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Comenius, John Amos

(Jan Amos Komenský; 1592 to 1670). Chief representative of the 17th c. Czech Reformation cultural development; last sr. bp. of the Czech branch of the Unitas fratrum (see Bohemian Brethren); forced into exile by the victory of the Counter* Reformation in Czech lands (see Czechoslovakia). Comenius' universalism, based on the eschatological hope of Christ's second coming, led him to view the theol., scientific, and pol. development of the time from the perspective of the oneness of the created world. It was from this new vantage point that he saw the task of educ. He rightly saw his ambitious plan for the reform of human soc. relations, De rerum humanarum emendatione consultatio catholica, 7 vols., as his most distinctive achievement; but it was never pub. To his contemporaries he was famous as an educ.; his theory of language educ. was esp. renowned. His pedagogical works are collected in his 1657 Opera didactica omnia. The books he wrote for the spiritual comfort of his fellow believers show him as a talented writer and poet. The christocentric piety of the writings is in some ways a foretaste of pietism. One of them, the allegorical Labyrinth of the World, is an outstanding jewel of Czech prose. He exerted great effort on the ecumenical reconciliation and unification of Prot. chs. and countries. He was convinced that the different Reformation movements were to be followed by an integral reformation of the whole ch. He was led to his endeavors also by the circumstances of his life, which put him in contact with the most varied forms of Eur. Protestantism. After leaving his country 1628, he lived in Leszno, Poland. From there he went to Eng., where he spent the winter of 1641–42. This was followed by his stay in Elbing, W Prussia, where he labored on the Swed. educ. system till 1648, when he went to Poland. In 1650–54 he was active in Sárospatak, Hung. Postwar chaos, which took away his hope of returning to his homeland, and the great fire in Laszno in 1656 drove him to Amsterdam, where he died. His suggestions for a future organization of all mankind culminated in an ecumenical council of chs. (consistorium oecumenicum), an internat. academy of scholars and teachers, and an internat. peace court; he reinterpreted theol. motifs from the Unitas fratrum and applied them universally. Bequest of the Unitas fratrum, written 1650, reflects his conviction that his ch. was about to die, only to sprout again like a seed and lead to greater unity of mankind.

J. V. Novák and J. Hendrich, Jan Amos Komenský (Prague, 1932); K. Schaller, Die Pädagogik des Johann Amos Comenius und die Anfänge des pädagogischen Realismus im 17. Jahrhundert (Heidelberg, 1962); M. Spinka, John Amos Comenius (Chicago, 1943); A. Molnár, “Esquisse de la théologie de Comenius,” Revue d'Histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses, XXVIII and XXIX, 2 (1948–49), 107–131. AM (tr. MSF)

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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