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John Calvin as Teacher, Pastor, and Theologian

The Shape of His Writings and Thought

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"A meticulous and well-informed interpretation of Calvin. . . . An excellent piece of scholarship and a genuine contribution to both the guild and the church."--Timothy Harvie, Heythrop Journal

John Calvin has been the subject of numerous interpretative studies, but most have focused on only one aspect of his thought or a limited selection of his writings. Randall Zachman's work on the reformer, however, adopts a uniquely holistic approach. 

After a brief biographical chapter, Zachman provides a distinctive introduction to Calvin's theological and exegetical writings, working from the reformer's own understanding of his ministry as a teacher and pastor. Zachman then turns to consider Calvin the theologian. Despite the Reformation's opposition to the use of images in the church, Calvin always balanced verbal proclamation with the idea of a visible manifestation of God--both in creation and in Christ. In this regard, Zachman analyzes Calvin's analogical theology and contrasts it with the thought of Martin Luther.


"This is a remarkably fresh and comprehensive study of the ministry and theology of the Genevan reformer, John Calvin. Randall Zachman has read widely in the whole Calvinian corpus as well as among the relevant secondary literature. He also places many of the topics discussed in their historical context, contrasting Calvin's views with other reformers such as Luther and Melanchthon. The result is a very readable treatise that will be of interest not only to Calvin specialists but also to students and pastors. It is a major contribution to Calvin studies."--I. John Hesselink, professor emeritus of theology, Western Theological Seminary

"This valuable collection of essays brings together in one volume the fruit of many years of careful study of Calvin. It will be a welcome addition to the libraries of all with a special interest in the reformer."--A. N. S. Lane, professor of historical theology and director of research, London School of Theology

"Randall Zachman is fast becoming a premier Calvin interpreter, and this volume shows why. Zachman explores Calvin's calling as teacher and pastor by examining Calvin's concern for godly doctrine and the exposition of Scripture. He also probes Calvin's calling as theologian by showing how Calvin combined hearing the Word of God with actually seeing living images of God--particularly in creation and Christ. Zachman's work expands our perceptions of Calvin's theological work for pastors and ordinary Christians. He leads us to a wider view of the fullness of Calvin's labors and to a deeper appreciation of 'the school of Christ' in which we are all pupils."--Donald K. McKim, editor, The Cambridge Companion to John Calvin and Calvin and the Bible (Cambridge University Press)

"Baker Academic is to be congratulated for bringing together this fine collection of Professor Zachman's essays on Calvin. Two new ones have been added, one on catechism and the other a very intriguing comparison/contrast of Luther and Calvin on hearing and seeing revelation. Students of Calvin will be much benefited by having all of these essays easily available in one place where they can so helpfully enhance each other."--Elsie McKee, Archibald Alexander Professor of Reformation Studies and the History of Worship, Princeton Theological Seminary

"Randall Zachman brings to this book the kind of bite that makes for excellent intellectual history. Its most distinctive feature is a crisp pattern of organization, using John Calvin's own writings to analyze in a fresh and persuasive way Calvin's work--first as a teacher helping educated men become pastors, next as a pastor helping the laity understand basic Christianity, and finally as a theologian emphasizing the role of imagery in understanding what biblical Christianity is all about. The end result should be a deeper appreciation and a fuller understanding of the man who is the most influential architect of modern Reformed Christianity."--Robert M. Kingdon, professor emeritus of history, University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Author

  1. Randall C. Zachman

    Randall C. Zachman

    Randall C. Zachman (PhD, University of Chicago) is professor of Reformation studies at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of several books, including Image and Word in the Theology of John Calvin and John Calvin as Teacher, Pastor, and...

