The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt (4) Week Three: Sessions 13-18

Session 13: Monday, November 26 AM
     Previously the Synod had decided to appoint three men to translate the Old Testament, and three to translate the New. At this session the Synod named those men. It also appointed men from each province to oversee the translation work.
     Do you remember that the provincial synod of Utrecht sent to Dordt three delegates who favored Arminianism, and three who opposed it? Those who opposed it asked the Synod not to appoint overseers from Utrecht, but to permit the Utrecht provincial synod to appoint them later. Dordt agreed to this. Because the Utrecht churches had many Arminian ministers, the list of men available for the work of overseeing the translation would change significantly if the Synod were later to condemn Arminianism and insist that Arminian ministers be put out of office (which it later did).

Session 14: Tuesday, November 27 AM
     The previous national synod (‘s Gravenhage, 1586) had required every minister to explain briefly the Heidelberg Catechism at the Sunday afternoon services. For various reasons, this practice had fallen on hard times: the Remonstrants opposed the practice, some country churches had lively preaching only once a Sunday because they shared ministers, and many Dutch people preferred to spend their Sunday afternoons in work or recreation.
     The Synod of Dordt reiterated this requirement, later embodying it in Article 68 of its Church Order. Synod then asked the magistrates to forbid work and recreation on the Sabbath, and insisted that the church visitors ask whether the churches were complying with the requirement regarding catechism preaching. In the case of the country churches, Synod permitted the Catechism to be taught every other week.
     Hendrik van Hell, elder delegate from Zutphen, died on this day.

Session 15: Wednesday, November 28 AM
     The Synod deemed it necessary to provide more catechism instruction than was given on Sunday. The foreign delegations explained the methods of catechizing that their churches used.

Session 16: Thursday, November 29 AM
     Dr. Joseph Hall, a delegate from Great Britain, preached on Ecclesiastes 7:16. He exhorted the delegates to be righteous in their actions. He encouraged the Synod to maintain the Heidelberg Catechism and Belgic Confession, and advised it to require the Remonstrants to submit an explanation of Romans 9, “short, clear, and explicit, without colouring or artifice” (Milton, 131). He urged all to seek peace as brothers and members of the same body. His concluding wish was that error would be opposed, “that truth alone may see the light, alone may reign, and may bring safety to you, glory to the Church, and peace to the State” (Milton, 132-133).

Session 17: Friday, November 30 AM
     The Synod resumed its discussion regarding catechizing. The Remonstrant delegates from Utrecht continued to object to preaching and teaching the Heidelberg Catechism (see session 9).
     The synod emphasized the need for catechism instruction in three spheres: the homes, the schools, and the churches. In the churches, the Heidelberg Catechism itself would be preached; in the schools, a summary of the Catechism; and in the homes, a short catechism containing an explanation of the Apostle’s Creed, Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer, sacrament, and church discipline, to all of which would be added some short prayers and Scripture passages.
     A committee was appointed to draw up the catechisms for school and home.

Session 18: Saturday, December 1 AM
     The Synod met during the Dutch Golden Age. Dutch merchants sent their ships to the Dutch East Indies, stopping at other Dutch colonies along the way. Dutch Reformed Christians inhabited these colonies, and took heathen children into their families, not as adopted children, but as servants. The delegates from North Holland asked whether these children might be baptized. The various delegations gave their advice, but the Synod did not finish treating the matter.
     Some reasons for the lack of Heidelberg Catechism preaching and teaching have already been given. Could another reason be that students for the ministry were not well trained? The delegates from Zeeland were of this opinion, and they presented suggestions how better to prepare students for the ministry. Synod decided that it would take up this matter the following Monday, and each delegation should prepare written advice over the weekend.
     After recessing, the Synod attended the burial of Elder Hendrik van Hell.

Douglas Kuiper, Professor of Church History and New Testament
Theological School of the Protestant Reformed Churches

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt (3) Week Two: Sessions 6-12

Session 6: Monday, November 19 AM
    In 1618, at least two Dutch Bible translations existed–a translation of the Latin Vulgate, and one of Luther’s German Bible. In response to a question which came from one of the provincial synods, the Synod of Dordt agreed that a new translation would profit the churches. Synod began to discuss how to implement this. (This translation would become the Statenvertaaling, the “States Translation”).

