138 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic theology - Classic literature
John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion is a monumental work that stands among the greatest works of Christian theology and Western literature. It ranks with works such as St. Augustine's Confessions and City of God in value, insight and significance. The Institutes have molded the church's understanding of Christian doctrine for generations and has had...
Published on September 8, 2004 by Douglas VanderMeulen
3.0 out of 5 stars Only Vol 1 Came... Where's Vol 2?
I did not receive Volume 2 in the mail. Great book and layout but I need the other half! I'll try and get it figured out but this is disappointing.
Published 21 days ago by Robert Carlson
Most Helpful First | Newest First
138 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic theology - Classic literature,
This review is from: Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 Volume Set) (Hardcover)John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion is a monumental work that stands among the greatest works of Christian theology and Western literature. It ranks with works such as St. Augustine's Confessions and City of God in value, insight and significance. The Institutes have molded the church's understanding of Christian doctrine for generations and has had untold influence in the development of Western thought in both the religious and civil arenas.
Calvin's Institutes represent his life work in teaching theology. They first appeared in 1536 and went through three significant revisions - each expanding and building upon the previous. This particular edition represents the final form and of which Calvin was very pleased.
Originally written to give basic understanding of Christian doctrine, they became one of the earliest systematic theologies of the Reformed tradition. Calvin's stated desire is to give the reader the necessary background to read and accurately handle the great doctrines and promises of the Bible.
Calvin sent a copy to the King Francis I to encourage him to stop persecuting the Christians who were embracing the gospel as taught by the Reformers. His basic argument was that if the king understood what these people believed he would stop killing them as heretics but rather see them as faithful adherents of historical Christianity. Calvin was no lover of novelty and throughout the Institutes copiously cites from the early church fathers and the long history of the Church's understanding of doctrine.
This two-volume work is broken down into four books that loosely follow the outline of the Apostle's Creed. Book 1 concerns knowledge of God. Book 2 is about Jesus Christ as redeemer. Book 3 is about the Holy Spirit's role in applying Christ's redeeming graces. Book 4 is about the church and practice.
This particular edition, translated by Battles and edited by McNeil is more expensive than the one produce by Beverage, but it is worth every extra dollar you spend. While the church is indebted to Beverage for his labor of love in getting many works by Calvin translated into English, his command of both French and Latin were not as strong as Battles. They were originally produced in both Latin and French and Battles' work demonstrates his competency in dealing with both languages. Also, Battles' mastery of Calvin's other writings is reflected in his voluminous footnotes, many of them very helpful to the reader for clarifying, further reading and cross-referencing. In addition, the indexes in the Battles edition are invaluable not only for searching the Institutes for topics but for gleaming Calvin's understanding of the church fathers.
Agree or disagree with Calvin, these are a necessary read for anyone who desires an understanding of the development of Western thought, literature and theology. They are not only great theology; they represent excellent writing and development of an argument. They are also highly pastoral and devotional. They are not like reading a modern systematic theology. Calvin understood doctrine to be more than theory, but something to mold our understanding of God, ourselves and the world in which we live. Carefully working through the Institutes is a journey worth taking!
Soli Deo Gloria!
74 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unlike so much else you've ever read,
This review is from: Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 Volume Set) (Hardcover)Why you should read this book:
1. It's not to heavy (thought it does make you think a lot). I have read a couple of puritan book of the 17th century and they are filled with great stuff but because you read them in the original English it's hard going, but this book translated from the Latin is much more readable. Although the book is v. long it is not as hard as you think it is - trust me.
The fact that this review is so badly written should prove to you that I am not an eminent scholar, just a lowly maths student, and so this book is easy enough for most to read. Don't bother with an abridged version spend the rather large amount of money and get this book - it is worth it. If you want a big book mainly for reference get Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof which though not perfect (no book by man ever will be) has more scripture references and less human writing.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable, understandable -- almost devotional,
By A Customer
This review is from: Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 Volume Set) (Hardcover)There's so much here, it's difficult to write a review of it.
Perhaps my main recommendation of this book is that it presents such a clear, organized outline of the "basics" of the Christian faith. Regardless of one's position on the man or his theology, one cannot escape the fact that this man's faith was obviously vital to him, and he passionately describes his beliefs in these volumes.
