Juan de Valdés

Juan de Valdés

Juan de Valdés (c. 1509-1541) was Spanish religious writer, younger of twin sons of Fernando de Valdés, hereditary "regidor" of Cuenca in Castile, was born about 1509 at Cuenca.

He has been confused with his twin-brother Alfonso (in the suite of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, at his coronation in Aachen, 1520; Latin secretary of state from 1524, died in 1532 at Vienna).

Juan, who probably studied at the university of Alcala, first appears as the anonymous author of a politico-religious "Diálogo de Mercurio y Caron", written and published about 1528. A passage in this work may have suggested Don Quixote's advice to Sancho Panza on appointment to his governorship. The "Dialogo" attacked the corruptions of the Roman Church; hence Valdés, in fear of the Spanish Inquisition, left Spain for Naples in 1530.

In 1531 he removed to Rome, where his criticisms of papal policy were condoned, since in his "Dialogo" he had upheld the validity of Henry VIII's marriage with Catherine of Aragon. On the January 12 1533 he writes from Bologna, in attendance upon Pope Clement VII From the autumn of 1533 he made Naples his permanent residence, his name being Italianized as Valdésso and Val d'Esso. Confusion with his brother may account for the statement (without evidence) of his appointment by Charles V as secretary to the viceroy at Naples, Don Pedro de Toledo; there is no proof of his holding any official position, though Curione (in 1544) writes of him as "cavalliere di Cesare." His house on the Chiaja was the centre of a literary and religious circle; his conversations and writings (circulated in manuscript) stimulated the desire for a spiritual reformation of the church.

His first production at Naples was a philological treatise, "Diálogo de la Lengua" (1535). His works entitle him to a foremost place among Spanish prose writers. His friends urged him to seek distinction as a humanist, but his bent was towards problems of Biblical interpretation in their bearing on the devout life. Vermigli (Peter Martyr) and Marcantonio Flaminio were leading spirits in his "coterie", which included the marchioness of Pescara Vittoria Colonna, (April, 1490 - a widower since 1525 - February 25, 1547, aged 57), since 1537, and her younger widower sister-in-law, Giulia Gonzaga, (1513 - marries 1526, aged 13 - a widower since 1529, aged 16 - April 16, 1566, aged 53).

His influence was great on Ochino, for whose sermons he furnished themes. Pietro Carnesecchi, (December 24, 1508 – October 1, 1567), burned by the Inquisition in 1567, who had known Valdés at Rome as "a modest and well-bred courtier," found him at Naples (1540) "wholly intent upon the study of Holy Scripture," translating portions into Spanish from Hebrew and Greek, with comments and introductions. To him Carnesecchi ascribes his own adoption of the Evangelical doctrine of justification by faith, and at the same time his rejection of the policy of the Lutheran schism. Valdés died at Naples in May 1541.

His death scattered his band of associates. Abandoning the hope of a regenerated Catholicism, Ochino and Vermigli left Italy. Some of Valdés's writings were by degrees published in Italian translations. Showing much originality and penetration, they combine a delicate vein of semi-mystical spirituality with the personal charm attributed to their author in all contemporary notices. Llorente traces in Valdés the influence of Tauler; any such influence must have been at second hand. The Aviso on the interpretation of Scripture, based on Tauler, was probably the work of Alfonso. Valdés was in relations with Fra Benedetto of Mantua, the anonymous author of "Del Benefizio di Gesii Cristo Crocefisso", revised by Flaminio (reprinted by Dr Babington, Cambridge, 1855).

The suggestion that Valdés was unsound on the Trinity was first made in 1567 by the Transylvanian bishop, Francis David; it has been adopted by Sand (1684), Wallace (1850) and other nontrinitarian writers, and is countenanced by Bayle. To this view some colour is given by isolated expressions in his writings, and by the subsequent course of Ochino (whose heterodox repute rests, however, on the insight with which he presented objections). Valdés never discusses the Trinity (even when commenting on Matt, xxviii. 19), reserving it (in his Latte Spirituale) as a topic for advanced Christians; yet he explicitly affirms the consubstantiality of the Son, whom he unites in doxologies with the Father and the Holy Spirit (Opusc. p. 145). Practical theology interested him more than speculative; his aim being the promotion of a healthy and personal piety.

The following is a list of his writings:

#"Diálogo de Mercurio y Caron" (no date or place; 1528?). An Italian translation by Nicolo Franco, Venice (no date); reprinted, Venice, 1545. Bound with the original (and with the translation) will usually be found a "Dialogo" by Alfonso de Valdés on the sack of Rome in 1527; this is also ascribed to Juan in the reprint, "Dos Diálogos" (1850).
#"Diálogo de la Lengua" (written, 1533; first printed, Madrid, 1737; reprinted, 1860, 1873).
#"Qual Maniera si devrebbe tenere a il jornare ... gli figliuoli de Christiani delle Cose delta Religione" (no date or place; before 1545, as it was used by the Italian translator of Calvin's catechism, 1545). No Spanish original is known.
#"Trataditos", Bonn, 1881, from a manuscript in the Palatine Library, Vienna; in Italian, / "Cinque Tratatelli Evangelici", Rome, 1545; reprinted, 1869; in English, by J. T. Betts, in XVII Opuscules, 1882.
#"Alfabeto Christiana" (written about 1537), in Italian, Venice, 1545; in English, by B. B. Wiffen, 1861; no Spanish original is known.
#"Ciento i Diez Consideraciones"; all copies of the original edition suppressed by the Spanish Inquisition; thirty-nine of the "Consideraciones", published with the "Trataditos", from a Vienna manuscript.
#"Seven Doctrinal Letters" (original published with the "Trataditos" from Vienna manuscript), in English, by J. T. Betts, with the Opuscules.
#"Comentario Breve ... sobre la Epistola de San Pablo a los Romanes", Venice, 1556 (with text; edited by Juan Perez de Pineda); reprinted, 1856; in English, by J. T. Betts, 1883.
#"Comentario Breve ... sobre la Primera Epistola de san Pablo a los Corintios", Venice, 1557.
#"El Evangelio de San Mateo" (text arid commentary), 1881, from Vienna manuscript; in English, by J.T. Betts, 1883.
#"El Saiterio" (the Psalms from Hebrew into Spanish), published with the Treta’Jitos from Vienna manuscript.
#"At Vienna" is an unpublished commentary in Spanish on Psalms i.-xli.
#Sand mentions a commentary on St John's Gospel, not known to exist.


Notices of Valdés in Sand (Biblloth. Antitrinitar, 1684), Bayle and Wallace (Antitrin. Biog., 1850) are inadequate. Revival of interest in him is due to

*Thomas McCrie (Hist. Ref. in Italy, 1827; Hist. Ref. in Spain, 1829).

Fuller knowledge of his career was opened up by Benjamin B. Wiffen, whose Life of Valdés is prefixed to Betts's translation of the "Considerations", 1865. Discoveries have since been made in the Aulic Library, Vienna, by Edward Boehmer; cf.

*his "Span. Reformers of Two Centuries" (1874),
*his Lives of J. and A. de Valdés (1882)
*his article in, "Realencyklopedie fur prot. Theol. und Kirche" (1885).

See also
*M. Young, "Aonio Palearso" (1860)
*K. Benrath, "Bernardino Ochino" (1875;)
*Menendez Pelayo, "Los Heterodoxos Españoles" (1880)
*G. Bonet-Maury, "Early Sources of Eng. Unit. Christ." (trans. E. P. Hall, 1884).


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