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Nicodemism

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Abstract

Nicodemism can be generally defined as the practice of religious (dis)simulation in contexts of more or less open persecution. “Nicodemite” was the name that the sixteenth-century French reformer John Calvin gave to Protestants living in Catholic countries who chose to conceal their faith out of a concern for personal safety. In the 1540s and 1550s, the legitimacy of such a behavior was at the center of a heated controversy stretching from Calvinist Geneva to nearby countries such as Italy, Germany, Holland, and France. While supporters of religious dissimulation invoked a range of scriptural and rational arguments in their own defense – including the illustrious precedent of the Roman Nicodemus, who believed in Christ but visited him only by night out of fear – prominent reformers such as Calvin denounced Nicodemism as morally inexcusable and strategically ruinous for the long-term development of Reformed churches. Historically, the emergence of Nicodemism as a particular form of religious dissimulation buttressed by scriptural and rational arguments is inextricably tied to the specific circumstances of religious life in the Reformed and philo-Reformed milieus of mid-sixteenth-century Europe. Modern historiographical discourse, however, has often stretched the term Nicodemism well beyond its context of origin, in ways that have not failed to raise debate and that ultimately reflect underlying disagreements about the meaning and essence of Nicodemism itself.

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Correspondence to Sara Miglietti .

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Miglietti, S. (2019). Nicodemism. In: Sgarbi, M. (eds) Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_435-1

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