This article summarizes Jean Calvin’s concept of the self-convincing authority of Scripture, and relates his position to the writings of Heinrich Bullinger. The authors possibly influenced each other. Both use the Greek term autopistos for the authority of Scripture. In 1571, Bullinger published an anonymous work that relies on Calvin’s Institutes. In spite of minor differences in emphasis, the reformers agreed in maintaining the independent authority of Scripture as the norm of faith. For both authors Word and Spirit were intimately connected, although in the writings studied for this article Calvin more explicitly connects the acknowledgement of Scripture’s authority to the witness of the Spirit.
Jean Calvin, Institutes1.7.5. Translation mine, see Henk van den Belt, The Authority of Scripture in Reformed Theology: Truth and Trust (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 53. For the Latin text see Jean Calvin, Opera Selecta, 3rd edn, Peter Barth and Wilhelm Niesel, ed. (Munich: Christian Kaiser, 1967) [Henceforth: Calvin, OS], 3, 70.
Calvin, OS3, 81. In the edition of 1543, Calvin elaborates on the doctrine of inspiration in the context of ecclesiology, saying that the apostles were scribes of the Holy Spirit and their writings are therefore to be considered oracles of God. Calvin, OS 5, 141.
Albertus Pighius, De libero hominis arbitrio et divina gratia, Libri decem, (Cologne: Melchior Novesianus, 1542). In the Institutes of 1539 Calvin had stated the church fathers, except Augustine, wrote so ambiguously on free will, that nothing could be concluded from their writings. Pighius responded to that claim. On the debate see A.N.S. Lane, John Calvin: Student of the Church Fathers (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999), 151-178.
N.N., Heinrich Bullinger ed., De Scripturae Sanctae praestantia, dignitate, excellentissimaq[ue] authoritate, perfectione, vel sufficientia, claritate item, facilitate, perspicuitateq[ue], & vero earum vsu, pijssima doctissimaque dissertatio (Zürich: Christopher Froschauer, 1571). The book was translated into English: Heinrich Bullinger ed., A Most Godly and Learned Discourse of the Woorthynesse, Authoritie, and Sufficiencie of the Holy Scripture, transl. John Tomkys, (London: William Ponnsonby, 1579).