Authority, fear, and tolerance in Spanish religious dialogues
McCoy, Mitchell Allen
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Sixteenth-century Spanish scholars engaged in the philological study of classical and biblical literature were inspired by both the content and structure of their readings. The patronage of scholars by the church, university, and aristocracy combined with the late fifteenth-century advent of the printing press to enable these scholars to respond by publishing their own literary expressions. The present study analyzes three distinct religious dialogues by Juan de Valdés, Miguel Servet, and Fray Luis de León that reflect their respective understandings of Christian doctrine and faith with a focus upon how the dialogues express the concepts of authority, fear, and tolerance. While the dialogical form of these intellectuals’ literary production mimicked the classical literary dialogues they were studying, the Christian doctrinal content reflected their personal values and pursuits as well as those of the society. Previous scholars of Juan de Valdés’s Diálogo de doctrina cristiana have intensely focused on Erasmus of Rotterdam’s influence upon early sixteenth-century Spanish spirituality to the neglect of other autochthonous spiritual influences, namely Fray Hernando de Talavera. Establishing Talavera as an inspirational influence upon Valdés recontextualizes the historical milieu and highlights how Valdés’s vernacular Christian dialogue carries on the pedagogical and church reform efforts initiated by Talavera. With the refined historical context in mind, this study is augmented by Paul Ricoeur’s salient characterization of the concept of authority that is then employed to closely read Valdés’s Diálogo de doctrina cristiana, Servet’s Dos diálogos de la Trinidad divina, and Fray Luis de León’s De los nombres de Cristo. The readings of each dialogue demonstrate how these authors used the dialogue form, language, and characters to establish themselves as authorities of Christian doctrine by sanctioning the credibility of scripture, reaffirming their understanding of the doctrinal centrality of Christ, and showing how fear and tolerance play integral roles in the concept of authority.