Bernardino Ochino sermon in Perugia to university students

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 2:2)

1. A sermon that was preached in Perugia to university students on the Feast of St Nicholas

by Bernardino Ochino da Siena

Translated by Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap

Translator’s note:This translation is based on the introduction, text and footnotes which were published by P. Costanzo Cargnoni O.F.M. Cap. in I Frati Cappuccini: Documenti e testimonianze dell primo secolo, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, vol III/1, pp.2118-2133. The only additions to the notes made by the translator are references to Francis of Assisi: The Early Documents, edited by Regis Armstrong, O.F.M. Cap., J. A. Wayne Hellmann, O.F.M. and William J. Short O.F.M. Conv., New York City Press, New York, London, Manila, for an English version of quotations from the Writings or Biographies of St Francis.

Introduction by Costanzo Cargnoni OFM Cap

Because of its use of the scholastic references that were common among educated University students the sermon that Ochino preached to educated students at the University of Perugia could be compared, in some way, to the famous sermon that St Paul preached in the Areopagus in Athens. It constitutes a lesson on a technique of methodology. However, this methodology is centred on Christ and his crucifixion. In the early fifteen-hundreds there was much discussion with regard to method as being helpful to the art of memory and the creation of a new way of thinking about how to develop knowledge. Ochino immediately raises the question of method with the University students who had come from various countries: How does a person become very scholarly in a short time? Just like the philosophers of old students were going in search of knowledge. They wanted to learn a way of thinking that would be the key to all the knowledge in the world. They went through all the proposals regarding knowledge that had been made by the ancient Greek Philosophers and showed how they were contradictory and inconsistent. Then they turned to the modern scholarly philosophers and theologians. However, they studied Aristotle more than Christ, civil law more than the law of the Gospel, scholastic authors more than the theology of Christ. As a consequence, Ochino concludes that human knowledge without Christ is darkness. At this point he unveils his secret method. It is written in a short book that is approved and simple, and which requires the reader’s careful attention, a pure heart and a mind that is at peace and humble. This book is Jesus Christ the Crucified. This book contains all of the mysteries of God, his merciful love, and is a school of all the virtues. However, it can be understood more clearly by those who are humble and poor. It is illegible and incomprehensible to those who have power, those who are wealthy, as well as to young people who are wicked and effeminate, but most of all to businessmen. Ad effecto (to make an impression) he ends the sermon abruptly.

Nil iudicavi aliquid scire, nisi Christum crucifixum[1]

[How it is possible to become very learned in a short time]

5615 The man who belonged in heaven but who was an angel on earth, the teacher of the Gentiles, the light of truth, the chosen vessel, the trumpet of the Holy Spirit, and the mouthpiece of Christ, Paul the Apostle, even though he had been taught the elements of human knowledge by Gamaliel, even though he had been taken up into the seventh heaven, audivit archana quo non licet homini loqui,[2] when he had come back to his senses he said: Do you not realise that you ought to know nothing but the humble Christ who was crucified. This is contained in the verse that we have quoted, which, to repeat, began: Nil me iudicavi. Among you I profess to know nothing but Christ and him Crucified.

This morning I want to speak to you mainly about these words as it is the feast of the glorious St Nicholas, who is the patron of students.[3] Although I preach to everyone, today my sermon is directed especially to students. So forgive me if what I have to say about Paul and Christ is applied in a special way to the students and the scholars of this world.[4] I want it that we both see and resolve a doubt: How is it possible for a person to become very learned in a short time? This is one of the greatest wishes that a man can entertain, if as Aristotle says: Omnes nam scire desiderant: Everyone wants to possess knowledge.[5] This is how the ancient blazing enemy in the form of a serpent tempted our first parents because he knew their desires for knowledge meant that it was easier for them to fall: Eritis sicut dii scientes bonum et malum.[6] Because of their great desire to understand and to know they sinned against the divine command.

