- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; Edition Unstated edition (March 17, 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195059514
- ISBN-13: 978-0195059519
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.9 x 6.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,160,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait Edition Unstated Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
"Ali: A Life" by Jonathan Eig
Ali: A Life is a story about race, about a brutal sport, and about a fascinating man who shook up the world. Learn more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Library Journal
In this work, Bouwsma provides a clear and brilliantly argued analysis of Calvin's place in 16th-century European intellectual history, focusing on his thought rather than his life. Bouwsma places Calvin in the context of the humanist rhetorical tradition, the medieval Scholastic tradition, and the biblical scholarship of the Reformation. Thus, he explains how the contradictions in Calvin's thought represented the conflicting value systems of his day. Bouwsma also provides an excellent exposition of Calvin's views on issues of church, state, and society as an attempt to confront the existing anxieties of a transitional era witnessing the collapse of certainty. Susan A. Stussy, Marian Coll. Lib., Indianapolis, Ind.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"W.Bouwsma's John Calvin offers an excellent view inside the life and the times of one of histories most complex and intriguing minds. An excellent resource for intellectual, religious, and cultural historians; first rate."--James LeSueur, University of LaVerne "A wonderful book. Brings fresh
insights not only to our understanding of Calvin's life, but also to our understanding of the intellectual climate of early modern Europe."--David Koeller, Phillips University
"At last someone has rescued the great reformer of Geneva from the stony grayness to which he had been so wrongly consigned and has drawn an animated picture of a passionate and complex man."--Harvey Cox, Harvard Divinity School
"A fresh and insightful exploration of John Calvin's thought, viewed within the context of sixteenth-century intellectual, psychological, cultural, and religious forces."--Dave Rightmire, Asbury College
"This is must reading for anyone interested in the Reformation period as a whole or Calvin in particular. All future studies on Calvin should interact with this work."--Trinity Journal
"By intense reading in Calvin's work [Bouwsma] has come up with a twentieth-century psychological scheme, giving a genuinely new insight into the man and into the sixteenth century as a whole."--The New York Times Book Review
"A richly wise, and splendidly engaging portrayal of a man whose doctrines and aspirations--and whose anxieties and fears--shaped, and perhaps are still shaping, the modern world."--Los Angeles Times Book Review
"An intellectual tour de force. We will never be able to think of Calvin the man in the same way again."--St. Petersburg Times
"An impressive contribution to our understanding of Calvin and our understanding of ourselves from one who is thoroughly acquainted with Calvin's Institutes, commentaries, sermons, treatises, and letters."--Eternity
"A study that Calvin scholars have been waiting for....It provides a 'disclosure model' of Calvin's personality and his work that will fertilize future studies....A booming success."--Sixteenth Century Journal
"A clear and brilliantly argued analysis of Calvin's place in sixteenth-century European intellectual history, focusing on his thought rather than his life."--Library Journal
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Calvin's philosophical interests led him to an acceptance of a rather optimistic epistemology, confident that man's mind could uncover truth. It led him to recommend moderation in all things as a method of personal and social control. It led him to use scholastic reasoning and natural theology. Much in this mixture was not particularly Christian. Calvin's humanistic interests led him to extract from intensive study of the Bible, viewed as a rhetorical document, insights into human nature as organic and utilitarian, and into God as a wielder of power in a cosmic drama. He then used them, like a good civic humanist, in strenuous attempts to reform society, government, and the church.
Bouwsma's analysis is based on a sensitive meditation on all of Calvin's published writings, particularly his Biblical commentaries, but also his Institutes, polemical tracts, and his correspondence. I found part of Bouwsma's book wonderfully fresh and suggestive, most notably the chapter on Calvin as a humanist, committed to a rhetorical approach to reality and to an inspired use of philology. Other parts I found not particularly original but still masterful as syntheses of the best existing knowledge, e.g., the chapter on Calvin's political thought. No book of this sweep can fully satisfy every specialist at every point. However, it remains fresh and authoritative enough and deserves the attention of every student of 16th-century European thought.
