Caspar Olevianus was born August 10th 1536 in Trier in the Wittlicher haus at the canal near the market. Christianity was already in this town in the second century A.C.
During the time in which Olevianus was born Trier was a stronghold of Roman Cathilicism.
His father was named Gerhard von Olewig and was a baker. Olewig is a small village south east of Trier. His mother Anna Sinzag came of a butchers family.
Caspar had two brothers Matthias and Frederik, who respectively became goldsmith and physican.
He was baptized in the church of St. Laurentius.
Successively he went to the schools of Sanct Laurentius, Sanct Simeon, the cathedral school and the Collegium of Sanct German. In this last institution he met a priest whose tuition made a life long impression on Caspar. The priest talked with the young man about the reconciliation by the death of Christ as his comfort in life and death.
When Caspar was almost 14 years old his parents sent him to Paris for further education. He studied humanism and afterwards he went to the faculties of law schools in Orleans and Bourges. In these French towns the Reformation had already a lot of adherents and Caspar was touched by the doctrines of the Reformation. During his stay in Bourges a definitive conversion took place in his life. During a boattrip with students, on the river , the boat capsized by reckless behaviour. It stuck in the muddy soil and they were harrowly saved. During these fearfull moments he promised God, if his life would be saved, it would be consecrated to his service. June 6th 1557 he took his doctoral degree in law. Thus he returned to Trier as a lawer.
His labours in his birth-place
Here he was appointed as teacher to instruct the youth in the Dialectic of Melanchthon. He goot a full opportunity to evangelize betwee the young people. A month after his appointment he invited all citizens of Trier to listen to his preaching on the Day of St. Laurentius in the building where he was used to teach. This created a lot of commotion. The Roman Catholic members of the town councel wanted to prohibit this , but the majority who was adherent to the Reformation, alowed him to carry on with preaching in the church of St. Jacobs hospital. This roosed o movement to the population of the town to become more reformed-minded. Ultimately this turned out into a counter attack by the Roman Catholic elector of the region. The Reformation in Trier was suppressed violently after some time Caspar was sent to prison. By intercession of the elector Frederik III of Platinate he was released in course of time. In 1560 the lelector asked Olevianus to come to Heidelberg, He started his work there in a hospitium for students, the Collegium Sapientiae. Soon his special organizational skills atracted attention and drected him to a leading position in the church of Palatinate of the Rhine.
The period in Heidelberg
In Heidelberg Caspar Olevianus was able to make a contribution to the achievement of the Heidelberger Catechism together with Zacharius Ursinus. Especially in the accomplishment of the final text of this written confession of faith Olevianus had a great share in it. Nevertheless it is not possible to ascertain the exact part of Olevianus in this work. Next to the pre-designs of Ursinus, already existing books of catechism being used in Zürich, Geneva, Emden, London and Strasbourg, served as a model. In the first edition no numberred questions existed. The much disputed question and answer nr. 80 was absent. The elector decided, by reason of the Concile of Trent, to take up a question and answer regarding to the difference between the Lords Supper and the mass. In the second edition a short answer about this can be found whereas in the third edition the text got its definite form.
Restoration of Lutheranism
After the death of Frederik III, the Pious, great changes took place in Heidelberg. The elector, who always made a strong point of the reformed confession, was succeeded by his son Louis VI, who was of Lutherian confession. He helped to restore the former Lutheranism in the Palatinate. Olevianus was releaved of his office, banned from pulpit and university and sentenced to confinement in town. The reformed population was deprived of the churchbuildings.
Under this difficult circumstances the count of Wittgenstein stood in the breach for Olevianus. He arranged the recovery of his freedom. The count employed Olevianus and sent him to his ancestral castle in Berleburg. The count went there as well. Also in Berleburg Olevianus ment a lot to the case of the reformed religion. Soon he had good relations with the churches in the region of the river Lahn, in Nassau, Solms and Wied. Count John of Nassau, the eldest brother of William of Orange, esteemed him highly.
Each time they are provided with a preface written by Beza.
- 1577: The Heidelberger Catechism was introduced to Berleburg
- 1578: A commentary on the letter of the Galatians was published by Olevianus
- 1579: His exegesis of the letter to the Romans follows
- 1580: The explanations of the letters to the Philippians and the Colossians were written
The same author also published a bipartite script:
These last two works are his most famous works. By this he became the founder of the Theology of the Covenant.
- The Essence of the Covenant of Grace between God and the elected
- The means of grace by with one takes part in it
The Herborn Period
In 1584 Olevianus moved to Herborn. Herborn became the spiritual centre of the reformed region. In 1585 in Herborn exists a university with 13 professors of wich Olevianus was the rector. It developed into a university with a grammar school as foundation. A printing-office and a bookshop were founded as well.
The end of his life
January 25th 1587 Olevianus had to abandon his activities.
March 11th 1587 he made his last will.
March 15th 1587 his life ends. He dies surrounded by friends and people of spiritual kinship. Jakobus Altsted asked him the question: Dear brother, thou art undoubtly sure of your salvation, as thou taught others constantly?
Olevianus could answer: Certissimus. It is quite certain!
These ware his last words.
Olevianus is buried in the church of Herborn.
Caspar Olevianus biografy
(Translated to the English language by mrs. G.J. Sinke-van der Kolk)