2020-09-08

UU Minute #8

UU Minute #8: Miguel Serveto (Michael Servetus), part 2



Miguel Serveto – also known as Michael Servetus – wrote a book, On the Errors of the Trinity, published in 1531, the year he turned 22. He argued that Jesus’ human nature and Christ nature came into being at the same time – in other words, that the Son was not co-eternal with the Father.

Miguel Serveto was bright, and young, and cocky and he seems to have imagined that he would explain to his elders the errors of their thinking, and they would say “Oh, thank you. Yes, I see I was mistaken.” Instead, reaction was rather negative.

The Catholics were deeply invested in Trinitarian orthodoxy, as they had been ever since 325 and the Council of Nicaea. The Protestants weren’t AS invested in the Trinity, but what they were invested in was not having any more fights with the Catholics than they had to. Protestants were dealing with harsh backlash as it was – they didn’t want to also be tarred as anti-trinitarian – which in the minds of the authorities of the time meant, at best, being guilty of the Arian heresy, or, at worst, of abandoning Christianity and reverting to Judaism, as the case of Katarzyna Weiglowa seemed to confirm. So Protestants were actually more virulent than Catholics in denouncing Miguel Serveto and his book.

Serveto changed his name to Michel de Villaneuve, fled to Paris, then to Vienne, France, where he led a quiet life as an editor and a doctor of medicine for 22 years. Then the bug for theology got into him again, and in 1553 he published Restitution of Christianity. It was published anonymously – without identification of either the author or the publisher. But the authorities began digging, and soon deduced that the author of Restitution of Christianity, Michel de Villaneuve, Miguel Serveto, and the author of On the Errors of the Trinity, were all the same person.

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