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Franciscus Junius
About the Junius Institute
© HAB Wolfenbüttel <portrait/a-10770>

Franciscus Junius (1545-1602) is a significant figure in the development of Reformed theology in the era of early Reformed orthodoxy. Junius studied under John Calvin in Geneva, pastoring churches throughout Europe and serving on the theological faculties of two of the most important academies of the time, Heidelberg and Leiden. Junius was an accomplished exegete, linguist, and theologian. A selection of his theological writings were collected and published in 1882 as the first volume in the Bibliotheca Reformata series edited by Abraham Kuyper. Citing his wide influence, as “Junius taught everywhere,” Kuyper found it fitting to introduce the series, intended to reintroduce the works of major Reformed theologians to the church and academy, with Junius.

A Brief Overview of Junius’ Life
By Todd M. Rester, Director of the Junius Institute
(Extracted from the translator’s introduction to F. Junius, “Selection from On the Observation of the Mosaic Polity”)

François du Jon (1545–1602), Latinized as Franciscus Junius, was a significant Reformed Protestant voice in the era of late sixteenth-century confessionalization. He is perhaps best known as a professor of theology at Leiden University from 1592–1602. Junius was born in Bourges, France, into a family of minor nobility with all of the attendant social and educational advantages of one of such rank. At the age of twelve, Junius matriculated at the academy of Bourges and studied law under the Huguenot jurist, François Douaren (1509–1559) who is recognized as a major voice in articulating the mos gallicus school of applying the fruits of Italian humanism to the legal code of Justinian. Junius also studied under the renowned French humanist, Huguenot, and jurist Hugues Doneau (1527–1591). Doneau, or Latinized Hugo Donellus, was perhaps best known for his application of French humanism to a study of Justinian’s Corpus Iuris Civilis, specifically the Digesta. Junius would imbibe of these studies deeply, and the maturation of these studies is evidenced in the marginalia and citations of the classical Greco-Roman legal tradition in his various works.

With the Franco-Ottoman alliance beginning in 1536 against the Holy Roman Empire and by extension various allied city-states in Italy, there were frequent French diplomatic envoys crossing from Toulon to Istanbul. In 1560, due to his facility in Greek and law, Junius secured a diplomatic position as an aide to the French ambassador to the court of Suleiman I (1494–1567). Junius, however, did not journey to Constantinople because he literally missed the boat, or rather the entourage that departed from Lyon heading to the Mediterranean coast for passage to Constantinople. For the next two years, he lived instead in Lyons studying and attending lectures on the Greek and Roman classics.

Shortly thereafter, Junius decided to enter the French Reformed Church, and just shy of his seventeenth birthday, in the midst of the Huguenot wars in France, Junius arrived in Geneva on March 17, 1562, to study under Calvin and Beza. Although of noble birth, his income was severed due to the revolt in France as well as to the murder of his Protestant father, reducing him to the severest poverty while he studied for three years. In April of 1565 and almost twenty years of age, he accepted a call to pastor a Walloon church in Antwerp, Belgium.

It was during this period in Antwerp that Junius took part in shepherding the Belgic Confession through the ecclesiastical channels in the Reformed church for formal recognition at the Synod of Antwerp. Although prepared in 1561 primarily by Guido de Bres with the assistance of H. Modestus and G. Wingen, Junius was tasked with a slight modification and abridgment of Article 16 of the Belgic Confession. Junius also played an active role in distributing copies of the Belgic Confession to Geneva and other Reformed churches for feedback and for reaching a broader consensus. In 1566, the Synod of Antwerp was the first synodical body to adopt the Belgic Confession, followed by the Synod of Wesel (1568), and the Synod of Emden (1571).

In early 1566, King Philip II of Spain allowed the inquisition to come to the Netherlands. Throughout the Netherlands, there was a general uproar that resulted in iconoclastic excess, of which Junius did not take part or encourage. There is a famous period picture of unknown authorship of Junius preaching at night to his Antwerp congregation in a room lit through the windows by the fires of Walloon Protestant martyrs in the public square. Junius also made his political voice known in a published appeal to the King of Spain on behalf of the Walloon churches that was printed in French (1565) as well as in German (1566). One of the accords William of Orange reached with Philip II of Spain on September 2, 1566, only protected ministers and preachers who were natives of the Low Countries. As a result, Junius fled to Limburg. Still exposed to threats from Roman Catholics and Anabaptists, he fled again to Heidelberg. The year 1568 places Junius in Heidelberg. Following a brief tenure as pastor of a Reformed Church at Schonau, and an even briefer stint as a chaplain in a failed military campaign to the Netherlands, Junius returned to his pastorate at Schonau until 1573.

