John Calvin - Institutes of the Christian Religion

Have you read Calvin's Institues?


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Nathan A. Hughes

Puritan Board Freshman
Outside of Holy Scripture Calvin’s institutes is the greatest Christian book ever written. By the reading of Calvin one learns a great deal of spiritual truth and wisdom. Calvin is profound but understandable. He is challenging in some areas of the book, but overall is readable. I find the institutes both soul searching and heart warming. Calvin stirs the reader up to take the Bible seriously. Calvin is one of the greatest Christian thinkers of human history. His timeless and edifying work is a great blessing and encouragement to the church. Calvin is a good example of godliness, personal holiness and a soul that was on fire for God. He is a sound example of a man who lived to please God alone, and a passion to make the Gospel known.

This book is a must read for all who love the Lord Jesus Christ. My most enjoyed and loved section in on Prayer. I have the edition translated by Henry Beveridge, which is a fine edition. This edition by Hendrickson Publishers features a useful Scripture index and a general index to the book. I do not think one needs a guide to read this book as it is so well written by Calvin. However, those new to the faith may struggle to grasp some of the terminology of Calvin. I believe those who are not of a Reformed or Calvinistic persuasion should read it, as this will set the record straight of the true beliefs of “Calvinist.” Those that affirm the Doctrines of Grace are not what some claim they are. Read Calvin for yourself.

 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I'm on my 4th reading, though this time I am relying on mainly audio and then touching up on some parts with the text.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
I have read it three times; the Beveridge edition once, the Battles edition twice. God-willing, I intend to re-read the Beveridge edition next year.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
I've read the two volume and single volume preferring the single volume.
 

Nathan A. Hughes

Puritan Board Freshman
To be honest I only have the Henry Beveridge one. I have heard good things about the Banner of Truth version.

Sent from my KOB-L09 using Tapatalk
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
Interestingly, Richard A. Muller doesn't trust the Battles translation:

"I have also consulted the older translations of the Institutes, namely, those of Norton, Allen, and Beveridge, in view of both the accuracy of those translations and the relationship in which they stand to the older or "pre-critical" text tradition of Calvin's original. Both in its apparatus and in its editorial approach to the text, the McNeill-Battles translation suffers from the mentality of the text-critic who hides the original ambience of the text even as he attempts to reveal all of its secrets to the modern reader."

From: The Unaccommodated Calvin: Studies in the Foundation of a Theological Tradition by Richard A. Muller; Oxford Studies in Historical Theology series (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. ix.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
I wouldn't say it's the greatest Christian book ever. It's interesting, in spots (Book 4 being the best of the four books). But, as with many authors of the older period, you have to do a great deal of reading until you finally get to the point the author is making. Sort of like reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Professor David Calhoun said this:

The first was Thomas Norton back in the sixteenth century. Calvin was very fortunate with his first English translator. Norton did an exceptionally good job. Very soon after the completion of the Institutes in 1559, which was written in Latin, it was translated by Calvin into French and then quite soon into English. John Allen was the second translator. John Allen and Henry Beveridge were both nineteenth-century translators. The Beveridge translation is still in print. It was until fairly recently anyway. Those are not bad but not very good either. Ford Lewis Battles' 1960 translation is the one that we are using. Even though it has been criticized some, it is by far the most superior translation that we have at present.

Dr J.I. Packer said this:

No English translation fully matches Calvin's Latin; that of the Elizabethan, Thomas Norton, perhaps gets closest; Beveridge gives us Calvin's feistiness but not always his precision; Battles gives us the precision but not always the punchiness, and fleetness of foot; Allen is smooth and clear, but low-key.

http://www.reformation21.org/calvin/2009/01/translations-of-the-institutes.php
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Beveridge was the better translator of Calvin (over Battles), since he had already done the 7-volume Tracts and Letters set before he translated the Institutes. He had a better feel for the language. That being said, it is true that Muller actually prefers the Allen translation.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
(on the single volume)

Reformed Christian scholar and theological philosopher Paul Helm:

“Incidentally, if you have the need of a translation of the Institutes, then the reissue of the Beveridge translation (newly published by Hendrickson) may be just the thing. It has new indexes, and has been ‘gently edited’, which means, I hope, only the removal of typos and other detritus. (I have not yet had the chance to check). Beveridge is superior to Battles in sticking closer to the original Latin, and having less intrusive editorial paraphernalia.”