Reading Calvin's Institutes was, for me, quite valuable in finally being able to separate John Calvin and his theology from later "Calvinism" that followed, including some of its excesses. I found John Calvin's Institutes to be a balanced, easily understood outline of biblical Christianity.
My final commendation would address the organization of the work. The fact that Calvin has provided the reader with a clear outline and direction in his writing, and addressed each point of his outline in concise, manageable units makes the reading of this immense work much more approachable; the brief readings on each topic, with the saturation of biblical references throughout, makes the reading of the Institutes almost a devotional experience.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't get any other translation,
This review is from: Calvin Institutes of the Christian Religion (Volume One) (Hardcover)This is simply the finest translation of Calvin's Insitutes. What makes this translation so good is the indexes of names, topics, and biblical verses....Mcneil's edition is tried and tested in this two volume set. It is a must have for anyone wanting to read Calvin in a durable hardcover edition. The indexes are invaluable in finding subjects that Calvin addresses. This is the one--i think. While the isbn matches, the price does not. You might want to contact amazon and make sure you are getting the hardback two volume set. The isbn is 0664220207 for the first book and 0664220215 for the second. The price should be around 60 dollars or so.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars read for yourself,
This review is from: Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 Volume Set) (Hardcover)Even if you aren't Reformed, this is a must. This was written for everyone from kings to the street sweeper. Calvin is amazingly bright. Institutes consists of four parts: God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the Church. Book four contains devastating critiques and historical analysis of the Catholic church. Calvin also uses early church fathers and Scriptures to show what the church looked like before the rise of the archbishops, esp. the bishop of Rome. His quotes of Jerome will make Catholics irate.
This book is also historically important, as it was mightily used by God. You don't have to agree with Calvinism to appreciate or find this book useful. You don't even have to like Calvin. People should focus on the work, not the man. What you will find is the author loved God and His Word and endeavored to never stray far from either.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The edition to buy,
This review is from: Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 Volume Set) (Hardcover)This is the best edition to date of the Institutes. Most editions have the smallest type imaginable, as if it wasn't already hard enough to read through these deep books, but this edition has very a readable type. It is bound well, and Ford Lewis Battles' translation is FAR superior to Henry Beveridge's in terms of smoothness, clarity, and readability. If you want to read the Institutes, one of the most powerful and thought-provoking works in history, this is the edition to get.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I ever read,
By A Customer
This review is from: Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 Volume Set) (Hardcover)Some fanatic gave me this as a wedding present! I was 22 and thought this was hysterical. I began to read it and realized very quickly that this was very profound stuff. I was amazed by what I read. Calvin is an intense, very deep thinker, but he writes in a simple, clear style. Once I got used to it, I foudn it pretty easy reading. I read most of it within a year and I have never been the same.
Since then I have read lots more Calvin. I would recommend this Ford Lewis Battles tarnslation very highly over the older and inferior translation of Beveridge.
If you are new to Calvin and like biographies, I'd recommend moving from here to Ronald S. Wallace or T.H.L. Parker's works on Calvin.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Opus Magnum of Theology,
This review is from: Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 Volume Set) (Hardcover)Calvin has long been esteemed a prince of expositors. Father Simon, a Roman Catholic, declared unequivocally, "Calvin possessed a sublime genius." Scalinger, the 16th cent. classical linguist and historian (best known for his study of methods of calculating time)wrote: "Oh, how well Calvin has reached the meaning of Scripture!" B. B. Warfield, possibly the finest theologian writing in English in the early 20th cent., appraised: "In Calvin theism and evangelicalism come to their own."
The <<Institutes of the Christian Religion>> -- I own the Henry Beveridge translation -- is Calvin's greatest work. Over a quarter of a century, until this massive treatise reached its definitive form in 1559, he expended his utmost powers in revision and expansion of this, his masterpiece. The <<Institutes>> is the representative treatise of the Reformation. It was this work that gave to the Protestant Church the systematic presentation of doctrine and the apologetic defence of Protestantism indispensable to the polemic being conducted with Rome. It was the <<Institutes>> that turned the battle to the gate.
Calvin, to do full justice to his body of writings (and it is HUGE) is *par excellence* the chief theologian of the Protestant faith. The editors of the Brunswick edition of his works have not exaggerated by saying: " If Luther was supremely great as a man, Zwingli second to none as a Christian citizen, Melanchthon rightly designated the most learned of teachers, Calvin may justly be called the prince and standard-bearer of theologians. Or, again in Warfield's words: "What Thucydidies is among Greek, or Gibbon among 18th cent. English historians, what Plato is among philosophers, or the Illad among epics, or Shakespeare among dramatists, that Calvin's 'Institutes' is among theological treatises."
