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Reviewed by:
  • Le Passavant
  • Jeffrey Mallinson
Théodore de Bèze . Le Passavant. Ed. and trans. J. L. R. Ledegang-Keegstra. Brill' s Series in Church History 22. Leiden and Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2004. xxii + 409 pp. index. illus. bibl. $133. ISBN: 90–04–13805–6.

Ledegang-Keegstra takes a refreshingly interdisciplinary approach to Théodore de Bèze's Passavant (1553), an imaginary report from a Roman Catholic spy in Geneva to the real Pierre Lizet, author of Adversum Pseudo-Evangelistas (1551), president of the Parliament of Paris, and later Abbot of St. Victor. Many previous studies on de Bèze and editions of his work have been too specialized to do justice to the multifaceted reformer. This edition of the Passavant seamlessly integrates theological, historical, and literary aspects of de Bèze's early evangelical agenda. Through introduction and commentary, Ledegang-Keegstra highlights de Bèze's literary conventions, provides historical context, and explains how these serve three evangelical themes: Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Sola Scriptura.

The eight introductory chapters of this volume could constitute a monograph on their own. They reveal the origins of the Passavant, provide biographical background on Pierre Lizet, explain the role of macaronic Latin in assailing the papacy, and connect de Bèze to prominent humanists of his day. Ledegang-Keegstra uses her primary text to illustrate "le veine satirique des réformateurs" (33), without obscuring the original theological message.

In chapter 8, Ledegang-Keegstra traces the history of the Passavant's several editions and reproduces each sixteenth-century frontispiece. Though this chapter mentions Liseux's 1875 critical edition and French translation, Ledegang-Keegstra does not address why her similar work on this relatively obscure text is necessary. However, she rightly connects her approach to that of the excellent Genevan edition of de Bèze's Correspondance. Perhaps the implied justification for her volume is that it contains a better critical edition than anything yet produced. Granted, her critical work is superior, and the new French translation is lucid. Nonetheless, these advantages alone do not explain why a facsimile of the 1875 edition would not have sufficed. While unstated, the real justification for her volume involves the quality of the introduction and commentary, since it is in these two places that she clarifies the connection between de Bèze's literary technique and the theological program it serves.

With Ledegang-Keegstra's help, the text of the Passavant itself reveals several underemphasized aspects of John Calvin's successor. For instance, one sees not only a reliance on but also a deep appreciation for humanist sources. The editor frequently highlights parallels between de Bèze's language and that of Rabelais, Erasmus, Viret, and Von Hutten. Apparently, de Bèze not only carries over humanist techniques, but maintains much of the French humanist ethos. In addition to his appreciation for edgy satire, de Bèze's perspective on sixteenth-century Genevan culture suggests a less austere environment than some caricatures would lead us to believe.

Moreover, the Passavant's lively literary attack on medieval scholasticism provides a valuable complement to de Bèze's later neo-scholastic work. De Bèze [End Page 630] routinely connects Lizet's deficiency in classical languages with an inability to handle biblical texts. Attacking his opponent's reliance on medieval scholastic sources, de Bèze accuses him of wallowing like a pig in that "most foul latrine which is the library of Saint Victor" (208). This sort of attack is coupled with playful macaronic neologisms like naseitudinem.

After the Passavant commentary, one finds an introduction to and text of the Complainte de messier Lizet sur le trespas de son feu nez, which was attached to the 1584 edition of the Passavant. Ledegang-Keegstra provides good reasons to attri-bute paternity of the Complainte to de Bèze. Set to verse, these 123 lines parody a serious classical genre and lament the "death" of Lizet's nose, perhaps as a result of syphilis (366). Since the vernacular text is concise but full of allusions, the extensive footnotes are valuable. The subsequent bibliography and two indexes are useful, despite the omission of some of the most important names...


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pp. 630-631
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Archived 2009
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