Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,
says Yahweh of Hosts. Zechariah 4:6
Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors,
That the King of Glory may come in! Who is this King of Glory?
Yahweh of Hosts: He is the King of Glory. Psalm 24:9-10
The books reviewed to date are listed. To read a review, click the bulleted title to insert the review into this page below the list AND SCROLL DOWN IF NECESSARY.
The Holy Spirit is mentioned frequently in the New Testament, and every Christian today has a basic understanding of his work. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin, regenerates us, and seals us in order that we may partake of everlasting life. The Apostle Paul exhorts us to be "filled with the Spirit" that we might conduct ourselves in a way pleasing to God. The sanctifying work of the Spirit of God prepares us for glory, and it is a great comfort to know that he abides in us and will never forsake us.
What about the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament? Did it differ from that which we read of in the New? Leon Wood gives great insight into this question in his book The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. He looks at all the significant references where the Spirit of God is mentioned. Many texts are similar and grouped together, so the book is not at all lengthy. In fact, it is only 150 pages. Those passages that create the most controversy receive the most attention, such as those dealing with the Spirit coming upon Saul and leaving him. Dr. Wood closes his book with a chapter called "Summary Statements," which was most helpful.
What was the Holy Spirit's role in creation? Were the patriarchs permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit? When the Spirit departed from Saul, did this mean he had been saved and was now lost? What does the term "ecstatic" mean? Who was empowered by the Spirit and for what reason? Dr. Wood gives insightful answers to all these questions and concludes that Old Testament believers did experience regeneration, indwelling, sealing, and filling by the Holy Spirit.
This book is fast reading, mainly because Dr. Wood is such a great writer. Sentences rarely, if at all, require a second reading, even though there is much depth to the content. One is never confused by convoluted sentence structure and an array of modifying phrases; everything is clear and concise.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
Each of us enjoys reading the New Testament, especially the Gospels. Perhaps one of the reasons is that the love of God revealed to us in the Lord Jesus Christ is always so relevant for everyday life. But is not God's justice also relevant for us today?
Our age is one of immorality, widespread corruption, and oppression. Anything even approaching holiness is ridiculed and scorned by unbelievers. For the majority of Christians, a serious study of the inerrant Word of God is all too often replaced with a shallow smorgasbord of Christian "fluff." It is a day ripe for God's judgment.
The world we live in is not unlike that in which Isaiah, Micah, Joel and other Old Testament prophets lived. When Israel of old strayed from the Lord and engaged in heinous national sin, God sent his prophets to warn them of coming judgment, calling on them to "return to the Lord your God!"
Therefore, a study of the Old Testament prophets is one of the most practical and helpful studies for Christians today. These books also cover a most fascinating and exciting period in the history of Israel.
Hobart Freeman's Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets is an excellent place to start. It is divided into two parts: an introduction to the nature of Old Testament prophecy and an introduction to each of the prophetical books.
Part I addresses a number of important questions. Who was the first prophet? How did prophets of God receive their messages? Were the very words of the prophets inspired? In what way was King Saul a prophet? How did an Israelite determine whether or not a man was a true prophet of God?
Part II gives the historical background of the time when each prophet wrote, the date of his ministry, and a summary of his message. There is a chapter on each of the sixteen prophets. Also included is a summary of the major problems that secular critics have proposed and an answer to them.
Dr. Freeman's book is not only well organized and easy to read, but it is interesting and enlightening. For myself, I found it worked best to read through Part II one chapter at a time with my Bible open to that prophet. I had my pen handy for making notes, and I made a lot of them! Then I read the prophetic book itself. With Dr. Freeman's words fresh in my mind, I was pleasantly surprised how much I learned. But most of all, I was astounded how very much our world today is like that of the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. We are living in evil times not unlike the days of Judah, Israel, Assyria, and Edom. Unless we turn to God in repentance, judgment will as surely fall on us as it did on them.
How many of us have resolved, more than once, to read straight through the Bible in one year? We race through Genesis and Exodus with enthusiasm, but as we get into Leviticus our pace soon falters. The exciting history of the patriarchs has now been replaced by what seems to be no more than a great hodgepodge of onerous rules and regulations for a generation long past. The abundance of details encompassed in the many sacrifices and laws seem, at least in my mind, to verge on the ridiculous. How could any Israelite, and the priests in particular, have possibly remembered them all, much less followed them? The thought has often crossed my mind, "They must have spent their whole life doing nothing but offering sacrifices!"
Dr. Wenham's commentary has given me new insight into the sacrificial worship and accompanying laws that were the center of Israelite life. He states, "The enduring presence of God is one of the theological presuppositions running through the whole book...God is present not only in worship, but at all times, even in the mundane duties of life." In our day and age, we seem to have forgotten that acceptable worship is costly; those living in patriarchal days had daily reminders that it was so. "In the overfed West we can easily fail to realize what was involved in offering an unblemished animal in sacrifice. Meat was a rare luxury in OT times for all but the very rich. Yet even we might blanch if we saw a whole lamb or bull go up in smoke as a burnt offering. How much greater pangs must a poor Israelite have felt?"
In his introduction, Dr. Wenham gives some "ground rules" for understanding Leviticus. As soon as I read them, I knew this was the book for me. "Everything that is not holy is common. Common things divide into two groups, the clean and the unclean. Clean things become holy when they are sanctified. But unclean objects cannot be sanctified. Clean things can be made unclean if they are polluted. Finally, holy items may be defiled and become common, even polluted, and therefore unclean...The unclean and the holy are two states which must never come in contact with each other."
That was just an example. What keeps you reading through this commentary is that Dr. Wenham makes everything in Leviticus so clear and interesting. Leviticus comes alive for you. You understand it, learn its applications for today, and come to see the historical importance of the Old Testament sacrifices in the redemptive plan of God.
A set routine is followed for each chapter in the book. Dr. Wenham first gives his own translation of the Hebrew text to be discussed, in most cases an entire chapter. This is followed by a summary structured as follows:
The Structure of Leviticus 1
3-9 Burnt offering of cattle
10-13 Burnt offerings of sheep and goats
14-17 Burnt offerings of birds
A thorough explanation follows, concluding with New Testament applications. All is scholarly, but easily understandable for anyone serious about Bible study.
After finishing this commentary, I could not help thinking how foolish and even arrogant it is when some Christians make the statement that they don't need commentaries or the "words of men"; they need only the "words of God." How utterly ridiculous! Throughout the centuries, God has raised up pastors, scholars, and teachers in the church, men to whom he has given special gifts in linguistics, history, and theology to study the Scriptures and write the results of those studies for the growth and edification of the Church. God gave them the gifts, and the Holy Spirit led them in their work. This process has been going on now for over two thousand years, each new generation building on the work that has gone before. Is it not arrogance to assume that you don't need to study this material? Is it not arrogance to assume that just by reading the Bible on your own, God will give you all the insight that he has been pleased to give to the church over a period of two thousand years through the diligent work of those pastors, scholars, and teachers whom he has called and who have devoted their lives to using the gifts that God has given them?
This commentary by Dr. Wenham will show you the depths of the riches God has for you in his Word--yes, even in the book of Leviticus.
When is the last time you picked up a book that you literally couldn't put down? Well, here is one--Dabney's biography of Stonewall Jackson.
Robert Dabney, one of America's most outstanding theologians, has given us an "up close and personal" look into the life and military campaigns of this great Southern General. It should be noted that this biography was not written by a man who lived decades after the War between the States, but by one who lived through it. Not only did Dabney personally know Jackson, but he had possession of the fullest collection of materials relating to his life during that period, including copies of all the important official papers on file at that time in the War Department of the late Confederate Government.
It might be thought, especially by women, that reading the intricacies of a military campaign would be especially dull. But not so! I found them quite exciting, even if I couldn't follow every single detail. The battles in which Stonewall Jackson led his men came alive in a way I did not expect.
Dabney's main purpose, however, in writing this biography was not to give merely an exciting recount of battles. It was "to portray and vindicate" Stonewall Jackson's Christian character, "that his countrymen may possess it as a precious example, and may honor that God in it whom he so delighted to honor." This he has done. It was impossible to leave the book without seeing General Jackson as a man totally dedicated to serving God, and also not to be ashamed at my own lack of true devotion.
Do not expect to speed-read through this book. Dabney wrote during the time of the War, and prose in the nineteenth century was more formal than it is now. Sentences were long, and if you do not school yourself to read slowly, many will require a second reading. But all the effort will be more than compensated, I assure you.
When speaking of the War between the States, Stonewall Jackson's name will be forever remembered as a hero of the Confederacy. To understand his passion and resolve for the cause of the South, one must know the facts behind it, and Dabney therefore devotes one chapter to the political situation that led to secession.
Clearly Dabney is giving the biography of a man he greatly admires. From beginning to end, his love and respect for Stonewall Jackson cannot be hidden. But we should not impute a prejudice to his account for this reason. Stonewall Jackson was a servant of God who not only spoke openly of his love for the Savior, but lived a life that demonstrated it in every respect.
The late Dr. Leon Wood was professor of Old Testament Studies and dean of the faculty at the Grand Rapids Baptist Bible Seminary.
Dr. Wood's book Distressing Days of the Judges can truly be described as "fascinating reading." It is, as are all his works, well-written and scholarly. Yet at the same time it never fails to hold one's undivided attention. I hope this short review will prompt you to buy this book for yourself. I read it in less than a week and never for a single moment found it dull or boring.
Dr. Wood carefully outlines the background and preparation for the time when Israel would be settled in the promised land. Included in the preparation was the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai. This law was to be the basis for the theocratic government under which the Israelites would live, a theocratic government under the leadership of the Levites with Yahweh as Israel's God. Yahweh also blessed Israel with great military victories as they pursued their conquest of the promised land and drove out the Canaanites. These mighty victories exalted Yahweh's name among the heathen and should have given Israel great courage and confidence to finish the task of possessing the land God had given them. But Israel failed, and the heathen Canaanites remained in the land to harass and oppress Israel.
When the oppression of foreigners became too much, the Israelites called upon Yahweh to deliver them. A judge was raised up, not only for the purpose of delivering the people from their enemy, but in order to give the theocratic government another chance to work. Dr. Wood thoroughly describes each of the oppressing nations, gives a chronology of the time when they were active, and describes with much detail the men whom Yahweh raised up.
Why did some of these judges lead an army while others did not? Why are there only verses to describe some while there are chapters to describe others? Did any of these men judge at the same time? Were they all godly men, chosen because of their faith in Yahweh? Where do chapters 17-21 fall in the chronology? Leon Wood gives answers to all these questions, and much more.
Dr. Fruchtenbaum is a Messianic believer and founder of Ariel Ministries, a California-based organization dedicated to the evangelism and discipleship of Jewish people.
This book review is not written by a "Bible scholar" (as much as I would like to be one!), but by one who has a desire to know all that God has revealed in his word. Does the Bible have anything definite to say about the millennium? Then I want to know what that is. The flip attitude of the "pan-millennialist" ("I don't care, it will all pan out in the end") should shame any Christian who sports it. Let each of us have more reverence for the Scriptures than that.
Consider the following words of Samuel P. Tregelles from his book, The Hope of Christ's Second Coming:
It has been painful to hear of earnest and real desire to study the Word of God regarded as being 'occupied with the letter of Scripture.'...Of course, with this feeling all critical study of Scripture is denounced. It is deemed a waste of time. Even the study of the Word of God in the original Hebrew and Greek is spoken of as if it were a secular occupation. The English Bible is thought to be enough for teachers. Exact scholarship is deemed superfluous if the original languages are looked at. How different is this from the real study of God's Word; from using and valuing each portion, however minute, as being from Him; as being that of which He can unfold to us the meaning by the teaching of His Spirit. How different is this from the practical application of the most definite rules of grammar which lead to absolute persuasion that apostles and evangelists wrote nothing at random, but that even as to the most delicate shades of thought they used the right cases, moods, and tenses. All diligent and careful inquiry, all laborious examination of authorities so as to know what were the very words in which the inspired writers gave forth the Scripture is regarded as merely intellectual and secular.
This is not healthy. Should not those who believe in the Divine authority of Holy Scripture know better than to neglect its critical study? And if it be truly inspired, ought they not to feel it is of some importance to inquire what is its true text, and, as far as existing evidence can show, what were the very words in which the Holy Ghost gave it forth? It is most difficult to arouse Christians in general to a sense of the full importance of critical study of Scripture, especially when dreamy apprehensions are cherished and vague idealism has taken the place of truth, and sentimental asceticism is the substitute of Christian holiness. (This book is on this Web site: see Classic Reprints).