[Examples taken from the ancient philosophers]

5616 I remember reading how, throughout his entire life, Democritus the Philosopher tried to look into things and seek knowledge and that the older he became the keener he was to learn. When he was near death and it was getting closer, he was upset about dying because he was beginning to know and understand things. Theophrastus was disturbed and blamed nature for giving a longer life to snakes than to men, since in the short time that he was given to draw breath he could not know all the facts about natural phenomena. Salomone, a very wise philosopher, when he was encouraging his students used to say: Tamdiu scio, quantum diu vivo. The amount of knowledge I have is the measure of my life. When he became old, he said: Senesco tamen, nec vivere disco. When he was near death and felt his soul was about to leave his body, he heard the bystanders disputing over his soul, so he lifted his head up to hear what they were saying since even though he was dying he still wanted to learn more.

When Plato, who earned the title ‘the divine’, was eighty one years old, he went around the world, leaving his beloved home in Athens, to learn how other people lived and carried out their affairs. He left where he might have been the first lawmaker, to become the pupil of other lawmakers. Until his death, far away from his homeland, he continued his search for knowledge. Another one whom we know as Socrates, at the age of ninety-nine, worked hard to gain knowledge. In the end when he could no longer research or learn because he was in prison, he took poison and committed suicide. Archytas of Taranto, Appollonius, who was a philosopher, and many others, abandoned their own cities, Kingdoms and Provinces and went through the world on a philosophical quest to understand and to learn. In order to understand and learn more, Democritus, dug out his eyes so that his mind would be more recollected and not deceived by what he could see.[7] The Queen of Sabba abandoned her jewels and all of her treasures in the Eastern Empire and came to Thessaly to see and understand the wisdom of Solomon.[8]

[The process and way of knowing according to Aristotle]

5617 With respect to the matter that we are discussing these scholars had abandoned their sweet and pleasant homeland, their families and friends, their possessions and wealth and come to the city to learn, to acquire and to develop what they knew. Because this is your objective, today I want to briefly tell you about a kind of knowledge that will provide you with an understanding of everything in the world and completely satisfy you.

To put things the same way as your teachers would put them, I say, firstly, that when Aristotle wanted to explain how to become perfect by means of study he said: “To put it plainly, our soul is in our body as if it were in a room, and the memory is like a book in which nothing is written down so that it is entirely blank containing nothing that could be read, or known or not known: Anima est tanquam tabula rasa, in qua nihil depictum est.[9] However, anyone who wants to know anything has to open the windows of the senses and these will implant the knowledge of what the senses have received on the book of the memory and the intellect. When they have been imprinted and written in that book, they will be apprehended and learnt. The more the senses impress these images on the memory, the better will the intellect become informed and perfect. This is why it is called intellect which means reading within. In short, this means that the clearer the image and the more exact it is the better the intellect can read and know about it: Nihil est in intellectu, quanto prius [non] fuerit in sensu.[10]

Because the memory has two main windows, the eye and the ear, if one wants to know something one has to have recourse to various books and teachers, and have good masters and professors, so that the memory can absorb many things and present them to the intellect. It is also necessary for the person to be ready and well-disposed, gifted with natural ability, have a good temperament that is suited to natural philosophy. In this way Aristotle wanted the intellect to become blessed and happy in a short space of time and to undertake speculation with the proper physical disposition, energetic, vivacious, and with a number of ancient masters, that is, it is necessary that he has good books, and a tutor who would explain the books with purpose and perseverance beginning from the first principles, so that in a brief period he becomes learned.

[The road to knowledge according to Plato]

5618 Plato, who was Aristotle’s teacher, was of the opposite opinion, because he relied on Moses who had written about the creation of the world. Thus, Plato believed that the world was made by God.[11] Moses said that man was put on earth by God; Plato said that his soul was created in heaven. Moses said that was put out of paradise because of sin after being seduced by the devil and tempted with the forbidden apple. Plato said that our soul was created at the same time as the divine intelligence of the Angels and, at the suggestion of the wicked Angel, was sent into the body as into a dark prison. Because the sin was serious so was its punishment, when the soul is separated from the body it returns to its place of origin and its rightful position. However, while it remains in this physical prison the notions, the ideas and the images of everything are impressed on it. However, they are weighed down by the body and the soul remains asleep and deprived of all knowledge.