Session 7: Tuesday, November 20 AM
    The delegates from Great Britain explained the method used in translating the King James Version: six different committees were assigned separate portions of Scripture, after which the translation was carefully edited twice. The British delegation also mentioned the rules that governed the translators in their work.

Session 8: Tuesday, November 20 PM
    Continuing its discussion on Bible translation, the Synod decided that this translation: 1) should not be a revision of the existing translations, but a new translation directly from the Hebrew and Greek; 2) should be a careful translation of the Hebrew and Greek, treating God’s word carefully, and at the same time express the Scriptures in the vernacular Dutch; 3) should include a note on the side of the text, when the Hebrew or Greek was difficult to express in Dutch; and 4) should use a different font for words which were added to fill out the text (similar to the KJV’s use of italics).

Session 9: Wednesday, November 21 AM
    Should the Apocrypha also be translated? Some argued against it, because they were not inspired, they contradict the inspired Scriptures at some points, and neither the Jews nor the ancient Christian church included them. One of the Utrecht Remonstrant delegates retorted that the Heidelberg Catechism should be treated similarly. The Dutch Bibles of that day included the Catechism after the New Testament; this delegate said that the new translation should not include the Catechism, and that the Catechism should not be preached.
    The Synod did not make a final decision at this session.

Session 10: Thursday, November 22 AM
    Four hundred years later, the United States observes this day as Thanksgiving. We give thanks to God not only for His earthly and material gifts, but also for the Synod’s work, and the ways in which we benefit.
    After more discussion, the Synod decided to include the Apocryphal books in the Bible translation, but said that these did not need to be as carefully translated as did the inspired books, that the Apocrypha should be placed after the New Testament, and that it should be introduced by a disclaimer that these are human writings.
    Synod decided it would appoint three men to translate the Old Testament and three to translate the New. It also decided to ask the national government, through its delegation at the Synod, to promote and fund the translating work.

Session 11: Friday, November 23 AM
    The fifth Dutch professor delegated to the Synod (Prof. Lubbertus) arrived. So did John Hales, chaplain to the English delegate Carlton, who would observe the synod and write letters regarding the proceedings of the Synod.
    Synod decided that the work of Bible translation should begin three months after the Synod adjourned, and that the translators should report every three months regarding their progress.

Session 12: Saturday, November 24 AM
    Regarding Bible translation, Synod decided 1) to use the Dutch du when translating the second person singular pronoun referring to God (this meant that the less formal Dutch pronoun would be used); 2) to translate the word “Jehovah” in large letters (as the KJV does with LORD); 3) to use the Hebrew form, rather than the Dutch, in translating Old Testament proper names; 4) to use the current division of chapters and verses, but note in the margin where the chapter divisions are poor; and 5) to add a table of chronologies and genealogies at the end of the translation, but not to include any pictures.
    Not yet finished with the matter of Bible translation, Synod recessed for the Sabbath, as was its practice.

Douglas Kuiper, Professor of Church History and New Testament
Theological School of the Protestant Reformed Churches

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt (2) Week One: Sessions 1-5

Session 1: Tuesday, November 13 AM
     The morning began with Balthasar Lydius preaching a sermon in Dutch, and Jeremias de Peurs in French. Probably these sermons were preached in two different churches, to different audiences. Both men were delegates to the Synod. As the minister in Dordrecht, Lydius was able to sleep in his own bed during the months the Synod met. De Peurs was minister of the French refugee (Walloon) church in Middelburg.
     After the sermons the delegates went in procession to the building in which the Synod met, the Kloveniersdoelen. The state delegation (representing the national government) welcomed the other delegations and showed them their assigned seats. Then Balthasar Lydius opened with prayer, after which Martin Gregorius made opening remarks. Gregorius was the president of the state delegation that week; this presidency rotated weekly.
     The 18 state delegates presented their credentials, which Balthasar Lydius read. Then they elected Daniel Heinsius as their secretary. He was to keep minutes of the meetings of the state delegation, and to create his own set of minutes of the Synod.

Session 2: Wednesday, November 14 AM
     The Dutch churches had 10 provincial (regional) synods, which delegated 37 ministers and 19 elders to the Synod of Dordt. These 56 Dutch delegates presented their credentials. The provincial synod of Utrecht sent 3 delegates who were Remonstrants (Arminians), and 3 who were Contra-Remonstrants. Stay tuned for more about the 3 Arminian delegates.
     Synod elected John Bogerman as its president, chose Jacob Rolandus and Herman Faukelius as its assessors, or vice presidents; and appointed Sebastian Dammannus and Festus Hommius to be its scribes.
     Four Dutch professors of theology were present, and showed their credentials.