Arnold Fruchtenbaum's book, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology, is a thorough and scholarly work dealing with the millennium and the nation of Israel. The viewpoint of the Covenant Postmillennialist, the Covenant Amillennialist, the Covenant Premillennialist, and the Dispensationalist are given in all their details. For one who has a bare-bones understanding of these four positions, like myself, this book is a dream come true. The author gives precise definitions, he quotes the major scholars for each position, he states all the evidence for their positions, and has his own summaries throughout. I found the summarizing most helpful. The thoroughness of this work means that one reading will not be sufficient to make someone like myself ready to defend one viewpoint over another with any degree of success. For the more advanced Bible student, it may very well do just that.
The book is long, but the type is large enough to make for easy reading. There are numerous quotations, and although those in paragraph form have been indented, they can still be overlooked and read as though the words of the author if one is not careful.
Reading this book has given me a more solid foundation as regards the issue of millennialism. It has also given me a deeper reverence for the Word of God and a greater respect for the men who have devoted their lives to its study. The study of eschatology--millennialism in particular--is not something to be ignored, especially in our day when the nation of Israel is of world-wide interest and focus. It behooves us to know what God has said and to be ready for that day when he shall say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
I loved this book. In fact, I typed it in its entirety, and it can now be found on this web site at the following link.
What was Sir Anderson's purpose in writing it? Let me quote from the author himself:
And to not a few this volume may be welcome as affording a clue to pressing difficulties which perplex and distress the thoughtful. Infidelity trades upon the silence of Heaven, the inaction of the Supreme. If there be a God, almighty and all-good, why does He not use His power and give proof of His goodness in the way men choose to expect of Him? The answer usually offered by the Christian apologist fails either to silence the opponent or to satisfy the believer. And rightly so, for it is lacking not only in cogency but in sympathy. The God of the Bible is infinite both in power and in compassion; and in other ages His people had public proof of this. Why, then, is He so silent?
This book is fast reading, and not because the English is smooth and well-written (which it is), but because the subject itself is so fascinating. I found I couldn't read fast enough! My enthusiasm never wavered throughout, and I can honestly say I learned much.
Sir Robert Anderson gives insightful answers to many questions, such as: What purpose did Christ's miracles serve? What is reconciliation? What is the difference between Christendom and Christianity? Why did Satan tempt Jesus? How does Satan tempt us? What does Paul mean by "my gospel"? Why, when we pray with faith, are our prayers not answered in the way we expect?
This book is well worth your time.
There are many gifted Christian scholars with a wealth of knowledge to offer, but, sad to say, they are not gifted writers. Considerable plowing through long mazes of sentences with a paucity of punctuation, or a surplus to spare, is required on the reader's part to reap the harvest. Then there are scholars like Merrill C. Tenney, to whom writing seems to come naturally. Words flow freely like a moving stream, and the reader is hooked at once.
The Reality of the Resurrection is such a book, and it is much needed today. Although Dr. Tenney wrote it in the early 60's, it is not "out-of-date" by any means. All too often we glibly aver that Jesus rose from the dead; but do we really give that "resurrection power" any serious thought? "Christianity was not unique because it insured salvation by a sacrifice for sins, nor because it stressed personal ethics, nor even because it guaranteed immortality to believers. Its distinctive attribute was the supernatural power of the living God, manifested historically by the resurrection of Christ from the dead." It is this supernatural power by which we must, according to Paul, "reckon ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus."
Our pastors teach much about the resurrection, for it is the basis of our salvation. But what about the other great doctrines of the faith? Do we even know what they are? Dr. Tenney points out that Christ's resurrection is fundamental to justification, sanctification, glorification, the priesthood of Christ, as well as eschatology. They reach their fullest development in the demonstration of the divine triumph over death.
In our day we have seen a watering down of these doctrines of the faith. If the Apostle Paul came to visit, would he not be astonished and dismayed by what is called "gospel preaching" today? All too often it is the message of "easy believism," which rarely results in a life of serious piety and holiness. This was not Paul's message. Let us hear his own words: "That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death" (Phil. 3:10). Dr. Tenney writes: "No coalition of denominations can exercise sufficient political or social pressure to preserve Christian ideals and teaching if convictions crumble. Effective strategy for survival does not lie in devising new weapons for exterminating enemies but in a re-examination and reaffirmation of basic theology."
Topics covered in this book include, among others, pre-Christian concepts, historical evidences, and the theology of the resurrection. We have posted this entire book in our Classic Reprints page. Click here to read The Reality of the Resurrection.
Imagine yourself living in Germany during World War II. You live next door to a Jewish family, and their very survival is at stake. Do you sit back and do nothing, or do you resolve to save them at your own peril? Now imagine yourself again, only today, living in the midst of the Great Tribulation. "Oh, that's not possible," you say. "The Lord will rapture the church first." If you have spent much time at this web site, you know that our position is that the church will indeed go through the tribulation. But for now I will grant your point, yet in so doing I ask only that you consider this: how many Christians living in the late 1930's and early 40's thought that very same thing--that they would be raptured before the tribulation--and then found themselves instead in the midst of Hitler's extermination of the Jews? That they were possibly in the midst of the Tribulation must surely have crossed their minds. Here is the analogy: the next period of persecution that comes to America, or any other part of the world, may or may not be the Great Tribulation; therefore it behooves us now to prepare ourselves to suffer for Christ. Reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy is a step in that direction.
The author has written a biography of Bonhoeffer that opens our eyes to his spiritual insight and depth. Bonhoeffer consecrated himself to the task of keeping the German church pure during the Hitler years. If the German church, essentially a state church, went along with Hitler's "Aryan Paragraph" (government employees must be of "Aryan" stock), all pastors with Jewish blood would be excluded from ministry. According to Bonhoeffer, "Where Jew and German stand together under the Word of God, here is the proof whether a church is still the church or not." The chaos and struggle within the German church was closely followed worldwide, and Bonhoeffer believed that the existence of Christianity throughout all of Europe was at stake. The "Confessing Church" soon arose to stand for the doctrines of the true faith. It was not, however, an easy task, for many pastors in the Confessing Church feared for their lives. Bonhoeffer was not deterred, and at the Conference at Fano in 1934 he roused the men to action with the following words:
There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God's commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross....What are we waiting for? The time is late.
Much credit must be given to Bonhoeffer that the Confessing Church became an "official" church in Germany. However, much to his disappointment, it failed in a very important aspect: in 1938 every single pastor in Germany was demanded to take an oath of obedience to Adolf Hitler, and while some brave pastors refused, many did not. "The messianic attitude toward Hitler was widespread, and few dared to stand against it." Despite this major setback, Bonhoeffer continued his work within it.
The night of November 9, 1938, known as Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), was a turning point for Bonhoeffer. "It was now, for the first time, that his gaze was in a new way directed away from his own trials and toward the trials of God's people, the Jews." From this point on, the reader will not find it easy to put the book down. The details of the war and Bonhoeffer's own collaboration to assassinate Hitler, although of necessity given succinctly, are nonetheless well written. Metaxas gives us a deeply personal look into Bonhoeffer's struggle to know God's will. To become a double agent and pretend allegiance to Hitler was a decision not easily made. However, it was made resolutely and with the confidence that it was God's will for him. If necessary, he would be willing to kill Hitler himself. Although it did not come to that, Bonhoeffer made it clear "that he was not assisting in the fulfillment of a deed he was unwilling to do." His role in the conspiracy was between himself and God alone, and therefore he felt it best to resign from the Confessing Church.
In April of 1943, after two failed assassination attempts, Bonhoeffer was arrested. He spent the next 18 months at Tegel prison. During that period he was a prolific writer, and Metaxas has included numerous excerpts from his many letters as well as from his magnum opus Ethics. I particularly found the following enlightening: "Destruction of the embryo in the mother's womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder."
Bonhoeffer was executed at Flossenburg as a result of the failed Stauffenberg assassination attempt on Hitler. Years later H. Fischer-Hullstrung, the camp doctor, gave these memorable words: "In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."
This book is worthy of your time.
Do you like to travel? Better yet, would you like to travel back in time? Now you can, and with no less eminent a traveling companion than the Apostle Paul himself! Conybeare and Howson have written a remarkable book on the life and epistles of St. Paul, beginning with Paul's early days in Tarsus and ending with his martyrdom in Rome. We are transported to the first century A.D., and there we find ourselves by Paul's side as he zealously contends for the Jewish faith. We witness firsthand his conversion on the Damascus road. On his missionary journeys we share his emotions when confronted by relentless enemies as well as wavering believers, and our hearts are filled with love for him as we understand more fully the burden he carried.
One would be hard-pressed to find a finer work on the book of Acts than this volume by Conybeare and Howson. Although the book is long (over 800 pages), it is easy and fascinating reading. The authors are careful to neglect no important detail regarding Paul's extensive travels, thus ensuring that the reader is afforded a much-needed grasp of both the political and social circumstances of the times. How was living in a colony such as Philippi different from that of a free city like Thessalonica? Was full liberty of worship granted to the Jews in every part of the Roman Empire? How was it possible for a Jew like Saul of Tarsus to become a Roman citizen, and what privileges did this citizenship grant him? What important place did the Isthmus hold in the course of the history of Greece?
The descriptions of the cities Paul visited were most enlightening, especially Ephesus, Corinth, and Athens. The reader will find it quite easy to picture the great temple of Diana and see the ensuing riot that endangered Paul's life that day in Ephesus. For those who have an interest in sailing, the chapter on Paul's sea voyage to Rome will not disappoint. In fact, I found it so exciting I couldn't put the book down. Many details are given of the sailing vessels of that era, and the reader experiences firsthand what it must have been like for those 276 passengers on that memorable voyage.
The authors include all of Paul's epistles as well as that to the Hebrews. Their translation of each is inserted in the text of Paul's itinerary at the time Paul wrote it. They do not offer a commentary on Paul's letters, but copious comments on them are given in the footnotes.
The only weak point in this book centered around dates. There were hardly any. Unless one has a better historical background than I have, it is sometimes easy to get lost in time. For example, when the authors are describing the historical background of some part of Greece and mention the Peloponnesian War but give no date, I find myself a bit at sea. Many historians are cited such as Strabo, Xenophon, Josephus, and Tacitus. Exact dates of the period they were writing about would have been a great help. But this is a minor issue and should not dissuade anyone from reading this book. Dates for Paul's letters are, of course, given, and there is a chronological table at the end of the book.
I would suggest that you have your Bible open to the maps in the back as you read. You will find it most helpful to follow them closely.
This is a great book and well worth your time. As a bit of incentive, the entire introduction to the book immediately follows this review. (Note: the numbers in brackets refer to footnotes at the end of the introduction.)
The purpose of this work is to give a living picture of St. Paul himself and of the circumstances by which he was surrounded.
The biography of the Apostle must be compiled from two sources: first, his own letters, and secondly, the narrative in the Acts of the Apostles. The latter, after a slight sketch of his early history, supplies us with fuller details of his middle life; and his Epistles afford much subsidiary information concerning his missionary labors during the same period. The light concentrated upon this portion of his course makes darker by contrast the obscurity which rests upon the remainder; for we are left to gain what knowledge we can of his later years from scattered hints in a few short letters of his own and from a single sentence of his disciple Clement.
But in order to present anything like a living picture of St. Paul's career, much more is necessary than a mere transcript of the Scriptural narrative, even where it is fullest. Every step of his course brings us into contact with some new phase of ancient life unfamiliar to our modern experience, and upon which we must throw light from other sources if we wish it to form a distinct image in the mind.
For example, to comprehend the influences under which he grew to manhood, we must realize the position of a Jewish family in Tarsus. We must understand the kind of education which the son of such a family would receive as a boy in his Hebrew home, or in the schools of his native city, and in his riper youth 'at the feet of Gamaliel' in Jerusalem. We must be acquainted with the profession for which he was to be prepared by this training and appreciate the station and duties of an expounder of the Law. And that we may be fully qualified to do all this, we should have a clear view of the state of the roman Empire at the time, and especially of its system in the provinces. We should also understand the political position of the Jews of the 'dispersion.' We should be (so to speak) hearers in their synagogues, we should be students of their Rabbinical theology. And in like manner, as we follow the Apostle in the different stages of his varied and adventurous career, we must strive continually to bring out in their true brightness the half-effaced forms and coloring of the scene in which he acts. And while he 'becomes all things to all men, that he might by all means save some,' we must form to ourselves a living likeness of the things and of the men among which he moved, if we would rightly estimate his work. Thus we must study Christianity rising in the midst of Judaism. We must realize the position of its early churches with their mixed society to which Jews, Proselytes, and Heathens had each contributed a characteristic element. We must qualify ourselves to be umpires (if we may so speak) in their violent internal divisions. We must listen to the strife of their schismatic parties, when one said 'I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos.' We must study the true character of those early heresies which even denied the resurrection, and advocated impurity and lawlessness, claiming the right 'to sin that grace might abound,' 'defiling the mind and conscience' of their followers, and making them 'abominable and disobedient, and to every good work reprobate.' We must trace the extent to which Greek philosophy, Judaising formalism, and Eastern superstition blended their tainting influence with the pure fermentation of that new leaven which was at last to leaven the whole mass of civilized society.
