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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Ital. Valdesso), Alfonso and Juan de were twin brothers from the town of Cuenca, in Castile, and born about A.D. 1500 who in their early years became attached to the Castilian court, and, at a later day, sustained relations of some practical importance towards the Reformers of the 16th century and their work.
1. ALFONSO accompanied the court, in 1520, to the coronation of the emperor Charles V at Aix-la-Chapelle, and thence to Worms. From the latter town he wrote letters to friends in Spain in which he deprecated the course which the pope had adopted towards Luther., He had just witnessed the burning of Luther's writings at Worms when he wrote. In 1524 Alfonso was an imperial secretary of state under the grand chancellor Gattinara; and in 1527 he began an epistolary correspondence with Erasmus, the great humanist, whose writings had shortly before been committed to the flames in Spain, and in whose defense he had been a most ardent advocate, as against the fanatical mob of excited monks. In the same year (1527) occurred the storming of Rome and the capture of the pope by the imperial army under the constable Bourbon; and on this event Valdes composed a dialogue intended to set forth the sentiment of the court respecting the case. The emperor could not deny his responsibility for the catastrophe, and his secretary accordingly proceeded to show that the pope himself had brought about the devastation of his capital by warlike agitations and disregard of the sanctity of his own word, and also by his refusal to be guided by the warning counsels of judicious friends or by the indications of Providence. This composition excited considerable interest, and led the papal nuncio Castiglione to lodge a complaint against its author with the emperor; but Valdes was safe under the protection of the chancellor, and suffered no harm.
In 1530 Valdes was present with the court at the Diet of Augsburg. The bearers of the famous Protest were recommended to him, among others, and found him inclined to promote harmony and friendliness above any of his associates. He met with Melancthon and discussed the religious situation, and was unwearied in the work of judicious mediation between the heads of the contending parties. After the public reading of the Confession he prepared a translation for the emperor's use (see Campeggio, in Liammer, Monum. Vatic. p. 45); and afterwards he labored zealously to furnish him with the fullest information which the Protestants could supply in behalf of their cause. He has, nevertheless, been suspected of hostility to the Reformation because he judged that the Confession was written in too harsh a tone, and yet more because he wrote the emperor's letter of congratulation to the Romish Switzers (Brussels, Oct. 1531) on the occasion of their victory at Cappel over the Zwinglians; but, on the other hand, the nuncio Aleander complains (ibid. Dec. 30, 1531) that certain persons at court are practically in sympathy with Lutier and desirous that his cause should succeed; and that they laud Erasmus to the skies only because they are not allowed to speak their thoughts respecting Luther. Among these courtiers Valdes was unquestionably the first. It would seem, however, that Valdes left the court in 1531, though he remained in the imperial service as late as 1533. He never returned to Spain, possibly because he could not be there in safety. Francisco Enzinas (q.v.) wrote to Melancthon in 1545, "If the excellent Alfonso Valdes had returned to Spain, even the emperor would have been unable to save him from the death which the monks, the satellites of the holy fathers, were preparing for him on account of his doctrina and auctoritas." The time and place of his death are thus far wholly unknown.
On Alfonso Valdes, see Raumer, Gesch. Europa's seit d. 15. Jahrh. 1, 264; Documn. Inedit. para la ltist. de Espana, vol. 24; Muller, Hist. von d. Protestation u. Appellation, etc. (Jena, 1705), p. 18-190; Saubert, Wunderwerc d. Augspurg. Confession (Nuremb, 1631), p. 220, etc.; Jonas, in Niedner's Zeitschrift, 1861, p. 630; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.
2. JUAN (1) was, physically and intellectually, strikingly like his twin brother Alfonso; and, like him, he first came before the public with a dialogue, published anonymously and, at the same time, as his brother's production-probably in 1529. His piece was entitled A Dialogue between Mercury and. Charon. It begins with the narration by Mercury of the emperor's attempt to settle his quarrel with king Francis of France by a duel (see La Fuente, Hist. de Espana, 12:497 sq.); but the narration is repeatedly interrupted by; the introduction of newly deceased persons, who enter into the conversation, and through whom the whole obtains a political and religious character. The general corruption of the Church is censured. The ignorance and immorality of the clergy and the superstition of the people are plainly characterized, and the Scriptures and the grace of God are extolled above the adoration of relics and the Virgin Mary. To use of force as a means of conversion is condemned. Part second of the work is chiefly political, and is sort of Anti-Machiavel. The whole reveals the simplicity of a truly noble mind and the tact of a courtier. In 1531 Juan was at Rome, having come thither from Naples, and-was engaged in the study of natural history. He planned a collection of Spanish proverbs, and wrote a Didlogo de la Lengua (2nd ed. Madrid, 1860), which is highly commended by writers on the literature of Spain. His chief interest, however, centered in religious reform.
