If you would like a book reviewed in this section, please send a copy to the address of the Centre for Calvin studies.
In this section you can find the reviews of the following books:
- Henk van den Belt, The Authority of Scripture in Reformed Theology. Truth and Trust, Leiden/Boston 2008.
- Jon Balserak, Divinity Compromised. A Study of Divine Accomodation in the Thought of John Calvin, Dordrecht 2006.
- Raymond A. Blacketer, The School of God. Pedagogy and Rhetoric in Calvin’s Interpretation of Deuteronomy, Dordrecht 2006.
- Wulfert de Greef, Johannes Calvijn, Zijn werk en geschriften, [revised edition], Kampen 2006.
- R. Ward Holder, John Calvin and the Grounding of Interpretation. Calvin’s First Commentaries, Leiden/Boston 2006.
- Michael Parsons, Calvin’s preaching on the prophet Micah: The 1550-1551 Sermons in Geneva, Lewiston New York 2006.
- Bundeseinheit und Gottesvolk. Reformierter Protestantismus und Judentum im Europa des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts, Achim Detmers / J. Marius J. Lange van Ravenswaay (Hgg.), Wuppertal 2005.
Henk van den Belt, The Authority of Scripture in Reformed Theology. Truth and Trust (Studies in Reformed Theology, Volume 17), Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2008, 394 p., € 89.-.
Henk van den Belt obtained his PhD in 2006 at Leiden University after defending his dissertation Autopistia. The Self-Convincing Authority of Scripture in Reformed Theology. He published the thesis privately. The commercial edition was published in 2008 by Brill, titled The Authority of Scripture in Reformed Theology.Truth and Trust. It became an excellent edition. The author has succeeded in describing clearly some subjects in less words. The contents of the book stayed unchanged.
As the title shows the book is about the authority of Scripture in Reformed Theology. In the first three chapters the author describes how Calvin speaks about the authority of Scripture in the Institutes. In former editions of the Institutes (1539 and 1550) Calvin already wrote about this subject, but in the final edition (1559) he uses the Greek term ‘autopistos’ for the first time in relation to the authority of Scripture. Calvin writes: ‘Let this point therefore stand: that those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture indeed is self-authenticated; hence it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning. And the certainty it deserves with us, it attains by the testimony of the Spirit’ (see Institutes 1.7.5, English translation of Battles). In this description Scripture and Holy Spirit are loosely connected. Through the testimonium of the Spirit we are sure that we can trust what Scripture is saying.
In chapter 2 Van den Belt examines precisely the differences between the sections about Scripture in the three mentioned editions and the cause of those differences. In the Institutes 1539 Scripture and Holy Spirit are closely connected. Through the testimonium of the Spirit Scripture gets authority with us as believers. In 1550 Augustine’s dictum: ‘I would not believe the Gospel if I was not moved by the authority of the Catholic Church’, compels Calvin to discuss the authority of Scripture separate from the testimony of the Spirit. He is also in debate with sceptical humanists whom Calvin called atheists. But regarding the certainty of faith Calvin maintains that only the testimony of the Spirit convinces of the truth of Scripture.
In chapter 3 the author focuses his attention on the term autopistos. After the author examined the use of that term in the Greek philosophy and described how the term had been used in Calvin’s time, he focuses on the meaning of this term in Calvin’s writings where he used this term eleven times. In Calvin’s dictum Scripture is autopistos the two aspects of the term pistis (faith), that is truth and trust are closely connected. Through the testimony of the Spirit Scripture has the effect that we as believers find rest in what Scripture tells us.
In chapter 4 Van den Belt describes how the term autopistos was used in connection with Scripture in the period of Reformed orthodoxy. From that period he chooses four different situations: the debate with Roman Catholicism (with attention to William Whitaker); the academic education (with attention to Franciscus Junius at Leiden University); the internal Protestant polemics concerning the Arminians (with attention to Turretin) and the debate with early modernism (with attention to Voetius). Van den Belt ascertains that in the period of Reformed orthodoxy one especially spoke about autopistia, as a substantive, of Scripture and that this term concerned the external authority of Scripture which is different from the internal testimony of the Spirit.
In chapters 5 and 6 the author is guided by the question how Reformed theologians since the end of the nineteenth century responded to the developments with respect to the authority of Scripture (such as new scientific discoveries and the historical-critical approach to Scripture) and how Christians can be sure of this authority in particular.
