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Isaac-Joseph Berruyer

Jesuit historian (1681-1758)

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Berruyer, ISAAC-JOSEPH, b. at Rouen, November 7, 1681; d. at Paris, February 18, 1758. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1697. His great work is a “History of the People of God“, published in three parts. The first of these parts bears the title “Histoire du peuple de Dieu depuis son origine jusqu’a la venue du Messie” (7 vols., Paris, 1728). A revised and augmented edition of this was published at Paris in 1733. Next followed (Paris, 1734) a supplement, containing the continuation of the prophesies of the Old Testament, the History of Job, maps necessary for understanding the sacred history, etc. By 1736 seven editions of the work had been issued. It was translated into German, Spanish, Italian, and Polish. The second part of the “History” was published, also at Paris, in 1753: “Histoire du peuple de Dieu depuis la naissance du Messie jusqu’a la fin de la Synagogue” In 1754 an edition plus exacte appeared at Antwerp (8 vols.), and in 1755, at Paris, still another edition (4 vols.). The latter contained five questions: (I) On Christ, the object of the Scriptures; (2) On Christ, the Son of God; (3) On Christ, the Son of Man; (4) On Christ, the founder of a new religion; (5) On the Presentation of Christ in the Temple and the Purification of the B. V. M. According to de Backer, this second part of the History was published without the knowledge, and against the will, of the superiors of the Jesuit house in Paris. Berruyer put his name to only a small number of copies of this publication. The third part of the work has the title, “Histoire du peuple de Dieu, ou paraphase des Epitres des Ap8-tres” (2 vols., Lyons, 1757).

The work, as its various parts appeared, aroused a great uproar and some bitter controversy. Written in a brilliant, very rhetorical and lively style, it was, nevertheless, deservedly criticized. Serious fault was found with the author for giving to portions of the sacred narrative the air of romance rather than of sober history. The freedom with which he described certain facts was considered unbecoming in a Christian writer, and offensive to the Christian reader. Some propositions put forward by him were construed as favoring Nestorianism. But above all Berruyer was blamed for following the singular and paradoxical opinions of Hardouin. For these reasons the work was condemned by many bishops of France, by the superiors of the society, by the Sorbonne, and by the Parliament of Paris. The first part was put on the Index, May 27, 1732; the second part, December 3, 1754, and by a Brief of Benedict XIV, February 17, 1758; the third part April 24, 1758, and by a Brief of Clement XIII, December 2, 1758. (See “Index Librorum Prohibitorum”, Rome, 1900, 62). A corrected edition of the first part, approved by the Roman censors, was published at Besancon in 1828.


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