Ferenc Dávid

Ferenc Dávid

Ferenc Dávid at the Diet of Torda by Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch
Born c. 1510
Kolozsvár, Kingdom of Hungary
(today Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
Died 15 November 1579 (aged c. 68–69)
Déva, Principality of Transylvania
(today Deva, Romania)
Occupation Bishop
Spouse(s) Unidentified (1st)
Kata Barát (2nd)
Children Kata, Dávid, Zsófia, János

Theological work

Era Reformation
Tradition or movement Unitarianism

Ferenc Dávid (also rendered as Francis David) (c.1510 15 November 1579) was a Transylvanian Nontrinitarian and Unitarian preacher, the founder of the Unitarian Church of Transylvania.


Born in Kolozsvár, Hungary (present-day Cluj-Napoca, Romania) to a Hungarian family, he studied in Wittenberg and Frankfurt. Elected Calvinist bishop of the Hungarian churches in Transylvania, he was appointed court preacher to János Zsigmond Zápolya, Prince of Transylvania. Dávid's discussion of the Trinity began in 1565, with doubts of the personality of the Holy Ghost, because he could find no scriptural basis for the doctrine of the Trinity.

His antagonist in public disputations was the Calvinist leader, Péter Melius Juhász; his supporter was Giorgio Blandrata. János Zsigmond Zápolya, adopting his court preacher's views, issued (1568) an edict of religious liberty at the Torda Diet, which allowed Dávid (retaining his existing title) to transfer his episcopate from the Calvinists to the Nontrinitarians, Kolozsvár being evacuated by all but his followers.

In 1571, János Zsigmond Zápolya was succeeded by István Báthory, a Roman Catholic, and the policy shifted toward persecution of the new religious institutions. When, under the influence of Johannes Sommer, rector of the Kolozsvár gymnasium, Dávid denied the necessity of invoking Jesus Christ in prayer (about 1572), the attempted mediation of Faustus Socinus, upon Blandrata's request, was unsuccessful. Tried as an innovator, Dávid died in prison at Déva, in the Principality of Transylvania, in 1579. The ruins of the prison site in the city now hold a memorial for Dávid.



Scholars still have to address fully Ferenc Dávid's Hungarian works for a satisfactory assessment of his beliefs.[1]

The invocation controversy

In his early years as a Nontrinitarian, Dávid supported prayer to Christ as can be seen in his answer to Peter Melius, the Refutatio scripti Petri Melii (‘Refutation of the writings of Péter Méliusz’, Alba Iulia, 1567)[2] In his later years Dávid adopted the radical view of Jacob Palaeologus that Christ should not be invoked in prayer, but that prayer should be directed only to God the Father.[3]

The virgin birth

After leaving Calvinism, Dávid adopted the view of Laelio Sozzini that the existence of Christ began when he was conceived by the Virgin Mary through the operation of the Holy Spirit.[4] By 1578, it would appear that Dávid had come to adopt the view that Jesus was the literal son of Joseph.[5] However some historians dispute this and argue that he believed in the virgin birth until the day of his death,[6] Certainly these skeptical views were not held by the Unitarian Church of Transylvania in his lifetime,[7] nor included in the later Hungarian Unitarian statement of faith of David's successor Mihály Lombard de Szentábrahám.[8] Such views were, however, held by sympathizers of the Polish Symon Budny.[9]


Influence in Hungary and Transylvania

After his death Dávid came to be counted as, and honoured as, the first in the line of Hungarian Unitarian bishops based in Kolozsvár (Cluj). His writings continued to be published, and other recollections written down and collected, up to the time of Mihály Lombard de Szentábrahám.[10]

Influence of Ferenc Dávid in England and America

English-speaking Unitarianism was largely unaware of Dávid. Most of the Unitarian writings which came via Amsterdam to England were of authors of the Polish Brethren, not Hungarians, as in the Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum quos Unitarios vocant (or "Library of the Polish Brethren called Unitarians") of which Locke, Voltaire and Newton owned copies. The works of Dávid and György Enyedi's were not reprinted in the 17th century. It was the visit of Sándor Bölöni Farkas to Britain and America 1830-1832, which made English speaking Unitarians aware of the continued existence of Hungarian Unitarians - and following that, of the legacy of Ferenc Dávid.

