John Calvin ranks high on the short list of the church’s most important thinkers, and The Institutes of the Christian Religion has consistently remained the central text of Reformed Christianity. As one of the most influential works in the Western canon, Calvin’s Institutes has enjoyed a prominent place on the reading lists of theological students and scholars around the world, and has left its mark in the fields of theology, philosophy, social thought, and legal theory. First published in 1536, Calvin’s Institutes became an instant best-seller, and has been republished and translated nearly 100 times in dozens of languages.
For nearly five centuries, The Institutes of the Christian Religion has remained a classic Protestant text and a monumental work of theology. It is written to introduce readers to the Christian faith—based on God’s Word—and to sustain and encourage Reformed Christians during persecution. More than anything else, the Institutes is characterized by the dominant theme of God’s sovereignty. It is divided into four books: the first three on the knowledge of God the creator, the knowledge of God the redeemer, and the ways in which we receive the grace of God by the Spirit. The final book describes the church. Along the way, Calvin writes on the authority of Scripture, election, the marks of the church, prayer, Christian liberty, the sacraments, civil government, and countless other topics, which—as a whole—make up what today is recognized as Calvinism.
Logos is pleased to offer Calvin’s 1559 Latin edition and his 1561 French edition—reprinted in 1888 in Paris—along with three English translations: the 1574 Norton translation, the 1816 Allen translation, and the 1845 Beveridge translation.
It would be interesting to compare the texts of several English translations, with a view to discovering how far the later translations are really independent of the earlier, and which represent the original most faithfully, clearly, and happily.
—B.B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. 5: Calvin and Calvinism
As B.B. Warfield noted more than a century ago, the value of having multiple editions and translations of Calvin’s Institutes in an easy-to-use side-by-side format is enormous. Now, Logos is giving you the tools to do just that.
With the Logos edition, you can instantly compare the Latin and French editions of the Institutes with the English translations, and your digital library lets you compare the English translations to one another. Logos Bible Software gives you time-saving tools, allowing scholars, historians, and theologian the ability to perform advanced comparative work instantly and accurately. These advanced tools put comparative study of Calvin’s Institutes within reach of interested laypersons for the first time ever. Never before have so many editions of Calvin’s Institutes been so accessible for research and study!
What’s more, the Logos Bible Software edition contains extensive linking and tagging—with links directly to other books and articles in your digital library (that you own). All Scripture references display the verse on mouseover, and each reference is linked to both original languages texts of the Bible along with your preferred English translation. The advanced search tools, passage guides and reports, and other tools in your digital library make The Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin: English, Latin, and French (9 Vols.) from Logos Bible Software the preeminent edition for historical study, theological research, and comparative analysis!
In 1845, Henry Beveridge’s translation of the Institutes appeared, issued by the Calvin Translation Society, founded only three years earlier. Both the Allen and Beveridge translations made Calvin’s Institutes widely accessible in America, and were the standard editions during the formative period of Reformed theology in America. These were the editions used by Hodge, Warfield , Louis Berkhof, and other bulwarks of Reformed theology in America.
A new English translation of the Institutes by John Allen appeared in 1813, and was published in America in 1816 in New Haven, Connecticut. Allen encountered John Calvin during the preparation of his monograph, The Fathers, the Reformers, and the Public Formularies in the Church of England, and set out to update Norton’s translation. Reprints of Allen’s translation appeared in the English-speaking world throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries; the last reprint appeared in 1936.
This is the edition that made Calvin accessible to the English-speaking world. The first English translation of the 1559 Latin edition appeared in London in 1561, and was prepared by Thomas Norton, the son-in-law of Thomas Cramner. In 1574, a new edition of Norton’ s translation appeared, with three hundred errors corrected and various other revisions and updates. The 1574 Norton translation remained the standard English translation of Calvin’s Institutes for two centuries, until its final printing in Glasgow in 1762.
