FABER (FABRI), STAPULENSIS, JACOBUS (JACQUES LEFÈVRE D'ÉTAPLES): The most prominent among the men who in the beginning of the Reformation in France prepared the way for Calvin and Farel, at the same time a promoter and renovator of the genuine Aristotelian philosophy, founder of a better exegesis of Holy Scripture, and translator of the Bible; b. at Étaples (120 m. n.n.w. of Paris), Picardy, c. 1450; d. at Nérac (65 m. s.e. of Bordeaux), Béam, 1536 Nothing is known of his family or of his youth except that he was ordained priest and came early to Paris, attracted by his love of knowledge. Here he devoted himself earnestly and zealously to classical studies. Jerome of Sparta became his teacher in Greek, and with him, as well as with Paulus Æmilius of Verona, Faber lived in intimate intercourse, although his Latin style and his knowledge of the Greek language were always very defective. He became teacher, and in 1492 traveled to Italy, where he sojourned in Florence, Rome, and Venice, studying Platonism and works of mystics, but chiefly Aristotle. Returning to France he renewed his activity as teacher in Paris, with a clearer insight. He became professor in the college named after its founder, Cardinal Lemoine, and exerted an influence beyond the lecture-room by intimate intercourse with gifted students and by Latin translations of the Church Fathers and introductions and commentaries on works of Aristotle. He inspired respect and love by his extensive knowledge, his talents as a teacher, his piety, modesty, and gentleness, and found numerous admirers and friends. When Guillaume Briçonnet (q.v.), his former pupil, was made head of the famous Benedictine abbey of St. Germain des Prés (1507), he appointed Faber librarian, and they lived together until 1520. About this time, Faber, already more than fifty, laid aside secular studies, and devoted himself to the Bible. Two critical essays on Mary Magdalene which he published in 1517 and 1518 gave the Sorbonne occasion for an accusation of heresy; and Natalia Beda (Noël Bédier), syndic of the theological faculty of Paris, had the book formally condemned by a decree of the faculty, Nov. 9, 1521. Beda, who suspected a secret Lutheran in Faber, wanted to institute further proceedings against him, but was prevented by the interference of Francis I. and Marguerite of Navarre. In 1520 Faber had to leave Paris and gladly followed an invitation of Briçonnet to come to Meaux as director of the hospital for lepers. In 1523 the bishop appointed him vicar-general. After the battle of Pavia (1525), the captivity of the king gave Faber's opponents opportunity to proceed more severely against the adherents of so-called Lutheranism, and a special commission was appointed by parliament to investigate the heresies in the diocese of Meaux. Several preachers who had been installed by Briçonnet, were arrested; others recanted; Faber fled with his friend Gérard Roussel (q.v.) to Strasburg, under the pseudonym of Peregrinus, early in Nov., 1525. After the return of Francis I. to France, both were recalled. Faber even became private tutor of the king's children and lived as librarian in the royal castle at Blois. As conditions grew more menacing for the adherents of the Reformation, the Queen of Navarre took Faber to her residence in Nérac, where he spent peacefully the remainder of his long and active life. Faber fully avowed the principles of the Reformation, but externally remained in the Roman Church, hoping that the renovation of the Gospel might be effected without rupture with papacy, and being unequal to an open battle with hostile powers.
Faber's theological productions may be divided into two classes--editions of Church Fathers and mystical writers, and translations and commentaries on Holy Scripture. The first result of his Biblical studies was his Psalterium quintuplex (1509). The preface to his commentary on the Pauline Epistles is remarkable because Faber here propounded the principles of the Reformation, five years before the Wittenberg theses of Luther. He maintained the authority of Holy Scripture and the unmerited grace of redemption, combated the merit of good works, the celibacy of priests, and discussed the necessity of a reform of the Church. In 1522 appeared his commentary on the four Gospels and in 1525 on the Catholic Epistles. Here he first discovered the errors of the Vulgate and by his exposition of the text prepared the way for a better exegesis. The Bible is for him the only rule of faith, and he is not afraid of offending against the dogmas and usages of the Church. At the instance of the king and his sister, Briçonnet induced Faber to translate the New Testament into French. The translation was made from the Vulgate and appeared at Antwerp in 1523; the Psalms followed in 1525. In Blois Faber prepared a French translation of the whole Bible (1530), which became, at least for the New Testament and the Apocrypha, the basis of R. Olivetan's translation of the Bible (1535) sanctioned by the Reformed Church of France (see BIBLE VERSIONS, B, VI., § 3) and so very useful.