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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.

Author Bio

John Calvin (1509–1564), one of the most important thinkers in church history, was a prominent French theologian during the Protestant Reformation and the father of Calvinism. His theological works, biblical commentaries, tracts, treatises, sermons, and letters helped establish the Reformation throughout Europe.

Calvinism has spawned movements and sparked controversy throughout the centuries. Calvin began his work in the church at the age of 12, intending to train for the priesthood. Calvin attended the Collège de la Marche in Paris at 14, before studying law at the University of Orléans and continuing his studies at the University of Bourges.

In 1532, Calvin’s first published work appeared: a commentary on Seneca’s De Clementia. The controversy of calling for reform in the Catholic Church disciplined Calvin in his writing project, and he began working on the first edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion, which appeared in 1536. Calvin’s Commentaries and The Letters of John Calvin are also influential; both appear in the Calvin 500 Collection.