John Calvin

John Calvin
John Calvin by Holbein.png
Portrait attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger
Native nameJean Calvin
BornJehan Cauvin
(1509-07-10)10 July 1509
Noyon, Picardy, Kingdom of France
Died27 May 1564(1564-05-27) (aged 54)
Geneva, Republic of Geneva
Notable workInstitutes of the Christian Religion
John Calvin signature.png

John Calvin (French: Jean Calvin [ʒɑ̃ kalvɛ̃]; born Jehan Cauvin; 10 July 1509 – 27 May 1564) was a French theologian, pastor and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism, aspects of which include the doctrines of predestination and of the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation of the human soul from death and eternal damnation, in which doctrines Calvin was influenced by and elaborated upon the Augustinian and other Christian traditions. Various Congregational, Reformed and Presbyterian churches, which look to Calvin as the chief expositor of their beliefs, have spread throughout the world.

Calvin was a tireless polemic and apologetic writer who generated much controversy. He also exchanged cordial and supportive letters with many reformers, including Philipp Melanchthon and Heinrich Bullinger. In addition to his seminal Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin wrote commentaries on most books of the Bible, confessional documents, and various other theological treatises.

Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530. After religious tensions erupted in widespread deadly violence against Protestant Christians in France, Calvin fled to Basel, Switzerland, where in 1536 he published the first edition of the Institutes. In that same year, Calvin was recruited by Frenchman William Farel to join the Reformation in Geneva, where he regularly preached sermons throughout the week; but the governing council of the city resisted the implementation of their ideas, and both men were expelled. At the invitation of Martin Bucer, Calvin proceeded to Strasbourg, where he became the minister of a church of French refugees. He continued to support the reform movement in Geneva, and in 1541 he was invited back to lead the church of the city.

Following his return, Calvin introduced new forms of church government and liturgy, despite opposition from several powerful families in the city who tried to curb his authority. During this period, Michael Servetus, a Spaniard regarded by both Roman Catholics and Protestants as having a heretical view of the Trinity, arrived in Geneva. He was denounced by Calvin and burned at the stake for heresy by the city council. Following an influx of supportive refugees and new elections to the city council, Calvin's opponents were forced out. Calvin spent his final years promoting the Reformation both in Geneva and throughout Europe.

Early life (1509–1535)

Calvin was originally interested in the priesthood, but he changed course to study law in Orléans and Bourges. Painting titled Portrait of Young John Calvin from the collection of the Library of Geneva.

John Calvin was born as Jehan Cauvin on 10 July 1509, at Noyon, a town in Picardy, a province of the Kingdom of France.[1] He was the first of four sons who survived infancy. His mother, Jeanne le Franc, was the daughter of an innkeeper from Cambrai. She died of an unknown cause in Calvin's childhood, after having borne four more children. Calvin's father, Gérard Cauvin, had a prosperous career as the cathedral notary and registrar to the ecclesiastical court; he died in 1531, after suffering for two years with testicular cancer. Gérard intended his three sons — Charles, Jean, and Antoine — for the priesthood. The surname Calvin or Cauvin is in origin a diminutive of French chauve (Picard calve, from Latin calvus) meaning "bald".[2]

Young Calvin was particularly precocious. By age 12, he was employed by the bishop as a clerk and received the tonsure, cutting his hair to symbolise his dedication to the Church. He also won the patronage of an influential family, the Montmors.[3] Through their assistance, Calvin was able to attend the Collège de la Marche, Paris, where he learned Latin from one of its greatest teachers, Mathurin Cordier.[4] Once he completed the course, he entered the Collège de Montaigu as a philosophy student.[5]

In 1525 or 1526, Gérard withdrew his son from the Collège de Montaigu and enrolled him in the University of Orléans to study law. According to contemporary biographers Theodore Beza and Nicolas Colladon, Gérard believed that Calvin would earn more money as a lawyer than as a priest.[6] After a few years of quiet study, Calvin entered the University of Bourges in 1529. He was intrigued by Andreas Alciati, a humanist lawyer. Humanism was a European intellectual movement which stressed classical studies. During his 18-month stay in Bourges, Calvin learned Koine Greek, a necessity for studying the New Testament.[7]

Alternate theories have been suggested regarding the date of Calvin's religious conversion. Some have placed the date of his conversion around 1533, shortly before he resigned his chaplaincy. In this view, his resignation is the direct evidence for his conversion to the evangelical faith. However, T. H. L. Parker argues that while this date is a terminus for his conversion, the more likely date is in late 1529 or early 1530.[8] The main evidence for his conversion is contained in two significantly different accounts of his conversion. In the first, found in his Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Calvin portrayed his conversion as a sudden change of mind, brought about by God:

