Jerome Zanchi (1516–90) and the Analysis of Reformed Scholastic Christology

9783525551042A new volume from V&R which the good folk there have been kind enough to send along for review.

This is a study of the Christology of Jerome Zanchi (1516–90). Scholars have examined aspects of his theology, but no one has treated his Christology at any length. Filling this gap in the study of reformed scholastic theology in general and Christology in particular, Lindholm has adopted a method that is somewhat atypical for reformation studies. This is not primarily a work in church history, historical or systematic theology, although it draws on and should be of interest to practitioners of these disciplines. Primarily, it is a work of philosophy of religion or what is sometimes called philosophical theology. Philosophical theology analyses theological concepts in their particularity, rooted in various religious traditions.

But a mere historical study will not deliver a proper understanding of Zanchi’s ideas (no more than a historically uninformed philosophical analysis will). Lindholm tries to show that a philosophical engagement with Zanchi brings greater understanding of his Christology. Moreover, this study does not stop at the level of explication: it also critically evaluates the findings. The text as a whole is bound together by doctrinal topics, themes and trajectories important to the 16th century Christological debates as well as by philosophical issues and arguments.

Stefan is a fine scholar.  Consequently, you can expect this to be a fine study. Read the front matter here.  Here is how Lindholm describes his project:

This is a study of the Christology of Jerome Zanchi (1516–90), a leading 16th century reformed scholastic theologian. Scholars have examined aspects of his theology, but no one has treated his Christology at any length. Filling this gap in the study of reformed scholastic theology in general and Christology in particular, I have adopted a method that is somewhat atypical for reformation studies. This is not primarily a work in church history, historical or systematic theology, although it draws on and should be of interest to practitioners of these disciplines. Primarily, it is a work of philosophy of religion or what is sometimes called philosophical theology.

A little further on, after delineating the contents of the study, L. writes

I will look at two scholastic arguments in Chemnitz for multilocation and reconstruct a possible Zanchian response to them.

From my point of view, this is the most interesting aspect of the book.  Here L. actually assumes the persona of Zanchi and argues with one of his contemporaries – a mightily influential one at that – about the ‘location’ of the Risen Lord.  The segment of the volume in which this occurs is stunning in its execution.

Before L. gets there, though, he has a number of details to address including the historical and philosophical contexts of Zanchi’s work.  He next moves to a very philosophically oriented discussion and investigation of the hypostatic union.  This part of the work will be extremely useful to students of the history of Christian philosophy.

The volume concludes with the previously mentioned scholastic arguments of Chemnitz and the rejoinder which Zanchi may well have offered.  In particular L. remarks

A Zanchian response should major on the claim that bodies are in place per se (due to their quantitative dimensions as material beings). If this claim is defensible, it constitutes a challenge to both of Chemnitz’ arguments. The Biel argument starts from the premise that it is natural though not necessary – in some stricter sense than natural necessity – for a corporeal nature to be in place whereas the Durandus-argument takes a step further, saying that single location is a non-essential attribute of bodies. The Biel-argument is content to say that there is some strong tendency or capacity in the human nature to be in one place but that this tendency might be overridden by divine omnipotence. It is possible that the scholastic notion of obediental potency (potentia obedientiae) is in the background here. The second premise in both arguments appeals to divine omnipotence saying that divine omnipotence is not bound by natural tendencies or that there is any contradiction for omnipotence to intervene in a substance’s accidental properties, such as place.

If that makes scant sense it’s because L.’s argument and the delivery of that argument are so tightly interwoven that the many pages preceding this observation are required to be well in mind for it to be comprehended.  This, then, isn’t the sort of volume that one can pick up and ignore the first chapter or the third and skip from one section to the other.  It is meant to be, and has to be, read in sequence as the author intended.  Elsewise, the structure will not be seen in its grandeur and beauty.

This is a niche work.  It will appeal to those who have an interest in the intersection of theology and philosophy.  It will not, however, be of interest to exegetes or biblical scholars.  It is far too focused on the intricacies of philosophy to find the time or space to turn its attention to the particularities of Scripture- the basis and foundation of all theology- whether biblical or philosophical.

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