Regarding Reformed theologians Van den Belt focuses especially on Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921), the defender of the inerrancy of Scripture against liberal attacks, and on Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). Both of them go further in the footsteps of Reformed orthodoxy where the external, objective authority of Scripture gets an independent place distinct from the internal, subjective testimony of the Spirit. The autopistia of Scripture does not function anymore like it did with Calvin to whom the truth of Scripture and the fact that Scripture effects our trust, are closely connected.
Van den Belt’s research in the authority of Scripture in Reformed Theology brought him finally to the question about the right place for discussing the doctrine of Scripture. According to him it should happen as part of Pneumatology (see also Van den Belt’s article: ‘”… Die gesproken heeft door de profeten”. De Schrift in de context van de pneumatologie’ in: Theologia Reformata 50 (2007), 346-360). After all, the autopistia of Scripture is inextricably bound up with the work of the Holy Spirit. Calvin has clearly described the importance of this connection. But his extensive discussion on Scripture in the first book of the Institutes has directed afterwards to objectification of the authorithy of Scripture in Reformed Theology owing to certain circumstances.
The author rounds off every chapter with conclusions and theological considerations which are relevant for the present time. In that way Van den Belt shows what we can learn from the past for our discussion about Scripture with non-believers, in such a way that the emphasis in the discussion is on what Scripture wants to tell us and other people.
Jon Balserak, Divinity Compromised. A Study of Divine Accomodation in the Thought of John Calvin, Dordrecht: Springer, 2006. Pp. 214. € 106.95 (ISBN 1-4020-5055-0).
Who takes up Balserak’s study and expects to get a complete and clear image of Calvin’s way of speaking about God’s accommodation, will be more or less disappointed. Balserak is not to blame for this. It depends on the many aspects which are connected with Calvin’s use of the notion of accommodation in God’s companionship with people and the relationship of all those aspects with Calvin’s image of God.
Balserak discovered the varied use of accommodation when he focused his attention on Calvin’s explanation of the Old Testament. This attention on the Old Testament is a benefit compared to the past, when scholars mainly focused on the Institutes.
In his The Knowledge of God (1952) Edward Dowey is the first one who dedicates some pages to God’s accommodation, frequently quoting Calvin. Accommodation is associated with the knowledge of God. Due to our restricted capacities we are not able to know God unless he accommodates himself to us. Since then other scholars have pointed out the influence of rhetoric, where education and persuasion play an important role. Still later David Wright challenged the influence of rhetoric and pointed out that God’s accommodation plays an important role in Calvin’s explanation of the moral laws in the Old Testament.
Balserak continues in Wright’s footsteps, his tutor, and writes a study about God’s accommodation to go deeper into Calvin’s use of that concept. In chapter 2 he points out that accommodation comes up in two different ways in his book. Accommodation may be a concept that is used to resolve exegetical problems. And accommodation may be an act of God in which He accommodates himself to people. Balserak mentions that accommodation has played a role in the Christian tradition since Justin Martyr, especially in apologetics. Chrysostom uses the concept very often. Calvin does the same. He knows, according to Balserak, how other people speak about God’s accommodation, nevertheless he independently goes his own way (see chapter 2 where the author discusses the explanation of seven biblical passages). It means that God’s accommodation is a significant idea to Calvin.
In his study Balserak shows clearly that for Calvin God’s accommodation has everything to do with God’s relationship to people. God accommodates himself to human capacity (human captus). In chapters 3, 4 and 5 Balserak discusses Calvin’s thought on human capacity, how God takes this capacity into account in his accommodation and what are the causes, purposes and motives for God’s accommodation. It is interesting to read in chapter 4 that God’s accommodation appears in different spheres of God’s relationship with humankind. Balserak draws our attention to God’s teaching, his moral law, the cultic domain, God’s pastoral care, his coming in Christ, and the covenant.
In chapter 6 Balserak researches to what extent God’s accommodation influences Calvin’s image of God. The author pays particular attention to the relationship of God’s accommodation with Calvin’s view on God’s power, taking into account the distinction between potentia absoluta and potentia ordinata as has been made in the medieval theology. At this point it becomes clear that God’s accommodation is linked to God’s potentia ordinata. God accommodates himself to the capacity of men in ordaining the laws and decrees.
