Synod of Dordrecht

The Synod of Dordrecht was first assembled on November 13, 1618 and continued to do so up to May 29, 1619. A synod is a national church assembly.


Etching from the 17th century


The Synod was convened as a result of the battle between remonstrants and counter-remonstrants that was causing a split in the church apart at the time.

In January 1610 44 pastors put together their objections regarding the Nederduits Gereformeerde kerk (literally Lower German Reformed Church). This church was the prevailing church in the Seven United Provinces. Most of the objections concerned the free will of human beings and predestination. Their beliefs were evidenced by their resistance of certain teachings of John Calvin. Their statement of opposition become known as 'remonstrance’, hence their name. Of course, the Calvinist movement rose against it. They came to be known as counter-remonstrants. They stood for predestination. They believed that Man had no free will to resist predestination. In an effort to calm down the unrest the States of Holland established in 1614 an edict which prohibited the pastors from talking about the doctrine of predestination. However, this was to no avail. The counter-remonstrants were outraged about the edict and insisted on a Synod. The States of Holland refused their requests.

The political opponent of Stadtholder Prince Maurice, was Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, State Attorney and Pensionary of the States of Holland. Due to his efforts the States-General came to be the most important administrative body. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was a part of it and it is said that no one could stand up to him. This man was a remonstrant. Prince Maurice openly chose to support the counter-remonstrants but it is said that he did so purely for political reasons. Van Oldenbarnevelt, afraid that Marurice would organise a coup d'état, issued the sharp Resolution in 1617 The cities in Holland were formally allowed to rent troops. The troops, in practice however, were deployed against the counter-remonstrants. Prince Maurice, feeling his power had been curtailed organised a coup d'état. He sent his political opponents immediately to jail. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was executed on May 13, 1619 in The Hague.

Shortly afterward the Synod of Dordrecht was convened. It was clear that it was intended that the Synod would put an end to the ideas of the remonstrants and to restore unity in the Church. The participants were 37 preachers, 19 elders, 5 professors and 18 commissioners. In addition, there were also 25 delegates from foreign Calvinist churches. Initially, there were also representatives of the remonstrants present, but many of them did not want to take a seat on the accused bench. Eventually the remonstrants were excluded from the meeting. The submissions against the remonstrants were laid down in five points, also known as the Canons of Dort.


Scale model of the Synod



State Bible

During the Synod of Dordrecht it was also decided to translate the whole Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Dutch. This translation became known as the 'Statenvertaling' or State Bible. This was because the States General paid for and authorized the translation. The Bible was complete in 1635 and was authorized in 1637. Between 1637 and 1657 alone half a million copies were printed.


Frontpage of the publication of 1637
(note also above the tetragrammaton)


On the twelfth session of the Synod it was decided that God's name should be translated with HEERE (LORD). In addition a short explanation was printed stating for example in Genesis 2: 4: "After the completion of work of the creation here for the first time is the name JEHOVAH written, meaning the activity of the independent being himself, from himself being from eternity to eternity, and the origin or source of the essence of all things; that is why this name is for the true God alone. Above all, remember this: from now on, where you read the word LORD in capital letters written, that originally there was in Hebrew the name JEHOVAH, or by abbreviation JAH."


We show some State Bibles on our page ‘Bibles’.


Commemorative coin on the occasion of the Synod of Dordrecht, which ended in 1619, after more than 125 sessions. All foreign participants received the coin in gold. The domestic delegates were awarded a silver one. The coin has a diameter of 58.5 mm.




Front: a view of the Hall of the Synod of Dordrecht with the delegates. A funny detail of the coin: If you look closely you can see a small dog to the front between the attendees .

Text: RELIGIONE ASSERTA 1619 – Defending religion


Reverse: the temple on Mount Zion under the radiating name of God written as the tetragrammaton, with winds from four directions. The temple is a symbol of heaven. Pilgrims are climbing the Hill. The pilgrims are symbols for "the wind of false doctrine" tossed back and forth - Ephesians 4: 14.

Text: ERVNT VT MONS SION CIC IC CXVII-on to the Mount Zion 1619.

The words "Erunt ut mons Sion" around it are a quote from Psalm 125: 1. They chose deliberately to use Mount Zion symbolically. Psalm 125: 1: "are the ones who trust on Jehovah as Mount Zion, not fading, but remaining forever."


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