Since this work was not intended to be biographical in nature, Bouwsma dedicates only the first chapter to giving a brief summary of Calvin’s life, beginning with his birth in Noyon in 1509 to his death in Geneva in 1564, going through his education and the influences that shaped him before and after his conversion to Protestantism. It is noted how he pays tribute to Luther for his role in bringing about the reformation, and influence on his thought. More prominently, the author notes how Calvin was influenced by Erasmus’ thought. This is heavily emphasized throughout the book, as the author states that Calvin “inhabited the Erasmian world of thought and breathed its spiritual atmosphere; he remained in major ways always a humanist of the late Renaissance.” This is in keeping with Bouwsma’s stated goals at the beginning, although it must be noted that he does appear at times to exaggerate the similarity in thought between the two figures (especially when he states that “there was little in the reformism of Erasmus and Rabelais that did not become a permanent part of Calvin’s reform program”), and underemphasizes the differences in their thought, such as Calvin’s emphasis on the reformation principles such as five solas (which was never a part of Erasmus’ thought since he never actually broke with the Roman Church).
Also, the author stresses Calvin’s reliance on the writings of pagan writers, especially orators such as Cicero, Seneca and Quintilian. This is once again in line with the author’s conception of Calvin as being in the same line as the Renaissance Humanists. While these pagan writers undoubtedly left their mark on Calvin’s thought and methods, Bouwsma does at times tend to exaggerate this influence. For example, there is a lack of evidence to support his contention that “emotionally, if not theologically, a large part of Calvin remained pagan.” It is also interesting to note that while Bouwsma touches heavily upon Calvin’s use of pagan writers, he scarcely mentions his reliance on patristic authors such as Augustine, which is an odd omission given how important patristic influences were to the humanists and reformers.
One other criticism that has to be made regarding Bouwsma’s approach to Calvin is his tendency to try and psycho-analyze the reformer. Oftentimes, he tries to explain Calvin’s thought in terms of perceived “anxiety,” even devoting an entire chapter to this theme, as well as bringing it up at regular intervals in subsequent chapters and interpreting his doctrinal positions in that light. A good example of this is how Bouwsma uses this to explain Calvin’s emphasis on predestination, saying this “provides a remedy for the anxiety accompanying activity in society.” While this may be true to some extent, it is giving the idea of “anxiety” more emphasis than is due to it. Besides, psycho-analyses of historical figures in the distant past will always involve a certain level of speculation, since the one making the analysis was not around to observe the subject, and has to rely on extant written records.
Overall, Bouwsma’s portrait of John Calvin is a worthy addition to the long list of works dealing with Calvin and the other reformers. It is well-researched, as can be seen by the copious references to Calvin’s sermons, commentaries and Institutes throughout the book. Primary sources from other authors living in the same time period are referenced as well, with only sparse quotations of secondary sources. Regardless of whether one agrees with his analysis of Calvin or not, it cannot be denied that Bouwsma took plenty of time to go back the primary sources to bolster his theses. Also, his approach to Calvin is fairly even-handed. While he does not idealize the reformer, neither does he demonize him, and in fact goes out of his way to dispel some of the negative myths surrounding Calvin (such as the controversy regarding Michael Servetus). He presents both the positive and negative aspects of Calvin’s thought (including some aspects that are not often covered in most other studies of Calvin). This is good, as it means that the author does not attempt to please either supporters or detractors of John Calvin, but rather attempts to come up with his own analysis of the reformer.
Finally, it must be said that John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait is not an introductory text to the life and thought of Calvin, nor does it claim to be. The book does to a large extent presuppose that the reader already has some prior background knowledge regarding the reformer, as it is expected that one already has a basic outline of who he is and what ideas he is known for. Thus, this book is good for readers who want a supplementary work to other extant writings on John Calvin, but if one is looking for an introduction to his life and thought, then one has to look elsewhere, and save this book for when one has already acquired information regarding him from other sources.
Most recent customer reviews
If you really want a good biography of Calvin, pick up Bruce Gordon's latest biography, entitled: Read more
This book is not a biography but a portrait, a psychological characterization of a man who lived in the sixteenth century, who led...Read more