Communion with God, by John Owen. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1991, 209 pages, paper. $6.96. Abridged by R. J.K. Law. [Reviewed by Rev. T. Miersma.]

John Owen (1616-1683) was one of the pre-eminent English Puritan theologians of his day, preaching before Parliament on several occasions, including the day after the execution of King Charles I. He served as adviser and chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, was dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and continued to be allowed to preach even after the restoration of the monarchy and the Act of Conformity. Though he was not seated as a delegate at the Westminster Assembly, he was nonetheless one of the leading and staunchest Calvinists of his day, opposing both Arminianism and its Amyraldian variation, better known to us as the theology of the well-meant offer. Owen was a prolific and learned writer, thoroughly versed in the Scriptures. His main theological weakness was in the area of church government, for he was an ardent congregationalist.

His book Communion with God, was intended both as a devotional work and as a defense of the doctrine of the Trinity. Owen deals with the subject of communion with God from the viewpoint of the believer’s communion and fellowship with the three persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He treats this communion, however, not in a mystical way, but in harmony with God’s threefold revelation of Himself as our Almighty God and Father in Jesus Christ; as the Son of God, our Mediator come in the flesh; and as the Spirit given to Christ and poured out upon the church. The approach is similar to that of the Heidelberg Catechism. He treats not simply our experience of communion with God as in prayer, but the basis of that communion, the doctrine, as it lies in our redemption and in the sovereign love of God in Christ, and as it is experienced and appropriated by faith through the Word of God. He lays the objective foundation of communion with God as well as setting forth its inward subjective blessings. The subject of the book may be said to be the living reality of the covenant of grace as a relation of communion and fellowship with God.

In the course of his treatment of this subject virtually no doctrine is left uncovered, a characteristic of most Puritan writings and commentaries. The original work includes an extensive treatment of parts of the Song of Solomon and a virtual commentary on certain sections. Much of this is retained in this abridged edition. Owen’s treatment of the Song of Solomon is often allegorical in character, an exegetical approach he shares with other Puritans. His conclusions in this connection are Scriptural though sometimes exegetically questionable.

Owen’s original edition of this work contained many quotations in the original Greek which make it inaccessible to the .average reader. This abridged edition by R.J.K. Law is well done and faithful to the original and succeeds in making the work more readable for the modern reader. As with most Puritan works, many will still find it somewhat heavy going. The most glaring defect of the abridged edition is its replacing of Owen’s Scriptural quotations which were from the King James Version, with quotations from the New King James Version. This change of versions was unnecessary and detracts from the work.

The book is spiritually rich and to be recommended. The pastor who is looking for a new approach to preaching on the catechism may well find it profitable. The Banner of Truth Trust is to be commended for making this work available and more accessible to today’s reader.

Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. II; edited by Horst Balz & Gerhard Schneider; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing; 555 pp., $14.95. [Reviewed by Prof. Herman Hanko.]

This work was originally prepared in Germany by German authors, but is now in the process of being translated into English under the auspices of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. The volume I here review is Volume II; the first volume has already been published and the third is in process of translation.

The informative sheet which came with the book tells us that:

For every word in the New Testament, EDNT provides the following: transliteration; declension information for nouns and adjectives; definition; identification and discussion of all or most New Testament occurrences with a guide to usage in different contexts; and a bibliography of reference works that discuss the word and passages where the word plays a decisive role. Words are grouped by root and meaning with cross references.

For those who are familiar with Greek lexicons, this one is somewhere betweenKittel and Thayer. It is much more complete than Thayer’s lexicon; it contains much more material than Thayer, also of an exegetical kind; but it is not nearly as detailed as Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. This balance has decided advantages. It will probably not replace either Thayer or Kittel, but it is worthwhile to those who have neither.

As is to be expected, the work is influenced by modem critical studies of Scripture. To cite but one example, distinction is made between authentic and unauthentic writings of Paul, an obvious denial of the Pauline authorship of those books in the New Testament which claim Paul as their author.

Nor is the book doctrinally sound. To give again but one illustration, in its treatment of the Greek word eudokeo, the freedom of the human will is alleged.

Nevertheless, the set can be profitably used for students of Greek, and it will be of some exegetical help as well. We are told that Volume III will also contain an English index which, along with the transliteration of the Greek words, will enable those who have not mastered Greek to make use of this set as well.