Undergrad schmundergrad

I’ve been reading a very fine essay by James Kirk on ‘The Religion of Early Scottish Protestants’ in Humanism and Reform: The Church in Europe, England, and Scotland, 1400-1643, wherein I was struck by the following:

‘In St Andrews University, too, humanist impulses and Erasmian evangelism are detectable in the creation of St Mary’s College, licensed by papal bull in 1538, to reinvigorate Catholic teaching and refute heresy, and in repeated efforts to erect a trilingual college, as advocated by the nephew of Cardinal Beaton, Archibald Hay, first as regent in Paris and then as Principal of St Mary’s. His dream was of a college not just for the study of the humanist disciplines of poetry, rhetoric, history and ethics, but for advanced training in theology by promoting the biblical tongues. Chaldaic and Arabic, he argued, ought to be taught as well as Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. More tangibly, in recommending the Scots humanist teacher at the College des Presles in Paris, John Douglas, for a post in St Andrews, Hay helped secure the services of a Paris bachelor of medicine (and probably also a doctor of theology) who, as Provost of St Mary’s, chose the Protestant path at the Reformation and as a contributor to the Reformers’ Book of Discipline in 1560 shared responsibility for the detailed discussion on reorganizing the universities. Douglas’s own arrival in St Andrews was followed with the appointment by 1556 of another Paris scholar, John Rutherford, to St Mary’s (later to head St Salvator’s), to teach philosophy, Greek, and Latin, a step which (despite his neo-Aristotelianism) helped strengthen the advance of the humanities within the University, for Rutherford (who also had medical interests) was well travelled in Europe, having lived in Bordeaux, Montaigne, Coimbra, Périgord, and Paris; and with the Reformation, he became a convert to Calvinism, owning copies of Calvin and Beza (and also Wolfgang Musculus, the reformer at Augsburg, on the Psalms)’. (p. 364)

As an ex-student of St Mary’s College, I was very interested to read this, and was led to wonder just how easy those undergrads – who manage to get a theology degree without having to read any Augustine or even having to master Chaldaic – have it these days. C’mon Steve, lift your teams’ game!

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