For it he labored incessantly with tongue and pen, and in its interest he became the center of an association of Christians who endeavored to lay the foundations of an independent kingdom of God without directly assaulting the Church of the State. In 1536 the emperor issued an edict at Naples which forbade association with persons infected with or suspected of the Lutheran heresy, under pain of death and the confiscation of property. After the emperor's departure, March 22, the viceroy forbade the preaching of Ochino (q.v.), though he was afterwards induced to permit its continuation to the end of Lent. But during this same Lenten period Valdes had a conversation with Giulia Golzaga, the childless widow of Vespasian Colonna, duke of Traietto; who had been powerfully awakened under the preaching of Ochino; and he had the courage to commit the substance of their conversation to paper, under the title Alfabeto Christiano (1st ed. in Italian [Venice, 1546; 2nd ed. Italian, English, and Spanish [Lond. 1860 sq.], consisting of only 150 copies for private distribution). In this dialogue he teaches that the law shows what we are to do, while the Gospel gives the Spirit by which to do it. He insists that the soul must choose, between God and the world, and declares that persons whose outward life is entirely correct may need a reformation of the inward feelings and dispositions. Christian perfection consists in loving God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves. Monks and non-monks have only so much of Christian perfection as they have of faith and love to God. As the fire cannot refrain from giving forth heat, so faith cannot avoid the performing of works of love.. The soul may have full assurance of the forgiveness of sins and of salvation in Christ. The evil of sin requires a radical cure, applied at the seat of the disease, and cannot be overcome by any mere surface remedy. Giulia insists, however, power rules by which to regulate the use of institutions of the Church, and Valdes responds that benefit may be derived from the adoration of the sacrament, from the reading of the Epistles and Gospels, and from the prayers in the mass; that masses ought to be heard except when they would interrupt works of charity; that the preaching of the Word should be humbly received. He discountenances the repetition of a given number of psalms and paternosters. Of confession he says that God does not forgive sins because of the confession, but because the sinner believes in Christ. The result was that Giulia entered the Franciscan convent of Santa Chiara, though she did not take the vows of the order nor exclude herself wholly from society.
It was perhaps in the same year (1536) that Valdes dedicated to the duchess Gonzaga his version of the Psalms, after the Hebrew (a work never published and now lost), and in the following year The Epistle to the Romans and The First Epistle to the Corinthians (1st ed. Geneva, 1556 sq.; 2nd ed. 1856), which works reveal faithful research and sincere modesty in the author, and possess both scientific and practical value. Other works by Valdes have, almost without exception, been lost to posterity, the exception being. Consideraziones Divirnas an Italian edition of which appeared in 1550 at Basle, and translations of which were made into Spanish, French, English, and Dutch during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Juan Valdes was a theologian of the first rank in ability, though largely self- trained, and though whenever entered into orders. Sand, the editor of the Bibliotheca Aintitrinitarioium (1684), places him at the head of his catalogue oil the authority of a passage in a Unitarian publication of 1567, said to be cited from Valdes, but which certainly does not prove the charge of antitrinitarianism; aid very different sentiments are expressed by Valdes in the Alfabeto Christ. p. 37, and the Commentary on First Corinthians, p. 281, etc. In his Consideraziones, No. 109, he confesses that the relation existing between the Father and the Son exceeds his comprehension. In personal intercourse Valdes possessed extraordinary influence, especially among the nobles, with whom his rank brought him into contact. His manners were polished, his conversation attractive, his entire bearing full of charm. Assisted by Peter Martyr (Vermigli) of Florence, the Augustinian abbot of St. Peter ad Aram at Naples, and by Ochino and others, he was able to beget such enthusiasm for the study of the Bible that a contemporary Neapolitan writer states that certain tanners were in the constant habit of discussing the Pauline epistles and their most difficult passages. Among his friends were also the poet Flaminio and the Reformer Pietro Carnesecchi (q.v.). Valdes died in 1540 or 1541.
See Bohmer, Cenni Biografici sui Fratelli Giovanni e Alfonso di Valdesso, 1861, in the appendix to his edition of the Consideraziones; and id. in Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Valdes'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/v/valdes.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.