Lacunza y Díaz, Manuel (1731–1801)

By Sergio Olivares Peña, and Dálcio da Silva Paiva

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Sergio Olivares Peña

Dálcio da Silva Paiva

First Published: November 12, 2021

Manuel Lacunza was an eighteenth-century Chilean Catholic theologian now remembered for his influential study of eschatological prophecy, La Venida del Mesías en Gloria y Majestad (The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty).1 Many regard his views as a precursor of some fundamental Adventist beliefs, including Christ’s literal and imminent Second Coming.

Early Years, Education and Early Career

Manuel Lacunza y Díaz was born July 19, 1731, in Santiago, Chile, the only child of merchants Carlos de Lacunza Iziaurre and Josefa Díaz Montero, who belonged to a wealthy Chilean family. Previous generations had included a bishop, military officers, priests, and lawyers. When he was just 10 years old, his father died and his mother raised him alone. Lacunza entered the São Francisco Xavier convent on August 12, 1741. On August 23, 1747, he joined the Society of Jesus in order to fulfill his two-year novitiate. Later, he finished the philosophy program, obtaining the Master's degree granted by the University of the Jesuits.2 In 1755 Lacunza received ordination as a priest at the age of 24.

Exile

Two events interrupted and changed Lacunza’s life. The first was the expulsion of the Jesuits from Chile by an order of King Charles III of Spain in 1767.3 The second event was the pope’s disbanding of the Society of Jesus on July 21, 1773.4 Manuel Lacunza went to the city of Imola in Italy with other priests from his order.5 From exile he nostalgically wrote to his family, “Only those who have lost Chile know what it is: there is no compensation here and this is the pure truth.” He went on, however, revealing a theological focus on Christ, perhaps forged by the trial of exile, observing that “suffering is not useless; the cross of Christ can be shared through it.”6

In 1755 Lacunza began to write what posterity would consider his greatest work, La Venida del Mesías en Gloria y Majestad. It took 35 years to complete, the third and final volume being published in 1790. Scholars have debated the possible reasons that led him to compose his book. His critics argue it resulted from the frustrations of exile and the subsequent suppression of his religious order with the support of the Roman pontiff.7 Others see the work as a conservative Christian reaction to the impact of rationalism, expressed especially in deism, a concept in vogue in those days both in Catholic and Protestant Christianity.8 Still others consider it as the fruit of an intense study of Scripture, particularly Daniel and Revelation, without the influence of the
Church Fathers and theologians.9

Lacunza himself shared three reasons for preparing his work: (1) to encourage priests to study their Bibles; (2) to help increase knowledge of Jesus Christ; and (3) to help covert Jews to Christianity.10 Especially significant are the statements Lacunza or his amanuensis, Father González Carvajal, made about the methodology he employed: Bible study, reflection, and prayer. Carvajal recalled that when faced with a difficult point to explain, Lacunza would suspend his writing until they could seek with greater intensity divine enlightenment. “His book required more an effort of his knees than of his mind.”11

The first volume of the book outlines Lacunza’s methodology and includes a defense of the literal meaning of the Scripture. The second volume focuses on Daniel’s prophecy and the coming of the Antichrist. In the third volume he addresses the Second Advent, the millennium, and the final judgment, declaring:

Jesus Christ will return from heaven to earth, when the time comes, when those moments come, the time that the Father has put in his own power. He will be accompanied, not only by his angels, but also by his resurrected saints: those whom I say will be judged worthy of that century and the resurrection of the dead. . . . He will come to judge not only the dead, but also and above all the living. Therefore, this judgment of the living and the dead cannot be one, but two different judgments, not only in substance and manner, but also in time.12

Lacunza also discusses the value of tradition in interpreting Scripture, distinguishing between “articles of faith and debatable conjectures.”