Again, to understand St. Paul's personal history as a missionary to the Heathen, we must know the state of the different populations which he visited; the character of the Greek and Roman civilization at the epoch; the points of intersection between the political history of the world and the scriptural narrative; the social organization and gradation of ranks for which he enjoins respect; the position of women, to which he specially refers in many of his letters; the relations between parents and children, slaves and masters, which he not vainly sought to imbue with the living spirit of the Gospel; the quality and influence under the early Empire of the Greek and Roman religions, whose effete corruptness he denounces with such indignant scorn; the public amusements of the people, whence he draws topics of warning or illustration; the operation of the Roman law, under which he was so frequently arraigned; the courts in which he was tried and the magistrates by whose sentence he suffered; the legionary soldiers who acted as his guards; the road by which he traveled, whether through the mountains of Lycaonia or the marshes of Latium; the course of commerce by which his journeys were so often regulated; and the character of that imperfect navigation by which his life was so many times endangered.
While thus trying to live in the life of a bygone age and to call up the figure of the past from its tomb, duly robed in all its former raiment, every help is welcome which enables us to fill up the dim outline in any part of its reality. Especially we delight to look upon the only one of the manifold features of that past existence, which still is living. We remember with pleasure that the earth, the sea, and the sky still combine for us in the same landscapes which passed before the eyes of the wayfaring Apostle. The plain of Cilicia, the snowy distances of Taurus, the cold and rapid streams of the Cydnus, the broad Orontes under the shadow of its steep banks with their thickets of jasmine and oleander; the hills which 'stand about Jerusalem,' the 'arched fountains cold' in the ravines below, and the 'flowery brooks beneath, that wash their hallowed feet;' the capes and islands of the Grecian Sea, the craggy summit of Areopagus, the land-locked harbor of Syracuse, the towering cone of Etna, the voluptuous loveliness of the Campanian shore--all these remain to us, the imperishable handiwork of nature.
We can still look upon the same trees and flowers which he saw clothing the mountains, giving color to the plains, or reflected in the rivers. We may think of him among the palms of Syria, the cedars of Lebanon, the olives of Attica, the green Isthmian pines of Corinth whose leaves wove those 'fading garlands,' which he contrasts with the 'incorruptible crown,' the prize for which he fought. Nay, we can even still look upon some of the works of man which filled him with wonder, or moved him to indignation. The 'temples made with hands' which rose before him--the very apotheosis of idolatry--on the Acropolis still stand in almost undiminished majesty and beauty. The mole on which he landed at Puteoli still stretches its ruins into the blue waters of the bay. The remains of the Baian Villas whose marble porticoes he then beheld glittering in the sunset--the first specimen of Italian luxury--still are seen along the shore. We may still enter Rome as he did by the same Appian Road, through the same Capenian Gate, and wander among the ruins of 'Caesar's palace' on the Palatine, while our eye rests upon the same aqueducts radiating over the Campagna to the unchanging hills.
Those who have visited these spots must often have felt a thrill of recollection as they trod in the footsteps of the Apostle. They must have been conscious how much the identity of the outward scene brought them into communion with him, while they tried to imagine to themselves the feelings with which he must have looked upon the objects before them. They who have experienced this will feel how imperfect a biography of St. Paul must be without faithful representations of the places which he visited. It is hoped that the views [illustrations] which are contained in the present work (which have been diligently collected from various sources) will supply this desideratum. And it is evident that, for the purposes of such a biography, nothing but true and faithful representations of the real scenes will be valuable. These are what is wanted, and not ideal representations, even though copied from the works of the greatest masters; for, as it has been well said, 'nature and reality painted at the time, and on the spot, a nobler cartoon of St. Paul's preaching at Athens than the immortal Rafaelle afterwards has done.'
For a similar reason Maps have been given (in addition to careful Geographical descriptions), exhibiting with as much accuracy as can at present be attained the physical features of the countries visited, and some of the ancient routes through them, together with plans of the most important cities, and maritime Charts of the coasts and harbors where they were required.
While thus endeavoring to represent faithfully the natural objects and architectural remains connected with the narrative, it has likewise been attempted to give such illustrations as were needful of the minor productions of human art as they existed in the first century. For this purpose engravings of Coins have been given in all cases where they seemed to throw light on the circumstances mentioned in the history; and recourse has been had to the stores of Pompeii and Herculaneum, to the columns of Trajan and Antoninus, and to the collections of the Vatican, the Louvre, and especially of the British Museum.
But after all this is done,--after we have endeavored, with every help we can command, to reproduce the picture of St. Paul's deeds and times,--how small would our knowledge of himself remain if we had no other record of him left us but the story of his adventures. If his letters had never come down to us, we should have known indeed what he did and suffered, but we should have had very little idea of what he was. Even if we could perfectly succeed in restoring the image of the scenes and circumstances in which he moved,--even if we could, as in a magic mirror, behold him speaking in the school of Tyrannus, with his Ephesian hearers in their national costume around him,--we should still see very little of Paul of Tarsus. We must listen to his words if we would learn to know him. If fancy did her utmost, she could give us only his outward, not his inward life. 'His bodily presence' (so his enemies declared) 'was weak and contemptible;' but 'his letters' (even they allowed) 'were weighty and powerful.'
Moreover an effort of imagination and memory is needed to recall the past, but in his Epistles St. Paul is present with us. 'His words are not dead words, they are living creatures with hands and feet,' touching in a thousand hearts at this very hour the same chord of feeling which vibrated to their first utterance. We, the Christians of the nineteenth century, can bear witness now, as fully as could a Byzantine audience fourteen hundred years ago, to the saying of Chrysostom, that 'Paul by his letters still lives in the mouths of men throughout the whole world; by them not only his own converts, but all the faithful even unto this day, yea, and all the saints who are yet to be born, until Christ's coming again, both have been and shall be blessed.' His Epistles are to his inward life what the mountains and rivers of Asia and Greece and Italy are to his outward life,--the imperishable part which still remains to us, when all that time can ruin has passed away.
It is in these letters then that we must study the true life of St. Paul from its inmost depths and springs of action, which were 'hidden with Christ in God,' down to its most minute developments and peculiar individual manifestations. In them we learn (to use the language of Gregory Nazianzene) 'what is told of Paul by Paul himself.' Their most sacred contents indeed rise above all that is peculiar to the individual writers; for they are the communications of God to man concerning the faith and life of Christians, which St. Paul declared (as he often asserts) by the immediate revelation of Christ Himself. But his manner of teaching these eternal truths is colored by his human character, and peculiar to himself. And such individual features are naturally impressed much more upon epistles than upon any other kind of composition. For here we have not treatises or sermons, which may dwell in the general and abstract, but genuine letters written to meet the actual needs of living men; giving immediate answers to real questions and warnings against pressing dangers; full of the interests of the passing hour. And this, which must be more or less the case with all epistles addressed to particular Churches, is especially so with those of St. Paul. In his case it is not too much to say that his letters are himself--a portrait painted by his own hand, of which every feature may be 'known and read of all men.'
It is not merely that in them we see the proof of his powerful intellect, his insight into the foundations of natural theology, and of moral philosophy; for in such points, though the philosophical expression might belong to himself, the truths expressed were taught him of God. It is not only that we there find models of the sublimest eloquence, when he is kindled by the vision of the glories to come, the perfect triumph of good over evil, the manifestation of the sons of God, and their transformation into God's likeness, when they shall see Him no longer 'in a glass darkly, but face to face,--for in such strains as these it was not so much he that spoke as the Spirit of God speaking in Him;--but in his letters, besides all this which is divine, we trace every shade, even to the faintest, of his human character also. Here we see that fearless independence with which he 'withstood Peter to the face;'--that impetuosity which breaks out in his apostrophe to the 'foolish Galatians;'--that earnest indignation which bids his converts 'beware of dogs, beware of the concision,' and pours itself forth in the emphatic 'God forbid,' which meets every Antinomian suggestion;--that fervid patriotism which makes him 'wish that he were himself accursed from Christ for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites;'--that generosity which looked for no other reward than 'to preach the Glad-tidings of Christ without charge,' and made him feel that he would rather 'die than that any man should make this glorying void;'--that dread of officious interference which led him to shrink from 'building on another man's foundation;'--that delicacy which shows itself in his appeal to Philemon, whom he might have commanded, 'yet for love's sake rather beseeching him, being such a one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ,' and which is even more striking in some of his farewell greetings, as (for instance) when he bids the Romans salute Rufus, and his mother, who is also mine;'--that scrupulous fear of evil appearance which 'would not eat any man's bread for nought, but worked with labor and travail night and day that he might not be chargeable to any of them;'--that refined courtesy which cannot bring itself to blame till it has first praised, and which makes him deem it needful almost to apologize for the freedom of giving advice to those who were not personally known to him;--that self-denying love which 'will eat no flesh while the world stands, lest he make his brother to offend;'--that impatience of exclusive formalism with which he overwhelms the Judaisers of Galatia, joined with a forbearance so gentle for the innocent weakness of scrupulous consciences;--that grief for the sins of others, which moved him to tears when he spoke of the enemies of the cross of Christ, 'of whom I tell you even weeping;'--that noble freedom from jealousy with which he speaks of those who, out of rivalry to himself, preach Christ even of envy and strife, supposing to add affliction to his bonds; 'What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice;'--that tender friendship which watches over the health of Timothy, even with a mother's care;--that intense sympathy in the joys and sorrows of his converts, which could say, even to the rebellious Corinthians, 'ye are in our hearts, to die and live with you;'--that longing desire for the intercourse of affection, and that sense of loneliness when it was withheld, which perhaps is the most touching feature of all because it approaches most nearly to a weakness: 'When I had come to Troas to preach the Glad-tidings of Christ, and a door was opened to me in the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus my brother; but I parted from them and came from thence into Macedonia.' And 'when I was come into Macedonia, my flesh had no rest, but I was troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. But God, who comforts them that are cast down, comforted me by the coming of Titus.' 'Do thy utmost to come to me speedily; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia; only Luke is with me.
Nor is it only in the substance, but even in the style of these writings that we recognize the man Paul of Tarsus. In the parenthetical constructions and broken sentences we see the rapidity with which the thoughts crowded upon him, almost too fast for utterance. We see him animated rather than weighted down by 'the crowd that presses on him daily, and the care of all the churches,' as he pours forth his warnings or his arguments in a stream of eager and impetuous dictation, with which the pen of the faithful Tertius can hardly keep pace. And above all, we trace his presence in the postscript to every letter, which he adds as an authentication, in his own characteristic handwriting, 'which is a token in every epistle: Thus I write.' Sometimes, as he takes up the pen, he is moved with indignation when he thinks of the false brethren among those whom he addresses: 'the salutation of me Paul with my own hand,--if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.' Sometimes, as he raises his hand to write, he feels it cramped by the fetters which bind him to the soldier who guards him: 'I Paul salute you with my own hand,--remember my chains.' Yet he always ends with the same blessing: 'The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,' to which he sometimes adds still further a few last words of affectionate remembrance, 'My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.'
But although the letters of St. Paul are so essentially a part of his personal biography, it is a difficult question to decide upon the form in which they should be given in a work like this. The object to be sought is, that they may really represent in English what they were to their Greek readers when first written. Now this object would not be attained if the Authorized Version were adhered to; and yet a departure from that whereof so much is interwoven with the memory and deepest feelings of every religious mind should be grounded on strong and sufficient cause. It is hoped that the following reasons may be held such.
1st. The Authorized Version was meant to be a standard of authority and ultimate appeal in controversy; hence it could not venture to depart, as an ordinary translation would do, from the exact words of the original, even where some amplification was absolutely required to complete the sense. It was to be the version unanimously accepted by all parties and therefore must simply represent the Greek text word for word. This it does most faithfully so far as the critical knowledge of the sixteenth century permitted. But the result of this method is sometimes to produce a translation unintelligible to the English reader. Also, if the text admit of two interpretations, our version endeavors, if possible, to preserve the same ambiguity, and effects this often with admirable skill; but such indecision, although a merit in an authoritative version, would be a fault in a translation which had a different object.
2nd. The imperfect knowledge existing at the time when our Bible was translated made it inevitable that the translators should occasionally render the original incorrectly; and the same cause has made their version of many of the argumentative portions of the Epistles perplexed and obscure.
