Philosophical Works

On the Relation of Philosophy to Theology

Throughout the history of Christianity, the relationship of philosophy and theology has been fraught with conflict and tension, but it is a conflict that no faithful Christian can ignore. At every period of church history, leading scholars and teachers of Scripture have also sought to compare and reconcile the Word of God with what can be learned from the study of nature and human reason. The Protestant Reformation was no exception, and this dual pursuit of philosophy and theology was particularly exemplified by the great Italian Reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli. A leading representative both of Renaissance humanism, with its return to the classical sources, and of an emergent Protestant scholasticism, with its careful use of philosophical tools to clarify Christian doctrine and ethics, Vermigli constantly attended to the relationship of philosophy and theology throughout his teaching and writing.

This volume brings together, in a carefully-edited modern translation, extensive excerpts from Vermigli’s biblical commentaries that illustrate his use of philosophical tools and his tackling of philosophical problems in the biblical text. These include classic problems such as the relation of soul and body, the role of divine providence, and the nature of our knowledge of God, as well as more particular questions, such as the nature and meaning of dreams. Together, these selections illustrate that our modern dichotomy between biblical and philosophical studies was thoroughly unknown to the Protestant Reformers, and offer a window into the thought of one of the leading intellects of the sixteenth century.


Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499–1562) was born in Florence and educated in Padua before rising through the ranks of the Augustinian order in Italy. A secret convert to Protestantism in the 1530s, he eventually fled north to Germany in 1542, before holding a series of influential posts at Strasbourg, Oxford, and Zurich. He ranks alongside John Calvin and Heinrich Bullinger as among the chief architects of the Reformed Protestant tradition.

Joseph C. McLelland (1925-2016) was a Presbyterian minister and the McConnell Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Dean of the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University. He devoted decades of his life to the study of Peter Martyr Vermigli and was among the founding editors of the Peter Martyr Library.


The Peter Martyr Library, begun in 1994 by the Peter Martyr Vermigli Society, is a scholarly project to make available to a modern audience, in critical edition translations from the Latin, the key writings of Italian reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli. Published by Truman State University Press until 2017, the Peter Martyr Library is now overseen and published by The Davenant Institute, now for the first time in paperback.