Calvin's Interest in Chrysostom

In an essay titled, “Gold without dross: assessing the debt of John Calvin to the preaching of John Chrysostom”, Peter Moore[1], assesses Calvin’s interest and study of Chrysostom. Below, I include some of the quotes from Calvin concerning Chrysostom.

In the preface to the first (latin) edition of the Institutes written to the King of France:

“Moreover, they unjustly set the ancient fathers against us (I mean the ancient writers of a better age of the church) as if in them they had supporters of their own impiety. If the contest were to be determined by patristic authority, the tide of victory—to put it very modestly—would turn to our side. Now, these fathers have written many wise and excellent things. Still, what commonly happens to men has befallen them too, in some instances. For these so-called pious children of theirs [Calvin’s opponents], with all their sharpness ofwit and judgment and spirit, worship only the faults and errors of the fathers. The good things that these fathers have written they either do not notice, or misrepresent or pervert. You might say that their only care is to gather dung amid gold. Then, with a frightful to-do, they overwhelm us as despisers and adversaries of the fathers! But we do not despise them; in fact, if it were to our present purpose, I could with no trouble at all prove that the greater part of what we are saying today meets their approval (109).

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T McNeill, 2 vols., Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 22.

From the outset, the reader ought to bear in mind the kind of literary genre (scripti genus) it is in which I prefer him to others. Although homilies (homiliae) are something which consist of a variety of elements (variis partibus constent) the interpretation of Scripture (scripturae interpretatio) is, however, their priority. In this area, no one of sound judgment would deny that our Chrysostom excels all the ancient writers currently extant. This is especially true when he deals with the New Testament. (111–112)

Hazlett, ‘Calvins Latin Preface’, 144; Calvini, ‘Praefatio In Chrysostomi’, volume 9, column 834.

The chief merit of our Chrysostom is this: he took great pains everywhere not to deviate in the slightest from the genuine plain meaning of Scripture (germana scripturae sinceritate) and not to indulge in any licence of twisting the straight-forward sense (simplici verborum sensu) of the words. I am only saying what will be acknowledged by those who are both in a position to make a correct assessment and who will not hesitate to state the fact (112)

Hazlett, ‘Calvins Latin Preface’, 144; Calvini, ‘Praefatio In Chrysostomi’, volume 9, column 835.


  1. Moore, Peter. “Gold without Dross: Assessing the Debt of John Calvin to the Preaching of John Chrysostom.” Reformed Theological Review 68, no. 2 (August 2009): 109–129.  ↩