In chapter 7 Balserak raises the matter of the importance of Calvin’s view on accommodation for the authority of Scripture. It seems that the authority of Scripture is subverted when Calvin refers to God’s accommodation. Here Balserak first pays attention to texts which have to do with the relationship of Scripture to science. After that he discusses Calvin’s explanation of a number of biblical passages which concern precepts of the law, in which it strikes that God accommodates himself to the harshness of the Jews in giving those precepts. Sometimes Calvin adds that those precepts do not remain valid for Christians. Why does Calvin differentiate by speaking about accommodation one time and another time he does not? Balserak points about the conceptions of equity (aequitas) and the law of nature which functions for Calvin as a measure for all people. In this connection Calvin refers to Romans 2 :14-15. But Balserak mentions also questions which need more detailed research. How can equity function as a criterion for determining the examples of accommodation? Is the conception of nature of law still in force? And when do we know if something is against the natura?
In his last chapter Balserak summarizes the results of his research in seven points. After that he examines especially the relationship between accommodation and the doctrine of God for Calvin. Exactly at this point it turns out that a lot of questions can be asked and that further research is desirable. Balserak concludes with indicating points for further research.
Balserak’s study is important because he gives, compared with what was written in the past, a clear image of the multiform importance of God’s accommodation for Calvin. At the same time the author mentions that a lot of further research has to be done.
Raymond A. Blacketer, The School of God. Pedagogy and Rhetoric in Calvin’s Interpretation of Deuteronomy, Dordrecht: Springer, 2006. Pp. 299. € 109,- (ISBN 1-4020-3912-3).
In 1998 Raymond Blacketer was awarded his PhD in Grand Rapids (Michigan) at Calvin Theological Seminary. It is gratifying that his dissertation has been published as the above-mentioned book. This study is an important contribution to Calvin research, especially because of the profound way in which Blacketer takes notice of Calvin’s interpretation of Deuteronomy. The author does not focus his attention on Calvin only, but involves also in his study other people’s exegesis (Early Church, Middle Ages, contemporary scholars, and so on), where helpful for the understanding of Calvin’s interpretation of the text. The author pays attention as well to the historical-cultural context of Calvin’s life and he shows particularly the influence of rhetoric on Calvin’s method of interpretation of Deuteronomy.
In 1555 and 1556 Calvin held 200 sermons on Deuteronomy. His commentary was published in 1563. Blacketer examines the differences between Calvin’s interpretation in the sermons and his interpretation in the commentary. Those differences concern particularly Calvin’s method of presenting the biblical material. In his sermons Deuteronomy is presented and explained in lectio continua to the congregation.
His commentary is part of his commentary on Exodus to Deuteronomy where Calvin rearranged the biblical material by distinguishing between history and doctrine (see chapter 4). The Decalogue operates as a theological frame of reference for the explanation of the passages which concern the doctrine. After the explanation of each commandment those texts are discussed which are relevant to the commandment concerned. In this ‘harmony’ Calvin deviates from his normal method by bringing up for discussion subjects (loci communes) which do not directly concern the text, but which are really connected with the content of those bible books, such as the meaning of the law. Blacketer examines which exegetes could have influenced Calvin’s method of working. It is especially Melanchthon who used the Decalogue in his commentary on Proverbs in order to arrange the biblical material.
Blacketer gives his study the title ‘The School of God’. It is an often used metaphor by Calvin, because it fits excellently with his task to give instruction in his sermons and to move the parishioners to spend their lives in God’s service. The author describes in chapter one the use of the mentioned metaphor (and also the figure of the ABC which is connected with that metaphor) in the Early Church and in the Middle Ages (Augustine is especially of importance) and examines how Calvin employs this metaphor in his Institutes, commentaries and sermons.
Calvin’s use of the metaphor ‘School of God’ in his interpretation of Deuteronomy, fits excellently with Deuteronomy as the second edition of the law which was given to Israel to admonish and bring up the people (see chapter three). In his sermons when Calvin uses the mentioned metaphor he often makes the connection with the state of affairs in Geneva where he wants to teach the parish to continue on the path of the Reformation.
In his study Blacketer shows clearly the important role of pedagogy and rhetoric in Calvin’s method of interpretation of Deuteronomy. In chapter one the author reviews the pedagogical tools which influenced Calvin’s sermons. In chapter two he focuses his attention on Calvin’s use of rhetoric to strengthen the pedagogical character of his sermons. Regarding his commentaries it is true that Calvin aims to say a lot in few words (cf. the rhetoric term brevitas). He is more copious in his sermons, because he wants to persuade the hearers of the divine truth and wants to bring them to a life in Christian obedience (‘persuade’ and ‘move’ are also important rhetoric terms). Calvin’s use of the figures abyss, labyrinth and bridle is according to Blacketer typical rhetoric and does not have to be explained psychologically as William J. Bouwsma did in his John Calvin. A Sixteenth Century Portrait.