    Continue reading about Randall C. Zachman


"Besides appealing to historical theologians, this accessible book will enlighten those who dismiss Calvin as a cold intellectual as well as those interested in theological education. . . . What is most exciting to me about Zachman's approach is the attention to how texts are shaped by their intended audiences and corresponding social practices. . . . Zachman builds upon and marries some of the best of contemporary Calvin scholars. . . . Zachman convincingly portrays the Institutes as combining dialectical, rhetorical, and contemplative theology. . . . I found the other chapters on Calvin's exegesis, catechisms, and sermons similarly insightful. . . . Zachman is responding to the groundless stereotypes of Calvin that, so long as they exist, call for well-informed defenses of this perennial straw man."--William A. Wright, Anglican Theological Review

"The author seems to have reached new heights and this work on Calvin will do much to confirm his status as one of the shining lights in the international world of Reformation studies. . . . The author has a wonderful ability to upset preconceptions and caricatures. . . . Zachman bases all on extensive reading of primary works and it is perhaps his skill at weaving these sources into a readable and engaging text that is most to be admired. For anyone who wants to know Calvin, or for anyone who thinks they know Calvin, this volume is highly recommended."--Jack Cunningham, Theological Book Review

"These lucid and helpful essays offer fresh insights into Calvin in three of his primary roles. . . . The Zachman essays are a stimulating and perceptive addition to Calvin scholarship. We are in the author's as well as the publisher's debt for making them available to us. They deserve a wide and appreciative audience."--James A. De Jong, Calvin Theological Journal

"Zachman's ordering of topics and skillful inclusion of two previously unpublished articles transforms this from a simple collection of articles into a significant argument about the meaning and method of Calvin's theology. . . . Throughout, Zachman presents a paradigm of historical theology. His notes are clear, his reasoning is careful, no assertions dangle in the breeze without textual warrant. . . . It is worthwhile noting that as one reads these articles again, the reader is struck by just how often terms and turns of phrase that Zachman popularized have become basic vocabulary for the modern academy in Calvin studies. This volume has excellence for both novices and the adept."--R. Ward Holder, Renaissance Quarterly

"The collection allows a sustained and forceful reading of major portions of Calvin's ouvre. . . . Zachman's work is a major contribution to Calvin studies, not least in the way it provides a corrective for several recent and widely influential presentations. . . . Zachman's wide knowledge of the corpus of other sixteenth-century writers allows him to employ the method of comparison to great effect. Discussions of Calvin's relations with Luther and Melanchton are especially illuminating."--John Kelsay, Church Times

"Zachman's new book on Calvin does something unusual--[it] connects Calvin's preaching, teaching and theology. . . . Contrary to prevailing views, Zachman argues that Calvin does not merely focus on the truth of God without also contemplating the beauty of God. His view of Calvin as an analogical and anagogical theologian is a refreshing insight. Zachman is to be congratulated on a valuable contribution to Calvin research."--Frank A. James III, Expository Times

"Calvin scholars are surely in Zachman's debt for the clear framework he offers for interpreting Calvin's ecclesial strategy and for his recovery of the contemplative aspects of Calvin's theology. . . . This collection of earlier articles is a helpful guide into Calvin's copious corpus, pregnant with fresh insights and new case studies. As such, I believe it would serve well alongside a standard biography of Calvin in a graduate course on Calvin or as a case study in Reformation tactics in a class on the Reformation. Additionally, shrewd pastors desirous of parishes filled with wise biblical interpreters would benefit from Zachman's study of Calvin's intentions and methods."--James R. A. Merrick, Trinity Journal

"[Zachman is] coming to be recognized as one of the leading Calvin scholars in the United States. . . . Zachman is particularly interested in the role images and analogy play in Calvin's theology, notions that have not received much attention before. . . . This volume is full of fresh insights and deserves a wide readership. The style is clear, which makes this fine study accessible not only to Calvin scholars but also to anyone interested in good theology."--I. John Hesselink, Reformed Review

