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Anthony Buzzard

Anthony Buzzard

Anthony Buzzard was born in Surrey, England and educated at Oxford University and later at Bethany Theological Seminary. He holds masters degrees in theology and modern languages.



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Adam Pastor

by Anthony Buzzard

Anthony BuzzardIn 1546 an unnamed Flemish anti-Trinitarian visited the colony of radical Anabaptists who had taken refuge in Poland. G.H. Williams1 surmises that this may well have been the unitarian Mennonite, Adam Pastor (b. ca. 1510). Pastor, who on joining the Anabaptists had changed his name from Rudolph Martens, was a former Roman Catholic priest. He had thrown in his lot with the Anabaptists in 1533, probably in Munster. He was ordained as an evangelist and soon distinguished himself by opposing the spiritualism of David Joris. At this stage of his career Pastor worked closely with Menno Simons and Dietrich Philips. In 1547, however, it became apparent that Pastor differed sharply from the Melchiorite Christology of Menno. The Melchiorites believed that even the flesh of Christ was not derived from Mary, but had descended from heaven. For Pastor this belief seemed plainly to threaten the humanity of Christ. Pastor declared himself a unitarian, holding that Christ did not exist as the Son of God before his conception, and that his divinity was derived from the fact that God dwelt in him, not because of an “eternal generation.” A meeting to discuss these differences was held at Emden in 1547, and the following year, at Goch, Simons and Philips officially excommunicated Pastor for his unorthodox Christology.

Dietrich Philips himself held to a form of subordinationist Christology with his belief that the Son had been given a body by the Word sometime before the birth of Christ. Pastor rejected the notion of personal preexistence in any form and espoused what Raymond Brown2 appropriately calls “conception Christology.” It should be noted that G.H. Williams’ reference to Pastor’s Christology as “adoptionism”3 is not strictly accurate. Adoptionism, as generally defined, posits that Christ became the Son of God at his baptism. “Conception Christology” describes the belief that Jesus’ miraculous conception in Mary brought him into being as Son of God. It therefore rejects as unscriptural the Chalcedonian and Athanasian belief in the “eternal generation” and preexistence of the Son.

The “conception Christology” of Adam Pastor corresponds with what Raymond Brown maintains is the Christology of Matthew and Luke:

In the commentary [The Birth of the Messiah] I shall stress that Matthew and Luke show no knowledge of preexistence; seemingly for them the conception was the becoming (begetting) of God’s Son.4

It appears, then, that Pastor’s view of Christ not only coincided with that of Matthew and Luke but anticipated the modern admission that “conception Christology” is, in fact, the Christology of the Synoptic gospels: Jesus is the Son of God and Messiah because of the virginal conception. He preexisted “ideally” in God’s plan but was not literally alive before his birth (as a supposed Second Divine Being in the Trinity).

Adam Pastor was “earnest and critical, but remained mild, reverent and comprehensive in his arguments against the Nicene formulation.”5 His influence spread to Cracow where many of the same Scriptural arguments reappear amongst the Polish unitarian Anabaptists. The Racovian Catechism of 1574 acknowledges the importance of Pastor’s work in the following note:

Another antitrinitarian of this period was Adam Pastor, a man of great learning, who had previously borne the name of Rudolphus Martin. He belonged to the Anabaptists of Frisia, from whose society he was excluded about 1546, on account of his sentiments concerning the Trinity, having before held a public disputation at Goch in the Duchy of Cleves, with Theodore Philips and Menno Simonis. He maintained that the Father alone was the true God. . . . In the year 1546, a native of Holland, who went by the name of Spiritus, but who is supposed on good grounds to have been Adam Pastor, already noticed above, settled at Cracow. Being one day in the library of John Tricessius, a person of high celebrity in that


1 The Radical Reformation, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962, 416.
2 The Birth of the Messiah, London: Chapman, 1977, 141.
3 The Radical Reformation, 492.
4 331, fn. 17. See also The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall, 1990, 1358.
5 Radical Reformation, 493.


Reprint from: A Journal from the Radical Reformation, Spring 1994, Vol. 3, No. 3.
This can be obtained at the Restoration Fellowship. Used by permission.

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