The Unitarian Universalist author John A. Buehrens (1989) [11] attributes to Ferenc Dávid the statement, "We need not think alike to love alike". The phrase is cited also in Our Historic Faith by Mark W. Harris [12] and in the 1993 Unitarian Universalist Hymnal Singing the Living Tradition in reading #566, which is a compilation of quotes by David, compiled by Rev. Richard Fewekes,[13] but the source for this is not given in either case. The phrase is given in no source prior to Buehren's book. In an article published by UU World, "Who Really Said That?" Peter Hughes claims that there is no evidence that Dávid actually said this. He attributes the quote to Methodist founder, John Wesley, who asked in a sermon on “Catholic Spirit,” “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?”[14]


Works of Dávid, and of the Unitarian Church.


  1. Mihály Balázs Early Transylvanian antitrinitarianism (1566-1571): from Servet to Palaeologus 1996 Page 27
  2. Andrews, James Ferenc Dávid and the search for Bible truth in Transylvania 2010 Lulu
  3. "Dávid, however, having an inquisitive mind, was much more inclined to pioneer in fresh fields than to rest content in those already won, and he was open to the stimulating influence of able and independent scholars teaching in the school at Kolozsvár.... Before coming to Kolozsvár [Jacobus Palaeologus] had been one of the leaders in the non-adorantist movement in Poland; and according to Socinus he had been the first of all to teach in Poland ‘the very wicked and detestable view that Christ should not be adored or invoked.’ It will be remembered that just before this time this question had been very hotly discussed among the Polish Brethren, and that the majority in Little Poland, following the leadership of Paulus and Czechowicz, had adopted the conservative view, rejecting that of Budny and Palaeologus. Knowledge of this controversy will of course have reached Biandrata, who kept in touch with the brethren in Poland; while at Kolozsvár Palaeologus no doubt found a sympathetic ear in Dávid as he laid before him the view that he had unsuccessfully advocated in Poland." E. M. Wilbur, A History of Unitarianism (Cambridge, 1952), p. 64.
  4. Andrews, James Ferenc Dávid and the search for Bible truth in Transylvania 2010 Lulu
  5. This can be seen in his exchange of letters with Fausto Sozzini (De invocatio Disputatio [1578-79]). "They agreed that Jesus as fully human was also mortal. Socinus, however, believed in the conception of Christ through the Holy Spirit and in the virgin birth of Jesus the Saviour. It is quite likely that Dávid, as in Thesis I prepared by Biandrata, had come to hold that Jesus was the son of Joseph and thereby the descendant of King David" (George H. Williams, "The Christological Issues between Francis David and Faustus Socinus during the Disputation on the Invocation of Christ, 1578-1579," in Antitrinitarianism in the Second Half of the 16th Century [Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1982], p. 298). "In Transylvania Bishop Francis David repudiated the doctrine of the virgin birth and refused to worship Christ" (Chambers's Encyclopaedia [1968 revision p. 103]).
  6. Bibliotheca dissidentium 26. Hungarian Antitrinitarians 4. Ferenc David Mihály Balázs and translated into English by Dr. Judit Gellesz.
  7. Earl Morse Wilbur, A History of Unitarianism (Cambridge, 1952), p. 67
  8. Summa Universae Theologiae Christianae secundum Unitarios (1787) (add page no.).
  9. Bibliotheca dissidentium 13. Antitrinitaires polonais II: Szymon Budny, Zdzislaw Pietrzyk. Pierre Statorius, par Jacek Wijaczka. Christian Francken, Adam Matuszewski 1991
  10. Unitarius.hu
  11. Buehrens Our chosen faith: an introduction to Unitarian Universalism
  12. Unitarian Universalist Origins: Our Historic Faith by Mark W. Harris
  13. Singing the Living Tradition. ISBN 1-55896-260-3.
  14. http://www.uuworld.org/articles/uu-rumor-mill-produces-quotes
  15. Archiv des Vereins für siebenb. Landesk. N. F. II. 1857. 249. Schwarz K.; Jakab Elek
  16. Lampe, Histor. Eccl. Reform. in Hung. et Transylv. 228–230 l.
  17. Ism. Keresztény Magvető VI. 94–107. I. V. Nagy János.

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