Who is William Farel?


Farel, William (1489-1565), was born in Gap, France. He matriculated at the University of Paris (1509) and came under the influence of Jacques Lefevre who directed Farel to the Scriptures, especially Paul's doctrine of justification by faith. After persistent struggle, Farel experienced an evangelical breakthrough in 1516. In 1520 he followed Lefevre to Meaux to preach reform in the French church. His banishment from France in 1522 caused him to itinerate among the Swiss cantons while engaged in debate against Roman theology.

During this period he composed his Sommaire (1525), a pocket-sized manual presenting a theology for the laity based heavily on Scripture. Along with forensic justification, Farel stressed a doctrine of the Christian life with a strong emphasis on obedience to the law through good works and ardent devotion. Expositions of the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed (neither extant), and a liturgy, completed a trilogy of writings explaining the 'new' theology.

Farel's fame lies in securing a hearing for Protestantism in Geneva, from 1532 to 1535. His forceful charge to young Calvin to remain in Geneva is memorable. Later, from 1541 to 1565, he devoted himself to preaching in Neuchatel, where he faced intense opposition. Those struggles among "the lost sheep" portray a tireless evangelist with compassion for the common man.


Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology, electronic ed., 252 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000, c1988).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).