Acta of the Synod of Dordt

Acta of the Synod of Dordt, by Donald Sinnema, Christian Moser, Herman J. Selderhuis (Ed.) has arrived for review from V&R.

978-3-525-55078-6Volume 1 includes the original Acta Authentica of the synod, here published for the first time. Following the Acta Authentica, the corresponding acts, as first published in the Acta Synodi Nationalis … Dordrechti Habitae (Leiden, 1620), are reprinted; these published Acta were a significantly revised version, for stylistic and political purposes, of the original Acta Authentica. Also included are the Acta Contracta, a topical summary of the Acta Authentica, and the minutes of the meetings of the state delegates, who represented the Dutch government at the synod; neither of these has been previously published. This volume begins with a general introduction to the Synod of Dordt and its context, an introduction to the Acta Authentica, the published Acta and Acta Contracta, and an introduction to the role of the state delegates and the minutes of their meetings.

These materials are indispensable primary sources and I’ve been very excited about the book since first hearing of it some time back.

This is the first volume of a projected multi-volume ( volumes to be exact) project, other volumes being released in the not too distant future. It contains

Introduction to the Synod of Dordt (1618–1619), by Herman J. Selderhuis;
Scope of Edition and Editorial Guidelines, by Christian Moser;
Introduction to the Acta Authentica, Acta Contracta and Printed Acta, by Donald Sinnema;
Introduction to the Acts and the Instructions of the Delegates of the States General, by Johanna Roelevink;
The Participants at the Synod of Dordt, by Fred van Lieburg;

and finally, Part One: The Acta of the Synod. The Acts are subdivided into the following segments:

I.1 Acta Authentica, by Donald Sinnema and Janika Bischof;
I.2 Acta Synodi Nationalis: First Printed Edition, by Donald Sinnema;
I.3 Acta Contracta, by Janika Bischof and Donald Sinnema;
I.4 Instructions for the Delegates of the States General, by Johanna Roelevink;
I.5 Acts of the Delegates of the States General, by Johanna Roelevink

Selderhuis et al commence as follows:

The series, Acta et Documenta Synodi Nationalis Dordrechtanae 1618–1619, is a nine-volume critical edition of all the documents of the Synod of Dordt. Besides the actual acts, covering more than six months of sessions, all the supporting documents produced by the synod, and contemporary reports about the synod, are being made available in their original languages – mostly Latin, since the synod was conducted in this language. Volume I of the series presents three versions of the acta of the synod – the original Acta Authentica, the printed Acta and the abbreviated Acta Contracta. Since the Acta as printed differs significantly from the Acta Authentica, the first edition of the printed Acta (Leiden 1620) is included in this volume for the sake of easy comparison with the original. Also included are the acts of meetings of the state delegates, who represented the States General (Dutch government) at the synod, and their instructions from their superiors.

This is, in short, just the beginning of a massive undertaking; but one critically important to students of Reformed theology. Indeed, what happened at Dordt was as important for Reformed Theology as what happened at Trent and Vatican II was for Roman Catholic theology.

The editors justify the effort as follows:

The need for this edition is apparent, since many important documents of the synod have been preserved only in manuscript in a number of European archives in the Netherlands, Switzerland, England and Germany. This includes the original Acta Authentica of the synod, as well as a variety of significant journals written by participants. Moreover, Dordt materials that have been published date mostly from the seventeenth century.

Following the very useful introductory chapters (which offer readers an exceedingly thorough historical introduction to both the Synod and the theological debates so critically carried out there), the Acts themselves are on display. Each section as listed previously contains a textual introduction –

Date: July–August 1619
Main source: AA: Utrecht OSA, O
Collated source: PA: Acta Synodi Nationalis … Dordrechti Habitae, Anno MDCXVIII et XIX, Post Dismissionem Theologorum Exterorum, vulgo Post-Acta (The Hague: Hillebrant van Wouw, 1668)

Summary: The Acta Authentica of the Synod of Dordt was the original Latin text of the acts of the synodical sessions, held in the city of Dordrecht from mid-November 1618 through May 1619. It includes the “Post-Acta” sessions, focusing on Dutch ecclesiastical matters (especially church order), which were held in May 1619, after the foreign theologians returned home. Few of the documents produced by the synod are incorporated into these acts. This original text, written in the hand of the synod secretary Festus Hommius, has never before been published, except for the “Post- Acta” sessions. The printed Acta, first published in Leiden in 1620 by the States General of the Netherlands, is a significantly revised version of the original Acta Authentica, and is printed separately in this volume (document no. I.2). However, the Latin “Post-Acta,” first published in 1668, follows the text of these sessions in the Acta Authentica, and has been compared, for textual variants, with the original text. Details concerning these texts can be found in the “Introduction to the Acta Authentica, Acta Contracta, and Printed Acta.”

Editors: Donald Sinnema and Janika Bischof

dordtEach deliberative session is then transcribed, in Latin (and Dutch for the final section), giving readers direct access to the proceedings. In today’s parlance, reading these transcriptions is almost as good as being there. These primary sources are precisely that: primary. They are first order materials for anyone working in the history of the Reformation. And they are here being made available in one convenient series for the first time in the history of the Church.


Viewers of various tv series’ are often on pins and needles awaiting the next season of their favorite show to ‘see what happens’. That same sentiment will cling to the minds of those who read this first volume. They will constantly wonder, ‘what happens next’ and ask ‘what’s next and when will it be out?’ ‘Where is volume two?’ will be emailed to the editors regularly, i think. I hope they don’t mind. I will be one of those mailers.

This is an exceptional project. If all Synods were so meticulously published we would know a great deal more than we do now about our Christian history.