Reading John Calvin’s Institutes after seminary, in the midst of some trials, was easily one of the most theologically formative seasons in my life. Finally encountering the titan’s thought face to face (so to speak) after years of only encountering the stray quote, paean of praise, or jeremiad of condemnation was eye-opening as well as spiritually comforting as he pointed me, page after page, to the goodwill of my fatherly God in Christ. At a less personal level, the four books of the Institutes impressed me in terms of their economy, depth, clarity, scope, scriptural insight, and continual pastoral relevance. I’m probably preaching to the choir here.
But Calvin fans, old and new, don’t always appreciate that the Institutes form a relatively small portion of his corpus. A brilliant systematician and teacher, he was first and foremost a biblical commentator who produced nearly verse-by-verse commentaries on the majority of the books of the Bible.