THE EPSTLES OF JOHN,
by I Howard Marshall; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. Company, 1978; 274 pp., $10.95. (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko)
This commentary is a part of “The New International Commentary on the New Testament,” edited by F. F. Bruce. It is published to replace the first commentary written for this set which was originally written by Alexander Ross and included a commentary on James.
The commentary has some strengths and some weaknesses. Its strengths are: 1) It includes an important introduction which aids considerably in an understanding of the three epistles of John. 2) It is, on the whole, conservative; i.e., it proceeds from the premise that Scripture is the inerrant Word of God. 3) It relegates all technical discussions to the footnotes so that anyone can read the body of the text with profit, while the student of Scripture who is also able to handle the Greek and can understand more technical problems will find the footnotes helpful. 4) It is, generally speaking, a thorough discussion of the text.
Its weaknesses are: 1) The author apparently believes in universal atonement in some sense. In his explanation of I John 2:2 he writes: “Nor is that the full extent of the wonder. With one of his typical afterthoughts John adds that the efficacy of this sacrifice is not confined to the sins of his particular group of readers. It reaches out to all mankind. The universal provision implies that all men have need of it. . . . The possibility of forgiveness is cosmic and universal.” This interpretation affects other parts of the exposition, as, e.g., the author’s explanation of I John 2:15-16. 2) There is not always a proper attempt to explain a text in the light of other texts within the same epistle. This becomes clear, e.g., in the author’s discussion of 1:10 where John writes: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us”; and 3:9 where John writes: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” 3) The text suffers from ‘less than full exposition of several important passages in the epistles. But this is, of course, partly a matter of judgment. What I consider important, the author of the commentary may consider of secondary importance.
If the commentary is read carefully, I recommend it highly to those who are looking for good commentaries for their homes or for helps in Bible study for society.
Heinrich Heppe (translated by G.T. Thomson); Baker Book House, Grand Rapids Mich.; 721 pages, $9.95 (paper). (Reviewed by Prof. H. C. Hoeksema)
Heinrich Heppe (1820-1879) was a German Reformed theologian and church historian. He was a graduate of Marburg, where he then became a professor in 1850.
Heppe’s aim in writing and compiling this book (which first appeared in German in 1861 and in English in 1950) was to expound the orthodox system of doctrine in the Reformed church faithfully and without addition. “All the written sources I could lay hands on,” wrote Heppe, “I have carefully researched and compared, in order to transmit the thought material brought to light and disseminated by the acknowledged representatives of Reformed orthodoxy. . . . The extracts of the sources which I have imparted for the illustration of Reformed Church doctrine are (particularly in the fundamental Loci) given so copiously and so fully that the reader can himself test the reproduction of the Reformed system which I have given him.”
The value of this book lies exactly in the fact that Heppe consulted all the written sources he could lay hands on. He quotes profusely the writings of the Reformers of the sixteenth century, but also the writings of Reformed thinkers of the seventeenth century, those who are frequently referred to as ‘”scholastics.” The result is that this work constitutes a compendium of Reformed theology as it had developed up to Heppe’s time. The student of dogmatics can refer to this work and can learn from it what almost every Reformed theologian of note thought concerning a given subject in the area of dogmatics. This is, therefore, an excellent source book.
All our ministers and seminary students should add this book to their libraries. Baker Book House is to be congratulated on reprinting this important source book in the field of dogmatics and on making it available at a very reasonable price.
COMMENTARY ON EPHESIANS,
by J. Armitage Robinson; Kregel Publications, 1979; 314 pp., $12.95. (Reviewed by Prof. H. Hanko.)
This commentary is a Kregel reprint and part of the Kregel Limited Addition Library. The author, an Englishman, lived from 1858-1933.
The commentary is divided into four basic sections. The first section contains a brief introduction to the book in which is contained material concerning authorship, date of writing, circumstances, etc. The second section is a translation of the Greek text along with a commentary on the text. The third section is the Greek text itself with many linguistic, syntactical, and grammatical remarks. The fourth section is a discussion of several Greek words which appear in the epistle.
Although, generally speaking, the commentary is written from a theologically conservative viewpoint, its expository material is somewhat too brief to be of any great help. More particularly, the key concepts in the book are treated very briefly and very superficially. There is, e.g., little discussion of the great truth of election as Paul treats it in chapter one; there is almost no discussion of the sovereignty of grace in the first ten verses of chapter 2.
The value of the book is to be found in the fact that the first two sections can be easily used by anyone who wishes a brief and succinct discussion of the book of Ephesians; while the last two sections are of some value for ministers and students of the Greek text. Considering the amount of work which went into the printing of the book, it is well worth its price.