The period from 1573 to 1578 was marked by an extraordinary contribution to Reformed biblical studies in the period of Reformed Protestant orthodoxy. In one edition or another, the Tremellius-Junius translation of the Bible shaped Protestant—and especially Reformed—theology and dogmatics well into the late eighteenth century. During this period, Junius was partner to a distinctively Reformed Protestant translation of the Scriptures from the original languages into Latin. He embarked on this work with famed Hebraist, Giovanni Emmanuele Tremellio (1510–1580), or Tremellius. Tremellius was an Italian-Jewish scholar and graduate from the humanist bastion of the University of Padua, a convert to Roman Catholicism (1540) and then to Protestantism (1541). Tremellius was also imprisoned briefly for a period in the 1550s as a Calvinist. As a Hebrew professor, Tremellius’ career took him to academies and universities at Strasbourg (1541–1549), Cambridge (1549–1553), Heidelberg (1561–1577), and then Sedan (1577–1580). Both of these scholars were skilled in Hebrew, Aramaic, and its cognates of Syriac and Chaldee, as well as Arabic, Greek, and Latin. The first edition of the Tremellius-Junius Bible appeared in 1579 and enjoyed three further recensions by Junius (1581, 1593, 1602), with the most popular recensions being the second (1581) and the fourth (1602). The Tremellius-Junius Bible was published in Frankfurt, Amsterdam, London, Geneva, Hanover, and Zürich with over thirty-three different printings between 1579 to 1764. The Tremellius-Junius translation of the Old Testament was frequently paired as well with Theodore Beza’s Latin translation of the New Testament.

In 1576 upon the death of Frederick III, Elector of the Palatinate and staunch adherent of Reformed Protestantism, he was succeeded by his Lutheran son, Louis VI. Under the tenet of cuius regio, eius religio (whoever’s region, that one’s religion), Heidelberg became Lutheran again. The Reformed faculty and students who refused to sign the Formula of Concord (1577) were driven out of the University of Heidelberg in 1577. Over the discord from the Formula of Concord, in approximately 1578–1579 Johann Casimir von Pfalz-Simmern (1543–1592), Frederick III’s brother and also an ally of the Reformed, founded the Casmirianum Collegium (1579–1583) at Neustadt. Junius was among the faculty at the newly formed and short-lived college with one of the primary authors of the Heidelberg Catechism, Zacharias Ursinus (1534–1583), who had become a friend beginning in his days in Heidelberg. Junius would later deliver the funeral oration upon Ursinus’ death in Neustadt. It was very likely during this period at Neustadt in his lectures on the Psalms that Junius would first articulate his hermeneutical method for interpreting the psalms as well as his distinctive understanding of foedus, pactum, and testamentum articulated in his commentaries on Genesis as well as his theological theses. In 1583 upon Louis VI’s death, Casimir became regent for his young nephew and future elector, Frederick IV, and thus Heidelberg crossed from Lutheran hands into Reformed hands once again. At this time, after Ursinus’ death, Junius was invited back as professor of theology to Heidelberg, a post he would hold until the late 1580s. While here, Junius’ engaged in the writing of biblical commentaries, political tracts and letters, and theological theses for his students’ practice disputations. One of his most significant contributions from this period is his work Sacrorum Parallelorum (3d ed., 1588), which was a comparison, correlation, and commentary on all the Old Testament passages in the New Testament.

At some point in the late 1580s through early 1592, Junius was involved in diplomatic conversations and missions for the duke of Bouillon in France and Germany at the close of the Huguenot wars and in personal conversation with Henry IV of Navarre, king of France. It was during this time that the curators of the University of Leiden persistently beseeched Junius to consider a professorship in theology at the University of Leiden. In early 1592, Junius accepted the position of professor primarius.

While at Leiden, Junius authored the work before us now as well as a significant work on theological prolegomena, De Vera Theologia. The content of De Vera Theologia became a cornerstone of Reformed, scholastic theology, surviving well into late nineteenth-century Reformed theologians such as Herman Bavinck. Themes and hints of the De Vera Theologia even found their way into such seventeenth-century Lutheran scholastics as Andreas Quenstedt and Johannes Gerhard’s Loci Communes. In this work, Junius not only outlines the archetypal/ectypal relationship as the basis for understanding the Creator/creature distinction but also for understanding theology and the necessity of Scripture for human beings fallen in sin, but striving as pilgrims or wayfarers for the blessed visio Dei. This work first appears in print in Leiden in 1594, two years after he employs the archetypal/ectypal understanding of the Creator/creature distinction in explaining natural law and its relationship to the Mosaic polity.

In 1602 upon his death, it was Junius’ chair of theology (and house on the Rapenburg in Leiden together with most of the furniture) that Jacobus Arminius filled after Junius’ death in the plague that struck Leiden. No less than the world-renowned historian and humanist Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540–1609) composed these words upon Junius’ death for the bereaved Leiden university community:

You, O mourning school, weep for your teacher!
You, O bereft Church, your parent!
Your doctor, O whole wide world, lament!

Further Information on Franciscus Junius