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John Cheke's Preface to De Superstitione

  • John F. McDiarmid
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Grants from the Southwest Florida Branch of The English speaking Union, from the American Philosophical society and from the University of South Florida made possible the research upon which this article is based.

1 The unique copy of the preface and translation is Oxford, University College MS 171, deposited in the Bodleian Library. The preface is dated 30 Dec. [no year]. The Latin text has never been printed. An English translation of the preface byElstob, William was appended to Strype's, JohnThe life of the learned Sir John Cheke, London 1705. Longer Latin citations have been reserved for the notes except when Cheke's Latin style is under discussion. Abbreviations have been expanded throughout.

2 Leland, John, Principum ac illustrium aliquot & erudilorum in Anglia virorum, encomia, London 1589 (RSTC 15447), 106f;Ascham, Roger, English works, ed. Wright, William Aldis, Cambridge 1904, 297, cf., for example, pp. 268, 284, 298–301; Milton, sonnet xi(1646).

3 The best source for the life of Cheke is Needham, Paul, ‘Sir John Cheke at Cambridge and court’, unpubl. PhD diss. Harvard 1971. Also useful is Nathan, Walter Ludwig, Sir John Cheke und der englische Humanismus, Bonn 1928.

4 D. Ioannis Chrysostomi homiliae duae, London 1543 (RSTC 14634); D. Ioannis Chrysostomi de providentia Dei, acfato, orationes sex, London 1545 (RSTC 14630; on the likelihood that the Greek original is mistakenly attributed to Chrysostom, see PGL 750). Cheke also dedicated to Henry, Leonis imperatoris de bellico apparatu liber (preface dated 5 04. 1544; printed Basel 1554). This is a translation of a military treatise by the Byzantine emperor, Leo vi. See Needham, , ‘John Cheke’, 160–3 and nn., on this work and on the authorship of the Greek original.

5 Beati Maximi σκμτικς summa Christianae vitae, BL, MSRoyal, 16 C. ix, pp. 169 (dated 31 12).

6 ‘religionis… duae partes sint, quarum vna in scientia inuestigatione ponitur, & in diligenti indagatione earum rerum quae Deo gratae complacitaeque sunt: altera in actione versatur quae id, quod Deo probari intelligit, vita, factisque persequitur’: preface, P.3.

7 Ibid. 14–18. Cheke says ‘simulatio’ may be called ‘arrogantia vel tumor scientiae’; its practitioners claim to know and teach others everything when in fact they know nothing: pp. 17–18. For comparable descriptions applied to scholastic theologians, cf. Erasmus, , The praise of folly (1511), in The essential Erasmus, trans Dolan, John P., New York 1964, 143ff.; Luther, , In epistolam… ad Galatas commenlarius (1535), in D. Martin Lulhers Werke, xl–1, Weimar 1911, 225.

8 ‘ad id explendum se adiungit, quod…Deo acceptum intelligit’: preface, p. 14.

9 ‘qui… nee palam se obijciunt pietati nee simulationem pietatis sed errorem habent & contendunt placere Deo quibus ille coli non vult, & rebus non timendis timere venerarique illum student, qui quasi zelum quendam habent sed a scientia & sanctitate alienum… hij δεισιδαίμονες esse dicuntur, latini superstitiosos nominant’: ibid. 23. The ᾰθεοι and hypocrites are described on pp. 21–3.

10 ‘nullam… similitudine propinquiorem, reipsa autem remotiorem distinctiorernque a religione quam superstitio est’: ibid. 27.

11 ‘Quoniam de nomine controuersia esse possit, cum de re sit consensio et melius intelligitur quod quaeritur si varietas ambiguitatis tollatur, prius de nomine dicam, turn de re’: ibid. 27–8.

12 Ibid. 30–2.

13 ‘Scriptura interdum timoris nomine vniuersam religionem piumque cultum Dei comprehendit, vt nihil religionis nomine significetur, quod non timoris quoque nomine complectatur’: ibid. 33–.

14 Ibid. 37–8.

15 ‘vel…quod res omnino eijciendae atque exterminandae ad colendum venerandumque Deum adhibentur, vel mediocres minutaeque res maiori quam par est in honore pretioque collocantur, vel alio quam oportet & institutae sunt, flectuntur atque torquentur’: ibid. 42.