In the last three chapters Blacketer focuses his attention on Calvin’s interpretation of some passages in Deuteronomy. Thus he is able to elaborate further his view on Calvin’s working method comparing his interpretation in sermons and his interpretation in the commentary.
In chapter five Blacketer discusses Calvin’s exegesis of the fourth commandment concerning the observance of the Sabbath. The author gives much attention to the two sermons which Calvin held on this commandment. The emphasis is of course on the application. Calvin’s rhetoric skilfulness is for the benefit of the doctrinal instruction which he gives in those sermons. It becomes clear in his sermons that he stays closely connected with the exegetical tradition of the fourth commandment, but that he also works independently. Blacketer establishes that we can recover the different parts of the quadriga (the literal, allegorical, topological, and anagogical sense of the text) in Calvin’s interpretation.
In chapter six Blacketer concentrates on Calvin’s exegesis of Deuteronomy 10 :1-2 where God commands Moses to chisel out once again two stone tablets on which he needs to write the ten commandments. Calvin’s sermons on these verses in particular give the author the opportunity to show more clearly Calvin’s use of the allegory than has happened in Calvin research until now. In this chapter the author also gives attention to Calvin’s relationship with the exegesis in the Early Church (Augustine in particular) and that of his contemporaries (Luther in particular).
In chapter seven Calvin’s exegesis of Deuteronomy 21 :18-21 (about the rebellious son who gets the death penalty) has been discussed, also in relationship with the other people’s exegesis. Blacketer shows how Calvin applies the mentioned passage to family life and the social relationships in Geneva. The author also points out that Calvin previously in his commentary on Seneca wrote some things about the mutual responsibility of parents and children.
In the ‘conclusions’ Blacketer mentions the main results of his research, also in regard of his view on Calvin’s work (‘… there is no single organizing principle in Calvin’s work’, p. 271). Those who starts by taking notice of the author’s conclusions, will read this valuable study with all the more interest.
Wulfert de Greef
Dr. Wulfert de Greef, Johannes Calvijn, Zijn werk en geschriften, [revised edition], Kampen: Uitgeverij Kok, 2006. Pp. 350. € 44.90 cloth (ISBN 9043511919).
A valuable update of a Calvin-guide.
The word ‘update’ doesn’t fit too well in the world of the book. When a new edition of a book is made, we ususally call it a reprint. A useful book, that was sold out, gets a new life.
A new version of a software program is essentialy more than a reprint. The same we can say of a book that is not only reprinted but also revised. The first edition can still be used, but has also lost a bit of its value because of the new edition, that is more up to date.
That we can say of the reprint of dr. Wulfert de Greef, Johannes Calvijn. Zijn werk en geschriften. It offers a revision of the whole text and the most recent publications about Calvin, since the first edition, are added.
The edition of this introduction to the study of Calvin and his writings provides in a need. It is a multifarious guide for everyone who wants to explore the field of Calvin-studies. Beginners and more experienced scholars will have their profit of it. The writer gives a short and instructive biographical outline. The largest part of the book is an introduction of the many writings of Calvin.
The ‘travelguide’ that De Greef presents us will help us not to loose the way in the wide field of Calvin studies. It is a very useful update!
Machiel A van den Berg
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R. Ward Holder, John Calvin and the Grounding of Interpretation. Calvin’s First Commentaries. Leiden/Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2006. Pp. 311. € 99.- cloth (ISBN 9004149260).
Holder focuses his attention in this study on Calvin’s explanation of the Bible and especially on his interpretation of Paul’s first Letters. Because the fundamental questions concerning Calvin’s understanding of the Bible have not yet been responded to sufficiently in Holder’s opinion, the author examines the foundation of Calvin’s interpretation. He believes to find this foundation by differentiating between hermeneutical principles and exegetical rules. He takes this method particularly from Karl Froehlich’s Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church (Philadelphia 1989). Regarding hermeneutical principles, Holder writes, we have to consider the presuppositions which lead the exegete when he interprets Scripture. Holder uses this differentiation in his study with the aim to make clear how strongly Calvin’s hermeneutical principles determine his interpretation of the Bible.
