Monday, April 1, 2013

Calvin by Bruce Gordon

If I ever needed inspiration there is no better theologian and reformer to turn to than John Calvin (1509-1564). Calvin together with Martin Luther are my twin theological heroes not just of the Reformation but of all time. I read Calvin's Institutes every now and then after first reading it in the late 1980s. As far as a coherent theological system is concerned, Calvin's Institutes have not been surpassed not even by Karl Barth who himself admired Calvin greatly. Barth's neo-orthodoxy is very much influenced by his reading of Calvin. One may call Barth a neo-Calvinist with the chief difference lies in Calvin's and Barth's view of Scripture.

The former is certainly correct that Scripture is the Word of God while Barth holds a slippery view of Scripture that it witnesses the Word of God, a human and divine creation and because of the human element or authorship of the Bible makes Scripture fallible, as Calvin would insist to the contrary. Bruce Gordon's Calvin (2009) is a welcome addition to the many biographies of Calvin published in the last few decades. Calvin first studied philosophy in Paris when he was 14 years old, even in his time extremely youthful for a University student. Then he turned to Law when he was 18 or 19 years and graduated in Law when he was 22 years old. It seems that Calvin studied law in two renowned universities, Orleans and Bourges. Calvin already mastered Latin in his early teens and went on to study Greek as a Law student and then Hebrew. Calvin was a published scholar in his early 20s and by the time he gave up his benefaction from the Roman Catholic church he was well on his way to become the reformer the world would remember him for. At 25 years old, Calvin already mastered Latin and Greek and added with Hebrew so that by the time he was appointed Reader of Holy Scripture in Geneva at the age of 27 years he had already published the first edition of Institutes and could preach the OT from the Hebrew text and Greek of the New Testament.

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