16 Near the bottom of p. 58, the last before the hiatus, Cheke ends the discussion of the things to be ejected from worship, then begins a sentence that would have carried over to the next page: ‘Sequitur vt δποηγμνα pertractentur, quae sunt res natura…’ (‘It follows that the things going before be treated, which are things in nature…’). On p. 75, the first after the hiatus, Cheke includes what are evidently summaries of discussions of all three main categories of the ‘materia’ of superstition (see p. 118 below). The summary sentences having to do with the second category speak of the need to establish ‘diuersarum…naturarum distinctio’, apparently harking back to references to ‘natura’ in the discussion of the second category which the sentence at the bottom of p. 58 initiated.

17 De ecclesia is unfinished and has never been printed; it survives in BL, MS Harl, . 417, fos 179205. The manuscript is undated but almost certainly belongs to the years of Cheke's exile under Mary: Needham, , ‘John Cheke’, 378 and n. 43. On the first page the heading is ‘An ecclesia possit errare’. On scholastic exposition see AnthonyKenny, and Pinborg, Jan, ‘Medieval philosophical literature’, in Kretzmann, Norman and others (eds), The Cambridge history of later medieval philosophy, Cambridge 1982, 26, 31;Lawn, Brian, The rise and decline of the scholastic ‘quaestio disputata’, Leiden 1993, 617;Bougerol, J. Guy, Introduction to the works of St Bonaventure, trans. Vinck, Jose de, Paterson, NJ 1964, 5774.

18 Preface, pp. 18, 22, 57–8; Ascham, , English works, 297301.

19 Preface, p. 14.

20 Cf. Bucer, Marti n, Metaphrasis et enarratio in epistolam…ad Romanos, Basel 1562 (first printed 1536), 28, 60, 63–5, 69, 74; John Calvin, Institutio religionis Christianae (1539 edn), ch. i, ‘De cognitione Dei quae est religionis fundamentum’, in pera quae supersunt omnia, ed. Baurti, Wilhelm, Cunitz, Eduard and Reuss, Eduard, i, Braunschweig 1863, esp. col. 283.

21 Cheke's definition of ‘sanctitas’ apparently runs counter to the commonProtestant acceptance of ‘sanctification’ as the work of the Holy Spirit in making the way of life ofredeemed human beings holy, while ‘pietas’ in much sixteenth-century religious discussion has a more general sense (often synonymous with religion as a whole) than Cheke gives it: McNeill, John T., introduction to Calvin, Institutes of the Christian religion, trans. Battles, Ford Lewis, Philadelphia 1960, pp. li–lii, lx;Wallace, Dewey D., Puritans and predestination: grace in English Protestant theology, 15251695, Chapel Hill 1982, 7.

22 The definitions of ‘sanctitas’ and ‘pietas’ in De natura deorum 1. xli. 116 are immediately followed (in 1. xlii. 117) by an answer to the Epicureans’ claim to be free from superstition, and a contrast of superstition with true religion, which also seem to link this section of Cicero's work to Cheke's. Cheke says explicitly that his usage of ‘sanctitas’ and ‘pietas’ is not based on Scripture: ‘so that our meaning may be distinguished more clearly, we willmake use of words not always so employed in Scripture, but appropriate enough to our present age’ (‘vt…clariusque…quae volumus distinguantur, vocabulis non ita in scriptura semper vsurpatis, sed ad hoc tempus nostrum satis accommodatis…vtemur’: preface, pp. 13—14). The other passages of Cicero, referred to in the text are De natura deorum 1. ii. 3, and De officiis 11. iii. 11:De natura deorum; Academica, with trans, by Rackham, H., Cambridge, Mass. 1961, 46, 110–12; De officiis, with trans, by Miller, Walter, New York 1913, 178.

23 Cf.Vos, Alvin, ‘“Good matter in good utterance”: the character of English Ciceronianism’, Studies in English literature 1500–1900 xix (1979), 318, esp. pp. 12–16;Binns, J. W., Intellectual culture in Elizabethan and Jacobean England: the Latin writings of the age, Leeds 1990, 270–90.

