“The Letters of Paul (An Expanded Paraphrase)” F.F. Bruce, 323 pp., Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. Price, $4.95.
As the title indicates, the purpose of this volume is to re-phrase the Epistles of Paul in such a way that the meaning is clarified. As the author himself states in the introduction, in this particular paraphrase the purpose is not “to set side by side the various synonyms by which a Greek word may be rendered, or to bring out the finer nuances of Greek moods and tenses; it is designed rather to make the course of Paul’s argument as clear as possible.”
In this reviewer’s opinion, paraphrasing of any writing is at best a risky venture; and the paraphrasing of Scripture, even in translation, is surely more risky. The chief requisite, it seems to me, is accuracy. If a paraphrase lacks accuracy, it loses its character ofparaphrase, and it becomes instead something new and different. In the latter case, of course, it does not clarify the text; but it rather corrupts it. I have not read this entire paraphrase, but I have checked up on various passages. And it is in respect to this prime requisite of accuracy that I find this paraphrase of Paul’s epistles wanting. I will give one example, which involves a rather crucial passage too. In the English Revised Version (which accompanies this paraphrase) Romans 9:11-13 reads: “for the children being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. Even as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau I hated.” Dr. Bruce renders this as follows: “Before her children were born, before they had done anything either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose might be established in accordance with His sovereign choice, not on the ground of their deeds but by the will of Him who called one rather than the other—she received the divine communication: ‘The elder will serve the younger.’ And accordingly we have the declaration of God many generations later: ‘I chose Jacob; I passed over Esau.'”
There are more such inaccurate renderings. Hence, I do not value the paraphrase highly. In fact, I prefer the text of the English Revised Version by far.
There is another part of this book, however, which I can recommend, although such recommendation does not imply agreement in every detail. I refer to the historical introduction preceding each epistle. As Dr. Bruce mentions, this historical material is based on the book of Acts. From other works by this author, I have come to the conclusion that Dr. Bruce is at home when it comes to the book of Acts.
“God’s Promises,” De Vere Ramsay, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.; 48 pp.
This is a book of selected Bible stories for young children, suited for preschoolers. The format is attractive, the illustrations are well done and appropriate, and the author’s style is suited to the small child.
Each story shows that God keeps His promise. Admittedly, this is a beautiful theme. But the treatment of this truth throughout the book is shallow, and it misses the point of what God promised. The approach of the book can hardly be called Reformed, but is rather Arminian and universalistic. Thus, for example, when Jesus blessed the little children, the author says: “He prayed for them. He loved them . . . . everyone of them.”
Questionable, too, are statements like the following: “This made God sad! . . . . . So Moses helped God.” (In connection with Pharaoh’s oppression of the Israelites.) Or, in the treatment of one of Jesus’ miracles: “That one lunch seemed to grow and was enough to feed all those five thousand hungry people.” (emphasis mine)
It is very well possible to inculcate error even into little children by means of stories, and it is not unlikely that this kind of error, inculcated early in life, is some of the most difficult to root out in later life. Let us beware, when we search for Bible stories to read to our young children, that we do not give them stones for bread. To be used with extreme discretion.
“The Pilot Series in Literature—Book Three,” Gertrude Haan and Beth Merizon, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. 573 pp.
This book is the third of a series of junior high school readers. A wide variety of literature is presented under headings such as “Crossing Boundaries, Times of Crisis, Human Interest, Lives We Remember, Classics.”
It is not so easy to make a proper selection of literature for junior high school pupils, especially not for theteaching of literature from a Christian point of view. I believe that the authors succeeded in selecting some of the best literature for ninth grade reading, in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. The teaching of literature, of course, depends not only on the literature to be read. The comments and questions at the end of each selection will help the student to evaluate his reading from the point of view of its religious or moral significance, its literary excellence, and its general interest.
With proper teacher-guidance, this book could well be used in a literature class in our schools, or for interesting reading for junior high children at home.