The Life of John Calvin, Theodore Beza; translated by Henry Beveridge (1844); edited and expanded by Gary Sanseri
(this edition, Back Home Industries, 1996), hb., 149 pp.
In our working through the Reformation we have made our way to John Calvin. When I looked I saw we had three biographies of Calvin. Here I will comment on one I decided not to use for my boys (I hope to comment on the other two soon).
This biography was written by Calvin’s close friend and successor and is therefore and authoritative account. However, it is also not directly aimed at reading for younger children. The style and wording would be difficult at various points, and since Beza is writing to his contemporaries he assumes knowledge of various events and people. For these reasons it is not a top pick for reading to your children, but I read it for myself to provide some definitive background when reading one of the other books. For this purpose, this book is excellent!
Beza wrote his brief account to answer critics and to describe the ministry and character of Calvin. This edition includes a number of helps. The editor, first of all, provides numerous notes to explain less common words and to explain people or events. Some of the notes seemed unnecessary to me, but too many is probably better than not enough. Additionaly, for easier reading some spelling has been modernized, longer sentences have been broken up, and paragraph and chapter divisions have been added. The book is also augmented by fives appendices which address these topics:
“Calvin on Reforming the Church”– basically a summary of Calvin’s Reply to
Sadoleto and his On the Necessity of Reforming the Church with historical
“Calvin and His Wife”
A Letter from Calvin on dealing with Michael Servetus– This contributes to the discussion of Calvin’s support of the execution of this avowed heretic.
“Calvin on Religious Persecution and Religious Freedom”– excerpted from The Creeds of Christendom, by P. Schaff
“John Calvin on the Love of Money”
Notes in the text of Beza’s biography direct the reader to appendices where they are relevant in the flow of the story.
Although I have previously read other accounts of Calvin, I was especially struck in reading this book by the labor and diligence of the man. I would recommend this as a good resource for parents when preparing to read a more imaginative account of the life of Calvin.