The purpose of this blog is to translate Bernardinus De Moor’s Continuous Commentary on Johannes Marckius’ Didactico-Elenctic Compendium of Christian Theology (Commentarius Perpetuus in Johannes Marckii Compendium Theologiae Christianae Didactico-Elenchticum [1761- 1772]) from Latin into English. The translation work is being done by Dr. Steven Dilday. As each small, sectional unit is translated, it will be included as a new blog post. As each of the thirty-four major loci (that is, doctrinal topics) is completed, it will be published in print.
Reason for the Project:
Bernardinus de Moor was born on January 29, 1709. He studied at the great Dutch University of Leiden, which had been a center of Reformed scholarship from the time of its founding in 1575. Its faculty had included some prominent Reformed theologians, such as Franciscus Junius (1592-1602), Franciscus Gomarus (1594-1611), Antonius Walaeus (1619-1639), Johannes Hoornbeeck (1653-1666), and Herman Witsius (1698-1708), among others. De Moor attended at Leiden from 1726-1730, and had the opportunity to study under Johannes Wesselius (1712-1745), remembered for his Dissertationes academicæ, and Johannes à Marck (1689-1731). De Moor was especially attached to à Marck, and à Marck, shortly before his death, asked De Moor to continue his work, which he would indeed do.
After his time at Leiden, De Moor labored in the pastoral ministry at Ingen, Broek in Waterland, Zaandam, and Enkuizen. He was appointed as professor of theology at Franeker in 1744, but, before he was even able to deliver his inaugural address, he was appointed to succeed his former teacher, Johannes Wesselius, as professor of theology at Leiden, upon Wesselius’ death (1745); de Moor continued in this position for the rest of his life.
It seems that in his teaching method, De Moor honored the dying wish of his teacher and friend, Johannes à Marck. The substance of De Moor’s lectures survives in his massive Continuous Commentary on Johannes Marckius’ Didactico-Elenctic Compendium of Christian Theology (1761-1778; in seven volumes). As its title indicates, De Moor’s lectures were something of a running commentary upon the Compendium of à Marck, while also drawing upon and digesting the fruits of two centuries of Reformed theological thought. De Moor’s Commentary is a masterpiece.
The translation of De Moor’s Commentarius is certainly a massive undertaking. It raises the question: Why expend the effort?
The great Scottish divine William Cunningham said, “The English language, though it contains many valuable works on particular doctrines and on separate subjects in systematic theology, contains comparatively very few systems; i.e. very few works in which all the leading doctrines of Christianity are arranged in systematic order, proved from the word of God, and their connections and relations pointed out. Systems of theology have been chiefly the productions of Continental writers, and are to be found principally in the Latin language, —one fact among many others of a similar kind, which establishes the necessity of students of theology acquiring the capacity of reading Latin with perfect ease and readiness. Systematic theology, however, has been always a good deal studied by Scottish Presbyterians; and indeed Bishop Burnet alleges that the Presbyterian ministers of the era of the Restoration had for their principal learning an acquaintance with the systematic writers of the Continent…. Calvin, Turretine, Maestricht, Pictet, Marckius, and Witsius, are the authors who have been most generally studied in Scotland as writers on systematic theology; and there can be no doubt that the study of the writings of these men has tended greatly to promote correct and comprehensive views of the scheme of divine truth…. [T]he English language does not contain a great deal, comparatively speaking, that is of much value in the way of systems of theology” (Theological Lectures 39, 40).
“Correct and comprehensive views of the scheme of divine truth”, and all the means that foster such views (including these massive Continental Systems), are certainly to be coveted with a holy covetousness. Since “the capacity of reading Latin” is relatively rare among Ministers and students, and since this does not seem likely to change any time in the near future, it seems desirable to render these works into English. Calvin, Turretin, and Witsius are available in English, but Mastricht, Pictet, Marckius, and a great many more remain locked up in the Latin tongue. Since translation seems desirable, and yet a translator has limited time and strength, where would be the most economical and advantageous place to begin?
If there was a System, written relatively late in the period of Reformed Orthodoxy, which surveyed and summarized the preceding Systems, this would be valuable in and of itself, giving some knowledge of the others, and would be a springboard for other translation projects in the future. As it turns out, such a System does indeed exist. “[Bernardinus de Moor] wrote a commentary on à Marck’s dogmatic compendium…which represents the most comprehensive dogmatic text that was ever produced in the Netherlands. In this work of seven volumes (1761-1778), de Moor classified and combined material from the Reformed dogmatics produced by his predecessors at Utrecht and Leiden into a whole” (van Asselt, Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism 176).
