Tuesday, June 12, 2012

John Calvin to Peter Viret, on the Exegesis of other Reformers

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been reading through some of Calvin’s correspondence for a handful of reasons. This is another gem that I wanted to lift out. Some of you may be familiar with what Calvin has to say about the exegesis of other important Reformation figures in the preface to his commentary on Romans, and this bit from his correspondence links up with that. But there are different figures in question here, and the comments are more particular – i.e., Viret asked where he could find helpful commentary on the book of Isaiah. Here is what Calvin had to say.

Coincidentally, this letter comes from that period during which Geneva had begun to desire Calvin’s return but Calvin had not yet given himself over to the idea. 

Letter of John Calvin to Peter Viret in May of 1540, as represented in John Calvin, John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, 4.188.
Capito, in his lectures, has some things which may be of much use to you in the illustration of Isaiah. But as he does not dictate any part to his hearers, and has not yet reached beyond the fourteenth chapter, his assistance cannot at present much help you. Zwingli, although he is not wanting in a fit and ready exposition, yet, because he takes too much liberty, often wanders far from the meaning of the Prophet. Luther is not so particular as to propriety of expression or the historical accuracy; he is satisfied when he can draw from it some fruitful doctrine. No one, as I think, has hitherto more diligently applied himself to this pursuit than Oecolampadius, who has not always, however, reached the full scope or meaning. It is true that you may now and then find the need of having appliances at hand, nevertheless I feel confident that the Lord will not desert you.
As an afterthought, when will more Oecolampadius get translated? If there are any PhD-wannabes interested in Reformation history, give ol' Oeco a good think.

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2 comments:

Matthew Frost said...

A good evaluation! And good advice at the end, which I hear as, essentially, "much as you might like to have someone else tell you, I trust that with God's help you are a capable enough exegete on your own."

And I know a number of Reformation historian professors who have their own pet Reformer to translate -- my personal favorite is working on Bugenhagen. That's also how Congar got translated, IIRC. But the production timetables are never quick. Where would one go to find an expert on Oecolampadius in order to do one's dissertation thereupon?

Andrew said...

Jeff Fischer is doing a PhD at TEDS on Oeco and has also translated a good bit.