Institutes of the Christian Religion; ESV Translation

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My husband and I are keen to get an English language translation on the Institutes of the Christian Religion by Calvin. I have found two translations, one by Beveridge and the other by Battles. Which would you recommend and why?

Secondly, I would like to buy my daughter a NKJV study Bible. I would have liked to get her the Reformation Study Bible edited by R.C. Sproul, however I could only find one in ESV. Would you recommend that translation?

Thank you for your response and for taking the time to do so.
Kind regards,
S. N.

Actually, many prefer the John Allen translation, but it is long out of print. I once saw a copy in an old bookstore and regretted later that I didn’t buy it. It was gone the next time I was in the store. Here’s what wikipedia says.

The original Institutes were written in Latin. Calvin wrote five major Latin editions in his lifetime (1536, 1539, 1543, 1550, and 1559). He translated the first French edition of the Institutes in 1541, corresponding to his 1539 Latin edition, and supervised the translation of 3 later French translations. The French translations of Calvin’s Institutes helped to shape the French language for generations, not unlike the influence of the King James Version for the English language. The final edition of the Institutes is about five times the length of the first edition.

In English, four complete English translations have been published. The first was made in Calvin’s lifetime (1561) by Thomas Norton, the son-in-law of the English Reformer Thomas Cranmer. In the nineteenth century there were two translations; one by John Allen (1813) and one by Henry Beveridge (1845). The most recent is the 1960 edition, translated by Ford Lewis Battles and edited by John T. McNeill, currently considered the most authoritative edition by scholars. Due to the length of the Institutes, several abridged versions have been made. The most recent is by Tony Lane and Hilary Osborne; the text is their own alteration and abridgement of the Beveridge translation.

The best history of the Latin, French, and English versions of Calvin’s Institutes was done by B. B. Warfield, “On the Literary History of Calvin’s Institutes,” published in the seventh American edition of the John Allen translation (Philadelphia, 1936).

The Battles translation is probably the most readable, but remember it was written by one not so sympathetic with Calvin’s theology.

The earlier edition of The Reformation Study Bible, which was entitled The New Geneva Study Bible, was in the NKJV. You might be able to find a copy of that somewhere.

I don’t particularly recommend the ESV.



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