God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life. Having thus received some taste and knowledge of true godliness, I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress therein, that although I did not altogether leave off other studies, yet I pursued them with less ardour.[9]

In the second account, Calvin wrote of a long process of inner turmoil, followed by spiritual and psychological anguish:

Being exceedingly alarmed at the misery into which I had fallen, and much more at that which threatened me in view of eternal death, I, duty bound, made it my first business to betake myself to your way, condemning my past life, not without groans and tears. And now, O Lord, what remains to a wretch like me, but instead of defence, earnestly to supplicate you not to judge that fearful abandonment of your Word according to its deserts, from which in your wondrous goodness you have at last delivered me.[10]

Scholars have argued about the precise interpretation of these accounts, but most agree that his conversion corresponded with his break from the Roman Catholic Church.[11][12] The Calvin biographer Bruce Gordon has stressed that "the two accounts are not antithetical, revealing some inconsistency in Calvin's memory, but rather [are] two different ways of expressing the same reality."[13]

By 1532, Calvin received his licentiate in law and published his first book, a commentary on Seneca's De Clementia. After uneventful trips to Orléans and his hometown of Noyon, Calvin returned to Paris in October 1533. During this time, tensions rose at the Collège Royal (later to become the Collège de France) between the humanists/reformers and the conservative senior faculty members. One of the reformers, Nicolas Cop, was rector of the university. On 1 November 1533 he devoted his inaugural address to the need for reform and renewal in the Roman Catholic Church. The address provoked a strong reaction from the faculty, who denounced it as heretical, forcing Cop to flee to Basel. Calvin, a close friend of Cop, was implicated in the offence, and for the next year he was forced into hiding. He remained on the move, sheltering with his friend Louis du Tillet in Angoulême and taking refuge in Noyon and Orléans. He was finally forced to flee France during the Affair of the Placards in mid-October 1534. In that incident, unknown reformers had posted placards in various cities criticizing the Roman Catholic mass, to which adherents of the Roman Catholic church responded with violence against the would-be Reformers and their sympathizers. In January 1535, Calvin joined Cop in Basel, a city under the enduring influence of the late reformer Johannes Oecolampadius.[14]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Johannes Calvyn
Alemannisch: Johannes Calvin
العربية: جان كالفن
asturianu: Xuan Calvín
azərbaycanca: Jan Kalvin
বাংলা: জন কেলভিন
Bân-lâm-gú: Jean Calvin
беларуская: Жан Кальвін
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Жан Кальвін
Bislama: John Calvin
български: Жан Калвин
bosanski: Jean Calvin
brezhoneg: Jean Calvin
català: Jean Cauvin
čeština: Jan Kalvín
Cymraeg: Jean Calvin
español: Juan Calvino
Esperanto: Johano Kalvino
euskara: Joan Kalbino
فارسی: ژان کالون
français: Jean Calvin
Gaeilge: Eoin Cailvín
Gàidhlig: Jean Calvin
galego: Jean Calvin
한국어: 장 칼뱅
Հայերեն: Ժան Կալվին
hrvatski: Jean Calvin
Bahasa Indonesia: Yohanes Calvin
interlingua: Johannes Calvin
íslenska: Kalvín
Basa Jawa: Yohanes Calvin
ქართული: ჟან კალვინი
қазақша: Жан Кальвин
Kiswahili: Calvin
kurdî: Jean Calvin
Кыргызча: Кальвин Жан
latviešu: Žans Kalvins
Lëtzebuergesch: Jean Calvin
lietuvių: Žanas Kalvinas
lingála: Yoane Kalvin
македонски: Жан Калвин
Malagasy: Jean Calvin
മലയാളം: ജോൺ കാൽവിൻ
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ဂျွန်ကယ်လ်ဗင်
Na Vosa Vakaviti: John Calvin
Nederlands: Johannes Calvijn
Nedersaksies: Johannes Calvijn
norsk nynorsk: Jean Calvin
occitan: Joan Calvin
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Jan Kalvin
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਜਾਨ ਕੈਲਵਿਨ
Plattdüütsch: Johannes Calvin
polski: Jan Kalwin
português: João Calvino
reo tahiti: John Calvin
română: Jean Calvin
rumantsch: Johannes Calvin
русский: Кальвин, Жан
Gagana Samoa: Ioane Kalavini
sicilianu: Giuvanni Calvinu
Simple English: John Calvin
slovenčina: Ján Kalvín
slovenščina: Jean Calvin
српски / srpski: Жан Калвин
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Jean Calvin
svenska: Jean Calvin
Tagalog: John Calvin
Türkçe: Jean Calvin
українська: Жан Кальвін
Tiếng Việt: Jean Calvin
West-Vlams: Johan Calving
Winaray: John Calvin
粵語: 加爾文
Lingua Franca Nova: Joan Calvin