1908 - The beginnings

The first issue of the Reformed Review was published as the official platform of the Reformed Church District of Transylvania on January 10, 1908. Its first editor-in-chief was Prof. Károly Nagy, teacher of the Reformed Theological Faculty, being assisted in the editorial work by Prof. László Ravasz from the Reformed Theological Faculty, János Kálmán, teacher at the Reformed High School of Cluj, and Károly Péter Jr., church district secretary. The editorial board was then housed in the building of the Reformed Theological Faculty in Cluj.

In fact, most persons on the long list of editors-in-chief, were teachers of the Theological Faculty (*): Károly Nagy* (1908–1917), László Ravasz* (1918–1920), Sándor Makkai* (1921–1924), Sándor Tavaszy* (1925–1928; 1937–1948), János Vásárhelyi (1929–1936), Ákos Darkó (1949–1958), Gyula Dávid* (1959–1972), István Tőkés* (1973–1984), Zoltán Gálfy* (1984–1989), László Nagy (1990–1996), Dezső Bustya (1997–2000), Zoltán Adorjáni* and Dezső Buzogány* (2000–).

As the official magazine of the church, the Reformed Review published the circulars, decrees, tenders, appeals, and instructions of the Reformed church, being published initially in one print sheet per week.[1] At the same time, it also aimed to fulfil other tasks of the ecclesiastical press: it published articles about the past of the church district, discussed current issues, shaped public opinion regarding short- and long-term goals, and last but not least, it also provided a platform of interaction for those serving the church by word, pen, and writing.[2] Furthermore, it wanted "to flicker as a torch of faith and knowledge for the purposes of building everything into a 'spiritual house'".[3]

The editorial board expected support especially from the ministers of the church district, but it also counted on teachers at the gymnasia, as well as other enthusiastic secular members of the church. (Expanding the circle of authors is a constant requirement in our days as well and appears to be achieved gradually. A quick look at the list of authors of previous and recent issues testifies to the broadening circle of contributors. One of the evaluators looking at issues appearing up to 2003 has already noticed this phenomenon.[4] From that time, this list has become even wider with authors not directly associated with the church and its congregations.)


The Review, published as an official platform, has succeeded in fulfilling the assumed responsibilities towards ecclesiastical bodies. The first official publications of the church were the Registers of Names (Névkönyvek), launched in 1858. The magazines, launched later by enthusiastic theological professors and ministers of the church, were published on a voluntary basis, although they were also embraced by the official leadership of the church.

The first issue of the Transylvanian Protestant Gazette - Church and School Weekly (Erdélyi Protestáns Közlöny - Egyházi és iskolai hetilap), was started by Gerő Szász, in 1871. The gazette was edited by Domokos Szász (from 1877),[5] then, as a bishop, from 1886 he promoted the Gazette as the official bulletin of church by handing over the official announcements of the church to the Gazette. As a result of this, the parishes had to subscribe to the Transylvanian Protestant Gazette, which also led to the expansion of its customer base and an increase in the financial support for its publication.

At about the same time, on the initiative of György Bartók (then minister of Aiud / Nagyenyed), another gazette was published under the title Church and School Review (Egyházi és Iskolai Szemle) (Nagyenyed, 1876). The purpose of this publication resonated in many respects with the intentions of the later Reformed Review. (It was György Bartók who later supported and enforced the ‘Reformed’ adjective when starting the Review and determining its name.[6])

However, Bishop Domokos Szász intended to strengthen the influence of the Transylvanian Protestant Gazette in other manners as well. He aimed to transform it into a cohesive and educational tool. And while making the Gazette an official bulletin, he also wished to guarantee the independence of the editorial board and the unconditional freedom of expression for the staff.

This pairing of official character and free expression of opinion was a laudable intention, nonetheless it also provided an opportunity to expressing dissatisfaction and creating tensions. Thus, a sharp polemic unfolded in the columns of the Gazette between Gerő Szász and Prof. István Kecskeméthy, at that time the editor of the Little Mirror (Kiss Tükör) magazine. In the dispute, Bishop Domokos Szász (1896–1897) was also not spared. The debate opened again the issue of an official church platform, ultimately resulting in the decision of the Board of Directors announcing the launch of an official review, owned by the church district. At the same time, the “official” designation from the Transylvanian Protestant Gazette was withdrawn (December 1897).[7]

Bishop Domokos Szász, formerly severely criticised as well, came up with new suggestions: the official gazette owned by the church should be the bulletin of all official announcements, but it should also represent the interests of the church district and the church counties, and "avoid the polemical voice and being personal".[8] As a result, the Transylvanian Protestant Journal (Erdélyi Protestáns Lap) was born in 1898,[9] edited first by Prof. Albert Molnár, later by Prof. Károly Nagy. This development is also significant because, in this particular situation, it has become inevitable to outline the task of the ecclesiastical press. The permanent, ultimate task of the ecclesiastical press was set most clearly by Albert Molnár: building the kingdom of God in the churches.[10]

The Transylvanian Protestant Journal was published for ten years, and in fact continued to live by a change in its name in the later Reformed Review, which considered itself the legal successor of the Journal, taking over its legacy.[11] Thus, one may say that as a heir of the Transylvanian Protestant Gazette, published as an official bulletin from 1886, and of the Transylvanian Protestant Journal, also published as an official platform from 1898, by a change of designations, the Reformed Review is in fact 110, or 120 years old. This was also the opinion of the editorial board celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Review: "The 70 years old Review is if fact 90 years old…"[12]

The Reformed Review

The new name of the official bulletin, the Reformed Review, which carried on the legacy of the Transylvanian Protestant Journal, indicated that the church and its ministers aimed at bringing in new perspectives. Instead of the more general term ‘Protestant’, the ‘Reformed’ adjective emphasised the doctrinal affiliation, underlining at the same time the judicial and evangelical nature of the church district.[13]

This new terminology has turned out to be prophetic, as in the early twenties the church rediscovered its legacy as the church of the ‘Reformation’, and the creeds of the Reformation, the power of the gospel. It was Prof. Károly Nagy, the first editor-in-chief of the Reformed Review, and his colleague Prof. Sándor Makkai, who urged the reintroduction of the abandoned Catechism of Heidelberg in 1921.

The first editor-in-chief, Károly Nagy, was the teacher of systematic (doctrinal) theology from 1895, the establishment of the Faculty of Reformed Theology in Cluj, until 1912. He left a double legacy: a passionate love for the church and an accurate, scholarly approach to theology.[14] The passionate love of Károly Nagy for the church is also reflected in the editorial of the first issue of the Reformed Review:[15] “We must develop the inner strength of our church, serve the living faith, and not the interests of ecclesiastical parties... Our best efforts need to be devoted to awakening and developing this: the cathedra by deepening our preaching, the catechesis with all the achievements of pedagogy, the individual and congregational pastoral care with all means of ecclesial activity, and all the blessings and institutions of charity. ‘Where your treasure is, there your heart is!’ If we really have treasure in our faith, in our ministers, in our church, we will bring every sacrifice for it voluntarily and to the end of our strength".[16]

This double legacy, ecclesiastical love and theological scholarship, is still a binding requirement for us today, the current editors and staff of the Reformed Review. And we have and will have treasure if we dig it up, work on it, and if we consider spiritual construction to be our task. Ora et labora! We must follow this trace as well, and this is our heritage, a heritage of those adhering to the Review, which the former editor-in-chief, István Tőkés, also confessed and practiced: he concludes the series of articles written on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Review with a study ending in a prayer.[17]

The assumed tasks of the Reformed Review

The first issue of the Reformed Review detailed the tasks it undertook, naming, above all, the recovery of the history of the church district. (As a result of the political changes of recent years, research into the history of the church is flourishing again, as a short glimpse at recent issues of the Review makes this apparent. The abundance of studies on church history also seems to confirm that our heightened interest in the historical past is an unchanged legacy.)

Further tasks of the Review started in 1908, included, as mentioned earlier the following: presenting and discussing current issues of the church; shaping public opinion; ensuring a platform of interaction between those serving the church; "to flicker as a torch of faith and knowledge for one purpose"; building everything into a "spiritual house". The Review wanted to march in front of all church decisions and prepared them. He sought to achieve this by shaping the theological view and by disclosing the content of decisions. In this way, he tried to ensure the impact of the decisions.[18]

The further tasks assumed by the Journal, as listed above, also reflect the fact that the Reformed Review has been pushing the limits of its so-called official character from the outset. It was intended to be an official forum, yet also one providing space for the free formulation of opinions, even critical voices, just like the Transylvanian Protestant Gazette before. These objectives, while they may sound attractive for today’s readers, were difficult to achieve side by side under the circumstances of the time. This statement does not contradict the fact that the official Review was a firm voice in favour of synodal-presbyterian character of the church, which emphasised the decentralisation of church administration.[19]

Other theological journals

Therefore, the task of discussing current issues in the church, forming public opinion, building a spiritual platform, flickering the torch of faith and knowledge, and building everyone into the spiritual house was also taken up by another journal. Eight years after the start of the Reformed Review, a new theological journal appeared: The Way (Az Út), which was also housed by the Faculty of Reformed Theology in Cluj.

The journal The Way wanted to deal with the practical issues of the pastoral and organisational matters of the church on a strictly scholarly basis, aiming to aid the work of the ministers with professional guidance.[20]

Over time, the publication The Way has grown into a prestigious journal. With a gao of a few years, it continued to be published until 1944, being terminated by the political powers. Between the two world wars, it represented the Transylvanian Reformed theological thinking and provided exceptional help for pastoral workers.

The writings published in The Way focused on ecclesiastics, cult, preaching, religious education, and institutional and personal pastoral care.[21] If we examine its sections, it becomes immediately obvious that the issues raised and the goals set are in line with those of the Reformed Review.[22] For here as well as there we encounter the issues of theological reform, the issues of the internal, spiritually constructive work of the church: the awakening of the religious spirit, the need for theological clarification, the theme of faith and worldview, the renewal of the preaching and church hymnal, the training of true church-building ministers, the field of internal mission, including the advocacy of diaconia, etc.[23]

1951 - Broadening the Review's background

From 1908 to 1950, the Review was the journal of the Reformed Church District of Transylvania. Beginning with 1951, it has become the only journal and common platform of the Reformed Church Districts of Transylvania and Királyhágómellék (de pe lângă Piatra Craiului), as well as of the Lutheran Church of Romania. The positive aspect of the forced transformation was, on the other hand, that its list of contributors expanded with authors of the other reformed church district and with the Lutherans of Transylvania.

On the 70th anniversary of the Reformed Review, the editor-in-chief István Tőkés reinterpreted the name of the Journal in accordance with the occasion: “The ‘Reformed’ is the spirit of constant self-examination, of delving deeper into the issues, of taking fire, of becoming the salt of earth, of looking at the mountains, and a state of readiness, as stated by the Lord of the Church for those serving the written Word. The ‘Review’ character is an expression of real action, of tirelessness, of looking-and-seeing, of bearing light and enlightening, of a conduct witnessing to belonging to Christ…. There can hardly be a problem with these terms. However, for us, this means a constant challenge: have we met and do we faithfully carry the obectives behind this double name?[24] The editor-in-chief emphasised the importance of fidelity and tradition from the perspective of present action: “… with affection and love towards past generations we will step on the consecrated paths of the past seven decades as those emerge from the written testimony before us. We do not intend to do anything by neglecting the fathers, but it is because of our loyalty to them that we aim not to be living from them, from the past, from their actions, but to recognise our own duties and responsibilities through their admonition and guidance.”[25]

The articles in the Review at its 70th anniversary evaluate its previous issues from several perspectives. These issues have grown significantly in size, and, although with different “colours and emphasis”, they represent a “substantially similar position”, that is, obedient service of the Word by the means of writing.[26]

Editor-in-chief, István Tőkés, divided his evaluation of the 70-year-old Review into four generations. He saw the essence of the work of the first generation (until 1919) in striving to unite the official church and the congregations. The second generation (1920–1944) is characterized mainly by a zeal for the recognized and urgent tasks: theological and ecclesial renewal, “self-organisation”, catechesis, liturgy, ecclesiastical order, diaconal and social responsibility, and the diaspora issue. The attention of the third generation (1945–1969) primarily focused on the aspects of church and society, and this was understandable, given the new social situation that had emerged. During this third generation also arises "a centralization of preaching that we do not encounter during the previous decades". This latter aspect can also be traced in the work of the fourth generation (since 1970), whereby a “stronger role of ecumenism” is emphasised in addition.[27]

1964 - A journal of protestant scholarship

With the Review having become a journal of Transylvanian Reformed and Lutheran theological scholarship, it is worth investigating when this tendency towards a scholarly journal actually emerges. The regular publication of scholarly articles and studies can be traced back to 1964. About the same time the permanent section divisions of the Review came to be established, providing a structuring framework for the writings until 2001.[28] These sections cover the areas of the four major theological disciplines. (As of 2001, these traditional theological disciplines clearly give the internal structure of the Review.)

In his article on the 70-year-old Review, László Nagy states first of all that the Journal nurtures and represents its traditional program, stated at the outset, namely serving the construction of the church from the inside and the outside. Meanwhile new traditions were born, such as its “daughter”, the former Congregational Annex, which aimed to work on the spiritual development of congregations.[29]

It goes without saying, however, that the Review was also the subject of critique. In the issue of the Journal’s 70th anniversary, István Tőkés also published an article summarizing the assessments, needs and expectations, as well as the negative criticisms, based on the questionnaires sent to the ministers.[30]

1990 - Further steps towards a firm scholarly platform

Following the changes of 1989, new possibilities opened up for the church press. In the early 1990s, the magazine Preacher (Igehirdető) was started publishing sermons for ministers. The Message (Üzenet) was established as a newspaper for the congregations. In 1992, the church district Bulletin (Értesítő) was started as the official announcement platform of the Reformed Church District of Transylvania. The Bulletin considers itself to be an appendix to the Reformed Review. They all grew out of the Reformed Review and became, so to speak, its “mature children”. (After all, the Review was an official bulletin before, and among other things, it also published sermons, and issued supplements for the congregations.) In addition, in early 2001, The Way (Az Út) was also restarted with its previous goal.[31]

These developments explain why the Review has now almost necessarily become a journal of Transylvanian theological scholarship. At the same time, it is also noticeable that, compared to the previous years, the Review publishes the writings of a growing number of theologians from abroad, also due to the changed circumstances.[32] It is true, as stated by Botond Somogyi, that “the content of the Review, is no longer so diverse as previously”, for the reasons outlined above. Nonetheless, “it is exciting that the list of younger authors has grown... That is, the Reformed Review seems to reflect the church-related scholarly work of the Reformed intelligentsia. And this is fully in line with the aims established for the former Review.[33]

[The text for this historical overview was adapted from: Zoltán Adorjáni: 100 éves a Református Szemle. In: Református Szemle 100 (2007), 3-10.]

[1] In 1917 it was reduced to 8 sheets; in 1925 again one printed sheet. It appears three times a month from 1929 and twice from 1945, then once from 1950. In 1960 it was transformed into a journal as it appears later. From 2001 it receives a new, colourful cover, and the writings appearing in it, are broken down into sections according to the major theological disciplines.

[2] However, the jubilee issue, which evaluates the first fifty years of the Journal, claims that the idea of becoming an intellectual platform included in the program was “not always served as consistently on a universal level as in the field of internal forces”. István Juhász: A Református Szemle ötven éve, 199.

[3] (Károly Nagy): Előfizetési felhívás. I. year, 1908, 1.

[4] Vö. Botond Somogyi: A Református Szemle élete 1990–2003 között, 2005, 563.

[5] József Sándor takes over the editing from Domokos Szász (1884), and Gerő Szász follows him from the beginning of 1886. Cf. István Tőkés: A hetvenéves Református Szemle. XXLI. évfolyam, 1978, 288.

[6] Cf. István Tőkés: A hetvenéves Református Szemle, 299.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid. 288–289.

[9] Erdélyi Protestáns Lap. Az Erdélyi Ev. Ref. Egyházkerület hivatalos lapja (1898–1907). First number was issued on January 1, 1898.

[10] See István Juhász: A Református Szemle ötven éve, 199–200.

[11] Cf. also: István Tőkés: A hetvenéves Református Szemle, 289.

[12] See „Crimson-rózsák”. Beszélgetés Dr. Gönczy Lajossal. Vol. LXXI, 1978, 314.

As for the numbering of the volumes of the Reformed Review, as in the case of other journals, spelling mistakes were made here as well. In the first half of 1946, the issues were numbers as belonging to volume XXXIX. However, the July 1946 issue was indicated mistakenly as vol. XXXXI. The spelling error does not seem to have been noticed by anyone. Or if it was, no one signalled it to the editorial office. The spelling error came to light only while preparing for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Reformed Review. It was then that the error was corrected, which explains why both the 1957 and 1958 issues appeared as vol. L.

[13] See further: István Tőkés : A hetvenéves Református Szemle, 289; István Juhász: A Református Szemle ötven éve, 200; Zoltán Adorjáni: Isten adja a növekedést. vol. XCI, 2001, 3.

[14] Cf. Froukje de Hoop: Nagy Károly (1868–1926). Akik jó bizonyságot nyertek. A Kolozsvári Református Theologia tanárai 1895–1948. Edited by Zsolt Kozma. Cluj, 1996,99.

