The Synopsis of Polanus’ Syntagma (1)

22 December 2009 by Wes Bredenhof

Over the next little while, I hope to share my translation of the synopsis of Amandus Polanus’ Syntagma Theologiae Christianae.  Polanus (1561-1610) was a German Reformed theologian who taught at Basel.  Wes White has a short biography over here.   Richard Muller noted in his Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics that Polanus has often been neglected, and so that made me all the more interested.  I noticed that the Post-Reformation Digital Library had a link to his Syntagma and I downloaded it.  I was impressed.  I’ve long been convinced that good theology requires careful distinctions and Polanus excels at this.

The synopsis gives an overview of the book.  It’s like an annotated table of contents.  Polanus just gives the outline here — the actual arguments and explanations are found in the main text.

When it comes to Latin, I’m an amateur.  In fact, one reason why I want to do this is to hone my Latin skills.  So, if you happen to be a Latinist and you want to check and improve my translation, please feel free.  So, here we begin with book 1 and the first part of Polanus’ theological prolegomena:


Polanus’ Syntagma Synopsis

Book 1

It is said that there are two kinds of theology:  namely, either true or false.

False theology is not only among the old heathens, but also in various errors regarding divine things.

The theology of the old heathens was of two parts:  either regarding gods or demons.

With regards to the gods, it was two-fold:  the one ordinary, the other exquisite.

The exquisite theology of the heathens is three-fold:  mythological, scientific and political.

With regards to the demons, it is a pair:  magic and [illegible Greek word].

Among the various errors concerning divine things are the blasphemies of the Jews, the Muslims, pseudo-Christians, and heretics.

True theology is either archetypal or ectypal.

Ectypal theology is considered either in itself or as it is in the rational creature.

The communication of theology to the rational creature has two ends:  the first and greatest is the glory of God, which is the highest good; the second and subordinate is the blessedness of the rational creature.

There are two parts to blessedness:  freedom from every evil and the possession of every truly good thing, which the rational creature possesses in God.  These truly good things consist of:  the vision of God (seeing God), conformity with God, sufficiency in God, and a certain knowledge of his eternal goodness.

The vision of God in man is either obscure or clear.

Ectypal theology considered as it is in the rational creature, is both in Christ (who is the head of the church of God according to his humanity), and in the members of Christ.

This is not only of the blessed [in heaven], but also of the pilgrims [on earth].

The theology of the blessed is either of the angels or of human beings.

The theology of the pilgrims is reckoned to be two-fold:  either it is considered as an absolute [prescriptive], or according to what it is [descriptive].

The theology of pilgrims considered absolutely according to its nature and essence is one, eternal, and immutable.  According to the truth added, it is either old or new.

The theology of pilgrims considered according to what is in us (or according to what is in us from an efficient cause) is partly infused and partly acquired.

5 responses to “The Synopsis of Polanus’ Syntagma (1)”

  1. […] Translation of the Synposis of Polanus’ Syntagma Posted on December 22, 2009 by R. Scott Clark Amandus Polanus’ Syntagma is one of the greatest works of 17th-century Reformed theology that most have never read. Wes Bredenhof, however, has translated the brief overview of the Syntagma (sentences). It’s on his blog. […]

  2. Mark Earngey says:


    Thanks for translating and posting this up!

    I’m currently thinking about doing a similar sort of thing for my honours year project for my bachelor of divinity (Moore Theological College, Sydney).

    If you’ve got any more translation done, or any interesting thoughts on Polanus, I’d be keen to dialogue with you! Please email me if so! 🙂


  3. J. Stephen Yuille says:


    Do you know if anyone has completed an English translation of Polanus’ Syntagma?

    Stephen Yuille

  4. Thanks for this. I took a look at it, and the illegible Greek word is θεουργια “theurgy.”

    There is a more legible copy here:

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