Life And Death Of Michael Servetus. -- By: R. D. C. Robbins

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 003:9 (Feb 1846)
Article: Life And Death Of Michael Servetus.
Author: R. D. C. Robbins


Life And Death Of Michael Servetus.1

R. D. C. Robbins

The Early Years Of Servetus

Michael Servetus was born the same year with John Calvin (1509) at Villaneuva in Arragon. His father was a notary. Nothing is certainly known of his early education and training. It is said, that he was brought up in a cloister in his native kingdom, and although no proof of the fact is adduced, it is not improbable; for it was the custom of the time, especially in Spain, to devote children who were weak in intellect or feeble in health to the church, and Servetus’ physical system was diseased.2 In his fourteenth year, according to his account of himself at Vienne, he was taken into the service of Quintana, confessor of Charles V, who, himself a monk, probably took Servetus from the cloister. He was present at the crowning of the Emperor by the Pope at Bologna in Italy, and afterwards went in the suite of Charles V. to Germany. The splendor and parade by which the Roman Pontiff was surrounded, and the adoration which he received, exceedingly disgusted Servetus, and filled him with hatred towards the chief dignitary of the church.3

In Servetus’ account of himself at the time of his trial at Geneva, he says that his father sent him to the University of Toulouse to study Law. If so, and there are some indications of knowledge of Law in his writings, he must have gone there immediately after his journey to Italy. At that University he probably first learned to read the Bible in the original languages, and acquired more familiarity with the dogmas of the Reformation, for he shows in his first work, published soon after, that he was no stranger to them. The question has been much discussed, wheth-

er his first tendencies to heresy took their origin at this time, or were imbibed in Italy or Germany. But it is a question of little importance in respect to our present purpose. He was a freethinker by nature, and could not have lived anywhere without exhibiting his peculiar characteristics.4 The similarity of the circumstances of the early life of Servetus and John Calvin, is not more striking than the diversity of their developments. They both began their course with the study of Law, but Servetus at the same time turned his attention to astrology, and rejected with contempt the philosophy of Aristotle. But the desire to promote a reformation in the world, gave him no rest. He read the works of most of the church fathers, especially those who lived before Arius. In Tertullian and Irenaeus he thought he...

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