1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Beza, Theodore
BEZA (de Bèsze), THEODORE (1519-1605), French theologian, son of bailli Pierre de Bèsze, was born at Vezelai, Burgundy, on the 24th of June 1519. Of good descent, his parents were known for generous piety. He owed his education to an uncle, Nicolas de Bèsze, counsellor of the Paris parlement, who placed him (1529) under Melchior Wolmar at Orleans, and later at Bourges. Wolmar, who had taught Greek to Calvin, grounded Beza in Scripture from a Protestant standpoint; after his return to Germany (1534) Beza studied law at Orleans (May 1535 to August 1539), beginning practice in Paris (1539) as law licentiate. To this period belong his exercises in Latin verse, in the loose taste of the day, foolishly published by him as Juvenilia in 1548. Though not in orders, he held two benefices. A severe illness wrought a change; he married his mistress, Claude Desnoz, and joined the church of Calvin at Geneva (October 1548). In November 1549 he was appointed Greek professor at Lausanne, where he acted as Calvin’s adjutant in various publications, including his defence of the burning of Servetus, De Haereticis a civili magistratu puniendis (1554). In 1558 he became professor in the Geneva academy, where his career was brilliant. His conspicuous ability was shown in the abortive Colloquy of Poissy (1561). On Calvin’s death (1564) he became his biographer and administrative successor. As a historian, Beza, by his chronological inexactitude, has been the source of serious mistakes; as an administrator, he softened the rigour of Calvin. His editions and Latin versions of the New Testament had a marked influence on the English versions of Geneva (1557 and 1560) and London (1611). The famous codex D. was presented by him (1581) to Cambridge University, with a characteristically dubious account of the history of the manuscript. His works are very numerous, but of little moment, except those already mentioned. He resigned his offices in 1600, and died on the 13th of October 1605. He had taken a second wife (1588), Catherine del Piano, a widow, but left no issue. He was not the author of the Histoire ecclésiastique (1580), sometimes ascribed to him; nor, probably, of the vulgar skit published under the name of Benedict Panavantius (1551).
See Laingaeus, De Vita et Moribus (1585, calumnious); Antoine la Faye, De Vita et Obitu (1606, eulogistic); Schlosser, Leben (1806); Baum, Th. Beza, portrait (1843–1851); Heppe, Leben (1861). (A. Go.*)