The Protestant Reformed Sunday School Teachers Association has just published a complete explanation of the history of the New Testament in three hardcover volumes. The set is titled Upon This Rock. Volume one treats “Jesus Christ: His Earthly Ministry”; volume two, “Jesus Christ: His Death and Resurrection”; and volume three, “Jesus Christ: His Acts Through the Apostles.”
The author is long-time writer of the “Our Guide” Sunday School materials, Don Doezema. The three volumes publish in book form articles Mr. Doezema wrote some years ago for parents to use in teaching their older children.
The books arrange the history of the New Testament in chronological order. They relate the history in simple, lively, engaging fashion. But they do more than tell the story. The books explain the history, bringing out the doctrinal and practical meaning of the historical events. In treating the history of Simon the Sorcerer, inActs 8:9-24, Mr. Doezema writes:
We do better, before we leave the story or Simon, to consider for a moment how the inclusion of that bit of history in the biblical record can be profitable for us. It is a warning, certainly, against the sin of simony—a sin that might seem a bit far removed from us. We do well, however, to consider carefully the nature and purpose of spiritual gifts. Notice first of all that they are gifts of the Spirit, conferred by the grace of God. Note further that they are to be used, not for personal gain (other than spiritual, that is) but for the edification of the church. Simon wished to use the gifts of the Spirit for mercenary reasons. We do the same today if in our use of spiritual gifts we are motivated by a desire to put ourselves on the foreground or to win the esteem of men. Think on what Calvin says concerning the purpose of gifts of the Spirit: “. . . that each one may unassumingly apply the gift, that he has received, for the common benefit of the Church; and that the superiority of no individual may prevent Christ alone standing out above them all” (vol. 3, pp. 96, 97).
As the quotation shows, one of the valuable features of the work throughout is Doezema’s apt citation of good, solid biblical scholars, including Calvin, Edersheim, Lenski, Herman Hoeksema, Ophoff, and Herman Hanko. The quotations are always brief, never tedious. In this way, the reader benefits from the insights of worthy scholars without the trouble of looking up the passages in their books or articles.
This treatment of New Testament is succinct. Each chapter, explaining a particular event or a number of related events, runs from six to eight pages.
Helpful, and interesting, is the light shed on events from the history of the Old Testament and from extra-biblical sources. The explanation of the appearance of the angel to Zacharias in the temple informs the reader concerning the ceremony of burning incense (vol. 1, pp. 2-5). The treatment of Paul’s work in Corinth indicates the notorious depravity of that city—the San Francisco or Amsterdam of its day (vol. 3, pp. 266, 267).
Doezema does not avoid the difficulties. Where there are legitimate differences of opinion, he gives both possibilities and leaves the issue an open question (although often stating his own judgment on the matter). An instance is the question whether the Ethiopian eunuch was literally a eunuch. Lenski says he was; Calvin says he was not. Doezema leaves “the question undecided,” but not before expressing his preference for the view of Lenski (vol. 3, pp. 101, 102).
The account of Paul’s mission labors recorded in Acts, in volume 3 of the set, refers to corresponding teachings in the epistles. The treatment of the Jerusalem Council, for example, as recorded in Acts 15, calls attention to Paul’s epistle to the Galatians and the doctrinal issues in this epistle.
Parents, Sunday School teachers, Christian school teachers, and even ministers will find this work useful in teaching children the history of the New Testament. All will find it instructive and edifying for themselves.
Each volume contains a complete textual index with passages on which chapters are based in bold print. There is also an index of subjects.
The covers show the attractive design we are coming to expect from Jeff Steenholdt.
The price of the three volumes is $30 ($10 per volume) plus shipping. Each volume is more than four hundred pages. Orders should be sent to the Protestant Reformed Seminary, 4949 Ivanrest Ave., SW, Grandville, MI 49418.
Members of the Protestant Reformed Churches are advised that these books will be made available to them within their own congregations through the local Sunday School association.