Calvin on Genesis 11-20

Calvin Genesis 11-20A review of Calvin’s sermons on Genesis 11-20

For those who like to take their Calvin “neat” and relatively unfiltered, the Banner of Truth have been busy reproducing some of his sermons, on Acts 1-7. These are beautifully produced, as usual, and translated by Rob Roy McGregor from the original 16th century French recently published in the Supplementa Calviniana series.

Genesis 11-20 is covered in 48 sermons from the first half of 1560, of about 15-20 pages each. That gives a sense of how quickly Calvin moved through the book, a few verses per sermon, taking his time to unpack the details and apply them to his congregation.

The reader should be warned that this is not a cold exercise for the historically curious, because Calvin truly preaches the Bible, rather than just reading out his exegetical notes (which counts for expository preaching in some circles). By 1560, Calvin had completed the final edition of his much revised Institutes, opened the Academy, and enjoyed a period of relatively uncontested authority in the city, but he had burst a blood vessel in his lungs so preaching was never easy. In written form the sermons are easy to read, with plenty to stimulate the mind and strengthen the soul.

The editor has added the occasional note to help us with Calvin’s biblical or classical allusions, and to point out some interesting features of the preaching, such as where Calvin attacks those who completely christologize the Old Testament and inadequately account for its historical features. Some will not like the way he expounds circumcision and baptism, or other aspects of the Abrahamic covenant narratives, but there is a huge amount of edifying and suggestive material here.

This review was first published in Churchman 128/2 (2014).

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