However, when reading the book of memory it recalls what it had not known before. Plato proved this by the use of the following argument. No one searches for the knowledge or ideas of what is clear to him; nor seeks to know what cannot be known. A person only seeks to know what he can know or what he already knew and the memory of which or its image is still present in his memory. Thus, he says: Scire nostrum est quoddam reminisci.[12] He gives the reason for this as being that when one has never seen something but finds that he recognises it there must have already been an image of it in his memory and when he sees that image he recognises what the thing is.

5619 Plato also produced many more and varied reasons: If when he dies a person has the likeness and image of the idol stamped on him, he will never be able to recognise it. Praeterea [in addition to that] if someone were to ask you something that you cannot remember, they will think that you are keeping it to yourself. Close your eyes and go to the house of memory and look in the book to discover the truth. This is why Plato commanded that those who were timid should start off by going to the first principles, gradually progressing to full knowledge. According to this theory books were useless and so were teachers, since everything was already stamped in the soul in the book of the mind. Plato wanted the philosopher to seek out a solitary place where he wound begin to speculate within his own mind and thus engage in philosophy and become very learned.[13]

Theophrastus as well as many others adopted this theory because they were opposed to human exchanges and yearned for solitude.[14] They contended that the only way for a person to obtain knowledge was to study what was contained in the book of memory. Thus I conclude saying what Plato said: If a person wants to become learned let him remain in a solitary place, and consider and speculate with the intellect and read the ideas that are stamped into it and the images made by natural things, calling to mind the other things that he read and came to know on other occasions and then he will become very wise.

[The road to knowledge according to the philosophers]

5620 Various philosophers held different opinions. For example, Socrates, who was Plato’s teacher, said if someone wanted to become very learned he should first of all study the book of ignorance, because the first thing that is true is that God is exalted and beyond comprehension and it is impossible to acquire sure and certain truth about anything without admitting this in the first place. The first requirement is to know God perfectly and that is why he says: A person is as learned as he is ignorant: Unum scio, quod nihil scio.[15] He says in the book about ignorance: “the best knowledge is to know about nothing.” This is why he founded the Academy of Ignorance in Athens where a person could study for three years. In the first year he learnt something, in the second less and in the third nothing. This is why Democritus did not want to be called a Sophist, but an ignorant Philosopher because the wisdom that he learnt put him to sleep. He took in everything as in a dream and he realised that the more that he learnt the less he knew.[16]

Many Platonists said that they did not study to go in search of the truth.[17] The Academics said: “in order to acquire wisdom one must find ignorance”.[18] Heraclitus said: “Knowledge of truth was made out of a useless vapour in order to reach what was infinite.” Aristotle said: “One cannot know about corruptible things.” Plato said: Lubet in individuas quiescere”.[19] Thales of Miletus always went around with his head held high and said: “Omnia circumfusa sunt tenebris”.[20] “Oh the more I search to know the more I fall into ignorance.” Democritus said: “Truth is a bottomless well: “the more you dig, the deeper it gets”. Others said: “Truth is a cloudy mountain”. Others say: “Truth is the floor in a wardrobe, and it is not seen very often”. Others say: Omnes sapientes insanere.[21] Others say: “Quot capita, tot sententiae”. Others say: Omnis homo mendax.[22] Others say: Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas. [23] In short, according to these false opinions a person is wise when he in a state of great ignorance.

[Worldly wisdom]

5621 Now that I have come to speaking about what pertains to the soul, I note that there are many who study worldly philosophy and who believe that it is the most perfect and noble science that could be found in the world. Aristotle says this in the first book and in many other places in De anima.[24] Speaking about the third book of the De anima when he wants to praise Aristotle the commentator Averroes[25] says that there had never been anyone like him in the world because, more than anyone, he emphasised what our soul knew, and could not have gone any further under natural enlightenment without knowing the soul’s role and whether the soul was mortal or immortal. He could not settle the doubt. He went further in the Metaphysics causing more confusion when he spoke about many things at length when fifty words would have been enough. He does not deserve to be known as someone who lit up the truth when it is more likely that he raised more questions. Even when he did say something that was true, he was not ashamed to steal it from other people. Nevertheless, today he is recognised, and more faith is placed in Aristotle than in Christ, as though Aristotle were an earthly god.

