The name of John Calvin is for ever bound up with the name of the theological system that he is thought to have founded – Calvinism. He is supposed to have imposed on Holy Scripture a severe, unfeeling logic, and forced its teachings to conform to his own pre-conceived ideas. This impression can easily be corrected by recalling Calvin’s gifts as a Bible expositor – in many ways, the first modern expositor – not least of which was an insistence on letting the text speak for itself. Of the many testimonies to Calvin’s honesty as a Bible commentator, here is a quorum, beginning with the man who is thought to have been an implacable opponent of all things Calvinistic:-
‘I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin’s commentaries;…I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scriptures.’ (Arminius)
‘No writer ever dealt more fairly and honestly by the Word of God. He is scrupulously careful to let it speak for itself, and to guard against every tendency of his own mind to put upon it a questionable meaning for the sake of establishing some doctrine which he feels to be important, or some theory which he is anxious to uphold. This is one of his prime excellencies. He will not maintain any doctrine, however orthodox and essential, by a text of Scripture which to him appears of doubtful application, or of inadequate force. For instance, firmly as he believed the doctrine of the Trinity, he refuses to derive an argument in its favor, from the plural form of the name of God in the first chapter of Genesis. It were easy to multiply examples of this kinds which, whether we agree in his conclusions or not, cannot fail to produce the conviction, that he is, at least, an honest Commentator, and will not make any passage of Scripture speak more or less than, according to his view, its Divine Author intended it to speak.’ (John King, Translator’s Preface to Calvin’s Commentary on Genesis)
‘Calvin was…a born exegete, and adds to his technical equipment of philological knowledge and trained skill in the interpretation of texts a clear and penetrating intelligence, remarkable intellectual sympathy, incorruptible honesty, unusual historical perception, and an incomparable insight into the progress of thought, while the whole is illuminated by hs profound religious comprehension. His expositions of Scripture were accordingly a wholly new phenomenon and introduced a new exegesis – the modern exegesis.’ Warfield, Calvin and Augustine, p9.
‘Calvin was the exegete of the Reformation and in the front rank of biblical exegetes of all time.’ (John Murray)