In 1560 Calvin translated his 1559 Latin edition into French, in order to make it accessible for a lay audience. This French edition is the 1888 reprint of the original 1560 French text.
The first edition of Calvin’s Institutes appeared in 1536, when Calvin was only twenty six years old. It contains six chapters, and became an instant bestseller. The second edition was published in 1539, and was expanded to seventeen chapters, including new references to the works of Augustine, Origin, and other Church Fathers, as well as chapters on the knowledge of God, predestination, and Christian liberty. New editions were published in 1543 with twenty-one chapters (translated into French in 1545) and 1550, both of which were reprinted and circulated extensively. Throughout the 1550s, Calvin labored over a complete edition, which, when published in 1559, was nearly twice as large as the previous edition. This 1559 Latin edition of the Institutes was Calvin’s preferred edition, and has become the standard edition used both for academic citations and for translation into other languages. The French edition and three English translations included in this collection are based on the 1559 Latin text.
John Calvin was born on July 10, 1509 in Noyan, in France. He began his work in the church at the age of twelve, intending—at the request of his father—to train for the priesthood. Calvin attended the Collège de la Marche in Paris, before studying law at the University of Orléans in 1526 and continuing his studies at the University of Bourges. In 1532, Calvin’s first published work appeared: a commentary on Seneca's De Clementia.
On year later, he befriended Nicolas Cop, the rector of the Collège Royal in Paris. This friendship resulted in trouble for Calvin when Cop was branded a heretic after calling for reform in the Catholic Church. Cop fled to Basel, and Calvin was forced from Paris. The controversy expanded when, on the evening of October 18, 1534, anonymous attacks against the Mass were posted on public buildings, fueling the violence in the city. Calvin left France for Basel in January. The controversy, and the trouble it caused Calvin, disciplined him in his writing project, and he began working on the first edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion, which appeared in 1536.
In June, 1536, Calvin returned to Paris as the violence subsided, but was expelled again in August of 1536. He left for Strasbourg, but was forced to Geneva instead, where he stayed at the request of William Farel. He became a reader in the church in 1537. In late 1537, Calvin fled Geneva after a controversy surrounding the Eucharist. He traveled to Basel before accepting a position at the church in Strasbourg. There, Calvin continued working on both the second edition of the Institutes and his Commentary on Romans. At the urging of his friends, Calvin married Idelette de Bure. He returned to Geneva in 1541.
Upon his arrival to Geneva, Calvin began writing prolifically. He continued his revisions to the Institutes, preached weekly, taught the Bible during the week, and delivered lectures on theology. Calvin also continued work on his New Testament commentaries.
His return to Geneva was not without controversy, however. He faced opposition from the libertines, who, in 1552, compromised his authority and nearly succeeded in banishing him from Geneva a second time. His greatest threat, however, came from his theological antagonist, Servetus. The frequent letters between Calvin and Servetus contain elements of their tenuous relationship, which were exacerbated when Servetus visited Geneva against Calvin’s orders, publicly denied the Trinity, and disgraced the church. He was condemned for heresy and executed.
By 1553, Calvin was praised for his work in uniting Geneva and securing the future of the Reformation. The church housed refugees from England—among them John Knox—who brought the Reformed faith to England. Calvin also sent more than 100 Reformed missionaries to France, and frequently corresponded with both political leaders and second generation Reformers throughout Europe. He also founded a school in Geneva, and Theodore Beza became its first rector. Calvin’s influence quickly expanded beyond the vicinity of Geneva.
During the 1550s, Calvin’s health began to decline, prompting him to undertake a final revision and expansion of The Institutes of the Christian Religion. It was published in 1559, and was immediately reprinted and translated throughout Europe. Calvin became ill in early 1564, and preached his last sermon on February 6 of that same year. His health worsened throughout the spring, and he died on May 27. Thousands flocked to view his body, forcing the council in Geneva to bury him in an unmarked grave.