All of the modern experts in the natural sciences have implanted Aristotle in their minds and cast Christ onto the ground. Oh dear, without Christ philosophy is nothing but gloom and shadowy darkness. Listen to what Paul said: Videte ne quis vos seducat per inanem philosophiam: sapientia huius mundi stultitia est apud Deum.[26] Know, my city, that faith in Christ never had a greater enemy than senseless human knowledge. Look at the primitive Church for a little while which lived at the highest level of perfection because the law of the Gospel replaced the wisdom of the world. After philosophers appeared heretics arrived. The more human wisdom grew, the further the Church was degraded.[27] Without the law of Christ, philosophers are the first-born of the Egyptians and the patriarchs of iniquity.

Go and consider the Emperor Valentine who was a mortal enemy of literature because he said that it was the plague of the Church.[28] During the reign of the Lacedemonians they definitely did not favour literature because they said: “Truth proves itself”. Therefore, I conclude: Without Christ philosophy does not enlighten, indeed it causes gloom in the soul because obscuratum est cor eorum et insipiens, dicentes se esse sapientes, stulti facti sunt. [29] Paul repeats the same message to the Corinthians when he says: Perdam sapientiam et prudentiam reprobabo; nam stultam fecit Deus sapientiam huius saeculi, nam quia insipientiam non cognovits mundus.[30] Oh how much has wisdom already darkened the law of love! The more a person learns and the more worldly wisdom he acquires the more he becomes an enemy of Christ.

[Human law and theology and the law of Christ]

5622 Forgive me if wanting to spend a moment speaking about the law with its many paragraphs, subject matters, legal interpretations I have thus confused you, mystified you, obscured the law of Christ, made you trample on God who is the end of the law,[31] caused you to study the precepts but not the purpose of the precepts, or impressed human counsels on your mind and thrown Christ’s counsels on the ground. That sweet Christ came into the world to free people from the bitterness and weight[32] of the law. He threw out all the judicial and criminal regulations and all the traditions and human statutes. However, you, you false Christian, have reinvented laws and human statutes that are perhaps no less bitter than were those of the Jews and which placed more importance on breaking a human precept than on breaching the entire law of love.[33] Perhaps Princes made up civic laws to suit their own needs and to cover up their own wickedness and mistakes. I believe and indeed I am sure that if all these laws and statutes were to be taken away, and all that remained was Christ’s gentle loving law, people would be as they were in ancient Church.[34] There would not be so much litigation. Mortals would have examined every quandary and disagreement without error. If mistakes were made, they would not have gone on forever. I do not condemn laws and I am not opposed to them when they are observed in the service of Christ, to defend justice, to preserve fair play, to keep the peace or to maintain other virtues. However, I condemn the misuse of law that dishonours Christ.

Your laws cause conflict and favouritism in the city and create upset within families, where this happens more than anywhere else. Families claim to be united but then fall into insults, arguments and favouritism. Praeterea, speaking with respect and reverence for good priests, in order to make himself known Jesus Christ dressed himself in our human apparel and was as lowly and humble, just like any other creature. He preached the Gospel to children, prostitutes and publicans, and proclaimed his law to everyone. At present preachers conceal it.[35] Oh what a diabolical thing it is to preach human theology and not divine theology! Formerly it resided under the shadow of the Mosaic Law. However, with Christ’s death velum templi scissum est in duas partes a summo usque deorsum.[36] Everything was made clear and apparent. Human theology found so many ways to be transmitted, so many questions to be discussed, took so many different forms, created so much confusion, and raised so many subtle points and other things under which what was true was concealed. The theology of Christ, which is the source of wisdom, has been abandoned: Obscuratum est insipiens cor eorum.[37]


