Wednesday, November 01, 2006

John Calvin, Near-Classicist

Unlike Luther, Calvin was not a university-trained theologian. He had, of course, been sent by his father to the University of Paris in order to study for the priesthood. But the original plans for John's ordination were scuttled when his father, a notary for the bishop of Noyon in Picardy, quarrelled with the cathedral chapter. In the aftermath of the quarrel Calvin was sent instead to Orleans and later to Bourges to study law. By inclination Calvin preferred to be neither a lawyer nor a priest, though he did obey his father by earning a doctorate in civil law. In the preface to his commentary on the Psalms, written many years after the events, Calvin claimed that his chief ambition as a young man had been to lead a quiet life as a reclusive scholar, one who edited and interpreted classical texts. He might very well have lived such a quiet life, had he not experienced what he later described as a rapid, if somewhat reluctant, conversion to the Protestant movement. This unexpected conversion propelled him within a remarkably short time to prominence withing Protestant circles of reform.

(From David C. Steinmetz, 'The Theology of John Calvin' (in The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology, edited by David Bagchi and David C. Steinmetz [2004], pp. 113-29), pp. 113-14.)

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