ROMANS, A Shorter Commentary, by C.E.B. Cranfield; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985; 388 pp., $10.95 (paper), (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko)
This commentary was first published in The International Critical Commentary series, and has been now abridged by the omission of the Greek Text and many notes and references.
One always turns with eagerness to a commentary on Romans because, as the author himself says in the introduction: “Again and again (this epistle) has played a decisive part in the renewal of Christian faith and life” (p. ix).
In some respects this is a good commentary. In connection with Romans 1:16 and the author’s discussion of faith he writes:
And it (faith] is not—as man’s response to the gospel—a contribution from his side which, by fulfilling a condition laid down by God, enables the gospel to be saving. In that case, faith would itself be, in the last resort, a meritorious work; but it is of the very essence of faith, as Paul understands it, that it is opposed to all human deserving, all human establishing of claims on God. Faith is the openness to the gospel which God Himself creates. He not only directs the message to the hearer, but also Himself lays open the hearer’s heart to the message. (p. 19)
In his discussion of justification in 1:17 and in his interpretation of 7:15 ff, the author has also many worthwhile things to say. He is convinced, e.g., (contra Ridderbos and Hoekema) that the latter passage refers to the child of God who is sanctified in principle.
Many commentators have stated confidently that it cannot be a Christian who speaks here. But the truth is, surely, that inability to recognize the distress reflected in this cry as characteristic of Christian existence argues a failure to grasp the full seriousness of the Christian’s obligation to express his gratitude to God by obedience of life . . . . The assertion that this cry could only come from an unconverted heart, and that the apostle must be expressing not what he feels as he writes but vividly remembered experience of the unconverted man, is, we believe, totally untrue . . . (p. 169).
But the real test of an author’s willingness to bow before Scripture in the book of Romans comes with his interpretation of Romans 9. Here the author falls flat. In openly denying sovereign reprobation, the author writes as his perspective of the entire chapter:
And the implication of the argument is that, though the roles they fulfill are so sharply contrasted, Ishmael as well as Isaac, Esau as well as Jacob, Pharaoh as well as Moses, the vessels of wrath as well as the vessels of mercy, that is, the mass of unbelieving Jews (and unbelieving Gentiles too) as well as the believing Church of Jews and Gentiles] stand within—and not without—the embrace of the divine mercy. (p. 227)
C.E.B. Cranfield is professor of theology at the University of Durham, England.
THROUGH THE PENTATEUCH CHAPTER BY CHAPTER, by W.H. Griffith Thomas; Kregel Publications, 1985; 191 pp., (paper) $5.95. (Reviewed by Prof. R.D. Decker)
This book provides a brief, well-written, and good introduction to the first five books of the Bible. It would make a good addition to the libraries of Christian School teachers, Sunday School teachers, and anyone interested in an overview of the Pentateuch.
Following two introductory chanters in which the author deals with the “Great Principles and Methods of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Pentateuch” Thomas introduces each of the five books of the Pentateuch and gives an outline of each. The introductions cover such subjects as these: the title, the purpose, the plan, the unity, the value, the typology, and the message of the books of the Pentateuch. The author then in outline form provides a summary of each chapter of each book.
The material is easy to read, and completely free from ay references to the Hebrew and from any technical jargon. W.H.G. Thomas (1861-1924) was born in England, pastured a church in London, lectured at Oxford and in Toronto, and was one of the founders of Dallas Theological Seminary.