5623 With the utmost contempt those who are proud have abandoned Christ’s true bread and the true Gospel, and replaced it with the metaphysics of Scotus.[38] Some followed Giles of Rome.[39] Others followed William of Ockham,[40] and many other theologians, who with all their expertise could not come to know a single truth without Christ, because Christ said, Ego sum via, veritas et vita,[41] and apud me est fons vitae et in lumine tuo videbimus lumen.[42] If you had everything in the world except Christ you would have nothing. However, those who are the greatest idiots and who are ignorant think that they can know Christ very easily. Who is right, the children, the uneducated and the prostitutes who believe in Christ and praise Christ, or the scribes and Pharisees, who were educated in law, and yet full of hatred? The more they claimed to have the light of knowledge, the blinder they were.[43]

Ego sum lux mundi, the light, says Christ. Ego sum via, ego sum veritas, ego sum vita, ego sum ostium.[44] I am the road on which to learn. I am truth without falsehood. I am the life that will bring you blessing. I am the door through which to enter into all knowledge. Oh, what is the art of grammar without Christ except darkness and shadow? What are history and fables except a collection of lies? What is the art of dialectics or debating except a collection of lies? What is music except smoke and vanity? What is geometry except measuring your hardships? What is mathematics except calculating your sufferings? What is ethics except learning how to become a tyrant? What is astrology except something that makes you twirl your head? What is worldly theology except something to make you a hypocrite? Oh dear, what is more exasperating than the wisdom of the ancient serpent!

So, I conclude by agreeing with what Socrates maintained: the one who is the most learned and wise is the one who is most ignorant.[45]

[Reading Jesus Christ, the book of life]

5624 Oh, I want to teach you how you can become very learned and very easily in a short period of time. I know of a book in which all truth is written down and the book is approved by the most holy Trinity. It is that easy that children and women could read it and reading it would afford them the greatest possible pleasure. So, if you want me to give it to you then you must allow me to publish it.

In order not to multiply many words I say: This book is kind Jesus. It is short, quia verbum abbreviatum fecit Dominus.[46] It has been approved: Hic est Filius meus dilectus. [47] It is easy to read: Iugum enim meum suave est.[48] When they read this book everyone, including those who are uneducated, will feel more sweetness and pleasure than can be described. The Son of God came down to earth so that people would read his book and become professors in the University of Heaven. My City, you ought to know that there are some who labour in vain to study the book that contains all truth and knowledge and thus Christ said: Vobis datum est nosse misterium Regni Dei; caeteris autem in praeambulis.[49] You are allowed to eat the almonds and to read the pure fruit of the Gospel; others see it in shadow, darkness and in glimpses.

Listen carefully, if you want to read this book and to understand it, you must first try to have the right intention. Many study out of curiosity, many are greedy to collect information, and many are greedy for fame and honours. However, in the case of this book it is only necessary to study with the firm and sincere intention of being raised up to God. Oh, what sanctifying knowledge this is! Secondly you need to purify your heart so that it is as simple as a dove so that truth may become imprinted on it. Your soul needs to be at peace and tranquil, separated from all inordinate appetites and worldly desires.

5625 Thus the Jews say that the ancient Cabbalists, who received a revelation from heaven, were free from all earthly cares.[50] Hippocrates wanted his disciples to remain resolute and, above all, to behave themselves well.[51]

The followers of necromancy, wishing to carry out their duty, opposed various scents and means of purification.[52] If you want to read the Book of Christ you had to get rid of all stains and vice. Thus, when God wanted to give the law to the Jewish nation they had to prepare and purify themselves for three consecutive days. When Moses went up the cloud-covered mountain he took off his sandals.[53] This meant that if he wanted to speak with God, he had to rid himself of all vice and error. In the same way, Paul, as if he had died, spent three days on the ground without his sight and without worldly knowledge.[54] On the third day vidit arcana, quae non licet homini loqui.[55]