Session 3: Wednesday, November 14 PM
     Synod read the letters that were attached to some of the credentials of the Dutch delegations. The synod of Overijsel expressed its insistence that the Arminian matter should be judged on the basis only of Scripture, the Belgic Confession, and the Heidelberg Catechism. With this Synod agreed.
     The credentials of the 3 Remonstrant delegates from Utrecht indicated that these were authorized to address only the Arminian issue, and could make no final decision without consulting their provincial synod. Synod questioned these delegates regarding their credentials, and they responding in writing the next day (session 4), to the Synod’s satisfaction. Again, stay tuned.
     Synod asked the 7 foreign delegations (23 men) who were already present to present their credentials. Their response was that they had already presented their credentials to the state delegation.
     Delegations from France and Brandenburg had been appointed, but were unable to come. The delegation from Nassau-Wetteravia would arrive later, as would one member of the British delegation who represented the churches of Scotland, and one other Dutch professor (see session 5).

Session 4: Thursday, November 15 AM
     On November 11, 1617 (almost a whole year earlier!) the national government had adopted rules of order for the Synod. Synod read those rules.
     Synod then decided to order 13 Remonstrants to appear before it within 14 days. All delegates were exhorted to prepare for the appearance of the Remonstrants by reading their writings.

Session 5: Friday, November 16 AM
     Synod read and approved the letter which would be sent to the Remonstrants, summoning them. The state delegates also prepared a letter to send them.
     Noting that one professor of theology (Sybrand Lubbertus) had not yet arrived, Synod instructed him to come. He appeared on November 23.
While waiting for the Remonstrants to appear, Synod decided to treat other matters which the provincial synods placed on its agenda.

Douglas Kuiper, Professor of Church History and New Testament
Theological School of the Protestant Reformed Churches

The Sessions of the Synod of Dordt (1) Introduction

The Synod of Dordt met in 180 sessions from Tuesday, November 13, 1618 to Wednesday May 29, 1619. Four hundred years later, the dates and days correspond: November 13, 2018 falls on a Tuesday.

To commemorate the Synod’s 400th anniversary, I plan to write a weekly blog summarizing what the synod did at each session. In this blog I am not concerned with why the Synod decided what it did, or with a record of the discussion leading to the decision. I aim simply to state what the Synod accomplished at each session.

I will refer to sources only rarely, and then with abbreviated references. For full disclosure, here are the sources I am using.

Several sources are primary, that is, they contain the Synod’s original documents. My chief source is the Dutch translation of the Acts of the Synod as found in Acta of Handelingen der Nationale Synod te Dordrecht, (Kampen: J. H. Bos, n.d.). Another is the Latin edition of the Acts as published in Donald Sinnema, Christian Moser and Herman J. Selderhuis, eds., Acta et Documenta Synodi Nationalis Dordrechtanae (1618-1619), vol. I: Acta of the Synod of Dordt (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015). I will refer to this source only when I find the Dutch problematic.

The Acts of the Synod from May 13-29, 1619 (sessions 155-180) have already been translated by Richard DeRidder, published in syllabus Translation of Ecclesiastical Manual Including the Decisions of the Netherlands Synods . . . (Grand Rapids: Calvin Theological Seminary, 1982), 176-203.

Secondary sources are books and writings about the Synod. One such source is Gerard Brandt, The History of the Reformation and Other Ecclesiastical Transactions In And About the Low Countries, (London: T. Wood, 1722), 3:1-331. Brandt’s analysis of the Synod’s decisions reflect his sympathy to the Arminian cause. However, his record of Synod’s actions is reliable. Another secondary source is Anthony Milton, ed, The British Delegation and the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) (Suffolk, England: The Boydell Press), 2005. Most of the documents in this book are not helpful for my purpose; only a few are.

One book that I probably will not use as a source for this blog, but which is an interesting reference work, is the collection of essays edited by Aza Goudriaan and Fred van Lieburg, entitled Revisiting the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), (Leiden: Brill), 2011. I recommend it–or anything written by Donald Sinnema or Fred van Lieburg–to anyone who wishes to study the Synod of Dordt in more detail.

Douglas Kuiper, Professor of Church History and New Testament Theological School of the Protestant Reformed Churches