3rd. Such passages as are affected by the above-mentioned objections might, it is true, have been recast, and the authorized translation retained in all cases where it is correct and clear. But if this had been done, a patchwork effect would have been produced like that of new cloth upon old garments. Moreover, the devotional associations of the reader would have been offended, and it would have been a rash experiment to provoke such a contrast between the matchless style of the Authorized Version and that of the modern translator, thus placed side by side.
4th. The style adopted for the present purpose should not be antiquated, for St. Paul was writing in the language used by his Hellenistic readers in everyday life.
5th. In order to give the true meaning of the original, something more than a mere verbal rendering is often absolutely required. St. Paul's style is extremely elliptical, and the gaps must be filled up. And, moreover, the great difficulty in understanding his argument is to trace clearly the transitions by which he passes from one step to another. For this purpose something must occasionally be supplied beyond the mere literal rendering of the words.
In fact, the meaning of an ancient writer may be rendered into a modern language in three ways: either, first, by a literal version; or, secondly, by a free translation; or, thirdly, by a paraphrase. A recent specimen of the first method may be found in the corrected edition of the Authorized Version of the Corinthians by Prof. Stanley, of the Galatians and Ephesians by Prof. Ellicott, and of the Thessalonians, Galatians, and Romans by Prof. Jowett, all of which have appeared since the first edition of the present work. The experiment of these translations (ably executed as they are) has confirmed the view above expressed of the unsatisfactory nature of such a literal rendering; for it cannot be doubted that though they correct the mistakes of the Authorized Version, yet they leave an English reader in more hopeless bewilderment as to St. Paul's meaning than that version itself. Of the third course (that of paraphrase), an excellent specimen is to be found in Prof. Stanley's paraphrases of the Corinthian Epistles. There is perhaps no better way than this of conveying the general meaning of the Epistles to an English reader. But it would not be suitable for the biography of St. Paul, in which not only his general meaning but his every sentence and every clause should, as far as possible, be given. There remains the intermediate course of a free translation, which is that adopted in the present work. Nor does there seem any reason why a translation of St. Paul should be rendered inaccurate by a method which would generally be adopted in a translation of Thucydides.
It has not been thought necessary to interrupt the reader by a note in every instance where the translation varies from the Authorized Version. It has been assumed that the readers of the notes will have sufficient knowledge to understand the reason of such variations in the more obvious cases. But it is hoped that no variation which presents any real difficulty has been passed over without explanation.
It should further be observed that the translation given in this work does not adhere to the Textus Receptus but follows the text authorized by the best MSS. Yet, though the Textus Receptus has no authority in itself, it seems undesirable to depart from it without necessity, because it is the text familiar to English readers. Hence the translator has adhered to it in passages where the MSS. of highest authority are equally divided between its reading and some other; and also in some cases where the difference between it and the true text is merely verbal.
The authorities consulted upon the chronology of St. Paul's life, the reasons for the views taken of disputed points in it, and for the dates of the Epistles, are stated (so far as seems needful) in the body of the work or in the Appendices and need not be further referred to here.
In conclusion, the authors would express their hope that this biography may, in its measure, be useful in strengthening the hearts of some against the peculiar form of unbelief most current at the present day. The more faithfully we can represent to ourselves the life--outward and inward--of St. Paul in all its fullness, the more unreasonable must appear the theory that Christianity had a mythical origin; and the stronger must be our ground for believing his testimony to the divine nature and miraculous history of our Redeemer.
No reasonable man can learn to know and love the Apostle of the Gentiles without asking himself the question, 'What was the principle by which through such a life he was animated? What was the strength in which he labored with such immense results?' Nor can the most skeptical inquirer doubt for one moment the full sincerity of St. Paul's belief that 'the life which he lived in the flesh he lived by the faith of the Son of God, who died and gave Himself for him.'
To believe in Christ crucified and risen, to serve Him on earth, to be with Him hereafter;--these, if we may trust the account of his own motives by any human writer whatever, were the chief if not the only thoughts which sustained Paul of Tarsus through all the troubles and sorrows of his twenty years' conflict. His sagacity, his cheerfulness, his forethought, his impartial and clear-judging reason, all the natural elements of his strong character are not indeed to be overlooked. But the more highly we exalt these in our estimate of his work and the larger share we attribute to them in the performance of his mission, the more are we compelled to believe that he spoke the words of truth and soberness when he told the Corinthians that "last of all Christ was seen of him also," that "by the grace of God he was what he was," that "while he labored more abundantly than all, it was not he, but the grace of God that was in him."
 Rom. 6:1.
 Tit. 1:15.
 Tit. 1:16.
 'Thrice have I suffered shipwreck,' 2 Cor. 11:25; and this was before he was wrecked upon Melita.
 'The hills stand about Jerusalem;' even so 'stands the Lord round about his people.' Ps. 130:2.
 1 Cor. 9:25.
 Acts 17:24.
 Phil. 1:13.
 Wordsworth's Athens and Attica, p. 76.
 For his speeches recorded in the Acts, characteristic as they are, would by themselves have been too few and too short to add much to our knowledge of St. Paul; but illustrated as they now are by his Epistles, they become an important part of his personal biography.
 2 Cor. 10:10.
 Luther, as quoted in Archdeacon Hare's Mission of the Comforter, p. 449.
 Rom. 1:20.
 Rom. 2:14,15.
 1 Cor. 13:12.
 Matt. 10:20.
 Gal. 2:11.
 Gal. 3:1.
 Phil. 3:2.
 Rom. 6:2; 1 Cor. 6:15 & c. It is difficult to express the force of the original by any other English phrase.
 Rom. 9:3.
 1 Cor. 9:15 and 18.
 Rom. 15:20.
 Philemon 9.
 Rom. 16:13.
 1 Thess. 2:9.
 Compare the laudatory expressions in 1 Cor. 1:5-7 and 2 Cor. 1:6, 7, with the heavy and almost unmingled censure conveyed in the whole subsequent part of these Epistles.
 Rom. 15:14, 15.
 1 Cor. 8:13.
 1 Cor. 8:12 and Rom. 14:21.
 Phil. 3:18.
 Phil. 1:15.
 1 Tim. 5:23.
 2 Cor. 7:3.
 2 Cor. 2:13 and 7:5.
 2 Tim. 4:9.
 2 Cor. 11:28.
 Rom. 16:22, 'I Tertius, who wrote this Epistle, salute you in the Lord.'
 Gal. 6:11. 'See the size of the characters in which I write to you with my own hand.'
 2 Thess. 3:17.
 1 Cor. 16:22.
 1 Cor. 16:24.
 Being executed at the very beginning of the seventeenth.
 Yet had any other course been adopted, every sect would have had its own Bible; as it is, this one translation has been all but unanimously received for three centuries.
 In the translation of the Epistles given in the present work, it has been the especial aim of the translator to represent these transitions correctly. They very often depend upon a word which suggests a new thought, and are quite lost by a want of attention to the verbal coincidence. Thus, for instance, in Rom. 10:16, 17: 'Who has given faith to our teaching? So then faith comes by teaching.' How completely is the connection destroyed by such inattention in the Authorized Version: "Who has believed our report? So then faith comes by hearing.'
 Gal. 2:20.
 1 Cor. 15:8.
 Stanley's Sermons on the Apostolic Age, p. 186.
The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah by David Baron is a great commentary for anyone interested in Bible "study" and not simply Bible "reading". Effort is required to make sense of these visions and prophecies dealing with the future of Israel. Yet I can truthfully say that there is a feeling of happiness that comes with a solid understanding of a difficult book of the Bible. It far surpasses the effort expended.
The author, David Baron (1857-1926), was a Jew who loved the Lord Jesus Christ. He also loved his nation Israel, and, like the Apostle Paul, he longed for that day when "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:26). For those who may not be premillennial and are reading this review, please give ear to the following from Charles Horne (Salvation [Chicago: Moody Press, 1971], pp. 7-8):
Theology is an ongoing work. May we always be willing to test our present ideas by any new insight which may be gained through our continuing study of the Word. Let us never become so enslaved to any particular theological frame of reference that we cannot accommodate further contributions, which others may offer us, to a more adequate understanding of God's revelation. . . . One frequently learns more by carrying on dialogue with one with whom he has differences than by simply conversing with one with whom there is no such diversity.
The author wrote in 1918, yet we can identify with much that he has written. His analysis of Zechariah 5:5-11 (the Woman in the Basket) was particularly illuminating; he might very well have been writing of these days in which we now live. His exposition of chapter 14--The Glorious Consummation--is a fitting climax, for one cannot help but be uplifted by seeing the glory of the millennial kingdom for which we all are waiting.
Throughout the book he has kept the reader in mind. Here is an example (p. 237):
Before passing on to the following verses, let me ask you, dear reader, Have you learned this great lesson? Have you experienced personally the supernatural power of the living God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, Who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, and with Whom nothing is impossible, or "marvellous," in your own heart and life? For only then can you believe in the great and marvellous things which God promised to do for Israel in the future, and through them for the whole world.
I would encourage anyone interested in prophecy to read this book. Israel and the Middle East are front-page news and have been for decades. What will be your stand when Israel is attacked? Let it be based on the Word of God alone.
I close with these words from David Baron (p. 94):
No too-black a picture can ever be drawn of Israel's backslidings and apostasies; no human lips can ever sufficiently describe the heinousness of Israel's sins and transgressions. All that can therefore be said against their past or their present is true. But when you have read through your long indictment against Israel, write at the bottom of your list words such as these: "Thus saith Jehovah, If heaven above can be measured, and the foundation of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel, for all that they have done, saith Jehovah" (Jer. xxxi. 37); or words taken from the very chapter which foretells in advance Israel's many sins and apostasies, and the terrible calamities which should come upon them in consequence: "And yet, for all that, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break My covenant with them, for I am Jehovah, their God" (Lev. xxvi. 44). No, "Jehovah will not forsake His people, for His great Name's sake, because it has pleased Jehovah to make you His people"--in which faithfulness of the God of Israel to the nation which He has chosen for His own inheritance, in spite of all its unworthiness, you may see a picture, dear reader, of His faithfulness to you, and a pledge of your eternal safety in Christ.
Let me list five reasons why you will enjoy reading Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus.
First, it is set up in short sections, each one covering one specific topic, so there is no need to feel any urgency to read the entire book straight through. That excuse we all so often use, "I don't have time to read such a big book," is not valid. I can honestly recommend it as a "daily devotional," so to speak; that is, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes of reading per day, depending on the length of the section. (Can "devotion" possibly mean anything less?)
Second, it covers numerous "difficult passages" about which we've all had questions. For example: the passage about the fig tree generation. Who are they?
Third, you will learn logical and simple answers to objections that not only your Jewish friends have, but unbelievers in general. I must admit that I was astounded at my own ignorance for not having seen many of them myself.
Fourth, you will receive much-needed Jewish background to the New Testament. All too often we forget that Jesus was a Jew, he lived in Israel and reflected Jewish culture, and he spoke primarily to his own people, frequently interacting with the leaders and scholars of Judaism. To understand Jesus' teaching, we must have some knowledge of this culture, of its theological beliefs, and in particular of what constituted the "traditions of the elders." How else can we possibly hope to understand the significance of his teachings and the numerous conflicts and arguments he had with the Scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees? Pharasaic Judaism of Jesus' day is what has become Orthodox Judaism today.
Fifth, you will have gained some real in-depth knowledge of the Bible, and this will be gratifying. Now, let's be honest. What are the most popular Christian books around today? Take a look through any Christian bookstore and what will you find? An overabundance of what I call Christian "fluff." Nothing to give you a sure and solid foundation of the Old and New Testament teachings and doctrines. Few or no commentaries, few or no Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, and few or no books on theology.
This book by Michael Brown will take you in a new direction. You will find that you can tackle a deeper study of the Word and come away victorious. Why not pick up this volume and prove it for yourself?
Note: For an excerpt from this book giving an excellent summary of the Sermon on the Mount, see April 22 in my "Daily Devotions from the Classics."
What do you picture in your mind when you think of the book of Numbers? Perhaps your picture is something like mine: a solid mass of 2 to 3 million grumbling Israelites shuffling constantly and aimlessly through the desert sands for 40 years with nothing else to do, and all the time under the eye of an angry God. Now, let's consider another, and better, option: 250,000 Israelites, still grumbling, traveling now and then in orderly array through the wilderness but spending most of the 40 years settled at their base camp in Kadesh with the tabernacle as their center of activity, and every moment under the eye of a loving, merciful God. Isn't that much better?
