucer. Vermigli's early thought is virtually a replica of Bucer's. Both share soteriological indebtedness to Augustine and to the standard Protestant elements such as sola fide, imputatio, and the forensic character of justification. But there are also distinctive parallels: the most distinctive is their threefold conception of righteousness. There is little doubt that those years with Bucer in Strasbourg (1542-47) go a long way to explain Vermigli's conception of justification. Bucer and Augustine seem to share the honor of being the greatest theological influence on Vermigli in Strasbourg, but it seems that Bucer's influence grew significantly in the early years of Vermigli's Oxford sojourn. Of course, this is not to imply that Augustine's theological stature declined for Vermigli. Rather, it is to suggest something more subtle, namely, that Bucer's Protestant insights into this doctrine increasingly govern Vermigli's appropriation of the Augustinian soteriological perspective.


Vermigli's doctrinal development with regard to justification generally mirrors the evolution of the doctrine in Protestantism. One important historiographical insight garnered from Vermigli is the fact that the Protestant doctrine of justification was not static, but went through a process of theological amelioration. To be sure, Luther blazed a path that others would follow, but it must be recognized that Luther's initial insights provoked decades of Protestant refinement, both from Lutheran and Reformed theologians. One of the more significant developments of the doctrine concerned the relationship between forensic justification, regeneration, and sanctification. Alister McGrath observes that there was a definitive movement within early Protestantism, from a dynamic view of justification that stressed the unity (but not identification) of justification and sanctification to a more constrictive understanding that stressed the distinction between justification and sanctification. This same general trend is evident in Vermigli's doctrine of justification.

Although the Reformed church did not give the same prominence to the doctrine as the Lutherans, the same general trajectory is evident in the Reformed branch. The earliest Reformed conceptions of justification tended to place great emphasis on an ethical conception of justification, so that regeneration and sanctification are seen as constitutive elements of justification. Zwingli, Bucer, Bullinger, and Oecolampadius all envisaged a very close relationship between regeneration and justification, although their understanding was nuanced differently than Luther's. Calvin seems to have undergone some development on this matter early in his Protestant career, but by 1540 the main lines of his new configuration are in place. Instead of giving priority to either regeneration or justification, Calvin turned his attention to their common source, the union with Christ (insitio in Christum), which granted them equal standing, distinct, but not separate. This is precisely what Calvin maintains in the 1559 edition of the Institutes, namely, that "the grace of justification is not separated from regeneration although they are things distinct."

A proper understanding of the Reformation doctrine of justification is impossible without the recognition that it articulated this view during a period of intensive theological transition. Vermigli, like other Protestant scholars, was a theological pioneer who was in the process of casting off his Catholic theological training and braving the new world of Protestant theological exegesis. In the midst of this intellectual transition period, there was theological diversity among Protestants with regard to the doctrine of justification, and particularly its relationship to regeneration and sanctification. Despite the diversity, there seems to have been an irreducible core of a genuine Protestant doctrine of justification, which centered on the imputed righteousness of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. It is probably more historically accurate to speak of the perimeters of a Protestant doctrine of justification, and within those perimeters are considerable differences among early Protestant theologians. Muller, referring to the earliest period of Reformed theology, is correct when he characterizes this as "a period of great variety in theological formulation despite general doctrinal consensus." The crucial distinction between Roman Catholics and Protestants was that the latter saw the grounds of justification to lie exclusively in the imputed righteousness of Christ. From Vermigli's perspective, the decrees of Trent could not make the same claim. When the war of words finally settled down, one fact remained: Vermigli's portrait in London is that of a Protestant.

Petrus Martyr Vermigli: Humanismus, Republikanismus, Reformation (Gebundene Ausgabe)

A Companion to Richard Hooker by Torrance Kirby and Rowan Williams(Brill's Companions to the Christian Tradition: Brill Academic)

The Zurich Connection and Tudor Political Theology by W.J. Torrance Kirby (Brill Academic) addresses Vermigli's political writings. Should students of Tudor political thought be interested in a feisty Swiss republican who hardly set foot outside his home canton of Zurich, and a Florentine aristocrat who spent just five years of his career in England? This book presents the case for including two leading lights of the Schola Tigurina - Heinrich Bullinger and Peter Martyr Vermigli - among the chief architects of the protestant religious and political settlement constructed under Edward VI and consolidated under Elizabeth I. Through study of selected texts of their political theology, this book explores crucial intellectual links between England and Zurich which came to exert a significant influence on the institutions of the Tudor church and commonwealth.

1. ‘Cura religionis’: The Prophetical Office and the Civil Magistrate
Text: Bullinger, Of the office of the Magistrate (1552)
2. ‘The Godly Prince’: Union of Civil and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction
Text: Vermigli, Of ciuill and ecclesiasticall power (1561)
3. ‘Sinne and Sedition’: Penance and the Duty of Obedience
Text: Vermigli, A Sermon concernynge the tyme of rebellion (1549)
4. ‘A Holy Deborah for Our Times’: Vermigli’s Panegyric to Elizabeth
Text: Vermigli, Epistle to the Princess Elizabeth (1558)
5. ‘Relics of the Amorites’: The Civil Magistrate and Religious Uniformity
Text: Bullinger, Whether it be mortall sinne to transgresse civil lawes (1566)

Appendix 1. ‘Vermilius Absconditus’: The Zurich Portrait
Appendix 2. Text: Vermigli, An Epistle to the Duke of Somerset (1550)

A Dialogue on the Two Natures in Christ  by John P. Donnelly (The Peter Martyr Vermigli Library, Vol 2: Thomas Jefferson University Press)

The Peter Martyr Library: Early Writings/Series One by Mario Di Gangi and Joseph C. McLelland (Truman State University Press)

The Oxford Treatise and Disputation on the Eucharist, 1549  by Joseph C. McLelland (The Peter Martyr Library Volume 7: Truman State University Press) Among the most polemical of Martyr's works, the texts presented here are part of the turbulent period in England during the times of Edward VI and Archbishop Cranmer. Along with his account of the Disputation, Martyr published a Treatise that provides systematic treatment of the arguments, biblical and patristic in source, with transubstantiation the target. There is a wealth of information about the state of the realm, the choice of patristic authorities, the nature of Martyr's objections to the traditional doctrine, and his proposed alternative.



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A Companion to Peter Martyr Vermigli edited by Torrance Kirby, Emidio Campi, Frank A., III James (Brill's Companions to the Christian Tradition: Brill Academic)

Commentary on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies)by Peter Martyr Vermigli; Emidio Campi; Joseph C. McLelland (Truman State University Press) This volume is techincally superb, and reflects a consistent team effort...clean, lucid, and allied with the best interdisciplinary research.

Peter Martyr Vermigli and Predestination by Frank A. James III (Oxford University Press) Predestination and Justification: Two Theological Loci  by Peter Martyr Vermigli and translated Frank A. J. L. James (Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies: Truman State University Press) It is a measure of Peter Martyr Vermigli's influence in England that his regal J portrait by Hans Asper is included in the National Portrait Gallery in London. The piercing brown eyes of a rather handsome Peter Martyr look beyond the confines of his gilded frame as he points to his Bible. This portrait captures something of the true spirit of this Italian theologian. It is as if, in full academic regalia, he is instructing his students to concentrate their undivided attention upon this book alone, much as he urged in his Oxford oration: "Let us immerse ourselves constantly in the sacred Scriptures, let us work at reading them, and by the gift of Christ's Spirit the things that are necessary for salvation will be for us clear, direct, and completely open."