24 Preface, pp. 11–12. On periodic style as an aspect of Ciceronian imitation in England, see Binns, , Intellectual culture, 301–4. Vos shows how the use of symmetrical sentence elements (concinnitas) was understood as an aspect of Ciceronian, in ‘The formation of Roger Ascham's prose style’, studies in Philology lxxi (1974), 344–70.

25 Preface, pp. 18–19, 24–5.

26 ‘Forma enim & apta compositio omnium corporis membrorum, non tam uirtutem animi, & actiones mentis illustrat, quam orationis quaedam quasi urbanitas, ea quae sapienter dicta sunt, commendat’: D. Ioannis Chrysostomi de providentia Dei, preface, sigs Aiii–Aiiiv.

27 For a survey of humanistic philology's impact on biblical studies and in religious contexts more generally seeHall, Basil, ‘Biblical scholarship: editions and commentaries’, in Greenslade, S. L. (ed.), The Cambridge history of the Bible: the west from the Reformation to the present day, Cambridge 1962, 3893.

28 Preface, p. 28.

29 ‘Repetitiones… scripturae, vt psalmi declarant, non nouitatem semper rerum afferunt, sed varietate sanctarum vocum idem rerum pondus retinent.… Sic timori saepe religio iungitur, non vt alterum ab altero secernatur, sed vt re congruentes voces oratione copulentur’: ibid. 35.

30 For example the analysis of Paul's, St usage of ‘іουδζειν through comparison with Greek κρητίζειν etc. and Latin ‘pergraecari’ (pp. 57–8).

31 Hoffman, Manfred, ‘Faith and piety in Erasmus's thought’, Sixteenth Century Journal xx (1989), 241–58, esp. pp. 243–4, 256–8.

32 Chomarat, Jacques, ‘Superstitio, religio et impietas’, Moreana xxi (1984), 151–5. As for connections between the substance of Plutarch's discussion and that of Cheke, the main resemblanceis that both develop the etymologically-based association of δεισιδαιμoíα with fear. Plutarch juxtaposes atheism with superstition, seeing the two as opposite extremes oneither side of true religion (εὐσβεια) which is the right middle ground, but his discussion has little in common with Cheke's treatment of the ἂθεo;ι: Plutarch, , φερ δεισιδαιμoνíας in Moralia, with trans, by Babbitt, Frank Cole, ii. 454–95. Cheke states in the preface that ‘Plutarchus et philosophi’ have previously treated the subject of superstition (p. 27). Cheke's concept may resemble Cicero's as much as or more than it does Plutarch's:Cicero, in De natura deorum 1. xlii. 117also calls superstition ‘timor inanis deorum’, and in n. xxviii. 72, he makes ‘religio’ and ‘superstitio’ paired opposites, as Cheke ultimately does. Cheke of course develops his discussion in many ways that differ from either Plutarch or Cicero.

33 Smith, Lacey Baldwin, Tudor prelates and politics 1536–1558, Princeton 1953, 227, 239;Jordan, W. K., Edward VI: the young king, Cambridge, Mass. 1968, 25, 27–8;Scarisbrick, J. J., Henry VIII, Berkeley 1968, 421, 423, 472–8.

34 Dowling, Maria, ‘The gospel and the court: Reformation under Henry VIII’, in Lake, Peter and Dowling, Maria (eds), Protestantism and the national Church in sixteenth-century England, London 1987, 3677, esp. pp. 59, 67, 71;Rex, Richard, Henry VIII and the English Reformation, New York 1993, 169–70. See also Dickens's, A. G. chapter on this period, entitled ‘A balance of forces’, inThe English Reformation, London 1989, 192221.

35 McConica, James, English humanists and Reformation politics under Henry VIII and Edward VI, Oxford 1965, 214; cf. Scarisbrick, , Henry VIII, 474, andJordan, , Edward VI, 41.

36 McConica, characterises Cheke merely as a ‘humanist and scholar’ and traces Edward's Protestantism to his other tutors: English humanists, 215, 227–8. Loades, David finds no evidence that any of Edward's tutors embraced Protestantism before 1547: The Tudor court, Totowa 1987, 122).

