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The Trial of the 16th CenturyCalvin & Servetus

The Trial of the 16th Century

Calvin & Servetus

Jonathan Moorhead
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A faithful examination of the role of John Calvin in the execution of Michael Servetus. 


The execution of Michael Servetus (1511–53) is one of the most debated events in the life of John Calvin (1509–1564). It has left an indelible stain on Calvin’s reputation, and unfortunately, the retelling of the story is often dependent on the historian’s relationship to Calvinism.


Jonathan Moorhead here seeks to give a faithful narrative of the role of John Calvin in the execution of Michael Servetus. He examines the life of Servetus, with emphasis given to his education, publications, and relationship with John Calvin. Moorhead also gives attention to the role of Calvin in Servetus’ arrests, trials, and execution.


Understanding the extent of Calvin’s power in Geneva at the time of the trial is critical to understanding the events, as is the context of executing heretics throughout history, and in particular, in the 16th Century.


This book will challenge readers to think critically about the ethics of telling history, the standards of properly judging previous generations, and the benefits of this study for the building up of the Body of Christ.



  1. Servetus’ Education and Publications
  2. Servetus’ Arrest and Escape from Vienne
  3. The Authority of John Calvin
  4. Servtus’ Arrest, Trial and Execution in Geneva
  5. Final Considerations
  6. Conclusion
Jonathan Moorhead

About Jonathan Moorhead

Jonathan Moorhead (PhD—Dallas Theological Seminary; MDiv,ThM—The Master’s Seminary) has served with The Master’s Academy International in Russia and the Czech Republic since 2008 and specializes in Church History, Theology, and Apologetics. Jonathan and his wife Sharon have five children: Nahum, Isaac, Jesse, Jonas, and Miriam.


  • Author: Jonathan Moorhead
  • Release Date: September 2021
  • Pages: 104
  • Format: Large trade paperback
  • Dimensions: 216 x 138
  • ISBN: 9781527107212
  • Imprint: Christian Focus
  • Category: History & Biography > Biography > Biography & Autobiography


… confronts all those who for centuries have turned Servetus into an innocent martyr and a victim of Calvin’s cruel rule in Geneva. Here we have the whole story and the true one, and thus a different one. The book reads like a good movie, but there is no happy end and there are no winners, except for the historical truth.

Herman Selderhuis, President, Theological University Apeldoorn, The Netherlands

This well researched study demonstrates the situation in Geneva and the Protestant Swiss cantons, forever exonerating John Calvin as the principal complainant and persecutor in the case. The book is a wonderful addition to our collective knowledge of both the times and of Calvin. I highly recommend it.

John D. Hannah, Distinguished Professor of Historical Theology, Research Professor of Theological Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas
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