May the Lord bless this work again, now in English-speaking lands, so that He might be glorified, and His people edified.
Supporting the Project:
Christian Reader, I hope that you will give serious attention to this plea for your help. It is important.
Biblical and Theological Archaeology
Long experience has taught me that not all of our Protestant heritage has made its way into the English language. Happily, the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and much of the superstructure, is readily available in English-speaking lands. However, there are gaps, and important material remains locked up in foreign languages, especially Latin. Ignorance concerning this material continues to be a source of contention and division, as the unhappy combatants strive in darkness.
This calls for a certain sort of Archaeological work: The resources of the past need to be mined, so that this missing material might be recovered for use in English-speaking lands of the present day. The loss has been in two principal areas: 1. the exegesis/interpretation of the Scripture; 2. the system of theology.
With respect to exegetical archaeology, Matthew Poole’s Latin Synopsis Criticorum (Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters) has been selected. Matthew Poole was a seventeenth century English Puritan, and his Synopsis is the fruit of ten years of unremitting labor. Poole’s goal was to produce a verse-by-verse history of interpretation, capturing all of the significant interpretive positions and their sources (ancient and medieval Rabbis, Church Fathers, Medieval Schoolmen, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Reformed, etc.). Having labored in the Synopsis for more than ten years, I am able to testify firsthand that there is much valuable material either rare or completely unavailable in English. The loss is tremendous; the work of recovery, important. The ascended Lord Jesus promised to provide faithful teachers in all ages to aid His people in the understanding and application of that Word (Ephesians 4:11-13). Poole’s Synopsis is a record of their teaching, a thing of surpassing value.
[Note: To illustrate the value of the Synopsis, it was a favorite exegetical resource of Philip and Matthew Henry; and Matthew Henry produced what is in all probability the most important and influential Bible Commentary in the English language: also, Jonathan Edwards, America’s greatest theologian and philosopher, preferred the Synopsis to all other Bible commentaries, and references it more heavily than all of the others combined.]
You can read more about the Synopsis, and see samples of the translation, at the Project’s website.
With respect to theological archaeology, Bernardinus De Moor’s Systematic Theology has been selected. De Moor was a mid-eighteenth century Dutch theologian. He was a Protestant, and fully orthodox; but he labored in the midst of the decline of the old Protestant orthodoxy. It was De Moor’s desire to summarize and preserve more than two centuries of Protestant thought, and his efforts produced his massive Compendium of Christian Theology (1761-1778; in seven volumes). De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology is a masterpiece, comprehensive in its breadth, and preserving material on subjects scarcely to be found anywhere in the English language.
You can see a further description of the project, and samples of the translation as you browse this website.
Making the Archaeology Accessible
Even in translation, Poole and De Moor are not easy reading; so efforts are being made to make this work as accessible as possible to all English-speaking Christians.
1. The books are heavily annotated to help the reader in points of potential difficulty.
2. As sections of the translations are completed, they are being posted in blog format, so that readers can study along with Poole and De Moor. Digestion is helped by the bite-sized portions.
3. Some of the most important, interesting, and rare portions of Poole and De Moor are being excised and published with introductory essays, to make the very best of these works readily accessible to the common reader (here).
4. Plans are in the works to make this literature available to Christians worldwide at little cost to the end-line user, a great blessing to impoverished Christians scattered around the globe.
Currently, I work as I am afforded time, an hour here, fifteen minutes there. It is on my heart (I believe that the Lord Himself has placed it there) to give myself to this work full-time. Working full-time, I think that both of these works can be completed in ten years or so, and be a positive spiritual influence for generations to come.
In order to make this dream a reality, I need help from the broader body of Christ, Christians that believe in this work. Please prayerfully consider contributing financially to this work (see Philippians 4:10-19). Of course, any sort of donation is welcome, 1. a one-time gift; or, 2. a regular monthly gift. Indeed, it is my hope that a financial backbone of regular monthly contributions might be built. If you are able to commit to at least $100/month, I will send you all of the new publications for free. Even working part-time, I anticipate publishing three books a year; if I am able to work full-time, the number will be closer to six. Even if you are not able to give $100/month, you will receive e-books of all publications, and as many of the print-books as finances will allow.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Donations can be made through Paypal here.
I am grateful for your time, and your prayerful consideration of these matters.
In Christ’s service,
Dr. Steven Dilday