You need to have a peaceful mind and you need to be passionate about possessing the precious diamond. You need to bow your head in humility, casting aside pride and impertinence. If the disciples of Pythagoras were steadfast, persistent and earnest in absorbing the teaching of their master, how much more devoted, steadfast, constant and sincere should the disciples of Jesus be in absorbing the law of love. Consider for a moment how pride ruined the Pharisees making them full of hatred and wickedness against Christ, whom they could not recognise as the Son of God; whereas the blind man said: Fili David Miserere miei.[56] You need to go gathering crumbs like the Canaanite woman.[57] You need to ponder over the things that you read in this book and act like Maria of whom this book says that when she heard what Simeon said about her Son, conferebat omnia verba haec in corde suo.[58] Oh dear, what greater happiness could there be in the world than to know all the words, works, miracles, and actions that Christ performed from day to day, at every moment during the thirty-three years that he lived in the world!

5626 Likewise I want you to know all that he suffered, beginning with when he was born, when he was persecuted by Herod, hated by the Jews, betrayed by his own disciple, when he was taken before the Chief Priests like a lamb in front of wolves, bound to a column and flogged, crowned with thorns, led to die between two thieves, given vinegar and sour wine to drink. Oh dear, there can be nothing better for you to do than to ponder over and to think about his death on the cross! If you were to read these things you would come to know many things and indeed the whole truth. You would experience such sadness of heart that you would forget all worldly desires. You would give up an infinite number of worlds if you possessed them. So then, if you open yourselves you can know how to acquire all knowledge, kick aside the world, fill yourselves with faith and inflame yourselves with divine love.

If those who are proficient scholars have spoken about the soul in a confused manner, Christ will explain it clearly and plainly because he has taken it as his spouse, and when he went about preaching he was going in search of souls who had lost their way to heaven.[59] He did not hesitate to embrace them, no matter how much they had erred. He was not ashamed to speak to publicans and prostitutes.[60] Everything that Jesus Christ did was aimed at saving the soul. He had more love, more regard and set more value on the soul than on the body. To show how much he loved the soul, he went to Limbo with his divine nature, to free the holy fathers and then, after re-joining them to their bodies, he took them to heaven to place them at his Father’s right hand.

5627 Oh my children, if you read this book, I am sure that in doing so the world cannot not harm you. If you consider how much sweet Jesus suffered in his body to free the soul from the pains of hell, I am sure you will undoubtedly recognise that every soul is immortal.

Praeterea, in this book you will learn about all of the virtues. If you want to learn about poverty go and look at the Son of God in the manger lying on putrid straw between two animals. His birth was poor, his life was poor. He had a poor death. Following his death, he had been so poor that he was buried in the grave of another. If you want to become humble, read about Christ and you will discover so much about humility. Oh, how much humility you will find! He who is God has become man! He who was King has become a slave! He who was above all of the angels has placed himself below mankind, taking on the weight of its iniquity! How great is the humility of kind Jesus as he was being led to death and fixed on a cross in the midst of bitter comments! When the world was at the greatest level of iniquity, Christ prayed to the Father for the world and shed his precious blood with fervent love. To make you surer he opened his side so that you could observe the fire of the love that burnt in his heart to secure your salvation.

If you want to learn about peace from this book and you should look at the reflection of Christ and turn it over in your memory, and you will see that it was your sins that made it necessary for the Son of God to die, and you will not learn this from any other book. By means of Christ you will see that dependable door. Through Christ you will behold the wisdom of God. By means of Christ you will see the power of God. By means of Christ you will see the supreme justice of God. As punishment for your failure he made payment with the blood of the Son of God. In Christ you will see ardent charity, sweetness and love.[61]

5628 My bountiful City, when you go down on your knees this Christmas before the Crib of Jesus and, along with the shepherds and the Magi, offer your hearts, you will be filled with delight, happiness and consolation together with the Angels. If you go into the temple and see Christ debating, you will be the most learned. If you listen to Christ preach, you will become a good preacher. If you understand the beautiful sermon at the Last Supper, you will have reached the highest degree of perfection.

