John Calvin And Inerrancy -- By: Roger R. Nicole

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 25:4 (Dec 1982)
Article: John Calvin And Inerrancy
Author: Roger R. Nicole

John Calvin And Inerrancy

Roger Nicole*

If anyone rightly deserves to be called “a man of the Bible,” surely John Calvin will qualify. His dedication to the authority of the Word of God is articulated in the most careful manner in his Institutes and IV.viii, not to speak of many other pages throughout the work. This is backed up by the steady purpose manifested from beginning to end to expound nothing but what is contained in Scripture. Thus while the organization of the Institutes is systematic in nature the contents are intended to be profoundly Biblical, and the references to Scripture simply abound. An index in the Beveridge translation actually has fourteen three-column pages (with many passages that are referred to more than once) with some sixty lines in each column. This amounts to over 2,500 references.1 Calvin furthermore undertook to preach on Scripture covering the whole of the Bible, although the limits of his life did not permit him fully to carry out his program. To give some indication of the scope of this undertaking, one can note that he preached 200 sermons on Deuteronomy and 159 sermons on Job. In the 22 sermons on Psalm 119 the whole theme of the messages centers on the necessity and profitableness of Scripture. Moreover Calvin prepared and published extensive commentaries covering Genesis to Joshua, Psalms and all the OT prophets except Ezekiel 21–48 as well as the whole NT except for three books (2 John, 3 John, Revelation). In Calvin’s treatises and letters we furthermore find ample evidence of his interest in and obedience to Holy Scripture.

Throughout this literature direct statements abound to the effect that God is the author of Holy Writ, that the sacred writers were penmen or mouths of God, that God dictated the Scriptures to them, and that the authority of the Bible is grounded in the reality of its divine authorship. There are literally scores of references that could be quoted and have been quoted in support of this view. The well-known comment of Calvin on 2 Tim 3:16 may serve as a sample of a position that could be illustrated from practically any of Calvin’s writings:

This is the principle that distinguishes our religion from all others, that we know that God has spoken to us and are fully convinced that the prophets did not speak of themselves, but as organs of the Holy Spirit uttered only that which they had been commissioned from heaven to declare. All those who wish to profit from the Scriptures must first accept this as a settled principle, that the Law and the prophets are not teachings handed on at the pl...

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