JOHN CALVIN --- [1509 - 1564]
A Brief Biography

by Al Maxey

John Calvin (French: Jean Cauvin) was born at Noyon, France on July 10, 1509. His father was the secretary and attorney for the bishopric of Noyon. Calvin was a brilliant scholar and studied law in Paris, Orleans and Bourges. At the age of 23 he experienced what he called a "sudden conversion," and from then on was a fervent Christian and scholar of the Scriptures.

After his conversion Calvin did not immediately break with the Roman Catholic Church, but rather worked toward its reform. His pleas for reform soon brought upon him the hatred of the Catholic Church, and in time he was banished from Paris. Calvin fled to Switzerland where he remained until his death (except for 3 years at Strassburg, France, at which time he met his wife).

At this time he broke with the Catholic Church and joined with the reformers. In 1536 he published his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion, which was a systematic presentation of the Protestant position. "It was a comprehensive and orderly summary of Christian reformed doctrine which became one of the most influential contributions to Christian literature and western thought" (William P. Barker, Who's Who in Church History, p. 58). This work "became the basis of the doctrine of all the Protestant churches except the Lutheran" (Dr. J.L. Hurlbut, The Story of the Christian Church, p. 132).

In 1559 he founded what later became the University of Geneva. Here he taught his beliefs to thousands of students who in turn carried "Calvinism" back to their homelands throughout Europe. This caused many to refer to him as the "only international reformer." John Knox of Scotland referred to Calvin's school as "the purest school of Christ on earth."

John Calvin died in Geneva, Switzerland on May 27, 1564. Believing that God alone was worthy of glory, and not any man, he was buried, according to his wishes, in an insignificant spot with no headstone. To this day, no one knows the exact location of his grave!

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