The Three Commandements of Claude Paccard

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I always love finding more or less direct quotes from some of the lesser known characters who inhabited Calvin’s Geneva, but who were less than perfect students of the Reform.

Calvin’s catechism, at least in theory, taught people three basic texts: the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed and the Ten Commandments. There’s pretty good evidence that most people eventually learned these in the vernacular, as required. But some people failed miserably.

One such case was Claude Paccard’s rather humourous recitation of the little-known Three Commandments before the Consistory in 1560. Paccard, a fisherman, lived in Geneva at least since 1555, when he first appears before the Consistory because he and his wife were sleeping at the public baths and his wife woke up to find another woman in their bed.[1] Apparently there was some fear that the woman was there at Claude’s behest and that something illicit happened while Mme Paccard slept. We can’t know for sure. In any case, it allows us to say with certainty that Paccard had lived in Geneva for at least five years. It’s possible he was born in Geneva, but we have no earlier record nor do we have a record of his immigration.

Five years later and found to be poorly instructed, Paccard was told by two members of the Consistory to attend catechism. He admitted refusing to go saying that if everyone went, there wouldn’t be enough room. This earned him a call before the full Consistory where they asked him how many “Commandments of God” there were. He replied “Three” and began to enumerate them.

  • First, “Our Father who art in heaven,” reciting the first line of the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Second, “I believe in God,” reciting the beginning of the Apostle’s Creed.
  • And finally he rattled off the Third Commandment, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” which of course comes from the middle of the Apostle’s Creed.[2]

Notably absent from his Three Commandments is anything at all drawn Exodus 20, the traditional Decalogue.


[1]R.Consist. 10, f. 48 (15 August 1555).

[2]R.Consist. 17, f. 163 (17 October 1560).

One Response to “The Three Commandements of Claude Paccard”

  1. Gregory Crouch

    Must have felt like being ordered to attend traffic school. Hard to blame him for not wanting to do that.

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