37 The two letters cited here, from Cheke to Agnes Cheke, are dated respectively ‘from Holborne the first Monday of Lente’ and ‘from London this 3. Sonday of Lent’. Conyers, Read gives 1543 as the year of Mary Cecil's death: Mr Secretary Cecil and Queen Elizabeth, New York 1961, 29. Cheke was visiting Dr William Butts at his residence in Holborn early in 1543.(See Needham, , ‘John Cheke’, 156, cf. 288–90 and nn., on these letters and their dates). If the letters do belong to 1543 their calendar dates would be 12, 25 Feb. The letters are preserved in BL, MS Add. 46367, fos 20, 19–20. There are two other references to ‘faith’ in the later letter.

38 This letter is dated ‘frome Ampthill the viiith of June’. It refers to the presence of Thomas, the son of William and Mary Cecil, in the household of Agnes Cheke. According to Needham, ‘1545 must be the correct year of this letter, as in any later year young Thomas would have been with Williamand [his second wife] Mildred Cecil, while the year before Cheke was not yet in Edward's household. And we know Edward, was staying at Ampthill at this time: Literary remains of King Edward the sixth, ed. Nichols, John Gough, London 1857, repr. New York 1964, i. 1:Needham, , ‘John Cheke’, 291 n. 13. Cheke's letter is BL, MS Add. 46367, fo. 20v. The word ‘forepointed’ reflects Cheke's preference for coinages from native English roots over words such as ‘predestined’ that were ‘borrowed’ from Latin. Cf.Cheke's incomplete Gospel translation (c. 1550), where he refers in a note to the ‘happines wheerunto [God's] chosen be forpointed’:The Gospel according to St Matthew and the first chapter of the Gospel according to St Mark, translated… by Sir John Cheke, ed. Goodwin, James, Cambridge 1843, 66.

39 Dowling, , ‘The gospel and the court’, 51.

40 The letter is dated 13 Oct. Butts died on 17 Nov. 1545:Needham, , ‘John Cheke’, 166 n. 101. The letter is in BL, MS Harl. 417, fos 177–8. The leaves are torn and some words are missing. Cf. Strype, , Sir John Cheke, 32–8.

41 Smith, Lacey Baldwin, ‘Henry vm and the Protestant triumph’, American Historical Review lxxi (1966), 1237–64 (esp. pp. 1246–7);Scarisbrick, , Henry VIII, 474; Rex, , Henry VIII, 170. On the question of Cheke's religious stance see also Elton, G. R., Reform and Reformation, England 1509–1558, Cambridge, Mass. 1977, 318–19.

42 Lloyd, Charles (ed.), Formularies of faith put forth by authority during the reign of Henry VIII, Oxford 1856, 368.

43 ‘A quibus omnibus in vita tarn caeca ac turbulenta qui vacuus liberque est, non naturae is moderatione foelix, sed gratiae abundantia beatus iudicari debet. Quis enim tantas vitae salebras, tanta praecipitia opinionum, tantas perturbationes animorum effugere ac deuitare posset, nulla vitae moderatione, aut electionis prudentia praeeunte aetatem ineuntem, sed sequente ingrauescentem ac in fine exituque vitae comitemse adiungente, in limine autem et ingressu vitae, nullum ducatum praebente, nisi misericordiae divinae bonitas eligeret quos seruaret, atque ad salutem omnem illis gratiam bonaque praepararet’: preface, pp. 25–6.

44 Ibid. 40.

45 Lloyd, , Formularies, 362–3.

46 Luther, , ‘The bondage of the will’ (1525) in Martin Luther: selections from his writings, ed. Dillenberger, John, Garden City 1961, 199.

47 Preface, p. 42.

48 McConica, , English humanists, 21; Chomarat, , ‘Superstitio’, 151, 154.

49 Ozment, Steven, The age of reform 1250–1550, New Haven 1980, 323–5.

50 A supplicatyon made by Robert Barnesunto… kinge henrye the eyghl (RSTC 1470), repr. in The English experience567, New York 1973, fo. iv; cf. Yost, John, ‘Protestant reformers and the humanist via media in the early EnglishReformation’, Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies v (1975), 187202.

