Lessing and Heine (Madison, WI,
2004); David Bell, Spinoza in Germany
1670 to the Age of Goethe (London, 1984); Rosalie L. Colie,‘Spinoza in
1665^1730’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 107
1963), pp. 183^219; Luisa Simonutti, ‘Premie`res re´actions anglaises au
´ the´ologico-politique’ in Paolo Cristofolini (ed.), L’Heresie Spinoziste
1995), pp. 123^37; on the erasure of Spinoza from the Dutch
historical consciousness, see Wijnand Mijnhardt, ‘The Construction of
Silence: Religious and Political Radicalism in Dutch History’, inVan Bunge
(ed.), Early Enlightenment, pp.
Finally on Spinoza’s Latinity and terminology, see the collection of
essays in Fokke Akkerman and Piet Steenbakkers (eds.), Spinoza to the
Letter. Studies in Words, Texts and Books (Leiden,
2005) and Fokke
Akkerman, Studies in the Posthumous Works of Spinoza (Meppel,
Note on the text and translation
The present translation was ¢rst made by Michael Silverthorne and
scrutinized by Desmond Clarke, then extensively revised by Jonathan
Israel in close collaboration with the translator.
Spinoza wrote his TractatusTheologico-Politicus in Latin, and although some
scholars regard it as quite likely that he also had some hand in the
subsequent French (
1678) translation, it is not certain that he did. Hence
the Latin version, anonymously and clandestinely published and
distributed in Amsterdam by Jan Rieuwertsz, ostensibly in
1670 (but in fact
1669), is the original and only de¢nitely authentic version of the text.
Despite its clandestine nature and the fact that it was widely banned,
copies of the book surviving in libraries today are surprisingly numerous.
This seems to have been mainly due to the brisk demand for copies all over
Europe during the late seventeenth century and Rieuwertsz’s ruse of
issuing several unnoticed new editions through the
1670s, retaining what
looked like the original title-page bearing the original false date and place
of publication ‘Hamburg,
Until quite recently the best modern critical edition of the original text
was that prepared by Carl Gebhardt and published at Heidelberg in
in the third volume of his complete edition of Spinoza’s works.
improved critical edition prepared by the expert Dutch Latinist, Fokke
Akkerman, was published in a bilingual Latin^French version by the
Presses Universitaires de France, in Paris, in
1999. It was this excellent and
very scholarly edition of the Latin, correcting Gebhardt’s version (albeit
Benedict de Spinoza, Opera, ed. Carl Gebhardt (
4 vols., Heidelberg, 1925).
mostly in small details), which we have used as the basis for this present
translation. In breaking up Spinoza’s mostly immensely long paragraphs
into smaller, more easily negotiable blocks, something all translators of this
text have agreed is really unavoidable, we have followed the order and
numbering of the paragraphs as given in the Akkerman edition rather than
simply divide the paragraphs anew at our own discretion.
This should make
cross-referencing easier in cases where any reader wishes to consult the
Latin original.We have added the Gebhardt page numbers in the margins.
Although Spinoza’s Latin style is super¢cially relatively straightforward
and his choice of words and constructions limited, given the highly original
and transforming purposes to which he devotes his Bible criticism and
political theory, it is scarcely surprising that many of his terms and phrases
have been rendered in signi¢cantly di¡erent and sometimes highly
questionable ways in di¡erent translations. At the same time, owing
doubtless to the general tendency, noted in the introduction, to discourage
reading of Spinoza during the nineteenth and much of the twentieth
centuries, until the last few years there have been remarkably few modern
translations from Spinoza’s Latin into most major languages, including
English. English in fact seems to have been particularly poorly served, since
until the publication of Samuel Shirley’s translation in
1989, the only
available rendering of the full text was that of R. H. M. Elwes, which was ¢rst
1883 (reprinted in 1951); this was long regarded by Spinoza
scholars as seriously inadequate owing especially to what one scholar called
its ‘misleading renderings of the Latin’, though it also has other
shortcomings, such as its astounding omission of Spinoza’s subtitle and of
some of his notes.
At the same time, Spinoza, whose classical education began later, and was
less elaborate, than was the case with most other great thinkers of the
seventeenth century, developed a Latin written style which was distinctly less
‘classical’ in both vocabulary and syntax than, for instance, that of
Like the ‘scholastics’ whom he tends to deride, Spinoza used a
number of late Latin terms and also some non-classical forms of syntax.
See the ‘Introduction’ to Benedict de Spinoza, Oeuvres, ed. Pierre-Franc
¸ ois Moreau vol. III.Tracta-
tusTheologico-Politicus texte e
´ tabli par Fokke Akkerman, traduction et notes par Jacqueline Lagre´e et
¸ ois Moreau (Paris, 1999), p. 26.
B. S. Gregory,‘Introduction’ to Baruch Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (translated by Samuel
1989), p. 1.
Michelle Beyssade, ‘Deux latinistes: Descartes et Spinoza’, in F. Akkerman and P. Steenbakkers
(eds.), Spinoza to the Letter. Studies in Words,Texts, Books (Leiden,
2005), pp. 57^8.
Note on the text and translation