Richard Ellis, “Father’s Day: The Influence of Aemilius, Snellius, and Bertius the Elder”

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As Father’s Day draws near, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on the men who played a pivotal role in shaping Arminius’s early life. While some may be aware of the tragic loss of Arminius’s father, Harmen Jacobszoon, around the time of his birth, fewer are familiar with the mentors and guides who stepped forward to provide the essential support and wisdom he needed to flourish. Among them were Theodore Aemilius Rudulphus Snellius, and Petrus Bertius the Elder.

These men, although not biologically related to Arminius, showed extraordinary commitment by investing in his upbringing and education. Aemilius was there after his father’s passing, Snellius after Aemilius’s death, and Petrus Bertius the Elder after the Oudewater Massacre. Thus, their dedication underscores a timeless truth that resonates with our tradition of Father’s Day today: that fatherhood encompasses far more than biological connection–rather, it is a role that requires love, guidance, support, and more.

In the end, although the extent of their influence on Arminius’s life isn’t well documented, it is probably safe to presume that without them Arminius would not be the man we know today. Here’s a brief overview of who they were in Arminius’s life:

Theodore Aemilius:

One of the most significant figures in Arminius’s early years was Theodore Aemilius, a local priest who likely held to Protestant beliefs. When Arminius lost his father, Aemilius assumed the role of educator. Bertius the Younger records these events at Arminius’s funeral, “Recognizing the absence of a father figure in young Arminius’s life, this exceptional clergyman took charge of his education. Aemilius imparted rigorous instruction in Latin and Greek, alongside instilling strong principles of religion and morality” (Bertius, Funeral Oration). Given all this, it’s difficult for me to conceive that Aemilius did not play a role in influencing Arminius’s decision to study theology. Sadly, their time together came to an abrupt end in 1574 with Aemilius’s passing.

Rudolphus Snellius:

Another notable figure was Rudolphus Snellius, a “wealthy, well-educated, unmarried scholar” (Bangs, 38). Prior to encountering Arminius, Snellius was teaching Aristotelian logic in Cologne but later transitioned to the logic of Petrus Ramus (Pierre de la Ramée). It was during this period that he met the young Arminius, who was mourning the loss of Aemilius. Captivated by Arminius, Snellius decided to bring him to Marburg. While under Snellius’s guidance, Arminius was introduced to Ramist logic, a framework he embraced and used throughout his theological career.

Petrus Bertius the Elder:

Before his university days, another influential figure in Arminius’s life was Petrus Bertius the Elder. Following in his father’s footsteps, Bertius embraced the Reformation and emerged as a prominent leader within the Reformed community. He was ordained in 1572 and relocated to Rotterdam in 1574, a year before encountering Arminius. Arminius arrived in Rotterdam as a refugee in 1575 following the Oudewater massacre and found lodging in Bertius’s home. Soon after, Bertius the Elder made the decision to summon his son, Petrus Bertius the Younger, back from England in order to send him with Arminius to the newly established University of Leiden (February 8th, 1575). It’s possible, then, that Bertius’s influence played a role in Arminius’s decision to enroll at Leiden.

Works Cited:

(Most of the general information above stems from Bangs’s book, and the information is backed up by W. Stephen Gunter. Notably, much of what we do know concerning Arminius’s early years stems from Bertius’s Funeral Oration.)

  1. Bangs, Carl O. Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1985.
  2. Bertius, Petrus, The Life and Death of James Arminius and Simon Episcopius, Professor of Divinity in the University of Leyden in Holland both of them Famous Defenders of the Doctrine of Gods Universal Grace, and Sufferers for it. London: Tho. Ratcliff and Nath Thompson, 1672. Accessed at:
  3. Gunter, W. Stephen. Arminius and His Declaration of Sentiments: An Annotated Translation with Introduction and Theological Commentary. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2012.

[Link to original post and comments at Richard Ellis’ website]