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Calvin, John (1509-1564)

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John Calvin (1509-1564) was one of the most important Protestant reformers of the sixteenth century. A theologian and ecclesiastical statesman, he wrote one of the most influential books of Protestantism, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. The ideas advanced in this work became the basis for the church and state Calvin would create in Geneva.

His parents having selected a career in the Catholic church for him, Calvin was sent to Paris for an education, financed by the revenues of two benefices. By 1534 he had converted to Protestantism, left Paris, and gave up his financial support. In 1535 he published the initial version of the Institutes. The importance of the Institutes lies not with any original thinking it contains but with its inclusive and systematic explication of Protestant doctrine. It forcefully presents the Protestants' claim to teach the original doctrine of the church before it was corrupted by the popes in Rome. Further, the Institutes provides instructions for the practical organization of the reformed church and its relations to a political state.

Calvin's importance to history lies in the fact that he had the opportunity to put into action nearly his entire religious and political system. He first arrived in Geneva following that city's conversion to Protestantism and expulsion of the Catholic authorities. During the ensuing chaos he was invited to aid the cause. He stayed for two years before being banished. Three years later (1541) the city again turned to him, this time for good.

Calvin was able to institute most of the programs put forward in the Institutes. He saw the ideal state as having a religious role in preventing religious crimes (sacrilege) and ensuring a public form of religion. Calvin also maintained that the state has a duty to protect personal property, keep public peace, and enable business to operate unfettered by fraud or other crime. The city Calvin created was able to do these things; Geneva fulfilled its role as a protector of religion and was quick to execute opponents of Calvin such as Jacques Gruet (1547) and Michael Servetus (1553). The banking, commercial, and industrial base of Geneva grew under Calvin's direction, and his support of education led Geneva to become a center of the Protestant movement. Dissidents from other countries flocked there to receive training before returning to their native lands.

John Calvin's importance lies both in his ideas, which were spread far and wide, and in the fact that he was able to bring his ideas to fruition through founding a new religion. His impact on politics was also profound. In re-creating Geneva under his rule, he brought his ideal state into being. His ideas on the right ordering of a state, natural law, constitutional rule, and ideal governments have all been widely influential.

Bibliography

Works by the Author

Calvin's New Testament Commentaries, ed. Thomas F. Torrance and David W. Torrance. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1947.

Facsimile edition: Sermons of Maister John Calvin, upon the Book of Job, translated out of French by Arthur Golding. London, George Bishop, 1574. Edinburgh, Banner of Truth Trust, 1993.

Calvin, John. Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians and the Ephesians. Translated by William Pringle. New York, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1948.

Calvin, John. Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Romans. Translated by John Owen. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1947.

Calvin, John. Commentary on the Episltes of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians. Translated by William Pringle. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1948 .

Calvin, John. Commentary on the Gospel According to John. 2 vols. Translated by William Pringle. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1949.

Calvin, John, Commentary on the Catholic Epistles. Translated by John Owen. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1948.

Calvin, John. Commentaries of the First Book of Moses Called Genesis. 2 vols. Translated by John King. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1948.

Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses. 4 vols. Translated by Charles William Bingham. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company.

Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Book of Joshua. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1949.

Calvin, John. Commentary on the Book of Psalms. 5 vols. Translated by James Anderson. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1949.

Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Lamentations. 5 vols. Translated by John Owen. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1950.

Calvin, John. Commentaries on the First Twenty Chapters of the Book of the Prophet Ezekial. 2 vols. Translated by John Owen. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1948.

Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets. 5 vols. Translated by John Owen. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1950.

Calvin, John. Commentary Upon the Acts of the Apostles. 2 vols. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1949.

Calvin, John. Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. 4 vols. Translated by William Pringle. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1948.

Calvin, John. Sermons from Job. Translated by Leroy Nixon. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1952.

Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Daniel. 2 vols. Translated by Thomas Myers. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1948.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. 2 vols. Translated by John Allen. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1949.

Nixon, Leroy, comp. Complete Indexes to the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1950.

Calvin, John. A Compend of the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Edited by Hugh Thomson Kerr. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, 1939.

Calvin, John. John Calvin: On God and Political Duty. New York: Little Library of Liberal Arts, 1956.

Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets. 3 vols. Translated by John Owen. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1950.

Calvin, John. Instruction in Faith. Translated by Paul T. Fuhrmann. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1537.

Calvin, John. Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. 3 vols. Translated by William Pringle. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1956.

Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. Translated by John Pringle. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1957.

Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Translated by William Pringle. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1948.

Calvin, John. The Gospel According to Isaiah: Seven Sermons on Isaiah 53 Concerning the Passion and Death of Christ. Translated by Leroy Nixon. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1948.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1957.

Calvin, John. On The Christian Faith, Translated by T. John McNeill. New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1957.

Calvin, John. Tracts and Treatises on the Reformation of the Church. 3 vols. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 1958.

Calvin, John. Calvin: Theological Treatises. Vol. 22. Translated by J. K. S. Reid. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1954.

Works about the Author

Bohatec, J. Calvins Lehre von Staat und Kirche. Breslau: Marcus; repr. 1961, Aalen: Scientia Verlag.

Bouwsma, William J. John Calvin, A Sixteenth-Century Portrait. New York, Oxford University Press, 1988.

Kingdon, Robert M. "Calvinism and Resistance Theory, 1550-1580," in The Cambridge History of Political Thought, 1450-1700, edited by J.H. Burns. Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp. 193-219.

Höpfel, Harro. The Christian Polity of John Calvin. Cambridge University Press, 1982.

McGrath, Allister E. A Life of John Calvin. A Study in the Shaping of Western Culture. Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1990.

McNeill, John T. The History and Character of Calvinism. New York, Oxford University Press, 1954.

Parker, T.H.L. John Calvin: A Biography. London: Dent, 1975.

Skinner, Q. "The Origins of the Calvinist Theory of Revolution," in Malament, B.C. (ed.), After the Reformation. Philadelphia, 1980.

 

Source

The biographical material about the author originally appeared on The Goodrich Room: Interactive Tour website.

Last modified April 10, 2014