In chapter two Holder takes detailed notice of the hermeneutical principles which play a part in Calvin’s interpretation. The Reformer is concerned about knowing the “true wisdom” and in this regard we have to rely on Scripture. The Old Testament and the New Testament constitute a unity for Calvin which we can see clearly in the way he speaks about the one Church, the one covenant, the Gospel which points out what the law foreshadows and particularly the figure of Jesus Christ. It is striking that Holder regarding Calvin’s use of the term accomodatio emphasizes that it is God who reveals himself. A hermeneutical principle for Calvin is also that the interpreter has to make accessible the mind of the writer whom he has to undertaken to explain. Regarding this Holder points to the connection between the Spirit and the human author. The last hermeneutical principle that Holder mentions, is that Calvin’s exegesis of Scripture serves the edification of the Church.
The exegetical rules which Calvin used for explaining a Bible text are discussed in the third chapter. For those rules Calvin is indebted to his humanistic education. I found it striking that Holder mentions as the first rule Calviń’s use of paraphrase, because the paraphrase has more to do with the doctrina than with the interpretation of a text, as Holder himself says. Calvin takes account of the context and as with the other Reformers he holds to the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture. Calvin is aware of wanting to stay within the Church́s traditions and therefore he is constantly in conversation with others. In this connection we have to understand that Calvin makes a plea for humility of the exegete. I noticed also that Holder connects Calvin’s desire for simplicity in the interpretation with the people who listen to his exposition: the members of the church need simple explanation as spiritual food. Calvin’s preference for a simple explanation in his commentary on the Psalms has in my opinion to do with the rejection of the traditional fourfold explanation of Scripture. It is in my opinion something for further research. At last Holder points out that Calvin time and again stands up for the full meaning of the text because Calvin in his interpretation is focused on the Scripture as a whole with Christ in the centre. This last point forms the transition to the fourth chapter in which Holder focuses on the significance which Christ has for Calvin as the scopus of Scripture.
In the fourth chapter Holder shows that Christ as the scopus of Scripture encloses a lot of things to Calvin: Christ is at the centre of the Gospel which is the heart of Scripture; the goal on which Calvin focuses in his exegesis is that Christ takes a central place in the Christian life; and the Christian education has to be directed at Christ because he is the foundation of the Church.
The distinction Holder makes between Calvin’s hermeneutical principles and his exegetical rules is according to him also of major importance for understanding Calvin’s relation to the Church fathers and the medieval exegetes. For example it is striking that the Reformer almost always agrees with Augustine’s doctrina, but very often does not agree with his exegesis. Holder pays attention to these problems in detail in the last three chapters. Calvin uses almost the same hermeneutical principles as Augustine did, but uses different exegetical rules. Unlike Augustine, Calvin had to deal with the challenge of atheism. He could not rely on the Church’s authority as Augustine did. He also had to take much more in account the higher level of the people’s thinking, than Augustine had to do. In the last three chapters Holder shows clearly which role Scripture, history and the Church play in Calvin’s continuous exertion to find God’s truth and to pass it on to other people.
Holder’s study is important because he demonstrates clearly that hermeneutical principles are of fundamental importance to Calvin’s interpretation of Scripture.
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Michael Parsons, Calvin’s preaching on the prophet Micah: The 1550-1551 Sermons in Geneva. Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2006. Pp. 335. $ 119.95 cloth (ISBN 0-7734-5804-2).
Calvin’s sermons have in the last few years increasingly become the subject of study in Calvin research. In his study Michael Parsons focuses his attention on the 28 sermons which Calvin held on the prophet Micah in the years 1550-1551. He confines himself to the soteriological and pastoral aspects of Calvin’s teaching in those sermons.
The author mentions in the introduction that every chapter can be read as a separate study. That is the reason why every chapter ends with short reflections. Nevertheless the chapters are so carefully ordered that you can compare the book with a building. First the foundations are laid and the building is constructed on those foundations. The foundations concern the two poles in Calvin’s theological thinking: God and people.
Parsons describes at first how negatively Calvin speaks about people in their relationship to God because people turn away from God. After that he focuses his attention on God’s relationship to people and he uses the images of God as Judge and Father. Parsons emphasizes the last picture, because God wants to be our Father in spite of all our misery. That is why Calvin in his sermons calls on people to make the move in all humility, dependence and gratitude from God as Judge to God as Father.
In one of the following chapters Parsons pays attention to Calvin’s view of the city Geneva. This city is indeed the context for Calvin’s sermons. Furthermore the prophet Micah provides Calvin with more than enough material to speak about the relationship between Geneva and God. Owing to the reformation Geneva is endowed by God just like Jerusalem in the past. But the real state of affairs, for example how people get on with each other, does not reflect God’s care for Geneva. But even though God’s people are not faultless, God loves them deeply.
