Calvin as Lawyer and Reformer

Bruce Gordon, in his excellent biography of John Calvin, has this to say about the influence that the Reformer’s legal studies had on his later career:

Calvin’s rigorous legal training left its imprint on every aspect of his life. It sharpened his mind to interpret texts and form precise arguments based on humanist methods; it provided him with a thorough grasp of subjects, ranging from marriage and property to crime. He was taught to frame legislation, write constitutions and offer legal opinions, all of which would loom large in his Genevan career. But the legacy was also intellectual. It was from the law that he would draw some of his most fundamental theological concepts, such as the Holy Spirit as ‘witness,’ the nature of ‘justification,’ God as ‘legislator’ and ‘judge,’ and Christ as the ‘perpetual advocate.’ The philosophical and historical methods drawn from both de l’Estoile and Alciati would become the foundations of his biblical commentaries as he revolutionized the art of interpreting scripture.

Bruce Gordon, Calvin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), 22.