The extraordinarily large numbers we meet with when first embarking on a reading of Numbers has been a problem for scholars for centuries. How, they wonder, could Israel be so timid with a fighting army of 600,000 men? Could they not simply march in and overwhelm the neighboring lands? Yes, a good question. I have another one. How could Moses and his assistants (12 men, one "chief" or "prince" from each of the 12 tribes) possibly manage to take a census of all the men over the age of 20 (600,000 of them) and write down their names without having at their fingertips a massive steno pool complete with laptops? One more question. The numbers relating to the census are rounded off (74,600 from Judah, 46,500 from Reuben, and so on). Why, then, do we all of a sudden read a precise number--22,273 firstborn males a month old or more from all the tribes of Israel?
In a different context, consider this problem. If Moses wrote the following, "Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth," wouldn't one's first impression be that he was, well, proud? But if Moses didn't write it, who did? Or is there perhaps another answer, one centered on the word translated "humble" in the NIV and "meek" in the KJV?
When we read chapter seven, do we skim over it rather quickly because of the repetition? Why didn't Moses just write, "Over a period of 12 days each of the twelve tribes brought an identical gift of (and list the items)"? This would have taken a few verses at most. Instead we must wade through 76 verses of what seems like endless, boring repetition.
One last question. Why is the minimum age for serving at the Tabernacle given the first time as 30 years and later as 25? What is the significance of the 5 intervening years?
All these questions, plus many more, are addressed and answered by Dr. Allen in this most helpful commentary. His writing style is smooth, arguments for his position are easy to follow, and the reader's interest is caught immediately in the introduction and kept to the very end. I especially liked his ability to make the desert experience come to life, particularly in those critical times when terrible judgments fell on the nation. His analysis of chapter 25, "Moab Seduces Israel," was most illuminating and even gripping. I could almost believe I was there, watching in astonishment.
I heartily recommend this book for any Bible student. Numbers is a book where orderliness predominates, and the focus of the narrative is on God's marvelous grace at all times. We see this grace in the stationing of the Levites around the Tabernacle. They were positioned there so that the people would not unwittingly intrude upon God's presence and violate his holiness, which would have resulted in their death. Absolute reverence was required in the worship of Yahweh, and only the very best could be offered to him in sacrifice. The Tabernacle was not to be approached carelessly or haphazardly, for God's presence was there. Are we as careful in our worship today? Do we approach his dwelling place with holy reverence and give him our very best in sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise? I'm afraid the answer would have to be "no." In our modern-day settings we are more apt to find kids running up and down the hall than to find them standing quietly by their parent's side showing respect for God's house. We are more likely to enter a sanctuary where the loud and continuous rumble of idle talk predominates, not the quiet and reverent preparation for the worship of our God. Our dress should reflect our honor for the most high God, but all too often it serves both for worship and the football stadium. Is it any wonder that our churches are held in contempt by unbelievers?
This is a book much needed today. It is for everyone. For the advanced scholar, technical Hebrew words are discussed in the footnotes.
John Sargent has blessed us with a memoir of the life of Henry Martyn, that godly man who gave up a promising career in England to become a missionary in India. Yet it is not easy to write this book review, primarily because Mr. Martyn would loathe the thought of any glowing terms being used to describe his life of sacrifice on the mission field. Recorded in his journal during the interval between the latter end of 1802, the time when he first resolved to serve Christ as a missionary, and the autumn of 1803 when he was admitted into Holy Orders, we find the following entries:
What a sink of corruption is the heart! and yet I can go from day to day in self-seeking and self--pleasing! Lord! show me myself as nothing but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores, and teach me to live by faith on Christ my all.
How much better is it to have a peaceful sense of my own wretchedness, and a humble waiting upon God for sanctifying grace, than to talk much, and appear to be somebody in religion!
Let us, then, be sure to give God the praise for all that he enabled Henry Martyn to accomplish on the mission field. That would be his desire.
We are much indebted that Mr. Martyn kept a journal for the entire time of his missionary work. His own reason for doing so is given:
I am convinced that Christian experience is not a delusion; whether mine is so or not will be seen at the last day; and my object in making this Journal, is to accustom myself to self-examination, and to give my experience a visible form, so as to leave a stronger impression on the memory, and thus to improve my soul in holiness; for the review of such a lasting testimony will serve the double purpose of conviction and consolation.
In this book by John Sargent, we must remember that we are reading, for the most part, the private thoughts of Mr. Martyn. He never intended them to be other than for his own recollection and benefit. If this is not kept in mind, one may come to think that Mr. Martyn was proud of his humility, for his journal is filled with self-loathing for a cold heart, lack of love for the Savior, and all those failings we too have but are unwilling to admit. However, the extract of his visit to Shiraz in Persia was probably intended to be shared, if not with the public, at least with his intimate friends.
Mr. Sargent gives us a true picture of Henry Martyn through his letters and journal. It is fast and enjoyable reading. The first part of the book takes us through his college years as he pursued mathematics to his departure from England to pursue his mission work in India. On the first day of the year 1805, his last year in England, we have this journal entry:
January 1, 1805. Hitherto hath the Lord helped me. It is now about five years since God stopped me in the career of worldliness, and turned me from the paths of sin; three years and a-half since I turned to the Lord with all my heart; and a little more than two years since He enabled me to devote myself to his service as a missionary. . . . I see no business in life but the work of Christ, neither do I desire any employment to all eternity but his service. I am a sinner saved by grace. Every day's experience convinces me of this truth. My daily sins and constant corruption leave me no hope but that which is founded on God's mercy in Christ. His Spirit, I trust, is imparted, and is renewing my nature; as I desire much, though I have attained but little. Now to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, would I solemnly renew my self-dedication, to be his servant for ever.
On July 17, 1805, Henry Martyn finally departed England from Portsmouth, on the south coast, aboard the Union East Indiaman. It sailed in company with a large fleet consisting of fifty transports and five men-of-war and was to take him to Calcutta. During the entire voyage we find Henry faithfully preaching and witnessing, not only on board, but at those locations where the fleet anchored enroute. It was on January 3, 1806, that the fleet anchored at the Cape of Good Hope. There the British were in battle, and Henry attached himself to a company of troops who were ordered to remove the wounded. On the battlefield he came across several of the enemy's wounded, and there he ministered to a Hottentot lying in great agony, urging him to pray to Jesus Christ. In early February the fleet departed and made rapid progress toward India. However, sickness prevailed extensively on board and many died, including a devout soldier with whom Henry had often united in prayer. He writes,
Thus is my brother gone;--he, with whom I have conversed on Divine things, and sung, and prayed, is entered into that glory of which we used to discourse.
It was not until October of 1806 that Henry Martyn finally landed in Calcutta. From there it was another voyage up the Ganges to his permanent residence in Dinapore, where he arrived on November 26th. With over a year of preaching and witnessing during the long voyage and one month of ministry at Dinapore, the reader anticipates some journal entries giving joyous details of conversions. But this was not to be. Mr. Martyn had often encountered scorn, sneering, and contempt. In December of 1806, only a month after taking up residence in Dinapore, he recorded:
Let me labour for fifty years, amidst scorn, and without seeing one soul converted,--still it shall not be worse for my soul in eternity, nor even worse for it in time.
Yet his love and devotion to the work never diminished, and he was upheld by a faithful God:
January 1, 1807. Seven years have passed away since I was first called of God. Before the conclusion of another seven years, how probable is it that these hands will have mouldered into dust! But be it so: my soul through grace hath received the assurance of eternal life, and I see the days of my pilgrimage shortening, without a wish to add to their number. But oh, may I be stirred up to a faithful discharge of my high and awful work; and, laying aside, as much as may be, all carnal cares and studies, may I give myself to this 'one thing.' The last has been a year to be remembered by me, because the Lord has brought me safely to India, and permitted me to begin, in one sense, my missionary work. My trials in it have been very few; everything has turned out better than I expected; lovingkindness and tender-mercies have attended me at every step: therefore here will I sing his praise. I have been an unprofitable servant, but the Lord hath not cut me off: I have been wayward and perverse, yet He has brought me further on the way to Zion: here, then, with sevenfold gratitude and affection, would I stop and devote myself to the blissful service of my adorable Lord.
The middle portion of Sargent's book centers upon Henry Martyn's work of translating the New Testament and some of the parables into the Hindostanee dialect as well as his work in the mission itself--preaching to the Europeans and Hindus, visiting at the hospital, and ministering privately in his own rooms to the soldiers stationed there. How he could learn a new and difficult language and translate the entire New Testament in so few years is truly amazing. Following are several entries of interest:
April, 1807. In prayer had an affecting sense of my shameful ingratitude. Had I behaved thus to an earthly benefactor, showing so little regard for his company and his approbation,--how should I abhor myself and be abhorred by all! Oh, what a God is our God! How astonishingly rich in grace, bearing all with unceasing patience, and doing nothing but crowning his sinful creature with loving-kindness and tender mercies.
January 1, 1808. It is the grace and favour of God that have saved me hitherto; my ignorance, waywardness, and wickedness would long since have plunged me into misery; but there seems to be a mighty exertion of mercy and grace upon my sinful nature, every day, to keep me from perishing at last. My attainments in the Divine life, in this last year, seem to be none at all; I appear, on the contrary, to be more self-willed and perverse, and more like many of my countrymen, in arrogance and a domineering spirit over the natives. The Lord save me from my wickedness! Henceforth let my soul, humbly depending upon the grace of Christ, perfect holiness in the fear of God, and show towards all, whether Europeans or natives, the mind that was in Christ Jesus.
September 9, 1808. I am much neglected on all sides, and without the work of translation, I should fear that my presence in India were useless.
The last years of Mr. Martyn's life as a missionary were devoted to translating the New Testament into Persian and Arabic, and this is the major interest in the last part of the book. We find him actually traveling to Persia in order to avail himself of the opinions of learned natives with respect to his first Persian translation, which was in need of revision, as well as of the Arabic version, which though yet incomplete was nearly finished. The following entry is recorded shortly after embarking on this mission:
February 18, 1811. Anchored at Bombay. This day I finished the thirtieth year of my unprofitable life; the age at which David Brainerd finished his course. I am now at the age at which the Saviour of men began his ministry, and at which John the Baptist called a nation to repentance. Let me now think for myself, and act with energy. Hitherto I have made my youth and insignificance an excuse for sloth and imbecility: now let me have a character, and act boldly for God.
Mr. Martyn was not a strong and healthy man, and during this period he suffered many severe relapses. In a journal entry dated August, 1812, we read,
I thank a gracious Lord that sickness never came at a time when I was more free from apparent reasons for living. Nothing, seemingly, remains for me to do, but to follow the rest of my family to the tomb.
Yet in a letter written during this same period we find recorded,
It has pleased God to restore me to life and health again; not that I have yet recovered my former strength, but I consider myself sufficiently restored to prosecute my journey. My daily prayer is, that my late chastisement may have its intended effect, and make me, all the rest of my days, more humble and less self-confident.
Because of his degenerating health, Mr. Martyn decided it would be best for him to take a furlough back to England in hopes of regaining his strength. He left Persia and began the first leg home, a long trip to Constantinople 1300 miles away, on September 2, 1812. However, he suffered debilitating illness along the way, and on October 16, in Tocat, Persia, he "surrendered his soul into the hands of his Redeemer."
Henry Martyn began a life of serving Christ by leaving behind family, friends, and a promising career; and he left this world with neither family nor friend at his side, dying in a foreign country among strangers. There was no comforting hand stretched out to him, no words of Christian affection to aid him. Only the Savior was there. Whom else would he have desired?
From his letters and journal entries one might conclude that he was an unhappy and miserable man. But this was not so. In his preface to this tenth edition, Mr. Sargent directly addresses this misconception:
Few persons, if any, known to me, have equalled him in the enjoyment of that 'peace which passeth all undertstanding,'--few have possessed so animating and abiding an expectation of life and immortality. Those who are disposed to question this statement, from the strain of deep self-abasement which he perpetually adopts,--do in my judgment convert what is a substantial proof of the assertion, into an ill-founded objection. . . . I can appeal to many living witnesses; they can confirm what is advanced; they also with me can aver, that Henry Martyn was not less cheerful as a companion, than he was warm-hearted and constant as a friend.
One final thought, if I may. What hope is there that I (and maybe you?) can live a godly life if a man like Henry Martyn, who obviously loved his Lord first and always, looked upon himself as so truly unworthy and unprofitable? In a short span of 13 years he was saved, departed to a foreign land with no plan ever to return, translated the New Testament into three foreign languages, and traveled thousands of miles on horseback to spread the gospel. He had such a passion for the lost that he felt guilt-ridden if he stayed overnight in any location without handing out gospel tracts. Every conversation he endeavored to turn to spiritual matters, often though with little success. His knowledge of the Bible enabled him to answer arguments from Mohammedans, Roman Catholics, and Hindus. He felt heartbroken when language barriers kept him from successfully presenting the salvation message. Here was a man whose self-sacrifice and self-denial were gladly borne because of his love for Christ and the lost.
