"He has been my father in Christ"

2014. október 08., szerda

2014 is a special year of Reformed remembrance. This year we celebrate several anniversaries related to many well-known Swiss reformers’ lives. Some of the things we remember about the scientists who contributed to the Hungarian awareness to the works of the "fathers of the faith." In addition, October serves as the month of Reformation in the Reformed Church in Hungary.

It is a special year across all continents and the multimillion-person Reformed community. This year also marks the 450th jubilee of John Calvin's death and brings an end to the Calvin years, which were celebrated between 2009 and 2014. 

Zwingli, Calvin, Béza

In addition to Calvin, this year also allows us to remember two Swiss reformers of outstanding importance. The life of Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) and his impact on Hungary will be celebrated throughout January and February in reformatus.hu’s anniversary column. January is in fact the 530th anniversary of Zwingli’s birth.

Spring will serve to commemorate the knowledge of John Calvin’s rich works. The Genevan reformers contribution can also be important for Hungarian Calvinists in 2014 as the first Hungarian Calvin biography, written by Imre Révész Sr., appeared 150 years ago. Also at that same time, the first Calvin festivities were organized around the Carpathian Basin (except the Transtibiscan Reformed Church District). From the Uplands over Pest to Transylvania, in many cities it felt important to hold a memorial service in churches and schools on the three hundredth anniversary of Calvin’s death.

The third well-known personality is Théodore de Bèze, the successor of Calvin’s Genevan pastoral work. We will remember the life, activities and rich blessings of the preacher born 495 years ago during this summer.

2014 not only allows for the closure of Calvin-years but also the deepening of the Swiss-Hungarian Reformed relations. We would like to present four more Hungarian church historians and theologian’s lives in addition to Albert Szenci Molnár, who through the centuries contributed to the knowledge of the works of Swiss reformers.

Albert Szenci Molnár (1574-1634)

The theologian was born in Szenc, and during his study trip to Geneva in August 1596 he met with the aging Béza, who considered Calvin his master saying: "He's been my father in Christ." Szenci, like Béza, has contributed to making known the doctrines of Calvin with a spirit of discipleship.

This year will be 390 years since John Calvin's major work, the Institutes of Christian Religion, first appeared in Hungarian through the translation of Albert Szenci Molnár (1574-1634) titled “The teaching of Christian religion and true faith.”

Molnár’s work is considered a connection between Western European and Hungarian Protestantism. Among his works, the translation of the 150 Genevan psalms, published in 1607, and the Hungarian-Latin dictionary in 1604 still stand out.

István Benke (1849-1915)

The Hungarian Reformed Church celebrated the 400th anniversary of Zwingli's birth in 1884. Along with many worship services, three books were released about the reformer from Zurich. Of the Zwingli anniversary biographies published in Hungarian, the work of István Benke (1849–1915) described in great detail the life of the young priest who launched the Swiss Reformation. The author worked as a religion teacher between 1881 and 1901 in the Mikó Székely Collegium of the Reformed Church at Sfântu Gheorghe (Sepsiszentgyörgy). Title of his work: “The Life of Ulrich Zwingli and the foundation of the Helvetic confession – The quarter-century anniversary to the sacred memory of the great reformer.”

Barna Nagy (1909-1969)

Barna Nagy was born on 15 May 1909 in Sárospatak where he also finished his theological studies. During a study trip abroad, he learned from the most influential theologians of the time, including Brunner and Barth. He defended his doctoral thesis in 1936 in Debrecen titled “The problem of the theological method in so-called dialectic theology.”

He taught systematic theology at the Theological Academy of Sarospatak from 1937 until 1952 when the institution was disbanded. In 1954, he found a job in the Department of Systematic Theology at the Theological Academy of Budapest. As a result of reprisals after the 1956 revolution he was stripped of his title in Pest.

In the year of revolution, Nagy joined international Calvin research. In doing so, he played a vital role in the ordering of John Calvin’s unreleased sermons for the press. He explained Calvin’s shorthand publications with unique talent and made a meaningful text from it. However, it took nearly 50 years for his works to be published.

Endre Zsindely (1929-1986)

Endre Zsindely (1929–1986) enrolled at the Theological Academy of Budapest after his legal studies where he graduated in 1953. Three years later he became seriously ill but his Swiss medical treatment led to a full recovery and in 1961 Zsindely earned his doctorate in church history from the University of Zurich. He then studied at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey at the World Council of Churches and researched church history and the history of Hungarian literature at the Schaffhausen Staatsarchiv.

Owing to his wide range of knowledge and excellent language skills, Zsindely achieved outstanding results in the examination of Swiss relations with the Hungarian Reformed Church and the Hungarian connection between the Swiss reformers. In the 1880s he began active Swiss Zwingli research. Of his studies about the reformer published in Hungarian it is worth highlighting the works titled “Zwingli’s impact from Scotland to Hungary during the Reformation century” and “Zwingli’s theology,” particularly with regard to his work on the Lord's Supper.

Imre Révész Jr. (1889-1967)

Imre Révész Jr. completed his theological studies in Cluj-Napoca. He inherited – as the grandson of Imre Révész Sr. – the “family’s occupation” with Calvin. He was impressed also by the time spent in Mountau, France (1910-11) where he met the famous Calvin researcher, Professor Emil Doumergue. Shortly after his return he was appointed to the Department of Church History of the Reformed Theological Academy of Cluj-Napoca. In 1920 he went to Debrecen where he was a pastor first, and then served as a professor of theology, and in 1938 he became the bishop of Transtibiscan Reformed Church District.

For his church historian activities from 1935 he became a correspondent student, and from 1946 a regular member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. During his extensive historian work repeatedly returned to Calvin, to the history of Calvin’s Hungarian relations. He made an important service in the translation of Doumergue’s two works (Calvin’s character; Artistic emotion at Calvin and in Calvinism) into Hungarian. In his several small articles, he illuminated blurrier problems, for example in relation to Calvin’s and Peter Méliusz Juhász’s theological approach.



Máté Milisits

Translated by Katalin Soos

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