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THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, by F.F. Bruce; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983; 425 pp., $13.95. (Reviewed by Prof. 1% Hanko).

Of the writing of many commentaries there is no end. Nevertheless, this commentary by the well-known British New Testament scholar is an excellent book in many respects and well worth the reasonable price for a hardcover volume. While it is somewhat brief, it usually brings out the essential teachings of each verse and does so in a clear and helpful way. 

The strengths of the book are: 1) It is written, for the most part, for general readers and not for those who want a more technical examination of the text; any one can use the commentary with profit. 2) It is concise and to the point and leads the reader into the text of Scripture itself. 3) It is generally conservative and is characterized, for the most part, by faithfulness to the Word of God. 4) It has a valuable introduction which includes material on the authorship of the Gospel, the significance of the Gospel for the church for which it was written, and comments on its central message. For all these reasons it would be helpful to anyone studying John. 

There are, however, weaknesses. In the first place, the title of the commentary is something of a giveaway. This book of the Bible is not John’s Gospel, but, according to Mark 1:1, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the Gospel according to John. This is not a matter of mere semantics, but a crucial matter which reflects one’s conception of the Scriptures. In the second place, John’s gospel has often been said to be one of the clearest books on the fundamental truths of absolute predestination and the doctrines of grace. And this is true. But these truths are somewhat toned down in the book, or ignored altogether. For example, in connection with 10:15, no mention is made of particular atonement; in connection with 10:26, the position is taken that those who do not believe show by this that they are not of God’s sheep; in connection with 12:36-41, the author rejects as improbable the idea that a purpose of God is involved here: i.e., that they did not believe in order that the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled, when this is clearly the idea. The author rather speaks of the fact that the text describes a wicked reaction to Jesus’ preaching which was an effect, but not the purpose, which was to save. In connection with the incident of Jesus handing the sop to Judas at the last supper, he speaks of Jesus doing this as “a mark of special favor.” 

No commentary can be a substitute for Scripture study itself; but this commentary can serve as a useful aid, if it, as any commentary, is used carefully.

YOUR WEALTH IN GOD’S WORLD, Does the Bible Support the Free Market? by John Jefferson Davis; Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1984; 134 pp., $4.95 (paper). (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko).

This is a very interesting and helpful book to anyone who is interested in the questions which are constantly coming up in our day concerning the relative merits of a capitalistic economy vs. a socialistic economy, i.e., the relative merits of the American free-enterprise system vs. the state controlled economy of Communist countries. It not only discusses the issues of this controversy as such, but it also discusses such related questions as: Does God oppose the rich and side with the poor? Is it wrong to accumulate possessions? to prepare for the future financially? What obligations do the wealthy have toward the poor? What is the church’s role in this respect? Is capitalism more productive, more compassionate, more Biblical, than socialism? What does the Bible have to say about all these things? What does the Bible teach concerning Christian stewardship? 

The author, surprisingly (from the viewpoint of the main subject of the book), is Associate Professor of Theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Massachusetts. That he should give attention to such subjects as these is interesting, to say the least. 

I found the book to be very good in many respects. The author repeatedly attempts to support his argument from Scripture and goes to great lengths to limit himself carefully to what he believes the Scriptures have to say on these matters. Many times his efforts to do this are successful and he has much helpful material in the book as he delivers his impassioned plea for the free-market system. 

Nevertheless, there are weaknesses in the argument. The following arguments or suppositions are, to this reviewer, somewhat suspect. 1) He gives insufficient attention to the effect of the fall into sin upon the “dominion mandate”—”Be fruitful and replenish the earth . . . . ” Yet, this “dominion mandate” is a basic premise in his entire book. 2) His arguments in large part are based upon Old Testament passages and the connection in them between obedience to God and material prosperity. He makes this connection valid for the New Testament also, although he acknowledges exceptions and admits the New Testament emphasis on spiritual prosperity. But what is forgotten is the fact that this material prosperity promised to Israel in the way of obedience was a prosperity in the land of Canaan, a type of heaven. Hence, he is not adverse to saying temporal blessings follow upon upright behavior or individuals and nations (37). 3) In close connection with this, he fails to make a distinction between the church (as foreshadowed by the nation of Israel) and the world, and simply transfers the Old Testament laws for Israel to the New Testament and to society in general. 4) Finally, while not explicitly post-millennial, the author writes from the viewpoint of the church’s calling to influence culture and so to transform society. 

Nevertheless, this book is well worth reading and gives interesting comments on our present economic system, while dispelling many myths which have been created by liberal economists.

PRACTICAL TRUTHS FROM ELISHA, by Alfred. Edersheim; Kregel Publications, 1982; 326 pages, $11.95 (cloth). (Reviewed by Prof. R. D. Decker)

PRACTICAL TRUTHS FROM JONAH, by Joseph S. Exell; Kregel Publications, 1982; 231 pages, $8.95 (cloth). (Reviewed by Prof. R.D. Decker)

These books would be worthy additions to anyone’s library. Both are expository in nature and both attempt to apply the Scriptures practically. Both authors are 19th century preachers. Edersheim is the better known of the two, especially for his work, The Life And Times Of Jesus, the Messiah

Exell offers a verse by verse (almost phrase by phrase) exposition of the Book of Jonah. Edersheim expounds the entire history of Elisha. The pastor who wishes to preach a series of sermons on either of these Bible characters would find these books helpful. While one would not agree with some of the exegesis and certainly not with all of the practical applications, both books offer good devotional reading.