Five hundred years ago today, he was born Jean Cauvin in Noyon, France—about 70 miles north of Paris. His father was Gerard, son of a barrelmaker and boatman. Gerard was a lawyer, and it was his law practice that brought him into the everyday sphere of the church.
The young Jean benefitted immensely through his father’s ecclesiastical connections. He was able to be educated privately with the children of the wealthy De Montmor family and eventually garnered church support for his further studies.
Gerard originally planned a career for his son in the church. But when things later soured with the dioceses, he would redirect his son toward law.
When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, and unknowingly launched the Reformation in earnest, the young Calvin was a mere 8 years old. He likely heard very little, if anything, about the rebellious German monk until he left for university in Paris at age 14. There he would hear more.
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This is the first of a 9-part series that traces some key contours of the story of Calvin’s life. Next we’ll turn to his time in Paris, then his conversion. Here’s a preview of what’s ahead:
Part 2: Off to Paris (1523–1532)
Part 3: De Clementia, Conversion, and Cop (1532–33)
Part 4: Institutes (1535–1536)
Part 5: A Night’s Stay in Geneva (1536–1538)
Part 6: The Golden Years (1538–1541)
Part 7: Return to Geneva (1541–1553)
Part 8: The Fateful Years (1553–1554)
Part 9: An Unmarked Grave (1554–1564)