51 The Byble which is all the holy Scripture… translated into Englysh by Thomas Matthew [Rogers, John], [Antwerp] 1537, sig. *vii.

52 Merriman, Roger Bigelow, Life and letters of Thomas Cromwell, Oxford 1902, ii. 153; cf.Dickens, A. G. and Carr, Dorothy(eds), The Reformation in England to the accession of Elizabeth I, New York 1968, 76;Rex, , Henry VIII, 91103.

53 ‘si ea solum facienda adhibendaque ad cultum Domini sunt, quae ille praeceperit, si nihil adijciendum, nihil detrahendum sit, si neutram in partem flectendum, sed rectam viam mandatorum eius insistere oportet, ea necessario omnia, quae non habent verbum Dei et scripturam vel iubentem homines vel laudantemres, e medio tollenda sunt ac reijcienda, dum cultus quaeritur & veneratio pura ac sincera Dei adhibetur, & religio sancta atque incontaminata proponitur’: preface, pp. 42–3.

54 Guy, John, ‘Scripture as authority: problems of interpretation in the 1530s’, in Alistair Fox, and Guy, John, Reassessing the Henrician age: humanism, politics and reform 1500–1550, Oxford 1986, 220.

55 Rex, , Henry VIII, 125.

56 Dickens, and Carr, , Reformation in England, 88;Dickens, , English Reformation, 208.

57 Rex, , Henry VIII, 157; cf. Lloyd, , Formularies, 221.

58 Preface, pp. 16–17.

59 Ibid. 42–5. Cheke's reference to St Paul is to Col. ii. 23. Forreferences by Protestant reformers to θελoθρμσκεíα see Bucer, , Metaphrasis, 559;Calvin, , Opera, i, col. 856.

60 ‘statuere quod Maiores tui ante te vsurpauerint, illud certum ac constitutum tenere, quod Christus Maiorum tuorum natu maximus praeceperit illud reijcere et floccifacere’: preface, p. 46.

61 A workc enlytled of ye olde God & the newe, of the olde doctryne and ye newe or orygynall beginninge of Idolatrye, trans, anon.(RSTC 25127). This descends from the German original via an intermediate version, Latin by ‘Hartmannus Dulichius’ (1523). For the original German text see ‘Judas Nazarei’, Vom alten und neuen Gott, Glauben und Lehre, ed. Kὒck, Eduard, Halle 1896. For background and history of the text see Hans Georg Hofacker, ‘”Vom alten und niien Gott, Glauben und Lehre’: Untersuchungen zum Geschichtsverstἂndnis und Epochenbewusstsein einer anonymen reformatorischen Flugschrift', in Kontinuitdt und Umbruch: Theologie und Frommigkeit in Flugschriften und Kleinliteratur an der Wende vom 75. zum 16. Jahrhundert, ed. Nolte, Josef, Hella Tompert and Christof Windhorst, Stuttgart 1978, 145–77. On the English translation seeClebsch, William A., England's earliest Protestants, 1520–1535, New Haven 1964, 169–70, 254, 265–6.

62 Chester, Allen G., ‘The “new learning’: a semantic note’, studies in the Renaissance, ii, ed. Shaaber, M. A., New York 1955, 139–47;Rex, Richard, ‘The new learning’, this JOURNAL xliv (1993), 2644; cf. Tyndale, William, Expositions and notes on sundry portions of the Holy Scriptures, together with The practice of prelates, ed. Walter, Henry (Parker Society xliii, 1849), 174, 231;Barnes, , Supplicatyon, fos lxxvi–lxxviv;Latimer, Hugh, Sermons, ed. Corrie, George Elwes (Parker Society xxvii, 1844), 30–1.Cheke, himself returns to the ‘old and new’ argument in The hurt of sedition howe greueous it is to a Commune wealth (1549) (RSTC 5109), repr. Menston 1971, sigs Aiiiiv–Av.

63 Preface, pp. 51–3; A worke entytled of ye olde God and the newe, sigs Bvi–Oviiiv; Tyndale, , Expositions… with The practice of prelates, 253ff. On Protestant providential history in general seeFerguson, Wallace K., The Renaissance in historical thought, Cambridge, Mass. 1948, 4658; on this pattern in England see Ferguson, Arthur B., Clio unbound, Durham 1979, 162–9.