"Pastors, teachers in congregations and seminaries, and lay people will find these essays well-written. Zachman is fully conversant with received and recent scholarship on Calvin. Moreover, he presents his main themes in an appealing way. . . . Zachman, in careful and clear prose, is making the theology of John Calvin accessible and plausible for the church today."--Charles Raynal, Interpretation

"A significant study of John Calvin's theological work. [Zachman] has woven these pieces together as a cohesive book. . . . Their strength is Zachman's fresh interpretation of Calvin's central themes and emphases, documented from a wide range of Calvin's writings. . . . The essays are valuable, whether they offer new interpretations of known questions as on Calvin's Christology or whether, like those on the catechisms and analogical theology, they simply explore the sources with fresh questions and insightful analysis. Held together by Zachman's central arguments, they present a clear and distinctive picture of the vocational shape of Calvin's writings, and key features of his theological method."--Gary Neal Hansen, Sixteenth Century Journal

"Zachman is a careful, knowledgeable scholar, who seems to be thoroughly familiar with the entire Calvin corpus and able to cite apposite passages effortlessly. He is also good at drawing comparisons and contrasts. . . . He is also careful and modest, confining his disagreements with his fellow scholars to the foot of the page but usually getting the better of the argument. So, a solid, satisfying read, informative and confirming, for anyone interested in Calvin and the Reformation."--Paul Helm, Crux

"This collection of essays is an interesting overview of certain aspects of Calvin's theological methodology. . . . Zachman covers much ground, but his arguments are based on close and convincing textual analyses. His lucid style and cogent argumentation makes this book suitable for both scholars and beginning students, and art historians will find his remarks on Calvin's doctrine of images valuable."--Jason van Boom, Religious Studies Review

"A meticulous and well-informed interpretation of Calvin. . . . Zachman . . . offer[s] genuinely creative insights which should overturn widely held misconceptions of Calvin. . . . The most interesting historical and theological feature of the book is Zachman's excellent explication of Calvin's use of the notion of image alongside word throughout his theology and more specifically his Christology. . . . Zachman's contribution by arguing for an authentic role for images in Calvin's thought is unquestionable. . . . [This work] form[s] an outstanding example of historical scholarship by one who has undoubtedly mastered the original texts of Calvin's vast corpus. Zachman recognizes the complexity in Calvin's thought, but also the keen pastoral sensitivities to be found within the reformer as well. . . . [The book] should become [a] standard [work] in Calvin studies. . . . By drawing upon the full gamut of Calvin's scholarly and pastoral works, Zachman has provided an excellent piece of scholarship and a genuine contribution to both the guild and the church."--Timothy Harvie, Heythrop Journal

"A collection of essays by one of the foremost John Calvin scholars writing today. Zachman . . . brings his knowledge and insight to bear on a range of topics in Calvin studies. The result is a text which is a worthy addition to the shelves of Calvin scholars and enthusiasts. . . . Throughout the volume, Zachman displays a compelling and deeply impressive knowledge of the range of Calvin's writings across different genres. . . . The carefully constructed picture of Calvin's view which results gives a real insight into the definitive pedagogical and pastoral thrust of Calvin's enterprise as a theologian. . . . The volume confirms Zachman's reputation as being one of the best Calvin interpreters in current scholarship, and will offer an informative read to anyone with some previous interest in or exposure to Calvin's work. Above all, it offers an illuminating overview of Calvin as pastor and teacher as well as theologian, and of his belief in the centrality and the significance of Christian education at all levels for a healthy Christian church."--Paul T. Nimmo, Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology

"A welcome medley of collected studies on Calvin . . . by a writer with a fine reputation as an interpreter and communicator of the reformer. . . . [The book's second half] is especially valuable since it illustrates clearly the characteristic polarities, paradoxes, and subtleties of Calvin's thought and its creative dimensions. . . . It will be a profitable vademecum, primarily for readers confined to English seeking to gain an informed entrée into Calvin's fertile mind."--Ian Hazlett, Scottish Journal of Theology