In two dozen short biographies of John Calvin's friends -- including some who turned into enemies -- Machiel A. van den Berg paints an intimate portrait of the great Reformer's life and circle that most of us have never seen.
In these pages we accompany Calvin from his early boyhood in Noyon to his student days in Paris and Orleans, to his pastorate in and exile from Geneva, all the way to his deathbed. We meet his famous Reformer friends, such as Martin Bucer, William Farel, Heinrich Bullinger, Theodore Beza, and John Knox, but also friends whose names are more obscure: his cousin Pierre Robert OlivTtan, the first translator of the Bible into French; Rent de France of French royalty; Laurent de Normandie, the mayor of Noyon who later escaped to Geneva; Pierre Viret, his "best friend of all"; and Idelette van Buren, his beloved wife during their brief but "blissful" marriage.
Calvin may be known as a scholar who preferred his study to imperial and ecclesiastical politics, but he was also a rebel of faith against the papacy, which controlled most of Europe and had a price on the heads of all "reform-minded" citizens, especially their leaders. Allegiances to Rome were constantly in flux in the empires of Europe -- as were the lives and welfare of dissenters -- and Calvin's life was full of perilous risks, political intrigue, much harried travel, and many relocations.
Peppered with quotations from Calvin's voluminous letters, Friends of Calvin abounds with secret court relationships, love affairs, death threats, poisonings, and narrow midnight escapes from the pursuing authorities -- showing a full- blooded and dangerous side of the bookish Reformer's life. Readers of these colorful narratives will come to see how much Calvin's friends influenced his life and thought.
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Machiel A. van den Berg is a reformed preacher. He regularly publishes articles about the history of the Reformation and about Calvin in particular.