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Franciscus Junius (1545-1602)

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The life of Franciscus Junius unfolds as a thrilling epic. In a time of religious turmoil, Junius dismantled the opinions of his adversaries and fostered harmony among his allies, even in the face of life-threatening persecution.



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Secondary Sources

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A.J. van der Aa

(this translated text has been lightly edited for stylistic purposes)

Franciscus Junius—born François du Jon—a “fourfold nobleman,” as Brandt calls him, by reason of birth, intelligence, learning, and virtue, hailed from an ancient and illustrious French family. His parents were Denis du Jon and Jacqueline Hugauld. He was born on May 1, 1545, in Bourges. Being weak and frail in health, his education was a great challenge. After receiving initial instruction from his father and a private tutor, twelve-year-old Franciscus attended a public school that was not well-suited to shape the infirm juvenile. Afterwards he spent two years studying law under Donellus before deciding to embark on an embassy to Constantinople. However, upon arriving in Lyon, he found that the French ambassador had already left. Junius decided to stay there and formed a friendship with a certain Barthélemi Ancau. A significant change in his beliefs, precipitated by a careful study of Cicero’s work De Natura Deorum, led his father to call the wayward Franciscus back to Bourges. Through reading Holy Scripture, Junius resolved his doubts and dedicated himself to the sacred science of theology. As a result, he departed for Geneva, where he arrived on March 17, 1562. However, civil wars prevented his father from adequately supporting him, so Franciscus had to endure various hardships including poverty. He soon lost his father, who became a victim of Roman Catholic animus toward Huguenots. From then on, he had to support himself by teaching young children until he began serving as a minister of the Reformed church in Antwerp in 1565. Alongside Péregrin la Grange, he began his labor in holy ministry with zeal, perseverance, and prudence.


We will not follow the fearless preacher on all his journeys through the south of Netherlands to spread the teachings of the Reformation. At times, he was present at the meetings of the allied nobles, held at the house of the Count of Culemborg, and at other times, he addressed a crowd while the fire of the stake could be seen through the windows. Despite a considerable bounty placed on his head and various plots to capture him, he miraculously remained safe and continued his work without trepidation. He did not confine his activities solely to Antwerp but also traveled to Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Breda, and other places. From October 1566 to April 1567, we find him in Limburg, but for his safety, he felt compelled to flee to Germany. He strongly disapproved of and opposed the unruly iconoclastic movement that broke out during his stay in the south of Netherlands.


Frederick III, Elector Palatine, welcomed Junius to Heidelberg and appointed him as a preacher in Schönau, where many fugitive Dutchmen resided. In 1568, after visiting his mother in Bourges, the Elector sent Junius to join the army of Prince of Orange, whose expedition across the Meuse he attended as a field preacher. After spending a few months in Metz, where he temporarily filled the position of President Taffin, he returned to Schönau. In 1573, the Elector summoned him to Heidelberg to work on the translation of the Old Testament with Immanuel Tremellius. In 1578, Johan Casimir, who had established a university in Neustadt, reserved a chair for Junius, which he held for 14 months before being sent to Otterburg to establish a congregation there. Upon returning to Neustadt, Johan Casimir appointed him as a professor in Heidelberg, but his stay there was also short-lived. On behalf of Henry IV, the Duke of Bouillon invited him to come to France. The King of France honored the theologian with a diplomatic mission to Germany. Upon his return to the Netherlands, a pressing request from ten years ago was repeated, namely, that he should consider accepting the professorship at Leiden. With the approval of the Elector, Junius accepted the position in 1592 and served as the primary professor, lecturing on all areas of  sacred theology for ten years until he succumbed to the plague on October 23, 1602, at the age of 57.


All have not assessed Junius in the same way. Some speak of him with disdain or, at least, do not hold him in high regard, while others are excessively generous in evaluating his merits. It is certain that among the theologians of his time, Junius deserves an esteemed place, even if he is overshadowed by others. He was a skilled linguist and particularly diligent in the study of Oriental languages. As an exegete and theologian, his true merits cannot be denied. Considering how little time he had for peaceful work amid such a turbulent life, one is amazed by the prodigious quantity of his collected works and the care devoted to their composition. If these writings are judged within the context of the theological conflicts of his day, they exude a spirit of gentleness and tolerance that was far from universal at the time. In various disputes, such as those in Utrecht and Amsterdam, he acted as a peacemaker, and both Grotius and Rivet speak highly of him. Junius deserves to be better known in every respect than has been the case until now, and it is desirable that someone carefully undertake the study of his life and an examination of his merits as a theologian, especially since there are still many written sources to consult, of which little or no use has been made.

“Junius, Franciscus.” In Biographisch woordenboek der Nederlanden, 9:248–253. Haarlem: J.J. van Brederode, 1860.

This text was consulted via DBNL (KB, nationale bibliotheek).

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