115 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the translations
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...
Published on October 13, 2008 by pbrane
95 of 99 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly produced for the Kindle
I bought this version of "Institutes" from Samizdat Express because it was only 99 cents, but it turned out to be a waste of 99 cents and a frustrating experience as well because this was not made for the Kindle which results in a poor and frustrating reading experience. (I admit I am starting to have a pet peeve against publishers who seemingly slap up thousands of works...
Published on August 18, 2009 by C. Ramnaraine
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115 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the translations,
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.
95 of 99 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly produced for the Kindle,
This review is from: Institutes of the Christian Religion (Samizdat Edition with Active Table of Contents) improved 2/6/2011 (Kindle Edition)I bought this version of "Institutes" from Samizdat Express because it was only 99 cents, but it turned out to be a waste of 99 cents and a frustrating experience as well because this was not made for the Kindle which results in a poor and frustrating reading experience. (I admit I am starting to have a pet peeve against publishers who seemingly slap up thousands of works they have copied from the internet into the Kindle Store without putting any effort into formatting them correctly for the Kindle reader). Here are my complaints:
- The "active table of contents" really isn't. When you select "menu" on your Kindle, the "Table Of Contents" option is greyed out which prevents you from going back to the Table of Contents from wherever you are in the text. In a massive work like the "Institutes" with 4 books and dozens of chapters, this is a BIG deal.
- Calvin uses Greek text in "Institutes", but that is not displayed here. For some that may be important, but for others it may not be.
- Calvin has literally hundreds of footnotes in "Institutes" but they are not linked within the text. I.e. one can not click on a footnote within the text and go to that note. Other books do this which is one of the advantages of reading such a book on an e-reader (like the Kindle!)
So after that experience, I shelled out a few dollars more for the Signalman Publishing version and the version from Christian Classics. Both were professionally well done for the Kindle, thus I recommend one of those versions instead.
By the way, this is the Beveridge translation which, in my opinion, is much better than the Battles-McNeill translation since the language is truer to Calvin's original (and better reflects Calvin's hard hitting style, in my opinion).
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Translation is Often Overlooked,
This review is from: Institutes of the Christian Religion (Two Volumes in One) (Paperback)Unfortunately this translation of Calvin's 'Institutes' is often overlooked due to the more popular translation from Battles. However, this is an excellent translation of Calvin's most famous work and given its age (first published in 1845), it is surprisingly modern - due in part to this very edition which has been 'tweaked' into a more modern verbiage.
This 'tweaking' in no way has diminished, however, the wonderful job Beverage did in translating this work. From what I have been told by several Latin scholars and theologians, and having studied Latin myself, Calvin's Latin is not a walk in the park. That being the case, once you read this translation, you can see why Beverage did such a great job.
The one feature I like best about this translation is the fact that it is well footnoted for the researcher and reader. Therefore, this translation is well documented for further research into Calvin's thought. This also helps to clear up difficulties of translation (remember Calvin's Latin is very tough). At certain points in Calvin's work, his thought via a solid translation gets confusing for scholars, this edition has footnotes detailing these difficulties, and that makes for a better read.
Now, about Calvin's 'Institutes' This work is Calvin's Opus and gives the reader the best information regarding Calvin's thoughts on the Church and Church Government, Calvin's hermeneutic, Calvin's theology of God, Calvin's epistemology, Calvin's Soteriology, the benefits of the grace of Christ, his views on the Papacy (of his day), the Roman Catholic Church, the current state of Christendom, and much more. The interesting thing about this work (the Institutes), it is not Calvin's definitive work on the theology of predestination. Calvin actually wrote several other works which deal only with that subject and present a far better assessment of his theology behind predestination (see Calvin's treatise titled "Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God," and Calvin's response to Pighius titled "The Bondage and Liberation of the Will.")
But, for the best overview of Calvin's thought on the Church and theology, the Institutes is the work to read. Beverage's translation is a great work. It is introduced by the reformed theologian John Murray, it has a general index in the back of the work, and reads very much in modern verbiage. I highly recommend this edition.
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic theology - Classic literature,
This review is from: Institutes of the Christian Religion (Two Volumes in One) (Paperback)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 sights from the early church fathers and the long history of the Church's understanding of doctrine.
This one-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 Beverage is not as good as the one by Battles and edited by McNeil. 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. If the cost of the Battles translation is prohibative, then you won't go wrong with this Beverage edition. But for difference between the two editions, the Battles work with worth every extra dollar you pay.
