EPISCOPIUS (BISSCHOP), SIMON: Dutch theologian; b. at Amsterdam Jan. 8, 1583; d. there Apr. 4, 1643. For his gifts and industry shown in the schools of Amsterdam the city authorities made him alumnus, and sent him to the University of Leyden in 1600. There he became master of arts in 1606 and then began the study of theology under Arminius and Gomarus. When the Amsterdam officials wished to make him preacher there, the Calvinists protested. He went to Franeker and heard Johannes Drusius. In 1610 he became pastor at Bleiswyk, after having declined other calls. He took part on the side of the Remonstrants (q.v.) in the conferences at The Hague (1611) and at Delft (1613). When Gomarus resigned as professor at Leyden the curators nominated Episcopius as his successor and he entered upon his duties as professor there Feb. 23, 1612, with an address De optima regni Christi instruendi ratione. During the six years that he held this position he published several works which were collected after his death in his Opera theologica (ed. S. Curcellæus and P. van Limborch, 2 vols., Amsterdam, 1650-65). Festus Hommius, pastor in Leyden, attacked him in Specimen controversiarum Belgicarum (Leyden, 1618) and he was once publicly affronted in Amsterdam.
With twelve other Remonstrant ministers Episcopius was cited to appear at the Synod of Dort and he was one of the leaders of the Remonstrants before that body (see DORT, SYNOD OF). He and the others were banished and for a time he lived in Antwerp, then at Paris and in Rouen, until, after the death of Prince Maurice (1625), the animosity against the Remonstrants in his native land began to diminish and he was able to return to Rotterdam (1626). He wrote much during his exile including the Confessio sive declaratio pastorum qui in federato Belgio Remonstrantes vocantur (1622; Dutch transl. by Uytenbogaert, 1621). In Sept., 1630, he consecrated the new Remonstrant church in Amsterdam; in Oct., 1634, he became the head of the newly founded Remonstrant theological seminary there, and filled the position with much honor and renown for nine years, displaying vast energy and exercising a far-reaching influence. In his Institutiones theologicæ (left incomplete; published in four volumes, 1650-51) he gave a scientific basis to the doctrines of the Remonstrants, in his Apologia pro confessione (1629) he refuted an attack of four Leyden professors upon the Confessio, and various attacks by Trigland and others received his immediate attention. With no less zeal and success he defended the Protestant faith against the doctrines and practise of the Roman Catholics.
In all his writings Episcopius maintains that theology is not a speculative but a practical science and that every conception of faith is without value when application fails in religious and moral life. But it must be granted that his opponents had some reason to question his orthodoxy. Not only did he combat the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination, but in his explanation of the dogmas about the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, and original sin, he deviated from the doctrine of the Reformed Church. None the less his endeavor to free theological science from ecclesiastical constraint broke the way for its independent development. He was one of the greatest theologians of his age and was generally esteemed for his amiable character.
H. C. ROGGE †.
Bibliography: P. A. Limborch, Historia vitæ sancti Episcopii, Amsterdam, 1701; J. Konynenburg, Lofrede S. Episcopius, ib. 1791; J. M. Schröck, Lebensbeschreibung von berühmten Gelehrten, ii. 182-194, Leipsic, 1790; F. Calder, Memoirs of S. Episcopius, London, 1835; H. C. Rogge, Bibliotheek remonstrantsche geschriften, pp. 38-47, Amsterdam, 1863.