Exposition and Method in Calvin -- By: Richard C. Gamble

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 49:1 (Spring 1987)
Article: Exposition and Method in Calvin
Author: Richard C. Gamble


Exposition and Method in Calvin

Richard C. Gamble

I. Introduction

In the spring of 1985 an article was released in WTJ entitled “Brevitas et facilitas: Toward an Understanding of Calvin’s Hermeneutic. “ That article tried to answer some questions which are very important for Calvin studies. In 1974, Professor Nauta said that the theme and sources (s) of Calvin’s theology “gründlich angefasst und durchgearbeitet werden sollte.”1 Eight years later, Professor W. H. Neuser said that the great task in international Calvin research was to make a satisfactory presentation of Calvin’s theology. He cited Josef Bohatec’s discovery of a “theology of the diagonal” and F. L. Battles’ analysis of a “Theory of Limits” as good beginnings. The aforementioned article and the present presentation hope to add in some small measure to that discussion.2

The investigation in the first article surrounded Calvin’s method of exposition; we noted that Calvin compared his method with that of Melanchthon and Bucer. Both of those commentators’ styles are to be rejected. Melanchthon’s loci communes method is to be discarded because extended theological discussion was relegated to the Institutes.3 Bucer’s verbosity was rejected as well.4 Interestingly, neither Luther nor Bullinger is mentioned by Calvin in this context.

We then attempted to answer the question of Calvin’s methodological source for exposition. Was one major source the patristic author John Chrysostom? In many ways, yes.5 Here the article is primarily dependent upon the excellent dissertation done at Pittsburgh in 1974 by John Walchenbach and the work of Ganoczy and Mueller.6 Was another major source rhetoric? All scholars acknowledge that Calvin’s training as a rhetorician and humanist never left him.7

So far, a new thesis has not been presented. That brevitas et facilitas or perspicua brevitas is a good summary of Calvin’s exegetical methodology is hardly disputed; Battles, Kraus, Higman, Steinmetz, Girardin, Ganoczy/Scheld, and Parker among others have written recently about it.

The intent of this article is to briefly analyze Calvin’s relationship to humanism, his theological method, and his theory of knowledge to help determine the underlying structure of Calvin’s exegetical ...

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