Richard A. Muller, on the two translations (from the preface of The Unaccommodated Calvin):

“I have also consulted the older translations of the Institutes, namely those of Norton, Allen and Beveridge, in view of both the accuracy of those translation and the relationship in which they stand to the older or ‘precritical’ text tradition of Calvin’s original. Both in its apparatus and in its editorial approach to the text, the McNeill-Battles translation suffers from the mentality of the text-critic who hides the original ambience of the text even as he attempts to reveal all its secrets to the modern reader.”

from J.I. Packer in the foreword to A Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes:

“No English translation fully matches Calvin’s Latin; that of the Elizabethan, Thomas Norton, perhaps gets closest; Beveridge gives us Calvin’s feistiness but not always his precision; Battles gives us the precision but not always the punchiness, and fleetness of foot; Allen is smooth and clear, but low-key.”

David Calhoun:

“Let me just say a few words about English translations. The first was Thomas Norton back in the sixteenth century. Calvin was very fortunate with his first English translator. Norton did an exceptionally good job. Very soon after the completion of the Institutes in 1559, which was written in Latin, it was translated by Calvin into French and then quite soon into English. John Allen was the second translator. John Allen and Henry Beveridge were both nineteenth-century translators. The Beveridge translation is still in print. It was until fairly recently anyway. Those are not bad but not very good either. Ford Lewis Battles’ 1960 translation is the one that we are using. Even though it has been criticized some, it is by far the most superior translation that we have at present.”

This edition has some nice features as well:

– An eight-page, four-color insert on coated stock, including a frontispiece featuring the title page of the original publication and a timeline of the Reformation and of John Calvin’s life

– Two ribbon markers

– Gold foil and embossing

– Linen end sheets
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Junior
I have Battles, Allen, and Beveridge in hard copies. I've read each, one after the other, to compare them. I'm still in book one. I lean toward preferring Allen to the others, but it is difficult to decide because they are all very similar in content, if not in style.
I just purchased Norton's translation in the Logos app, so I've complicated things for myself even further. :(
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Junior
Is there anything in particular about this edition that draws you?
It is Allen's 'way with words.' I read a section of each one to compare and I just like Allen's turn of phrase for lack of a better reason. It has nothing to do with one being more accurate than the other. I cannot read the original in Latin or French to know who of the three is closer to Calvin's intent, so it is just a matter of my particular taste.
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
It seems to me that the Reformed world now has the resources to do a modern edition of Calvin's Institutes that is accurate, true to Calvin's writing style etc. We have a number of Reformed Calvin scholars living today. Ideally the footnotes would be Reformed (not neo-orthodox) and would include helpful references to where the Puritans developed Calvin's thought further.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Outside of Holy Scripture Calvin’s institutes is the greatest Christian book ever written. By the reading of Calvin one learns a great deal of spiritual truth and wisdom. Calvin is profound but understandable. He is challenging in some areas of the book, but overall is readable. I find the institutes both soul searching and heart warming. Calvin stirs the reader up to take the Bible seriously. Calvin is one of the greatest Christian thinkers of human history. His timeless and edifying work is a great blessing and encouragement to the church. Calvin is a good example of godliness, personal holiness and a soul that was on fire for God. He is a sound example of a man who lived to please God alone, and a passion to make the Gospel known.

This book is a must read for all who love the Lord Jesus Christ. My most enjoyed and loved section in on Prayer. I have the edition translated by Henry Beveridge, which is a fine edition. This edition by Hendrickson Publishers features a useful Scripture index and a general index to the book. I do not think one needs a guide to read this book as it is so well written by Calvin. However, those new to the faith may struggle to grasp some of the terminology of Calvin. I believe those who are not of a Reformed or Calvinistic persuasion should read it, as this will set the record straight of the true beliefs of “Calvinist.” Those that affirm the Doctrines of Grace are not what some claim they are. Read Calvin for yourself.

Just a question, is it true that John Calvin just wrote the 1541 edition personally, while the latest 1559 revised edition had Beza and others contribute to its final state?
 

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Junior
Just a question, is it true that John Calvin just wrote the 1541 edition personally, while the latest 1559 revised edition had Beza and others contribute to its final state?
Calvin was in poor health most of his adult life, and very much more so toward the end. So, it is likely that Beza might have dictated some of the material, but I do not think any of the substance came from him.
 
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