Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cipriano de Valera: A Spanish Reformer, Part 2

This is the second post in a series. Access prior posts below:

Apart from the Reina-Valera Bible (1602) and his one-volume work Two Treatises on the Pope and on the Mass (1588), it appears his third most popular work was A Treatise to Confirm the Captives of Barbary (1594). The short biography I found on Valera had this to say about it:

In 1594 he printed a treatise addressed to the Spanish prisoners in Berbery, among whom there had been an evangelical revival. Valera, wishing to strengthen their faith against Popery [Roman Catholicism] and Mahometanism [Islam], expounds to them the doctrine of the Bible, and also refers to the three œcumenical symbols. He exhorts them to show a model life to the heathens. And pray for Spain, he says at the end. (153).
During this time Spain was under constant threat both from the Ottoman Empire and from Barbary (or Berbery) Pirates. Some Spaniards had been captured by the Muslims and Valera heard of their plight. He wrote to them to encourage them in the midst of their current suffering at the hands of both the Papists and Islamists.

The three ecumenical symbols Valera refers to are the Apostles’ Creed (called simply “the Creed”), the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. This section of his letter deals with Trinitarian themes and he calls them to appropriate the faith as their own, unlike their enemies who simply state “we believe what the Church believes” without really knowing or holding to such doctrines.

As I looked for the reference about praying for Spain I became enamored with Valera’s writing. It reminds me of the language of Paul’s letters and Peter’s letters—due largely in part because it is dripping with Scripture. His language is both beautiful and surprisingly easy to translate. I’ve not found an English translation, so I translated it myself:

Pray for our Spain and principally for the king and for all those who have [charge over] the government of the republic, that God give them the grace to read and meditate on the Holy Scripture, without knowledge of which it is impossible for them (as by the same Scripture and by the ancient doctors we have already sufficiently covered) to do their duty, nor for their subjects to be well-governed in the true fear of God: pray also for me. …

I truly remember you in my prayers, asking the Father of mercies to add to your faith, give you patience in your afflictions and captivity, make you firm in the confession of His name, and enrich you with His spiritual gifts, so that when the Lord comes to judge the living and the dead He might find you as such, having made you as such, saying: Come, blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

To the one who, with the Father and with the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns eternally, be glory and honor forever. Amen.
[translation, paragraphing, and minor punctuation mine]

Had the Reformation caught on in Spain I have no doubt that we would be reading his writings just as much as those of Calvin, Luther, and others. It is my hope that as more Hispanics come to faith in Christ they will develop a holy curiosity about their faith heritage. As they study and learn, they will write and share. And who knows? Perhaps in our day we may see the English speaking peoples introduced to these forgotten Reformers who were willing to lose everything for the sake of gaining Jesus Christ, our Lord.

I have a longer section of the Valera’s treatise translated into English on sbcIMPACT!

Boehmer, Edward & Benjamin B. Wiffen. (1904). Bibliotheca Wiffeniana: Spanish Reformers of Two Centuries from 1520. Karl J. Trübner: Strassburg. Google Books. Digitized May 15, 2008.

Cipriano de Valera. (1854). Tratado para Confirmar en la Fe Cristiana a los Cautivos de Berbería. Reformistas Antiguos Españoles, Tomo VIII. I.R. Baroja. Google Books. Digitized Jul 3, 2008.

No comments: