Nicolas-Sylvestre Bergier

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Portrait of Nicolas-Sylvestre Bergier. Painting from Joseph Aved. Réunion des musées nationaux Grand Palais.

Nicolas-Sylvestre Bergier (French: [bɛʁʒje]; 31 December 1718 – 9 April 1790) was a French Catholic theologian. He was a critic of the philosophes, accusing them in particular of distorting the facts on social life in China and Confucianism.[1]


Bergier was born at Darney in Lorraine. After a course of theology in the University of Besançon, he received the degree of doctor, was ordained priest, and went to Paris to finish his studies. Returning to Besançon in 1748, he was given charge of a parish and later became president of the college of the city, which had formerly been under the direction of the Jesuits.

In 1769 the Archbishop of Paris, Christophe de Beaumont, appointed him canon of the cathedral, and from then on Bergier resided at Paris. He died at Versailles.


A pious priest and an energetic student, he devoted a great part of his time to writing in defence of religion. He agreed to correct certain articles of the Encyclopédie, but found himself obliged to write entirely original articles which then formed the Dictionnaire de theologie as a part of the Encyclopédie. The works of Bergier are in the fields of apologetics and theology, except for Les elements primitifs des langues (Besançon, 1764) and L'origine des dieux du paganisme (Paris, 1767).

Among his apologetical and theological works, the most important are:

  • "Le Déisme refuté par lui-même" (Paris, 1765);
  • "La Certitude des preuves du christianisme" (Paris, 1767, also published in Migne's "Démonstrations évangéliques", XI);
  • "Réponses aux Conseils raisonnables de Voltaire" (Paris, 1771, also in Migne, ibid.);
  • "Apologie de la religion chrétienne" - against d'Holbach's "Christianisme devoilé" (Paris, 1769);
  • "Réfutation des principaux articles du dictionnaire philosophique";
  • "Examen du matérialisme" (Paris, 1771);
  • "Traité historique et dogmatique de la vraie religion" (Paris, 1780, and 8 vols. 8vo., 1820).

The Dictionnaire théologique has been often edited, especially by Gousset in 8 vols. (Besançon, 1838) and Migne (Paris, 1850). Some of his writings concerning divorce, the question of the mercy of God and the origin of evil, and one volume of sermons were published after his death.


  1. ^ Jonathan Israel, Enlightenment Contested (2006), pp. 661-2.