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On the 27th of October 1553, an uneasy and unshaven man wearing a louse-ridden doublet limped wearily through the streets of Geneva, escorted by a squadron of archers. His look was that of a man who feels uneasy abandoned and alienated. The sad procession arrived at Champel Hill. Here the officials carried our character to a wooden stake surrounded by bundles of firewood that was still green and placed upon his head a crown of straw and foliage sprayed with sulphur. They secured his body to the stake using a steel chain, place the last of his books, “Cristianismi Restitutio”, in his arms and tied his body up with a thick rope.

The executioner lighted the fire in his face and the prisoner let go a shriek that terrified those present. The green firewood used for the sacrifice ensured the torture lasted for a long time. Some of those that had witnessed the horrendous events threw dry firewood on the pyre in an attempt to mitigate the suffering of the prisoner.

Spanish theologian and physician. His name in Spanish was Miguel Serveto. In his early years he came in contact with some of the leading reformers in Germany and Switzerland—Johannes Oecolampadius, Martin Bucer, Wolfgang Fabricius Capito, and probably Martin Luther. But he held views, concerning the Trinity in particular, that brought condemnation from the theologians of the Reformation as well as from those of the Roman Catholic Church. When he published De trinitatis erroribus (1531) and De trinitate (1532), the feeling of opposition was so strong that he assumed the name of Michel de Villeneuve, from the family home, Villanueva, and spent some time in Lyons, working on an edition of Ptolemy’s geography and other scientific works, then in Paris studying medicine. There he is said to have seen John Calvin.

He became well-known for his ability in dissection and had unusual success as a physician; he discovered that some of the blood circulates through the lungs. From 1541 to 1553 he lived in the palace of the archbishop of Vienne as his confidential physician. When (1553) he had a work setting forth his ideas of Christianity secretly printed, investigation was begun by the Inquisition. Servetus, arrested, tried, and condemned, escaped from prison. Several months later, while making his way to Italy, he was seized in Geneva by Calvin’s order. There, after a long trial, in which John Calvin’s condemnation was a stern factor, he was burned on Oct. 27, 1553.

Very few know of Miguel Serveto and the documents that he has written in rejection of the Doctrine of the Trinity. I will put in a separate post some of his thoughts from his writing, “on the Errors of the Trinity.” Interestingly you cannot find any of his books published in English other than a copy by Earl Morse Wilbur which is in the libraries of Harvard Theological Seminary.

Continued on Part 2

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