Nevertheless, let us by no means feel hopeless in pursuing godliness. God calls each of us to a certain work. For the vast majority of us, it is not to a foreign field in missionary service; it will very likely be a work right where we live. But God does call us all to the work of self-sacrifice and self-denial. We can begin easily enough by setting aside specified times for prayer. Then let us pursue the study of the Bible with enthusiasm and discipline, not being content with a quick perusal of superficial doctrinal ditties and spiritual fluff. Lastly, let us beseech God for a passion for the lost, especially our own family members and neighbors. It is, no doubt, a prayer He is willing to grant.
We have a practical application of humility written by Henry Martyn in Daily Devotions from the Classics for February 5.
We are living today in a world of political upheavals that are most emphatically connected with the Middle East, Israel in particular. Israel is the center of all God's dealings, and it behooves us to be on our toes. But are we? Hear these words of John Gill: "Before the personal coming of Christ, all the virgins, both wise and foolish, will be asleep, unconcerned about his coming, off of their watch and guard, and in no expectation of it." Let us not be among those virgins, wise though they be, who are sleeping.
This commentary on Daniel by Leon Wood should be considered essential reading by every Christian. In the book of Daniel we read of what is to transpire during the latter days. When God graciously reveals such details for us, is it not utter contempt on our part to ignore them?
Dr. Wood is a scholar of the first class. His writing style is such that any Christian will be able to follow his exegesis. First he gives a short summary of the section he is going to expound, and then he tackles each individual phrase, transliterating important Hebrew words and giving the meaning of each. There is nothing dry or dull here; just the opposite is the case. The reader's interest is engaged throughout, and very often I could not put the book down. The courage of Daniel throughout the book, and that of his three friends from chapter 1 through chapter 3, were expounded with enthusiasm and an evident regard for God's glory. More than once I found myself quite moved. Especially exciting was Dr. Wood's exposition of chapters 10 and 11 dealing with the Greek Empire and the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.). It ranks right up there with the most exciting of history books. In addition, the section on the Roman Empire and the Antichrist to come was very helpful and certainly relevant to these current times.
This is a medium-length book, 329 pages, but it is definitely fast reading. There is no struggling with "lofty" language or long and convoluted sentences; everything is as clear as a bell. And to think that on top of all that we get the insights of one of the finest scholars in the last century!
To pique your interest, I finish this review by giving Wood's historical background to the book of Daniel, found on pages 23 through 27 of his book.
The events set forth in the book of Daniel are only a part of a much larger history transpiring in that day, and can be understood only in the light of the fuller story. With the publication in 1956 of D. J. Wiseman's The Chronicles of Chaldean Kings, considerably more of this story has become available. Four new texts of official Babylonian records were published in this volume, and these, with texts published previously, cover the years 626-595 and 556-539 B.C.
Nineveh, capital of the preceding Assyrian empire, fell in 612 B.C. to an allied force of Babylonians, Medians, and probably Scythians. The city was devastated, but some Assyrians, apparently under the leadership of the last Assyrian ruler, Assur-uballit, escaped to the west. In the fall of the same year, this escaped group claimed sovereignty over all of Assyria from a center at Harran, some 250 miles west of Nineveh. The next year, 611 B.C., Nabopolassar, king of Babylonia, leading Babylonian forces only, campaigned in the vicinity of Harran, but without actually doing battle with the Assyrians themselves. The following year, 610, the Babylonians were joined once more by their former allies, with the result that the Assyrians, though now reinforced by Egyptian troops, withdrew from Harran west across the Euphrates, while the allies entered and sacked Harran. In 609, the Assyrians, apparently supported by still more Egyptian troops, recrossed the Euphrates in an attempt to take Harran once again, but failed. Nabopolassar himself lent his main interest that year to campaigning northeast of Harran, suggesting that possibly Assur-uballit, after his failure at Harran, fled in that direction. At least the Chronicle makes no mention of him in further conflict after that time.
At this point, biblical history lends information. Josiah, good king of Judah, attempted to hinder the Egyptian troops, under Pharaoh Necho, from going to the aid of the Assyrians for the 609 B.C. campaign. Josiah took his army to Megiddo to intercept the great power at the strategic Carmel pass, but he was defeated and killed for his effort (2 Kings 23:28-30; 2 Chron. 35:20-24). By this action, the Judean king was apparently courting Babylonian favor, believing that Judah's future lay with the eastern power. Pharaoh Necho continued north, after this defeat of Josiah, to join with the Assyrians in the unsuccessful attack on Harran, just noted.
After 609 B.C., Assyrian forces played no major role in the continuing struggle. Egypt now was the principal opponent of Babylonia, who also contended quite alone from this time on. For three years the two giants were content merely to spar with each other, not engaging once in major battle. Minor skirmishes occurred, with strategic cities located on either side of the Euphrates changing hands more than once; but the main armies did not meet. The Babylonians lent extensive efforts to strengthening their hold in the area of Izalla, to the northeast. It is noteworthy that the crown prince, Nebuchadnezzar, took on prominence in those efforts for the first time, being mentioned as commanding one of the Babylonian forces for the campaign of 607 B.C.
Finally, in 605, the issue was decided in the great battle of Carchemish. The aging Nabopolassar remained at home this year, with the Babylonian forces being led by the young and brilliant Nebuchadnezzar. He led his troops across the Euphrates in the vicinity of Carchemish and engaged the Egyptians in hand-to-hand fighting, apparently both within and without the city. The Egyptians were decisively defeated, and Carchemish was put to the torch by the Babylonians. The Egyptians retreated south to Hamath, but the Babylonians pressed hard and once more routed the force so that "not a man escaped to his own country." The result was that now "Nebuchadnezzar conquered the whole area of Hatti," meaning all Syria and Palestine.
This important victory by Nebuchadnezzar occurred sometime after the beginning of Nabopolassar's twenty-first year, which means after the month Nisan (April), 605 B.C. Then on the 8th of the month Ab (August 15) following, Nabopolassar died, and Nebuchadnezzar found it necessary to return quickly to Babylon, receiving the crown on the first of the month Elul (September 6). After initial activities as king, however, and apparently believing that matters of government were well in hand, he returned to the west that fall and continued his work of subjugating the Syria-Palestinian region, until the month Sebat (February), 604 B.C. At that time, he found it necessary to return to the capital for the annual New Year Festival, held the first of Nisan, but once more marched to the west in the month Sivan (June) for a further six-month effort. The Chronicle says that at this point all "the kings of the Hatti-land came before him and he received their heavy tribute."
Comparing this history and Daniel's story, as recorded in his book, a rather certain conclusion can be made as to when he and his companions were taken captive from Jerusalem. It was during the summer of 605 B.C., sometime between the Carchemish battle and Nebuchadnezzar's return to Babylon to receive the crown. The following is noted in evidence.
Admittedly, three months (June to August) did not afford Nebuchadnezzar much time to sweep as far south as Jerusalem and make the siege indicted in Daniel 1:1 (cf. Kings 24:1; 2 Chron. 36:6,7). A few matters may be pointed out, however, which give further evidence that this is indeed what happened. For one thing, the Babylonian Chronicle states that, as a result of the Carchemish victory, "Nebuchadnezzar conquered the whole area of the Hatti-country." This is, no doubt, a reference principally to a titular role, but it follows that Nebuchadnezzar would have wanted to make the conquest actual as soon as possible. It is also clear that the Babylonian king did remain in the west after the victory until called home to receive the crown, and certainly he would have used this time to the best advantage. Further, that he in fact did this is demonstrated by his immediate return to the west for further subjugation after the coronation, both the following fall and the next summer. That he wanted to return so soon shows that he had been interrupted in what he had been doing. Fourthly, that Nebuchadnezzar had, indeed, taken some captives, including Jews, from the newly won West by the time of his father's death, is indicted by a quotation from Berossus; stating that Nebuchadnezzar "committed the captives he had taken from the Jews, and Phoenicians, and Syrians, and of the nations belonging to Egypt, to some of his friends" so that he could hurry the more quickly back to his capital.
In view of these considerations, it may be concluded that, after Nebuchadnezzar's rout of the Egyptians at Carchemish and Hamath, he did move south to make actual subjugation of key cities in Syria and Palestine. Likely he pursued Egyptian stragglers for some distance, seeking to bring the fullest destruction possible on the enemy, and then turned to receive the desired submission of the local inhabitants. Jerusalem may well have been one of the first cities approached, since Josiah had attempted to help Babylonia only four years earlier at Megiddo. Though Daniel 1:1 speaks of his laying siege to the city, this likely means only that he demanded its submission. It is noteworthy that no battle is suggested by either Daniel 1:1, 2 Kings 24:1, or Chronicles 36:6,7. Jehoiakim, then king, whose politics may have differed from those of friendly Josiah, apparently resisted at first, because 2 Chronicles speaks of his being bound; but he must have been later released, for no change of ruler was forced by the Babylonian conqueror. Nebuchadnezzar did take sacred vessels of the Temple, however, as well as numerous captives, among whom principally were choice young men, including Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
The purpose for taking these young men seems not to have been the imposition of punishment, however, but to bring those to Babylon from whom in due time prospective governmental personnel might be selected (Dan. 1:4). Nebuchadnezzar was one of the most capable of ancient rulers, and could be expected to have wanted the best talent his new empire could provide in his regime. It could be expected, also, that he would have wanted such young men to be taken from all the cities he approached, and not merely Jerusalem. No doubt, the brevity of time before he was called back to Babylon that first summer did not permit him to assemble many others there, but he would have added to the number on his successive return campaigns. In fact, even Daniel's group apparently did not reach Babylon until after the coronation, if Berossus' account, mentioned above, is correct. Probably Nebuchadnezzar picked them up during his return the following fall; meaning, if so, that Daniel arrived in Babylon at the same time as those taken from other cities, the spring of Nebuchadnezzar's accession year, 604 B.C.
Anything I write here will not do justice to this marvelous book. Simply stated, it is the most helpful book I have ever read. In one sense I could not put the book down, because the subject of the Kingdom of God was absolutely fascinating. In another sense I had to put the book down all the time, because I was constantly making notes in my Bible. It did not take long to become painfully aware of how very little I knew. For one like myself with no theological training, reading this book was similar to opening a treasure chest, and I cannot say enough in praise of it. But let praise be where it rightfully belongs, to God who has blessed us with such a competent teacher to expound his word.
This book, according to Dr. McClain himself, "is primarily a study of the Kingdom of God as presented in the Scriptures, rather than an account of the history of the doctrine." This method of presentation, beginning with the Pentateuch and continuing through to the end of Revelation, engages the reader at once. For myself, I found that the Bible was no longer a series of independent events but a series of events all connected by one underlying thread, that of the Kingdom of God and how it relates to Jesus. The words of Luke 24:25-27 took on new meaning:
O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
Dr. McClain devotes Part One to introductory material about the Kingdom, closing with a chapter on the Universal Kingdom of God. This chapter on the Universal Kingdom has been reproduced and is found here on our site. The remainder of the book, beginning on page 41, deals with the Mediatorial Kingdom in Old Testament history, in Old Testament prophecy, in the four Gospels, and in the Book of Acts, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse. Two appendices are added, one on "The Spirituality of the Kingdom" and the other on "A Premillennial Philosophy of History." This last appendix on "A Premillennial Philosophy" is reproduced on our Historic Premillennialism page.
Some may think a book of 530 pages too long to bother with. But let me assure you, that once you start reading, the pages will fly by. The Scriptures will be opened up in a way you cannot imagine. I hadn't even finished the first 100 pages before I felt that I had been reading the Bible with my eyes closed for most of my life.
Some premillenarians will think they have no need to read this book. Hear what the renowned Wilbur M. Smith has to say in his foreword:
Never having heard Dr. McClain speak on this subject [the Kingdom of God], I approached the reading of his manuscript with an open mind, and, I am afraid, with a slight feeling that probably much of the material in these hundreds of pages would be more or less what I had already read in works of other able authors in years gone by. In this I was greatly mistaken. Many of the truths which the author of The Greatness of the Kingdom has here developed, especially in his consideration of Biblical revelation about the Kingdom up to the time of the prophets, has thrown more light upon this theme for me than has any other volume on this difficult subject that has come to my attention.
Some amillenarians will think they have no need to read this book. Hear what Sir Robert Anderson has to say in The Silence of God: "To anyone who aims at having clear thoughts and well-based beliefs, nothing is more helpful than adverse criticism."