Parsons gives a lot of attention to Calvin’s view on the calling and tasks of the prophets (especially that of Micah), not only to get a perception of the way Calvin interprets himself as a reformer, but to understand as well the expectations which Calvin had of the ministers. They have to be “waiters” who wake the people up. Preaching is a divine and a human activity. The centre of the preaching is God’s desire for our salvation. Those who like Micah experiences that their preaching has no positive effect, will nevertheless have to hold on to their calling, convinced that God will use them in his service. Parsons also pays attention to Calvin’s view on mission. In that regard it is important to notice Calvin’s own context. The author focuses especially on the link that Calvin makes between the content of the Gospel and the effect which the Gospel has on our relationships with other people. And so in Calvin’s view mission is speaking with other people about God’s gifts in Christ, being an example for others of God’s grace in our lives and praying constantly for the salvation of those who don’t yet live in relationship with God.
A subject that Parsons brings up is Calvin’s view on the kingdom of Christ. That kingdom is in Calvin’s opinion present where Christ is recognized as king. That’s why there is also a strong relationship between that kingdom and the church. In his sermons Calvin raises the matter how the kingdom of Christ can actively take shape in our lives.
In the last chapter Parsons puts forward how Calvin in his sermons calls on people’s own responsibility to receive the Word that has been brought to them. Jesus Christ is the centre of that Word. We have to be ‘reformed’ Christians.
Parsons’ study is orderly and clearly written. In each chapter the author introduces the subject in discussion with other researchers and goes on to give Calvin’s view. Parsons concludes his book with a review of the most important results of his research. Those results concern the relationship between God and people, the eschatological context and the relationship between Geneva and its preachers. Parsons’ study is a valuable contribution to the Calvin research.
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Bundeseinheit und Gottesvolk. Reformierter Protestantismus und Judentum im Europa des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts, Achim Detmers / J. Marius J. Lange van Ravenswaay (Hgg.). Wuppertal: foedus-verlag, 2005. Pp. 272. € 19.80 (ISBN 3-932735-97-8).
In 2002 an international conference was held in Emden (Germany). The theme was ‘Reformierter Protestantismus und Judentum im Europa des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts’. Almost all lectures have been published by foedus-verlag in Wuppertal in 2005 in the volume Bundeseinheit und Gottesvolk edited by Achim Detmers and J. Marius J. Lange van Ravenswaay. See for details about the contents: www.reformierter-bund.de (Emder Beiträge Bd. 9).
Lange van Ravenswaay was the only speaker who paid attention to Calvin in his lecture ‘Die Juden in Calvins Predigten’ (pp. 59-69). He gives a brief account of his research. Almost all the positive sayings about the Jews are made in the past tense, for example: ‘The Jews were God’s inheritance but now they are a synagogue of Satan.’ The Jews, as Van Ravenswaay writes, are often mentioned with the Turks and the Roman Catholics in one and the same breath as an example of heresy. Because of the central importance of Jesus Christ to Calvin the Jews don’t count for anything because they reject Jesus Christ. The Christians have taken the place of the Jews. Lange van Ravenswaay concludes that people at Calvin’s time could hear in his sermons that the Church which is focused on the Gospel of Jesus as the Messiah have taken the seats of the old people of God. And according to the author this has influenced Calvinism to a substantial extent in the next centuries.
The picture which Lange van Ravenswaay paints of Calvin’s view on the Jews as related in his sermons is very clear. But is that picture correct ? After her research of Calvin’s sermons Mary Potter Engel published in 1990 in The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, Supplementary Issue 1 (see pp. 106-123) her article ‘Calvin and the Jews, a textual puzzle’. She demonstrates how complicated Calvin’s view on the Jews is. It is possible to deduce from certain references that Calvin is a supersessionist who teaches that the Church has taken the seats of the Jews. But Engel establishes in detail that not everything has been said with this. She points out among other things that Calvin does not follow the track of many supersessionist Christian theologians who use the scheme of the old and the new Israel, where the old Israel is replaced by the new Israel of the Christian church. Calvin uses the terms God’s children, God’s people and church and emphasizes the unity and the continuity of the one people of God that exists of Jews and Gentiles. Engel concludes that we may not draw simple conclusions because Calvin speaks so differently about the Jews.
Lange van Ravenswaay knows Engel’s article. He quotes even her advice not to draw simple conclusions. But he does not take the slightest notice of her argument where she shows on the basis of quotations from Calvin’s sermons that we should not give such a one sided picture as Lange van Ravenswaay does in his article.
Wulfert de Greef