Thinking of Michael Servetus

Thinking of Michael Servetus September 29, 2021

Michael Servetus


Miguel Serveto, Michael Servetus, was born in the Kingdom of Aragon today, the 29th of September, in 1509. Or, perhaps 1511.

His father was from the minor nobility and worked as a notary.

He earned both Batchelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Zaragoza. Later he studied law at the University of Toulouse.

In his youth he traveled to Rome where he was appalled at the state of the papacy. This fired his decision to examine the scriptures with a lawyerly eye. From that examination he came up with a theological reflection that while not actually unitarian, was clearly a rejection of the dominant, actually at that time and place the only acceptable view of the nature of god as a trinity. Reasoning from the scriptures he came up with a view of god that did not include the Holy Spirit, which, has only passing scriptural reference, and contextually is never really clear what it is supposed to be.

Having published his opinions and with that suffering charges of heresy that led to his fleeing his native Spain to France, he appears to have been constitutionally incapable of remaining silent and while in France continued to publish his reflections and opinions. His most famous publication was his study On the Errors of the Trinity.

Fearing the Inquisition, quite reasonably, he decided to flee to the relative freedom of Poland. For reasons completely unfathomable to me, he accepted a letter of safe passage from the theocratic dictator in Geneva, John Calvin. As it turned out, a bad move…

In 1553 that Servetus was arrested on Calvin’s order. He would be given a farce of a trial, and then burned at the stake with his various writings tied to his thigh.

Servetus would come to stand as an exemplar for all those who bring reason to matter of religion.

Both, I guess, as an exemplar, and a warning about crossing religious authorities.

Or, believing their promises of safe passage…

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