I have recently been approached to teach French as a research language for a Seminary Ph.D program. Most seminaries require a reading knowledge of two research languages for the School of Theology in German, Latin, French or Spanish. In addition to required Greek and Hebrew languages acquired in the Master’s in Theology degrees, an intensive study of these research languages helps students think textually. They need to understand grammar, syntax, logical flow and sentence structure of the original language in order to determine the importance of context and avoid certain exegetical fallacies.
An even greater opportunity for me to facilitate in French language acquisition is with my Son-in-Law, Jordan. He is applying to PhD programs in Theology and, while fluent in Spanish, has chosen to learn French in order to research the great French theologians of the past centuries: Peter Abelard (11th ); Allain de Lille (12th); Francis de Sales and Jean Calvin (16th); Blaise Pascal (17th), Albert Schweitzer (19th) and Jacques Ellul (20th).
Therefore, I have begun a new Frenchquest in learning about these great theologians through translating their original works. I have started translating the great French Theologian of the 16th century, Jean Calvin, who organized the Reformation and shaped the doctrine and defined the role of the Church in state government. (He also attended the University of Strasbourg, in my hometown!)
My first translation project was La Révolution religieuse by Will Durant (1964) in order to learn about Calvin’s life and this book was already in my library! After reading the biography on Calvin, I chose to translate his most famous text, L’Institution chrétienne (The Institutes of the Christian Faith, 1536), as this will be a main reference and reading for seminary students.
According to Calvin, God was revealed to us in the Bible. This Holy book is his Word which is proven by the impression, without question, that it makes on the human mind:
Read Désmosthène or Cicéron, read Plato, Aristotle or all the classic authors; I admit that you will be attracted, enchanted, moved and delighted by them in a surprising way; but if, after reading them, you turn to the reading of the sacred book, whatever your disposition, it will affect you deeply, it will penetrate your heart so well and will make an impression so strong on your mind that, compared to its powerful influence, the beauties of rhetoricians and philosophers will seem almost null to you, so that it is easy to perceive something of the divine in the holy Scriptures, which surpass by much the highest realizations and the most beautiful ornaments of the human industry (Institutions, vol 8, 1).
L’Institution chrétienne is a great tome of four volumes (over 500 pages). Calvin published the first edition in Latin in 1536 and the original French in 1541. In 1960, this edition was translated by Ford Lewis Battles and edited by John T. McNeill. The French version I am translating is by Tony Lane and Hilary Osborne, 2009 edition.
Let the great Calvin adventure begin!
Copyright 2019 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com).
Jean Calvin. L’Institution chrétienne. Labor et Fides, Genève 1955, tome I, p. XXI ss.
Will Durant. La Révolution religieuse. Sociéte Coopérative Éditions Rencontre Lausanne, 1964. pp. 200-249.