Tag Archive - academy

Calvin’s Thoughts on Seminary

John Calvin’s aim of the Genevan Academey is inspiring and should most certainly be applied, or should I say adopted, by more seminaries today:

The creation of the Academy was perhaps Calvin’s crowning achievement. However, it needs to be noted that Calvin’s purpose in establishing this enterprise was not merely to produce scholars. In reality, ‘one of its chief titles to renown has always been, up to very recent times, that of having formed a body of pastors provided with a high degree of intellectual culture.’ His aim in the schola publica was to raise up and train pastor-scholars. These were men who could work well with the original languages of Hebrew and Greek, who could perform proper exegesis of a text, and who understood theology and philosophy; yet, they could take all that intellectual work and translate it to the masses. These were pastor-scholars who did not stay in the ivory tower, but they sought to find the truth and then apply it to the people. The purpose of the academic work was to affect the church and the world with the truth and power of the Word of God.

John D. Currid, Calvin and the Biblical Languages (Fearn, Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2006), 60.

Centrality of the Languages in Study

In the establishment of the Genevan Academy we see Calvin’s passion for the biblical languages shine. It is clear from the heavy emphasis on the Biblical languages that Calvin felt they were of utmost important for those who would be pastors of the church. As I read the section below, I could not help but wonder what great things might come of us leading our children towards Hebrew and Greek at young ages:

The Genevan Academy had two departments: the schola private (the lower department) and the schola publica (the upper level). The former was for children beginning school at six years of age. There were seven levels of education; the seventh class was the most rudimentary and the first class was the highest order in the school. The content of the various levels are well-known and we do not need to repeat them here. When one reads them, however, one is immediately struck by the amount and centrality of the linguistic work. Bilingual instruction commenced in level seven, that is, the opening grade: students began to learn both French and Latin at this early age. By the fourth class they were introduced to the Greek language. In the upper three class levels the students were preparing almost all of their work in the original languages of Latin and Greek: they read, for example, Homer, Virgil, Cicero from their original tongues. They also translated directly from the New Testament; in level two they were reading the Gospel of Luke and in level one they were translating the Epistles.

The schola private served as a feeder to the schola publica; the latter had its primary purpose to train future ministers of the gospel. These were students who were preparing to preach the Word of God. And since ‘the exposition of the Bible was central to the sermon, Calvin ensured that the biblical languages were given primary place in the curriculum.’ Walker concludes that Calvin’s purpose was to ‘make Geneva the theological seminary of Reformed Protestantism.’ To Calvin, the Academy was to be an institution of great learning. And he believed that erudition required mastery of three languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

John D. Currid, Calvin and the Biblical Languages (Fearn, Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2006), 57-58.

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