If you see sweet Jesus wash the feet of the disciples with such great love, especially when he comes to the traitor, you will leave aside all hatred and anger. If Christian Princes were to read this book, they would banish all their tyranny and plundering of their servants. If noblemen were to read about Christ they would not have been so concerned about grooming horses, dogs and hawks while allowing poor orphans to die of hunger.[62] If I were to say: “It is the responsibility of pastors to care for sinners,” you might say that Homer was praised because he called princes pastors. A young man who is lazy keeps on going to gambling places because he says he was born of noble blood. Oh, what a disgrace! Can you not see that this kind of nobility is what stops you from being noble? Do you think that your ancestors made you noble by being lazy, dishonest or filled with vice? Never think like that! Indeed, they made you noble by their life of virtue.

If you read the book of Christ, you might forget lust and many great vices, many abominable sins and come to love every virtue. I shall leave out businessmen, I will leave them alone.[63]

  1. 1 Cor 2:2 – This is what is being proposed to the students of the University at Perugia. In the text the title of this sermon reads: “Predica predicate in Perugia dal Reverendo Padre Frate Bernardino da Siena dell’Ordine di frati Cappuzzini il giorno di San Nicolò alli Scholari”.
  2. 2 Cor 12:4
  3. St Nicholas of Mira, sometimes said to have come from Bari, because his relics have been held there since the fourth century. In popular religion he became Santa Claus for children. He is the patron of young people, prisoners, sailors and confraternities. The Roman Martyrology placed his feast on sixth of December. Bernardino Ochino preached the Advent Course in Perugia in 1536. Thus, he could have delivered this sermon on the sixth of December in that year. He may also have delivered it in 1539 when he preached the Advent Course in Perugia for a second time.
  4. Thus he chose to use turns of phrases that were more familiar to students.
  5. This is a famous expression used by Aristotle in his Metafisica: “Quite naturally everyone wants to gain knowledge”. Cf. Grande antologia filosofica, vol. I, Milano 1954, 394.
  6. Gen 3:5
  7. This collection of Philosophers was meant to capture the minds of his young audience. Democritus was a great orator. Theophrastus succeeded Aristotle in the Peripatetic School, Salomone is an unknown philosopher whose name could also be Solon, Plato and Socrates are well-known. Archytas of Taranto was a Pythagorean mathematical philosopher who was involved in music. Apollonius was a mathematician unless he is referring to Apollonius of Tyana who dealt in magic and neo-Pythagorean philosophy in the first century of Christianity and finally Democritus, a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of atomism.
  8. Cf. 2Chron 9: 1-12.
  9. That is: “The soul is like a clean slate on which nothing is written”.
  10. That is “Nothing is in the intellect that was not first of all in the senses”.
  11. The assimilation and comparison of Plato with Moses is a characteristic of the Neo-Platonist philosophy in Florentine literature and cabbalist Jewish theology at the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th centuries. Here Bernardino Ochino shows his familiarity with Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola. He had probably read De harmonia mundi by Francesco Giorgio from Veneto, who was an Observant Friar Minor, a theologian, neo-Platonist philosopher and cabbalist. On this subject see B. Schmitt, “Prisca Theologia”, and “Philosophia perennis”: due temi del Rinascimento italiano e la loro fortuna, in Il pensiero del Rinascimento e il tempo nostro, Firenze 1962, 211-236; C. Vasoli, Profezia e ragione. Studi sulla cultura del Cinquecento e del Seicento, Napoli 1974.
  12. That: “our knowledge consists in what we remember”.
  13. Note Ochino’s skill in summarising Plato’s theory of knowledge which was based on the concepts of innate and imprinted ideas.
