The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Did you know that a small group of Spaniards wrote a confession of faith in London after being exiled from their country?
Today I have the privilege of sharing news that should have been made known 450 years ago.
During the turbulent decades of the 16th century following the kickoff of the Protestant Reformation, many churches throughout Europe wrote confessions of faith, such as the well-known Augsburg, Second Helvetic, and Westminster Confessions. But did you know that a small group of Spaniards also wrote a confession of faith in London after being exiled from their country? If you didn’t know, don’t feel bad. The original writings have been buried in libraries in England for more than 450 years now, and only recently have they been discovered. The confession actually exists in two separate versions: one is in Latin and dates to c. 1560/1561 and the other is in Spanish and dates to 1577.
I cannot explain why things have worked out the way they have, but somehow I have been at the forefront of finding this Spanish confession of faith and seeing through its publication in Spanish and translation into English. There are very few Spanish-speakers who know of this confession, and even fewer English-speakers, but now, thanks to the publication advantages of Amazon, hundreds of millions of people have access to it.1
The author(s) of the confession remains somewhat of a mystery. We know that the primary author was Casiodoro de Reina, who was the Spanish world’s first Bible translator and primary contributor to the “Reina-Valera” Bible translation, still the most-used Bible translation for Spanish-speaking Protestants throughout the world. Whether or not there were more contributors, however, remains a mystery. Reina could have been helped by other important Spanish reformers who also fled to London such as Cipriano de Valera and Antonio del Corro, but we simply don’t know. What we do know, however, is that the confession was written just a couple of years after the Spaniards fled their country, and thus gives us a glimpse into the general shape of their theology, which seems to be something of a mix of Lutheran, Reformed, and Anabaptist thought.
We have made the confession available both in Spanish and English. I worked alone on the Spanish edition, but I collaborated with Steven Griffen on the English translation. Steve was the first to find the 1577 Spanish edition and publish a rough draft English translation as part of this doctoral research. Using this as a base text, we worked through every word and footnote and made hundreds of improvements. We are both greatly humbled and satisfied to be able to make available this confession to the English-speaking world.
One more thing. Do you like irony? Because if you do, then you will like this: all of the profit of the sales of this confession will go to a foundation dedicated to manage the possible restoration of the San Isidoro del Campo monastery just outside of Seville which, if you know anything about Spanish history, should bring a smile to your face. The San Isidoro del Campo monastery was the monastery where Reina, Valera, Corro, and others enrolled as Catholic monks, who then converted to Protestant Christianity, who then were forced to flee Spain to avoid the Inquisition.
God certainly does have a sense of humor: the same beliefs that got these monks kicked out of their monastery will now be funding a project to buy it back and make it a training ground for their spiritual descendants. In 1588, nearly thirty years after fleeing the monastery, Cipriano de Valera said, “If God one day should have mercy on Sevilla, it would make sense that this monastery (San Isidoro del Campo) would become a university where theology is taught. Such great things, even greater than these, God has done in our times.”
If you would like to purchase a copy of this newly-discovered confession of faith that we have translated into English, you can purchase the Kindle version here, and a paperback copy here. If you would like to purchase a copy the Spanish version, you can purchase the Kindle version here, and the paperback copy here.
Andrew Messmer, theologian, professor in an evangelical seminary in Spain.
1. To be clear, in 2008 David Vila translated Reina’s confession of faith in James Dennison’s Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries. However Vila translated from the 1601 edition of Reina’s confession, which differs from the 1577 edition at several points, and he did not incorporate any of the Latin variants as we have done.