[15] Károly Nagy: Programunk. vol. I, 1908, 3–6.

[16] Ibid.  4.

[17] See István Tőkés: A Református Szemle és a lelkipásztorok. Vol. XXLI, 1978, 325.

[18] (Károly Nagy): Előfizetési felhívás. I. évfolyam, 1908, 1; see also: Juhász István: A Református Szemle ötven éve, 200.

[19] Cf. “Our church administration, in keeping with the character of the church as folk church, is moving towards decentralization in our district. Which is correct. Autonomous life cannot have other forms. But autonomy comes with responsibility.” See Károly Nagy: Programunk, 5; István Juhász: A Református Szemle ötven éve, 200.

[20] The journal Az Út was started by László Ravasz and Sándor Makkai with the aim to make the work of practicing ministers bring fruitful results through professional guidance. Church politics was excluded from the journal. They only sticked to truths and principles. See László Ravasz: Emlékezéseim. Ref. Egyház Zsinati Irodájának Sajtóosztálya, Budapest 1992, 116.

[21] See László Ravasz, ibid, 116.

[22] The section Silent Hour (Cendes Óra) (1915–1918; 1923–1924: Narrations (Elbeszélések); from 1925: In the mirror of the Word (Az Ige tükrében) presented meditations that nurtured the individual faith of ministers. The subdivision Cult (Kultusz; later under different names) presented liturgical writings, sermon outlines, and draft sermons, but the editors also translated dogmatic truths into practice. The section on Religious Education (Vallásos nevelés) served to reform the practice of congregational confirmation, to renew and deepen the teaching of religion in schools. The newspaper Sunday School (Vasárnapi Iskola) was a permanent annex between 1927 and 1930. (In the two years before the paper ceased to exist, this was a separate section of the journal.) The section on Congregational work, Pastoral care, Inner mission (1923) dealt with issues of missionary work on a scholarly basis, but also considered its practical implications and provided directions and assistance to ministers. The topics in the section on Foreign mission (Külmisszió), although appearing nominally only in 1930 and 1933, also emerge in other sections. Church music and hymnology dealt with the past and present of church music, looking at the teaching of music at school and in the church. Under the sections Literature (Irodalom), Reviews (Szemlék, kritikák), Journal reviews (Folyóiratszemlék) one could find various scholarly sources. The section Science and worldview (Tudomány és világnézet) started in 1923, because Hungarian Protestantism in Transylvania - apart from the official platform of the church - did not have any journals dealing with the issues of humanities, natural sciences and worldviews. This section was supplemented by the Arte et Marte, which warned of the constant task of the church: spreading the gospel with the tools of science and scholarship, with the weapon of the spirit.

[23] See on this the summaries of István Juhász: A Református Szemle ötven éve, 206–208; Pál Geréb: A theologiai tisztázás, ellenőrzés és irányítás a Református Szemlében. vol. L, 1958, 217–221.; Lajos Gönczy: Az Ige hirdetésének szolgálata. vol. L, 1958, 224–227.; Csaba Csutak: A lelki énekek és az egyházi zenekultúra megismertetésének, az énekeskönyv megújításának szolgálata. vol. L, 1958, 233–236.; Géza Nagy: Gyülekezeteink egysége és felelőssége. vol. L, 1958, 236–240.

[24] Mérleg. vol. XXLI, 1978, 286–287.

[25] Ibid. 287.

[26] See István Tőkés: A hetvenéves Református Szemle, 290.

[27] István Tőkés: A hetvenéves Református Szemle, 292–293.

[28] Ibid. 291.

[29] László Nagy: Két évtized a Református Szemle életéből, 303.

[30] István Tőkés : A Református Szemle és a lelkipásztorok. vol. XXLI, 1978, 316–325.

[31] See: Békesség az olvasónak! Az Út. Teológiai tudomány, egyházi szolgálat. 2001, 1: “We are planning a scholarly journal envisioning ecclesiastical service that within a confessional frame will help the service of preaching, will look at ecclesiastical public life, theologically evaluate events outside the church, inform about major ecclesiastical and theological movements, preserve scientific objectivity, give space for the free expression of opinion, will be exemplary in matters of grammar and style, and generally opens the window of the theological workshop to our church and our people.”

[32] See Botond Somogyi: A Református Szemle élete 1990–2004 között, 2005, 560–561.

[33] Ibid. 563.