Valdés, Juan de
Valdés, Juan de
VALDÉS, JUAN DE
Humanist, religious leader, and theologian; b. Cuenca, Spain, 1490?; d. Naples, Italy, 1541. He was the son of a distinguished family of public servants. His elder brother, Alfonso de Valdés, became secretary for Latin letters to the Emperor Charles V. Juan belonged for some time to the household of Diego López Pacheco, Marqués de Villena, well known for his Erasmian and Alumbrado sympathies [see alumbrados (illuminati)]. Later he was a student at the new University of Alcalá de Henares, center of humanistic learning, where he probably learned his Greek and Hebrew. When the publication without his name of the Diálogo de doctrina cristiana (Alcalá 1529) provoked strong reactions for its Erasmian tendencies, he moved to Italy, spending his last years at Naples. He died there without ever being condemned by the Church. His contemporaries testify to his gentleness, distinguished manners, and irresistible charm.
Juan de Valdés never intended to start a religious movement, and the attempts to make him a Lutheran or an orthodox Catholic failed. However, he found himself the center and inspirer of a devoted group of followers, churchmen and aristocrats, who considered him as their spiritual leader. The most prominent was Giulia Gonzaga, for whom several of his writings were intended, particularly Alfabeto cristiano published posthumously in Italian (1545) and the first nonrabbinical version in Spanish of the Book of Psalms. Other famous members of the cenacle of Valdés's friends in Naples were Bernardino ochino, peter martyr vermigli, Celio Secundo Curione, and the poet Marcantonio Flaminio, who translated into Italian the Alfabeto and possibly Valdés's main doctrinal work, Le cento e dieci considerazioni… (Basilea 1550). From this translation others in French and Dutch were made in the 16th century. The English, by Nicholas Ferrar of Little Gidding, was published in Oxford in 1638. Juan de Valdés wrote several shorter treatises and letters and translated and commented on the Gospel of St. Matthew and the Epistles of St. Paul to the Romans, and first Corinthians. The last two were published by Juan de Pineda in Switzerland from 1556 to 1557. In his writings three main influences can be detected: the Erasmian, already mentioned in connection with his Diálogo de doctrina; that of the Italian Renaissance, shown particularly in his well-known Diálogo de la lengua; and third, the extreme mystical trend of the Spanish Alumbrados. Erasmian influences can be found in his tendency to go back to the sources of Christianity; his evangelism and Paulinism; the spiritual interpretation of the Credo, Commandments, and Sacraments, as well as his belief in justification by faith. His Alumbrado tendencies were accentuated in his Italian period when he stressed his belief in personal inspiration and illumination as the sources of knowledge and action. He believed that the spiritual life should be strengthened by inward discipline rather than manifested by outward forms. The spiritual church is formed by those who are incorporated to the Mystical Body of Christ. Valdés' religion was more affective and volitive than intellectual. His strong sense of dependence upon the Benefice of Christ (1543), the title of a wellknown book embodying his doctrine, makes his religion optimistic and euphoric.
Bibliography: j. c. nieto, ed., Juan de Valdes, Two Catechisms: "Dialogue on Christian Doctrine" and the "Christian Instruction for Children," trans. w. b. jones and c. b. jones (Lawrence, Ks. 1981). b. b. wiffen, Life and Writings of Juan de Valdés… (London 1865). e. boehmer, "Cenni biografici sui fratelli Giovanni e Alfonso Valdesso" in the Appendix to Le cento e dieci divine considerazioni (Halle 1860). m. menÉndez y pelayo, Historia de los heterodoxos españoles, 7 v. (2d ed. Madrid 1911–32), v.4 passim. e. cione, Juan de Valdés, la sua vita e il suo pensiero religioso, con una completa bibliografia delle opere del Valdés e degli altri scritti intorno a lui (Bari 1938). domingo de santa teresa, Juan de Valdés, su pensamiento religioso (Analecta Gregoriana 85; Rome 1957), with bibliog. d. ricart, Juan de Valdés y el pensamiento religioso europeo en los siglos XVI y XVII (Mexico City 1958). r. konetzke, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 1957–65), 6:1224.