Arminius Did Not Marry Calvin’s Daughter

In Death By Love Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears write:

James Arminius was John Calvin’s son-in-law and greatly appreciated Calvin. He said that, after the Scriptures, he believed Calvin’s writings to be the most profitable study for God’s people. Therefore, the acrimony that sometimes flares up between Calvinists and Arminians need not be so if the examples of Calvin and Arminius are followed by their followers (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008; p. 170).

This is historical nonsense. Calvin married the widow Idellete de Bure in 1540. She brought to the marriage two children, a son and a daughter.1 Jean and Idellette were married for nine years. In that time she bore him a son, Jacques, who, in 1542, died in infancy.2  Idellete herself died in 1549 leaving Calvin a widower. Even if he had a surviving daughter, she would have been born in the early 1540s. Arminius was born in 1560. Calvin’s hypothetical (biological) daughter would have been about 47 when Arminius married. That’s unlikely and, as it happened, contrary to fact. Arminius married the daughter of a prominent merchant in 1590.

There are solid biographies of both Calvin and Arminius, so there’s no reason for such sloppiness.2  I’ve been waiting for someone else to say something about this blunder since it was first brought to my attention in 2011. So far as I know, only two other people have said anything about it. Why so? Perhaps it’s the case that the people who would know that Arminius didn’t marry Calvin’s daughter don’t read such books? 3


1. T. H. L. Parker, John Calvin: A Biography (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975), 72.

2. Ibid, 101–02.

3. Ironically, an Arminian critic of Driscoll, who also notes the improbability of the claimed marriage, repeats the claim that Theodore Beza (1519–1605) married Calvin’s daughter. This is also incorrect. Calvin had no surviving biological children. Beza married twice, once in 1548 and again, in 1600 but in neither instance did he marry anyone related to Calvin. This claim, apparently repeated in Arminian circles, that Beza married Calvin’s daughter seems to be the most likely source of the mistake by Driscoll and Breshears. They substituted Arminius for Beza and piled error on top of error.

Extracted and revised from this earlier HB post.


Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. From your original 2013 post from which this was extracted: “In an institutional setting there are (or at least there used to be copy and news editors—have you read a newspaper lately?) and the potential for catching errors of fact or overstated claims. This review process often doesn’t exist in the new media. As the old media continues to collapse, however, they are eliminating editorial controls to cut costs so perhaps it all comes out in the wash. Caveat lector.”

    BINGO! The near-complete collapse of the editorial function, even in the largest national newspapers, is leading to previously unknown levels of error.

    When it comes to religion reporting, because the issues are complicated and not always well understood outside the denominational circles on which religion reporters must report, the errors can easily become quite bad.

    I remember the regular criticisms, some of which were legitimate, made by professors at Calvin College and Seminary against Christian Renewal and Outlook for poor editorial standards. Occasionally we received criticisms from Orthodox Presbyterian pastors and Westminster professors (in that era, mostly from Westminster-East). Again, some of the criticisms were right — to point a finger at myself, I once, for completely inexplicable reasons stated that John Kenneth Galbraith was speaking at the OPC General Assembly when the man speaking was Rev. John Galbraith. My editor trusted me enough not to check, and that led to a highly embarrassing error. Another example: my mangling of the Dutch language led to using a phrase which translated as “Churches without the Cross” rather than the intended phrase of “Churches under the Cross,” i.e., a group of conservative Reformed churches in the 1800s that were persecuted by the Dutch state church, some of which eventually became the Gereformeerde Gemeenten, the Dutch mother church of what are now the Netherlands Reformed Congregations. It fell to some professors at the Protestant Reformed Seminary to call me up and suggest that an Italian Calvinist needs to check a Dutch dictionary before mindlessly repeating something, especially without quote marks.

    My usual response was that newspapers are the first drafts of history, and if people want to complain, they need to look at the way secular and religious news media were covering the PC(USA) fights of the 1920s and 1930s. I think a fair case can be made that my work at Christian Renewal, and that of competent religion reporters such as Charley Honey of the Grand Rapids Press, and (to a lesser extent) the work of editors at Christianity Today, RNS, and other media that were trying to summarize the CRC fights, were following standards at least as high in the 1990s as those used in the 1920s and 1930s.

    However, once I moved into the secular media, I was shocked to see from the inside how much lower the editorial standards were than those we had at Christian Renewal and Outlook. I should have known that, having been involved in Grand Rapids politics dating back many years and seeing problems with secular Grand Rapids Press stories, some of which I was personally involved with and had to contact reporters to make polite clarifications. I can’t say that I ever had a REALLY bad experience with a secular reporter on a secular article in a secular newspaper, but there were definitely errors that ten minutes of research could have prevented.

    The simple reality is that the editorial standards with which my mother was trained in journalism school back in the 1950s are today only a distant memory. Twenty years ago, even small daily newspapers had at least two eyes — a copy editor and the newspaper’s main editor — looking at every word in every story in the newspaper. Today, if anybody looks at an article other than the reporter, it’s at best a cursory review.

    I can’t speak for what editorial standards look like in the book publishing industry, but I’m guessing they have also deteriorated, perhaps greatly.

    On the other hand, one benefit of online media is we can get errors fixed fast. My “John Kenneth Galbraith” error will be in print for all time in libraries all over the Reformed church world. A similar error today would be corrected online within minutes of being called to the editor’s attention.

    Nobody likes errors, but understanding the business realities behind the near-complete collapse of the editorial function of newspapers may help. The only bright light is that the errors, once made, can be fixed.

  2. My first introduction to Driscoll was a sermon in which he said both 1) that there was no need for Christian education, and 2) that Wycliffe was burned at the stake and martyred. (2) is definitely not true (Wycliffe died of natural causes and was dug up and burned well after his death), and strikes me as ironic considering (1) should include a chunk of Christian history. In short, Driscoll has never let his own ignorance get in the way of his certitude.

Comments are closed.