Who is Bernardinus de Moor? and why Translate his Commentarius? (Part 2)


            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.”[1]

“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 being?

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.”[2]  “The Commentary gives an all-round description of theology….  The Commentary has the character of an extensive and comprehensive handbook for theology….  [T]he primary task was to lend an overview of the clearest expositions for each theological topic.”[3]

May the Lord bless this work again, now in English-speaking lands, so that He might be glorified, and His people edified.

[1] Theological Lectures (New York:  Robert Carter and Brothers, 1878), 39, 40.

[2] Willem J. van Asselt, Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism (Grand Rapids:  Reformation Heritage Books, 2011), 176.

[3] J. Martin Bac, “Clear and Distinct Freedom:  A Compendium of Bernardinus de Moor (1709-1780) in a Cartesian Context,” Reformed Thought on Freedom, eds. Willem J. van Asselt, J. Martin Bac, and Roelf T. te Velde (Grand Rapids:  Baker Academic, 2010), 202.

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