  14. Sollecitudini is a mistake in the text.
  15. That is: “I only know one thing and that is that I am ignorant.”
  16. Here is another comparison of philosophers that would have meant much to the students at Perugia. Democritus, who was quoted above, is compared to Heraclitus. He was known as the “Laughing Philosopher” because he laughed at human follies.
  17. These Platonists were sceptics.
  18. The Academics followed Plato but under the influence of Pythagoras and Aristotle and replaced Neo-Platonism. St Augustine opposed them in his Contra accademicos.
  19. That is, it is pleasant to dwell on individual realities.
  20. That is, “everything is surrounded by darkness”.
  21. “All wise people become mad”. Not as in the text insavere.
  22. Ps 115:11 (Vulg.)
  23. Qo 1:2
  24. That is in the first book of the De anima by Aristotle and especially in chapter two where the Greek Philosopher refers to the other opinions of philosophers concerning the soul. Cf. Grande antologia filosofica f. 383s.
  25. Averroes was an Arab, philosopher, judge and Muslim doctor in Cordova (+ 1198) in Spain. He translated and commented on the following books, Metafisica, De anima, and De Caelo. Dante spoke of him in the Inferno, IV, 144: “Averroes who wrote the great commentary”.
  26. 1 Cor 3:19.
  27. As a radical follower of the spirituals Ochino shows himself to be opposed to the humanist philosophers who oppose belief in God.
  28. The text has Valentiano, but it should probably have said Valentine I (+ 375).
  29. Rom 1:22.
  30. Cf 1 Cor 1: 19-20.
  31. Cf. Rom 10:4
  32. The text has perso
  33. This is very strong opposition to legalism as being antichristian.
  34. This is the repetition of a slogan that was often used during the Reformation with respect to the primitive Church.
  35. This was one of the main complaints made by “evangelicalism” before Trent.
  36. Cf. Mt 15:38; Mt 27:51.
  37. Cf note 29.
  38. The study of Duns Scotus took pride of place in the early fifteen-hundreds. The first Capuchin friars who came from the Observants or the Conventual Friars were usually Scotists.
  39. Giles of Rome (+ 1316) was an Augustinian philosopher and theologian in Rome. He was the General of the Order and Bishop of Bourges. He was one of the great scholastic professors and became known as Doctor fundatissimus (Best-Grounded Teacher).
  40. That is, William of Ockham (+ 1349/50) an English philosopher and Franciscan. He was the leader of the Nominalists, a disciple and later opponent of Scotus. Because of his vast knowledge he was known as Doctor invincibilis (Invincible Doctor) or Doctor singularis (Unique Doctor).
  41. Jn 14:6
  42. Cf Ps 35:10 (Vulg.) However, because of a mistake in the reading of the original manuscript it says: vidi mai lume, instead of videbimus lumen as in the Vulgate.
  43. Cf. Ps 8:3; Mt 21:31-32; Jn 9:40-41.
  44. Cf. Jn 8:12; 14:6; 10:9.
  45. This is typical conclusion for someone who is a radical member of the spirituals.
  46. Rom 9:28.
  47. Mt 3:17; 2 Pet 1:17
  48. Cf. Mt 1:30
  49. Lk 8:10 In the text the one who made the copy has made a mistake: by writing in praembulis.
  50. Concerning the Cabbalists with respect to this matter see F. Secret, Les Kabbala chrétiens de la Renaissance, Paris 1964.
  51. Hippocrates was a famous Greek physician from Kos. He was known as “the father of medicine”. His teachings, together with those of Galen, constituted the whole of Medieval medical science. The first edition of his work was printed in Venice in 1526.
  52. Necromancy had a great following in the fifteen-hundreds.
  53. Cf. Ex 19:10-11; 3:5.
  54. Cf. Acts 9:8-9
  55. Cf. 2 Cor 12:4.
  56. Cf. Mk 10:47; Lk 18:38-39.
  57. Cf. Mt 15:27; Mk 7:28
  58. Cf. Lk 2:19.
  59. Cf. Mt 15:24; 18:11; Lk 19:10; 15:4 etc.
  60. Cf. Mt 21:32; 9:10-11; Lk 15:1-2.
  61. All of this is framed within the language of St Paul.
  62. This reference to orphans makes us think of the institute for orphans known as “cappuccinelli” that Ochino established in Perugia.
  63. The conclusion is unexpected. Note the forcefulness and the criticism of the contemporary upper social class.