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!
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless treasure,
1. The Battles has extensive editing, which includes a thorough cross-referencing of the pertinent quotations that Calvin refers to, as well as the pertinent Biblical texts and intertextual references. McNeil is a quality editor, but as with any editing, the view of the editor is never without a measure of bias. If you are looking to get a fresh interpretation of Calvin, you try reading the Beveridge first, or skip over the footnotes in the Battles.
2. The Beveridge provides alternative readings based upon the French edition of the Institutes. I've found this aspect to be quite interesting. Calvin's style in French tends to be a bit more expansive and colorful than his Latin.
3. The Beveridge has the benefit of being a one-volume hardback, as opposed to the two-volume hardback of the Battles. The one-volume has a bit more heft to carry around, but you always have the complete work with you if you are out and about.
4. The subject headings are different in the two editions. The Beveridge provides a full sentence overview outline at the beginning of each chapter division, whereas the Battles provides subheadings for each minor section. There are pros and cons to each approach, of course.
Whatever edition you decide to get, you will not be disappointed. Calvin's Institutes is a masterpiece of Western literature, and one of the most important works of the Christian Church of all time.
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent translation with few shortcomings,
By A Customer
This review is from: Institutes of the Christian Religion (Two Volumes in One) (Paperback)This concise one-volume version of Calvin's "Institutes" is an indispensible reference that should be on the shelves of every student of theology or recent history. The translation is superlative and is as unambiguous in its gramatical choice as possible. This particular volume is excellent because it brings the "Institutes" into one compact volume.
I see only two problems with this version: a 2,000 page paperback book is going to have its binding creased eventually. It would have been nice to see a hardcover version of this. Secondly, this volume lacks a concise index and concordance. If you purchase this volume, I would recommend also purchasing a concordance to the "Institutes."
Overall an excellent version of a wonderful theological document.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great buy,
This review is from: Institutes of the Christian Religion (Two Volumes in One) (Paperback)No doubt this book was the most influential source of theological influence in the protestant movement, and needless to say essential for any student of religion to read and own a copy of. I take issue with anyone that rates this book down due to dislike for the doctrine of predestination, despite Calvin's perspective still being the most coherent and comprehensive theological analysis ever written (compare it in length to Aquinas' Summa and you'll see what I mean).
The price is incredibly convenient although it probably will not last twenty years as binded. Especially good for students.
83 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hidden Gem among all Christian books,
This review is from: Institutes of the Christian Religion (Two Volumes in One) (Paperback)Calvin has been misunderstood by many -- including many believers who never read this book. ...It brought me to tears of repentance and renewed sense of God's great love and power. It expanded my thoughts of God in my heart. God became greater and bigger through this book, thus my worship of God became more profound and sincere.
1. This book is utterly God-centered. In this book, Calvin repeatedly emphasizes that men are created for God and His glory alone. Therefore, he rightly proves from the Scriptures that: creation, predestination, salvation, and our life before Him are all for that end (glory of God).
2. This book exalts the Gospel of Christ above all things. So we see why he was so harsh against Roman Catholic Church in his time, where Gospel of grace has been replaced by indulgence and superstition. In the Gospel of Christ, Calvin points out our weaknesses and God's great mercy. Actually, some were saved by reading this book during Puritan era.
3. This book uses the Scriptures masterfully. It shows that Calvin only made his point when the Scripture warranted it. Therefore, it is powerful in its assertion and authorative.
4. This book is ultimately life changing if read properly. It did me. Calvin emphasizes self-denial for all christians. He challenges believers to take up the cross and explains what that means in our thoughts, in our relationships, in our life, and in our worship.
This book will help you to grow in your knowledge of God and your devotion to God. This book has been time-tested, and it has many witnesses whose spiritual life is better because of it.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Kindle Version,
This review is from: The Institutes of the Christian Religion - Enhanced Version (Kindle Edition)Since most people looking for the Institutes have a good idea of what they're getting, I'll confine this review to comments on the publishing. This is by far the best version of this classic for the Kindle. The formatting is beautifully arranged. The table of contents is fully active. Footnotes/endnotes are linked. References to the Greek are formatted with Greek characters.
57 of 66 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Concerned,
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Institutes of the Christian Religion (Two Volumes in One) by John Calvin (Paperback - 2001)