The <<Institutes>> is an immense work by anyone's reckoning. Yet, why do I recommend that we read any portion of it today? Because, although Calvin was a man of his age, the fact is that he remains to a remarkable extent (and to an extent hardly equalled by any other) a man of every subsequent generation. He was a humanist before he was a reformer. And logic in argumentation and in the sequence and arrangement of his topics is manifest on every page. But surpassing this gift was the biblically oriented and biblically conditioned way in which the material is treated that makes Calvin's presentation abidingly and irresistably relevant to all times. In sum, a magisterial production from an intellectual and spiritual giant.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the translations,
This review is from: Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 Volume Set) (Hardcover)John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion is a classic. And the two most frequently suggested English translations seem to be the older Henry Beveridge translation and the newer John McNeill and Ford Lewis Battles translation. But it's hard for a layperson like me to know which English translation is "best." So for what it's worth, if anything, I thought the following quotations from Christian scholars might be helpful to some people:
1. Here's what Reformed Christian scholar and theological philosopher Paul Helm (who himself has studied and contributed several works on John Calvin) says:
"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."
2. Here's another Calvin scholar, 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."
3. The following is 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."
4. Finally, the following is from 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."
Once again, I hope this might be helpful to some people.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Exquisite!,
This review is from: Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 Volume Set) (Hardcover)This book is certainly not for the light-hearted! Divided into two volumes that add up to around 1500 pages in length, this is a definitive work of the Reformation movement that fundamentally challenged the Catholic Church in Europe and altered every aspect of life up to today. The author of this massive work, Jean Cauvin, known in English as John Calvin, was one of the great thinkers of the Reformation, second only to Martin Luther in influence. Calvin was born in France and received an education in the classics (common for the time) and went on to train as a lawyer. Both of these influences help shape this book. Many classical references abound, and Calvin's legal thought helps him organize and argue his positions. Calvin left France under less than ideal circumstances, and he quickly set up shop in Geneva and became a central figure there to other Reformation figures, as well as formulating a church system quite different from the Catholic Church. Probably the most impressive aspect of Calvin is how prolific he was. He wrote this book over the space of several decades, but also wrote numerous sermons, tracts and letters. He also wrote commentaries on nearly every book in the Old and New Testaments, a collection that stuns the eye and one that would cause many bookcases to collapse under its sheer weight.
The main purpose of the Institutes is to establish a theology, but it also is a detailed rebuttal of many arguments by both Catholic theologians and Reformation figures. The language is bracing; Calvin calls his foes dogs and even says that some of them are sick enough to require medication! What is most impressive about this book is the number of scriptural references Calvin makes. It seems as though he knows the Bible by heart, and he uses this knowledge to excellent effect. He also quotes Aquinas, Augustine, Cicero, Luther, and a million other figures both major and minor. His knowledge is truly amazing and puts most modern scholars to shame.
It just isn't possible to summarize Calvin's theological positions in this review. There isn't enough room for it. It is safe to say that Calvin believes that the Bible is the absolute word of God, and that to know God, we have to read the Bible. But Calvin also believes in the sovereignty of God, which is that we can't know what God thinks or does, or even understand much of what God does. We have to have faith that God does what God does because he has a plan. Calvin also touches on faith, justification and salvation, and predestination. His doctrine of predestination was (and still is) very controversial, as it strikes directly at the heart of Catholic dogma. Essentially, Calvin believes that some have been predestined to salvation, and that many of us have not.
There is so much I'm skipping out on, and some could probably argue with the little that I've written. I particularly enjoyed Calvin's argument that most of the Old Testament figures were actually proto-Christians, as well as his examination on how the Catholic Church became a hulking corruption. Calvin goes so far to call the office of the pope an Anti-Christ! You have to admire Calvin for making such brave accusations in a time when doing so could cost you your life. I read this book over an entire semester for a class on John Calvin. Whether you are a Catholic or a Protestant, or even of no faith, you could find much to enjoy in this book. Recommended.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 Volume Set) by John Calvin (Hardcover - June 1960)
Used & New from: $43.00