10/11/2017 in: Educationalon
July 10, 1509
May 27, 1564
Noyon, France, 67 miles northeast of Paris
Scholar, Theologian, Preacher
Wife Idelette de Bure, 3 children, all died in infancy
Calvin was born to Gerard Calvin and Jeanne le Franc in 1509. His mother died when he was three years old, and his father soon remarried. Gerard had a good position working with the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Noyon and planned for his sons to become priests. Calvin was precocious and went to Paris at the age of 14 to study theology and philosophy.
When Calvin was 19, his father had run afoul of the church and ordered his son to become a lawyer instead of a priest. To obey his father, he moved to Orleans and Bourges to study law until his father’s death in 1531. Calvin quickly returned to Paris after his father’s death to pick up the study of theology and the classics again. During his studies, he learned about Desiderius Erasmus, who had published a more accessible Latin translation of the New Testament, and Martin Luther, whose Protestant ideas were making their way through Europe. He attended meetings with other students where they read and studied the Bible and the writings of Martin Luther. The seeds of Reformation ideas were planted in Calvin’s head, and he fully converted to the Reformation cause in 1533, at the age of 24.
Protestants were being persecuted in France at this time, so Calvin spent a year in hiding before settling in Basel, Switzerland. When he was just 26 years old, he published his first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, which is his seminal work and a cornerstone publication of the Reformation. He edited it throughout his life as he studied Scripture and fleshed out Protestant doctrine.
In 1536, Calvin was in Geneva, Switzerland, on route to Strasbourg, Germany, when William Farel, a fiery Reformed preacher, pleaded with him to stay in Geneva and work for the Reformation cause. Calvin worked there two years as a professor and pastor before the City Council banished him and Farel. Calvin settled in Strasbourg to pastor refugees who had fled persecution in France. He was in Strasbourg for four years and met and married Idelette de Bure in this time.
In 1541, the Geneva City Council called Calvin back to the city to again defend the Reformed cause. He remained in Geneva until his death in 1564 at the age of 54. His years in Geneva were spent preaching, giving pastoral care, writing, lecturing, working for the welfare of the city, and defending Reformed theology and practice. Calvin’s legacy includes Reformed theology, which has also been called Calvinism, and a number of Protestant denominations, such as Presbyterian and Christian Reformed, that trace their earliest roots to Calvin.
While writing this biography, we used a couple resources that are available in our store! Our favorite is Reformation Heroes—a short book filled with biographies of the major players of the Reformation. Additionally, we used this short biography on Calvin by John Piper, which you can get for free!