64 Preface, pp. 53–8.

65 Lloyd, , Formularies, 54–5; cf. ‘The King's Book’, ibid. 246–8; Jewel, John, An apologie of the Church of England (1562), inEnglish reformers, ed. Parker, T. H. L., London 1966, 2 iff. Cheke cites warnings to the Jews against following the ways of the Egyptians (Lev. xviii. 3–5) in support of the argument against our following the example of any nation; the Church of Rome is likened to Egypt and Henry vm's separation from Rome to the Exodus in numerous texts, for example, Latimer, , Sermons, 92.

66 Preface, p. 42; see n. 15 above.

67 Erasmus, Desiderius, The handbook of the militant Christian [Enchiridion militis Christiani] (1503), in The essential Erasmus, 68;Yost, , ‘Protestant reformers’, 195, 198. The words of Latimer that Yost quotes, from Latimer's sermon before the convocation of 1536 (Sermons, 48), reappear along with much of the rest of the sermon in the postil for the ninth Sunday after Trinity in Taverner's, RichardPoslils on the Epistles and Gospels (1540), ed. well, Edward Card, Oxford 1841, 424.

68 Tyndale, William, An answer to Sir Thomas More's Dialogue (1531), ed. Walter, Henry (Parker Society xliv, 1850), 5961; cf. Yost, , ‘Protestant reformers’, 196, 198, and Ferguson, , Clio, 166–7. For other instances of the ‘causal’ argument in Protestant sources see Latimer, , Sermons, 36; A worke entytled of ye olde God and the newe, sigs Liiiv–Liv.

69 Merriman, , Thomas Cromwell, ii. 153;Rex, , Henry VIII, 100.

70 Cranmer, Thomas, Miscellaneous writings and letters, ed. Cox, John Edmund (Parker Society xvi, 1846), 414. See Ridley, Jasper, Thomas Cranmer, Oxford 1962, 251, on the circumstances and Cranmer's drafting of the text quoted, and also cf. Scarisbrick, , Henry VIII, 472. The possibility of a link between the preface and Cranmer's project is increased by the fact that Cheke worked closely with Cranmer in various ways on religious reform under Edward vi: Nathan, , Sir John Cheke, 54; Needham, , ‘John Cheke’, 345–9, 361.

71 ‘Maiestatem tuam… indies deletas atque oppressas religionis partes ad lucemiterum vtilitatemque hominum reuocas vt res saluberrimae abs te patefactae has ignorantiae errorumque miserias depellant, & vera religio sensim adolescens tandem perfectam expletamque maturitatem consequatur’: preface, p. 75.

72 ‘consuetudo maiorum nihil sibi assumat, nisi vis veritatis illam stabiliat, exempla nationum regulam vitae minus peruertent, sic res magnae pro magnis habebuntur, res leues & abiectae pro vilibus existimabuntur…sic non modo quid agitur sed quorsum agatur spectabitur, & res iunctae cum caussis non temere ac fortuito administrabuntur & ad quod deus singula instituerit non quo voluntas nostra omnia rapuerit, cognoscetur’: ibid. 75–6.

73 Ibid. 76–7.

74 The argument in De ecdesia also remains fairly abstract - for instance, Cheke makes no direct reference to other controversialists writing on his subject - but it is much more obviously Protestant in its main lines than that of the preface to De superstitione.

75 ‘Henry VIH and the Protestant triumph’, 1244.

76 For this argument seeJordan, , Edward VI, 41.

77 For Cheke's comment to Ascham, see Ascham's, letter to Denny [1545] in The whole works of Roger Ascham, ed. Giles, J. A., London 1865, 1/1, 82. Cheke's, elegy is included in De obitu doctissimi el sanctissimi theologi doctoris Martini Buceri… epistolae duae, item, epigrammata varia, London 1551(RSTC 5108), sigs Ni–Nii; cf. Needham, , ‘John Cheke’, 165–6 and nn.

78 Dowling, , ‘The gospel and the court’, 4951, 64–71.

79 Scarisbrick, , Henry VIII, 423, 470–8.

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