Some "panmillenarians" will think they have no need to read this book. "The millennial issue is not important to me; it will all pan out in the end. Besides, I have a position I'm comfortable with." Just to voice this excuse says enough.
We all say that we want to know what the Bible teaches. We all claim that we want the Holy Spirit to enlighten us as to the truth of the Word. But let's be honest: most of us (I certainly include myself here) do not want to read opposing positions, mainly for two reasons. (1) We are not certain we can adequately defend our own position and therefore do not want to be confronted with that reality, and (2) if we do see our own position as weak, it might mean eating "humble pie." But why should it mean that? If it does, perhaps it is because we have advanced our own position with an undue amount of arrogance, thus putting our pride at stake. Rather, let us truly look to the Holy Spirit to lead us, our greatest desire being to know what the Bible teaches; and if some new evidence comes to light that before was hidden, and we find that some changes need to be made in our theological position, then let us give thanks and praise to God. We have just increased our knowledge of the truth.
I came across a reference to this book while reading F. F. Bruce's commentary on Acts. Right away I knew I had to have it. Used copies are available, and we purchased one, but it can also be found on Open Library for those who don't mind reading online (openlibrary.org). Dean Henry Alford wrote the following to James Smith after The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul was published:
I may venture to congratulate you on the fact that your name will now, in all ages and countries, be handed down as having done substantial service in settling once for all a point in dispute deeply interesting for its own sake, and for the authenticity and credibility of the sacred narrative. When we commentators are deservedly forgotten, you will be known in enviable connection with the great Apostle's course of Perils.
James Smith was the ideal man to write this book. Following are the words of Harvey Carlisle, Lord Bishop of Carlisle, taken directly from his preface to the fourth edition:
In truth Mr. Smith possessed a rare combination of qualities fitting him to produce such a work as the 'Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul.' Imprimis, he was a yachtsman, and so was thoroughly acquainted with nautical matters, and in particular he knew well the whole scene of St. Paul's adventures. Then, again, he was not a mere yachtsman, but had a good amount of reading, both classical and in the department of general literature, which he was able to bring to bear with great force. Still further his head had all the clearness of perception which is necessary to the conduct of exact investigations. He had evidently a keen intellectual eye. But above all he applied himself to his task with the high purpose of elucidating a book which was precious to his soul.
The first part of his book is a dissertation on the life and writings of St. Luke. Personally, I found this section totally fascinating. Who was Luke? Where did he reside? How did he come to know so much about ships and sailing? What were the sources he used for his gospel account? Whose account--Matthew, Mark, or Luke's--was written first? Was there a Hebrew manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew available? Was Luke's gospel the first part of only two writings (Luke and Acts), or was there to be a third writing after Acts? When and from where did he write them? When he wasn't with Paul in the "we-passages," where was he?
The sea voyage itself starts on page 61. The main question tackled by James Smith in embarking upon this section is: Where did the shipwreck take place? (This is the "point in dispute" mentioned by Dean Alford.) Do not be alarmed if you are ignorant about sailing. I knew absolutely nothing before I started reading, not even which side is port. For those with sailing knowledge, I imagine they will have a hard time putting the book down at this point. I found it so myself. It will help to have a bookmark in place at the map that comes right before page 61; I found myself constantly referring back to it.
The book is well written. There is a fair amount of Greek, but this should not dissuade anyone; it poses no hindrance to understanding the intent of the author. And besides, there is simply too much else that is profitable in the book to let that stand in the way. Also, Smith has several dissertations at the end of the book--for example, on the wind "Euroclydon"; on the island Melita; on the ships of the ancients--as well as a number of appendices. These I found either too technical or just too uninteresting to spend much time on. That may not be the case with you, especially those with sailing expertise. In any event, the book is well worth your time if you read only the significant section on the voyage and shipwreck. With that in mind, I have included a short list of sailing terms and definitions to prepare you for this exciting venture.
I can heartily recommend this commentary on Acts by Cornelius R. Stam, the main reason being that it is precise and to the point. He has simply one main purpose in view: to offer evidence for his dispensational interpretation of Acts in a clear, informative, and convincing manner. The reader will not be taken off the main path into byways such as source criticism or how some Greek word was used in Greek mythology. Nor will he encounter statements such as this gem by Richard Longenecker: "Probably this is one of those situations where a narrator like Luke has read into what the speaker said more than was originally there and so implied that the speaker spoke better than he knew." No, Pastor Stam will not let the reader lose sight of the forest because of the trees, nor will he entertain any such notion that Luke, Paul, or any of the apostles did not fully comprehend what they were saying or writing.
As the title of the book indicates, Acts is being considered from a dispensational perspective. It is important for all Christians to comprehend what is meant by "Dispensational Theology" and "Covenant Theology." There may be amillenarians, premillenarians, or postmillenarians in Covenant Theology; but when it comes to Dispensationalism, there are only premillenarians. Why is this? It is because premillenarians believe that God's chosen people are the Jews and that there is a place for Israel in the divine program. In other words, the church is not the "true Israel." If for no other reason than this, you should read Stam's book and thoroughly acquaint yourself with dispensationalism.
Don't you love it when an expository preacher goes through a book of the Bible? What Pastor Stam does here in ACTS Dispensationally Considered is akin to that. He goes through the book of Acts--never missing a verse--and expounds short sections with the easy delivery of a great preacher. There is no hemming and hawing over difficult passages, no offering up of what might seem incredulous or questionable interpretations. He thoroughly believes his dispensational approach answers, in a coherent and believable way, any and all questions relating to the book of Acts. However, just because Pastor Stam stays on this one course, please do not make the mistake of thinking that this commentary is shallow; it is not. Pastor Stam is an able scholar and theologian.
There are a number of distinctions within dispensationalism itself. One centers upon when the church--the Body of Christ--began. Was it during the outpouring at Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 or at the close of chapter 28? Was it at Paul's conversion in chapter 9 or when he sets out on his first apostolic (missionary) journey in chapter 13? Or was it at some point between chapters 9 and 13? According to Stam's position, the "Body of Christ had its historical beginning with Paul, before he wrote his first epistle." Although he considers it a minor point in the overall scheme of dispensationalism, he would place it in chapter 9 at Paul's conversion and not in chapter 13, where others might prefer. Another subject addressed is that of the "Great Commission." What exactly did Peter and the other apostles understand Christ to mean when he set forth this commission? Did they adhere strictly to it? If so, for how long? Did Paul center the message of his missionary journeys around it? If not, why?
One nice feature of Stam's writing is that he very often gives a recap of what has already happened in the book of Acts in order to show how it fits in with later chapters. These "reviews" are of tremendous help in that you are kept steadfast on the dispensational track and, at the same time, are more able to remember the fundamental principles of his viewpoint. Another nice feature, which might seem trivial to some, is that the commentary set that I have is in four easy-to-hold volumes. I can't describe how delightful it was simply to sit on the couch and hold the book upright in my hands without the assistance of Aaron and Hur!
Let me end this review with three excerpts. The first is Relief From Antioch, from Volume 2. Please remember that portions of the account related here were addressed in more detail by Pastor Stam in Volume 1, the time in the period of the Acts at which they occurred. The second is from Volume 3, Were These Disciples Rebaptized? The third comes from Volume 4, Was Agrippa "Almost Persuaded"?
This commentary is readily available at bereanbiblesociety.org. (Unfortunately, the 4-volume set is now in 2 volumes.) It is a purchase worthy of your time and money.
RELIEF FROM ANTIOCH
Doubtless the reader has already noticed that Agabus predicted a worldwide famine: "great dearth [Lit. hunger] throughout all the world [Lit. inhabited earth]." Why should they, then, be singled out for special help? This question deserves careful consideration.
Most commentators have concluded that the action of the church at Antioch implies that the famine was to be most severe in Judaea, and that Agabus must have intimated this in his prophecy. Some of these same commentators have dug into history and have found records of several famines occurring about that time and have advanced arguments to prove that one of them was probably most keenly felt in Judaea, though there has not been full agreement as to which one! Other commentators, again, have concluded that Agabus' term oikoumene probably means all of Judaea or Palestine in this case.
The fact is, however, that while the Greek word ge is used to denote either earth or land, the word oikoumene is consistently used to denote the inhabited earth and never one particular country, much less could the phrase "all the world"* refer to one particular country.
But then the question remains: Why did the believers at Antioch determine to send relief to those of one particular country?
The answer to this question is a dispensational one.
First it must be noted that the relief was to be provided, not for all the people of Judaea, but for "the brethren which dwelt in Judaea." This was not only because it was proper for these Antioch Christians to care for their brethren first, but because the believers in Judaea were to feel the effects of the famine and the accompanying high prices far more keenly than others, whether in Judaea or anywhere else.
These Judaean believers, it must be remembered, had sold their houses and lands and had brought the proceeds to the apostles for distribution among the needy, in conformity with the standards of the kingdom which they had hoped soon to see established on earth. Not some, but all who followed Messiah had done this (Acts 2:44,45; 4:34,35) "neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common" (Acts 4:32). Even Peter could truthfully say to the lame man at the temple: "Silver and gold have I none" (Acts 3:6). Two who tried to join that company while deceitfully holding back part of their belongings were stricken dead (Acts 5:5,10) "and of the rest durst no man join himself to them" (Acts 5:13). Thus the kingdom program was maintained. Indeed, even when it seemed that the Hebrews were being favored above the Grecians in "the daily ministration," the apostles took immediate action to see that all were equally provided for. Of the Pentecostal believers we read: "Neither was there any among them that lacked" (Acts 4:34) and this condition was to be maintained by the apostles as one of the blessings associated with the kingdom soon, they hoped, to be established by Messiah's return.
But now the crisis had passed in Israel. The nation had refused the offer of mercy from the risen, glorified Christ. She had threatened, beaten and imprisoned His highest representatives. She had stoned Stephen and waged war upon the Church at Jerusalem. Now, in infinite grace, God had responded by saving Saul, the chief blasphemer and persecutor, and by saving Gentiles notwithstanding Israel's refusal to become the channel of blessing.
But while this was indeed the unfolding of a gracious purpose, it must not be forgotten that this new program meant the (temporary) setting aside of Israel, the postponement (from man's viewpoint) of Messiah's reign, and the withdrawal of kingdom blessings which the Jewish believers had already begun to enjoy.
Whereas not one of the Pentecostal believers had lacked heretofore, they were now bound to be the first to lack, having already disposed of their property. And this was only the beginning. Through the following years, not only the church at Antioch, but "the churches of Galatia" (I Cor. 16:1-3) "the church of Macedonia" (II Cor. 8:1-4) the churches at Achaia (II Cor. 9:2) and perhaps others, including even Rome, a long list of Gentile congregations, were to send material help to "the poor saints . . . at Jerusalem" (Romans 15:26). Indeed, it was one of the specific agreements between the heads of the Jewish and Gentile churches at the great Jerusalem council, that the Gentile believers should "remember the poor" of the Judaean church (Gal. 2:10)**.
All this indicates that the kingdom program was being gradually set aside and that the new dispensation had already begun to dawn. The careful reader will note that the believers at Antioch did not have "all things common." They contributed, "every man according to his ability," to the need of the Judaean saints. They belonged to the new dispensation and their giving sets the pattern for our giving under the dispensation of grace. If we, in this present age, disposed of all our property for the common good until we had nothing of our own, we should be acting directly contrary to God's will and program for us, for our apostle (Rom. 11:13) writes, by the Spirit:
"But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, HE HATH DENIED THE FAITH, AND IS WORSE THAN AN INFIDEL" (I Tim. 5:8).
Few believers today, however, even among those who cry: "Back to Pentecost," are tempted to dispose of all their earthly possessions, either for the Lord or for their brethren, sensing that if they did so they would soon be in trouble. But if believers in this economy of grace would only give proportionately, "every man according to his ability" (Acts 11:29) "as God hath prospered him" (I Cor. 16:2) "according to that he hath" (II Cor. 8:12) "not grudgingly, or of necessity" (II Cor. 9:7) the work of God would go on apace, unhampered by financial lack, and the givers themselves would be spiritually enriched by their faithfulness, for it is Paul, not Peter at Pentecost, who says by the Spirit: "he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully . . . for God loveth a cheerful giver" (II Cor. 9:6,7).
It is true that many of God's servants have become "greedy of filthy lucre," in disobedience to I Tim. 3:3, and this is not to be condoned, yet this is perhaps a natural, though sinful, reaction to the failure of believers engaged in secular work to do their financial part. Whatever our financial status in life, let us give of our means according to the rule laid down for us today by the Spirit:
". . . SEE THAT YE ABOUND IN THIS GRACE ALSO.