His writing made an almost immediate impact. Catholic clerics were the first to respond. Some applauded the work, but others questioned the method and content. Especially controversial in Catholic circles were his abandonment of the Church Fathers as the first source of interpretation; his literal (rather than allegorical) understanding of Scripture; and his interpretation of the Antichrist. His millenarian approach--with an emphasis on two resurrections, first of the just and then the wicked, separated by an earthly millennium--also sparked great debate since the Catholic Church had practically abandoned such a perspective.13

In 1812, Lacunza’s book was published pseudonymously in Cadiz, Spain, in three volumes that spread his views in Europe.14 In 1816, General Manuel Belgrano, one of the heroes of Argentina’s struggle for independence, financed the printing of a four-volume edition of the book in that country. But on September 6, 1824, Pope Leo XII added the book to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum which forbid Roman Catholics to read it.15

Demise and Contribution

On the morning of June 18, 1801, Lacunza’s lifeless body was found just outside Imola, Italy. The cause of his death remains unknown.16 While his work had only limited impact in his time, it did impress a number of later biblical scholars and historians.17 Among them were Seventh-day Adventists, who early recognized Lacunza’s apocalyptic and millennialist interpretations as similar to their own and thus saw him as an important precursor to William Miller.18 Although not in perfect harmony with Seventh-day Adventist doctrine, Manuel Lacunza is significant in Adventist history for helping to create an environment of eschatological expectation that made many South Americans more receptive to the Adventist message.

Sources

Arana, Diego Barros. Obras completas. Tomo X, Estudios historico-bibliográficos [Complete works. Volume X, Historical-bibliographic studies]. Santiago, Chile: Cervantes Press, 1911.

Carvacho, René Millar. “Manuel Lacunza y Días.” Real Academia de La Historia (online), n.d.

Castro, Raúl Silva. “En torno a la bibliografía de Lacunza [Around Lacunza’s bibliography].” Revista Chilena de Historia y Geografía [History and Geography Chilean Review], no. 105 (2nd quarter of 1944).

Clemente XIV. “Breve del Sommo Pontefice Clemente XIV [Brief of the Supreme Pontiff Clement XIV].” vatican.va (online), 1773.

Del Campo, Mario Góngora. “Aspectos de la ilustración católica en el pensamiento y la vida eclesiástica chilena (1770-1814) [Aspects of Catholic illustration in Chilean ecclesiastical thinking and life (1770-1814)].” Revista de História de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile [History Review of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile] (online). no. 8, 1969.

Enrich, Francisco. Historia de la Compañía de Jesús en Chile [History of the Society of Jesus in Chile]. T. II. Barcelona: Francisco Rosal Press, 1891.

Espejo da Tapia, Juan Luis. “Cartas do Padre Manuel Lacunza [Letters from Father Manuel Lacunza].” Revista chilena História e Geografia 9 [History and Geography Chilean Review 9], no. 13 (1st quarter of 1914).

Espíndola. Walter Hanisch. “El Padre Manuel Lacunza (1731-1801), su hogar, su vida y la censura española, 1969 [Father Manuel Lacunza (1731-1801), his home, his life and Spanish censorship, 1969].” Revista de História de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile [History Review of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile]. no. 8, 1969.

Espíndola, Walter Hanisch. “Lacunza o el temblor apocalíptico [Lacunza or apocalyptic tremor].” Revista de História de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile [History Review of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile] (online), 1986.

Lacunza y Díaz, Manuel. Dedicatoria [Dedication], In La Venida del Mesías en gloria y magestad (The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty). London: Ackermann, 1826.

Leonis XIII Pontificis Maximi. Index Librorum Prohibitorum, Autónoma de Nuevo León University, 1887. Accessed January 15, 2020, https://bit.ly/36WLnVj.

Mateos, Francisco. “El Padre Manuel Lacunza y el milenarismo [Father Manuel Lacunza and millenarianism].” Revista Chilena de Historia y Geografía [History and Geography Chilean Review] (online), 1950.

Olsen, M. Ellsworth. A History of the Origin and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1926.

Parra, Freddy C. “Historia y Esperanza en la obra de Manuel Lacunza [History and Hope in the work of Manuel Lacunza].” National digital library (online), n.d. Accessed January 15, 2020, https://bit.ly/2RgAZ4g.

Valdivieso, José. Carta apologética em defensa de la obra de Juan Josafat Bem-ezra en La venida del Mesías [Apologetic letter in defense of the work of Juan Josafat Bem-ezra in The Coming of the Messiah]. Vol. III. London: Ackermann, 1826.

Notes

  1. Freddy C. Parra, “Historia y Esperanza en la obra de Manuel Lacunza [History and Hope in the work of Manuel Lacunza],” National digital library, n.d, accessed January 15, 2020, https://bit.ly/2RgAZ4g.

