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Jones’ Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names, by Alfred Jones. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1990. pages viii-382, paper, $16.95. [Reviewed by the Editor.]

You are reading the Old Testament Scriptures for family devotions or in preparation for a Bible study class and come across the name, Molech. You wonder what the name means, how it is pronounced, what the idol was, and in what other passages the word appears.

Jones’ Dictionary is intended to answer these questions for all students of the Bible, advanced and beginners. It is a dictionary of the proper names in the Old Testament, places as well as persons. There are 3,600 entries in all.

The names are arranged in English alphabetical order. The English name is given first; next, the Hebrew word, with the correct pronunciation in English letters; then, the meaning of the name according to the Hebrew; and finally the occurrences of the name in the Old Testament.

In view of the great importance of names in the Old Testament, this dictionary is very helpful for the understanding of the Bible. Its usefulness is enhanced by the fact that often the explanation of the name includes explanation of passages in which the name or a derivative appears.

The entry, “Molech,” can serve as an example:

MOLECH, . . . (pronounced) Molekh . . . and Moloch. “King” . . . . The national idol-god of the Ammonites, to which they offered their children in the fire . . . . It is difficult to say at what time the Israelites were first addicted to this idolatrous worship; but, from what St. Stephen says,

Acts 7:43,

about the worship of Moloch and of Chiun, we may conjecture that it commenced before their leaving Egypt; Chiun being the dog-star reverenced in Egypt, because his heliacal rising marked the regular commencement of the rising of the Nile. There can be no doubt that they were prone to it in the wilderness; but Solomon made it a national sin, by erecting to Moloch high places on the mount of Olives. This idol was of immense size, was of brass gilt, with the human form but with the head of an ox. This monster of a deity was also hollow, and heated from below, and the children to be sacrificed were to be cast into its arms, which were outstretched with a very considerable declination toward the earth; so that the “children rolled and fell. . . into a gulf of fire . . . drums . . . were beaten to prevent the groans and cries of children sacrificed from being heard.”

This is only a partial quotation. The preacher will appreciate the Hebrew that follows the English name in every instance.

Sources of Secession, by Gerrit J. tenZythoff. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. 189 pages, paper, $12.95. [Reviewed by the Editor.]

Books in English on the history of the Reformed church in The Netherlands between the Synod of Dordt and the Secession of 1834 are few. This Eerdmans paperback is one. Where has it been hiding since its publication in 1987? It is a thorough, but succinct, account of the developments in the Netherlands Reformed Church that led to the Secession (Afscheiding) of 1834.

Emphasis rightly falls on the doctrinal, ecclesiastical, and church political struggles within the church. Several features stand out, especially for those who care about the corrupting of the Reformed faith in the Reformed churches today. Rejection of the doctrines confessed in the Canons of Dordt was basic to the departure of the Dutch church. A crucial factor after 1816 was the permission of officebearers’ signing the Formula of Subscription (to the Reformed. confessions) with the understanding that they agreed with the creeds “insofar as” the creeds were in harmony with the Bible, rather than “because” the creeds were biblical. In the early 19th century, theological modernism, exalting reason above Scripture, ravaged the church in The Netherlands. The “Groninger School” was the chief source. Long before this, false brothers and weak sisters promoted the cause of the unbelief called modernism by their shrill advocacy of “tolerance.” Always, some react to the apostasy of the instituted church by having recourse to the “conventical”—the little, pure church inside the large, unholy church. Not only is this quite un-churchly behavior un-Reformed, but the history recorded in Sources of Secession proves it also to be a failure.

There are incisive descriptions of the main theologians, winds of doctrine, ecclesiastical maneuverings, and controversies. Among them are Coccejus and Voetius; DeLabadie; hymns versus psalms; and the Dutch Reveil, associated with Bilderdijk and DaCosta. For the first time, I understand the Reveil. To know it, however, is by no means to appreciate it.

Deliverance to Gods remnant came through Hendrik DeCock of Ulrum. Thank God for DeCock! The heart of his reformation (as it has been, will be, and must be the heart of every genuine reformation) was the conviction that the Three Forms of Unity are binding. DeCock restored to the Reformed church the gospel of the five heads of doctrine of the Canons of Dordt. With this went the personal courage of the man. As tenZythoff writes, “In view of the opposition he faced, it is to DeCock’s credit that he went about his task with an utter lack of fear” (p. 118). As is always the case, “many orthodox believers refused to follow him” (p. 127). The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.

tenZythoff does justice to the role of the state in the decline of the Dutch church. He demonstrates that the state’s sanctioning of Dordt’s condemnation of the Arminians, obtained by the Synod of Dordt’s granting “considerable weight in ecclesiastical matters” to the state, was a “Pyrrhic victory, for the magistrates took advantage of their influential position” (p. 16). The history of the Reformed church in The Netherlands between 1618 and 1834 is proof that the true church must refuse to the civil government all rule in, or influence upon, her life and labor. The sole duty of the state toward the church is the physical protection of her public meetings. When the church asks or accepts more from the state than this, she brings the Trojan horse into the holy city.

The Canon of Scripture, by F.F. Bruce; Intervarsity Press, 1988. 349 pp., hardcover, $19.95. [Reviewed by Prof. Herman Hanko.]

F.F. Bruce, for many years Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester in England, was a prolific author and well-known Bible scholar especially in the field of New Testament studies. He has produced an important book on the canon of Scripture which ought to be read not only by every minister, but also by everyone interested in this question. While it is scholarly and shows a wide range of learning, it is also written in a clear and easily understandable way.

The greater part of the book is devoted to a discussion of the history of development of the canon of Scripture, first concerning the Old Testament, then the New. That is, the book is concerned chiefly with the long history of the church’s decisions (and the opinions of the church fathers) with respect to the question of what books properly belong to the Scriptures and what books do not. In this connection, much attention is paid to the apocryphal books. Thus, the book is chiefly valuable for its historical material.

What is disconcerting about the book is Bruce’s obvious commitment to higher criticism. He relies heavily on source criticism in his explanation of the Scriptures (pp. l23, 137, 285ff., etc.), even to the point where he takes the position that the apostles differed among each other in their views on some matters (p. 172), and adopts the position that the Holy Spirit speaks in other ways than the Holy Scriptures (p. 281).

This commitment to higher criticism becomes obvious too in Bruce’s questions: What text of Scripture is canonical? Which sources used by the authors are canonical? Thus, his determination of the canon of Scripture becomes very subjective. By “subjective” I mean that Bruce takes the position that the church ultimately decides the Canon. This is not true. Scripture itself decides the Canon, and the church recognizes what Scripture says. Our Belgic Confession discusses this very issue in Article V, which discusses what can be called the grounds for determining the canonicity of Scripture: “We receive all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith; believing without any doubt, all things contained in them, not so much because the church receives and approves them as such, but more especially because the Holy Ghost witnesseth in our hearts, that they are from God, whereof they carry the evidence in themselves. For the very blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are fulfilling” (emphasis is ours).

In an interesting and concluding chapter, Bruce discusses the primary and plenary meaning of Scripture, the former referring to Scripture’s meaning in its historical setting, the latter referring to the meaning of the interpreters over the centuries. For example, Bruce affirms, in putting this whole question in the context of literary-historical criticism, that the primary meaning of the evangelists may be different from Jesus’ primary meaning in His sermons, which sermons the evangelists report.

The book has a great deal of value because of its abundance of historical material, but must be read carefully and in full awareness of what I consider to be a fatal flaw.