  2. Walter Hanisch Espíndola, “El Padre Manuel Lacunza (1731-1801), su hogar, su vida y la censura española, 1969 [Father Manuel Lacunza (1731-1801), his home, his life and Spanish censorship, 1969],” Revista de História de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, no. 8, 1969. Accessed January 14, 2020, https://bit.ly/2TqpREv

  3. Diego Barros Arana, Obras completas. Tomo X, Estudios historico-bibliográficos [Complete works. Volume X, Historical-bibliographic studies] (Santiago, Chile: Cervantes Press, 1911), 139-168.

  4. Clemente XIV, “Breve del Sommo Pontefice Clemente XIV [Brief of the Supreme Pontiff Clement XIV],” vatican.va, 1773, accessed January 14, 2020, https://bit.ly/2QTwcqu.

  5. René Millar Carvacho, “Manuel Lacunza y Días” (Royal Academy of History, n.d.), accessed January 14, 2020, https://bit.ly/2Rt2urF

  6. Juan Luis Espejo da Tapia, “Cartas do Padre Manuel Lacunza [Letters from Father Manuel Lacunza],” Revista chilena História e Geografia 9 [History and Geography Chilean Review 9], 1st quarter 1914, 219.

  7. Francisco Enrich, Historia de la Compañía de Jesús en Chile [History of the Society of Jesus in Chile] (Barcelona: Francisco Rosal Press, 1891), vol. II, 495-496.

  8. Mario Góngora del Campo, “Aspectos de la ilustración católica en el pensamiento y la vida eclesiástica chilena (1770-1814) [Aspects of Catholic illustration in Chilean ecclesiastical thinking and life (1770-1814)],” Revista de História de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, no. 8, 1969, accessed January 15, 2020, https://bit.ly/35UZA3Z.

  9. Francisco Mateos, “El Padre Manuel Lacunza y el milenarismo [Father Manuel Lacunza and millenarianism],” Revista Chilena de Historia y Geografía [History and Geography Chilean Review], no. 115 (1950), 142-143.

  10. Manuel Lacunza y Díaz, Dedicatoria, In: La Venida del Mesías en gloria y magestad (The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty) (London: Ackermann, 1826), 34-35.

  11. Mateos, 143.

  12. Lacunza y Díaz, Dedicatoria, 36-37; Walter Hanisch Espíndola, “Lacunza o el temblor apocalíptico [Lacunza or apocalyptic tremor],” Revista de História de la Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, no. 21 (1986), 356-357.

  13. Espíndola, “El Padre Manuel Lacunza (1731-1801)”; del Campo, “Aspectos de la ilustración católica.”

  14. Leonis XIII Pontificis Maximi, Index Librorum Prohibitorum, Autónoma de Nuevo León University, 1887, accessed January 15, 2020, https://bit.ly/36WLnVj; Carvacho, “Manuel Lacunza y Días.”

  15. Carvacho, “Manuel Lacunza y Días.”

  16. Ibid.

  17. See, for example, Félix Torres Amat, Vida del Ilmo. Señor Don Félix Amat, arzobispo de Palmyra [Life of the Ilmo. Lord Don Felix Amat, archbishop of Palmyra] (Madrid: Que fue de Fuentenebro Press, 1835), 351; José Domingo Cortes, Diccionario biográfico americano [American biographical dictionary] (Paris: Lahure Typography, 1875), 262-263; Miguel Rafael Urzua Astaburuaga, “Las doctrinas del padre Manuel Lacunza confenidas em su obra: La Venida del Mesías en gloria y magestad” [The doctrines of Father Manuel Lacunza contained in his work: The coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty] (Santiago: Universo Press y Litography, 1917), 9; Francisco Antonio Encina, Historia de Chile [Chile History] (Santiago, Chile: Universo Editorial, 1917), 9; Alfred-Felix Vaucher, Une celébrité oubliée: le P. Manuel de Lacunza y Diaz (1731-1801) de la Société de Jésus (Impr. Fides, 1968).

  18. M. Ellsworth Olsen, A History of the Origin and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists, 2nd ed. (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1926), 93.

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Peña, Sergio Olivares, Dálcio da Silva Paiva. "Lacunza y Díaz, Manuel (1731–1801)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 12, 2021. Accessed June 17, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GIDT.

Peña, Sergio Olivares, Dálcio da Silva Paiva. "Lacunza y Díaz, Manuel (1731–1801)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 12, 2021. Date of access June 17, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GIDT.

Peña, Sergio Olivares, Dálcio da Silva Paiva (2021, November 12). Lacunza y Díaz, Manuel (1731–1801). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 17, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GIDT.