". . . PROVE THE SINCERITY OF YOUR LOVE.
"FOR YE KNOW THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, THAT, THOUGH HE WAS RICH, YET FOR YOUR SAKES HE BECAME POOR, THAT YE THROUGH HIS POVERTY MIGHT BE RICH" (II Cor. 8:7-9).
This is giving under grace and is, of course, a distinct departure from the Pentecostal program. And mark well: this departure is first to be noted in Paul's early ministry, in connection with his labors at Antioch, before leaving on his first great apostolic journey or writing the first of his letters to the churches.
*The same original phrase is found in Matt. 24:14.
**That the Jewish leaders referred to their poor is self-evident. They would have had no reason to ask for a promise that the Gentile church help its own poor or the poor in general.
* * * * * * * * * * *
WERE THESE DISCIPLES REBAPTIZED?
Now Verses 4 and 5 [from Acts 19] have been used by those who speak of "Christian baptism"--especially our Baptist friends--to show the great importance of water baptism and of being baptized in the right way.
This, they argue, is the last mention of water baptism in the Acts and in it these disciples actually had to be baptized over again because they had not been baptized with "Christian baptism"--the baptism of the "great commission" and/or Pentecost.
No argument for "Christian baptism" could be weaker, and we here propose to prove that these disciples were not rebaptized at all.
It is regrettable that Verses 4 and 5 have for so long been read through Baptist spectacles that it is almost impossible for some to read them correctly.* Even the general run of commentaries have been affected by the continuous repetition of the Baptist view of this passage even though it presents insurmountable difficulties.
The misinterpretation of this passage springs from the mistaken notion that Verse 5 records the rebaptism of these disciples, while in reality it is the continuation of Paul's explanation in Verse 4. In Verse 5 Paul recalls the response of John's hearers to his message.
Among the many arguments which support this view are the following:
1. There was no basic difference between John's baptism and that of Peter at Pentecost. Both were baptisms of "repentance" and both were "for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38). There was a difference in the result, however, for at Pentecost those baptized received "the gift of the Holy Ghost" in addition to the remission of sins. This explained why these disciples had not received the gift, and why, with the laying on of Paul's hands, they now "spake with tongues and prophesied."
2. Paul's main question did not concern water baptism but the gift of the Holy Spirit. These disciples had not received this gift because they had been baptized before the coming of the Spirit. Therefore Paul laid his hands on them, imparting the Spirit to them.
3. Why should these few disciples alone be rebaptized? Why not the twelve apostles, Apollos and all who had been baptized before Pentecost?
4. How could the rebaptism of only these few prove the importance of "Christian baptism" over John's baptism? Would not the lack of evidence that all the others were rebaptized rather prove the opposite?
5. Why should Luke's record be interrupted to record the rebaptism of these twelve men without explaining why only these had to be rebaptized?
6. The record does not say that these men were baptized again.
7. If the popular interpretation of Verse 5 were correct it would more probably read: "When they heard this, Paul baptized them . . ." or "they were baptized again. . . ." As it is, Verse 5 records the response of John's hearers to his message (Ver. 4) and then Paul enters in Verse 6 ("And when Paul . . ." etc.) laying his hands upon them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.
8. In Acts 8:12-17 there were believers who had been baptized with so-called "Christian baptism" yet, for another reason, had not received the gift of the Holy Spirit. These, like the disciples here under discussion, received the Spirit by the laying on of hands.
9. If this "last record" of water baptism in Acts proves the importance of "Christian baptism," does it not also prove that tongues and prophecy go with Christian baptism? When these disciples were "rebaptized," the Holy Spirit came upon them and "they spake with tongues and prophesied" (Ver. 6).
It is passing strange that so few of those who use this passage to prove the importance of Christian baptism, seem to notice these obvious objections to their view. We know of only one who holds the rebaptism theory who freely admits the near impossibility of holding this view. He is Dr. W. M. Ramsay of Aberdeen, Scotland. In his book, "St. Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen," he says: "This episode I must confess not to understand. . . . If there were any authority in MSS or ancient Versions to omit the episode, one would be inclined to take that course" (P. 270).
Some stress has been laid on the so-called "formula" in Verse 5 as proof that this could not refer to John's baptism.
As we have written again and again there is no Scriptural warrant whatever for the notion that the phrases, "the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matt. 28:19) and "the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:5) were formulae to be used at baptism. This unfounded notion caused the late Dr. Haldeman to refuse church membership to one who had been baptized by Dr. Pettingill, because he had not been baptized in the name of the Trinity (according to Matt. 28:19) but in the name of the Lord Jesus (according to Acts 2:38 and 8:16). This same unscriptural notion has led some to the conclusion that the twelve apostles did not work under the commission recorded in Matt. 28.
When our ambassadors to other lands represent us at diplomatic conferences they speak, to be sure, in the name of the United States of America, but they do not keep repeating these words as a formula. And who can deny that John, the forerunner of Christ, went forth and baptized in His name and by His authority, as well as did the apostles?
The record closes by pointing out that the disciples at Ephesus numbered "about twelve." If any significance may be attached to this it would appear to link their experience with Israel and the divine government, and this would be consistent with the purpose of Acts.
*Though some translations render Verse 5 so that it cannot be misunderstood, notably the Dutch, which reads: "Those who heard him. . . ."
* * * * * * * * * * *
WAS AGRIPPA "ALMOST PERSUADED"?
There has been a great deal of controversy about the significance of Agrippa's response to Paul's appeal: "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." The various views on the subject are substantially as follows:
1. That the Greek "en oligo," or "in a little," gives the sentence the meaning: "in brief, you would persuade me to become a Christian."
2. That the words "en oligo" refer to Paul's argument, making the sentence to read: "With a little [a brief argument] you would persuade me to become a Christian."
3. That he said in sarcasm: "In a little while you will persuade me to become a Christian."
4. That the words "en oligo," here, do have the sense of "almost," and that he meant, either in sarcasm, or in greater or less sincerity: "Almost you persuade me to become a Christian."
5. A few translators and commentators hold that the word "persuadest" refers to Paul, and that Agrippa actually said: "In a little you will persuade yourself to make me a Christian."
It is held by some that the phrase "thou persuadest me," would be more correctly rendered: "thou wouldest persuade me," but other commentators reject this view and a considerable majority of our Bible translations fail to bear it out.
In view of this fact, and considering the emotional effect which Paul's address had upon Festus, we reject interpretations 1, 2 and 3. We also reject interpretation 5 as lacking support.
As to interpretation 4, the idea of "almost" fits more naturally with Paul's reply in Verse 29. Also, while in his reply Paul may simply have ignored any sarcasm on the part of Agrippa, the circumstances again: Paul's moving address, his appeal to the Scriptures, the stirring account of his conversion, the evident power and effect of his ministry, Festus' emotional outburst--all this, leads us to believe that Agrippa was experiencing the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, even though he may have meant to brush this off by a remark apparently sarcastic. Thus he becomes the symbol of all those who are never quite persuaded to trust in Christ as their Savior.
Whatever the degree of Agrippa's sincerity in the matter, Paul was quick to take advantage of the situation. Revealing his burden of heart, not only for Agrippa, but for Festus, Bernice and all those present, he replied with great feeling:
"I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds" (Ver. 29).
What a truly great servant of God the apostle was! How deeply in earnest: "I would to God." How large-hearted: "not only thou, but also all that hear me this day." How self-effacing: He is in chains, but longs for their salvation. How triumphant: "I wish you could be as I am." How powerful his plea: "Almost" is not enough. It must be "altogether."
And the most exquisite touch of Christian courtesy and grace is found in his words: "except these bonds." He had suffered much for Christ, but he wished none of that for them. He wished them to know only the peace and assurance and joy in his heart. He may have added this phrase with a twinkle in his eyes, too, for it indicated he was sane; he did not enjoy his chains.
Conviction was doubtless taking hold--perhaps of many there present. The unbelieving heart says it must not go too far. Agrippa, as chairman of the session rises and, with the others, leaves the chamber. How many since have followed his example!
I can enthusiastically recommend this book by Olaf Moe on the life of Paul for several reasons. First, it gives the reader a good handle on over half of the New Testament. What do I mean by this? Consider that there are 27 books in the New Testament. The first four of them--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John--are familiar to everybody, being that they treat exclusively of the life of Christ. Of the remaining 23, there are eight that are probably the most unfamiliar, and these represent basically the ministry by the apostles Peter and John, plus the Lord's brothers James and Jude, to the Jews. They are 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, Revelation, James, and Jude. (The first seven chapters of Acts should also be added.) If we include Hebrews in this group, that makes a total of nine, leaving 14 books of the New Testament in which the life of Paul is predominant. From chapter 8 onward in the book of Acts, Luke gives a detailed account of Paul's missionary journeys and his imprisonments. It was during this period that Paul wrote his epistles--Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. After the book of Acts is concluded and Paul is set free from his first Roman imprisonment, he then writes 1 Timothy and Titus. It was during his final imprisonment in Rome during the reign of Nero when he wrote his last, 2 Timothy. What Olaf Moe does in his book is to follow Paul's movements through the book of Acts, and this necessarily includes the letters he wrote to the churches. Moe gives a very excellent summary of each letter and the circumstances which led Paul to the writing of them. Thus, the reader not only has a thorough grasp of the Book of Acts, but also of Paul's 13 epistles.
Second, this book is arranged in such an orderly fashion that the reader learns much more than he would anticipate. For example, in writing of Paul's background (we know he was a Roman citizen born in Tarsus), Moe delves into what life was like for a young Jewish boy in the city of Tarsus. However, when we first read of Paul in Acts, he is already a Pharisee residing in Jerusalem. When and why did he move there? This naturally leads Moe to explain what it meant to "sit at the feet of Gamaliel" and what the Pharisees as a body of religious leaders were like. When Moe writes about Paul's missionary journeys, thoughts naturally arise in the reader's mind as to what the conditions were like in the various cities. But we are not disappointed, for the author gives a real insight into what it was like for Paul as he traveled and visited these different cities, something akin to a modern travel guide.
A third reason I especially enjoyed this book is that it was well written. Though the original was written in Norwegian, nothing was lost in translation; it was a superb job by L. A. Vigness. The lengthy chapter on "Paul the Man and Paul the Christian" is itself worth the price of the book. One cannot read it without being moved by the passion and intensity of Paul as an apostle of Jesus Christ. It was so well done that I truly doubt it could be improved upon. The reader will know Paul in a way not thought possible before.
Alas, this book is not available in abundance and may be hard to find. But as the Apostle himself might say: What then? Shall we dismiss it because it's hard to find? Certainly not! He who perseveres will gain the reward! With that in mind, I have included one chapter to stimulate your interest.
The call which had been entrusted to the apostle was world-embracing. But the old world was small in comparison with ours. It embraced, practically speaking, only a strip along the northern coast line of Africa, the land of the Nile, the western part of Asia as far a the Euphrates and the part of Europe that lies south of the Danube and west of the Rhine. True, in a dim way also India and northern Europe were known. But the regularly accessible part of the world coincided in a general way with the Roman Empire.
From ancient times this portion of the world had been divided up into a large number of countries and peoples with a great variety of languages. This split-up condition had fortunately been overcome before the time of Christ. The Hellenization which had been begun by Alexander the Great had created a common language of culture--Hellenistic Greek--which was understood both in the east and in the west. The invasions of the Romans had welded the many countries around the Mediterranean sea into one great empire, in which practically all the barriers that are raised between one country and another had been removed. And when finally both wars and civil strifes were happily ended by the ascension of Augustus to the imperial throne, then all parts of this world were embraced within the blessed bonds of peace.
The wars that still were waged along the borders did not seriously affect the social life in the interior. The doors of the temple of Janus, which from immemorable times had stood open as a sign of war, were now (29 B.C.) finally closed and an altar of peace erected. Peace prevailed on land and sea. Piracy, which had been a threat to trade on the eastern part of the Mediterranean sea, was destroyed. On the country roads, as far as the steps of the Roman soldiers could be heard, greater security prevailed than that which obtains in the majority of the same lands today. Greeks and Jews, Christians and pagans, agreed in appreciating this universal peace for which they were indebted to Rome and its emperors.
Gratitude for the blessings of peace was so profound that it was given expression in bestowing on Emperor Augustus the honorable title of "Savior of the world," and the cities of Asia Minor decided thereafter to reckon the beginning of the year from the birthday of Augustus, "for the birthday of the divine emperor is justly to be considered as the beginning of world-history." Another inscription from Asia Minor (Halicarnassus) pictures the blessed consequences of the reign of Emperor Augustus thus: "Land and sea rest in peace, the cities prosper by good laws, unity and welfare, everything good develops and brings forth fruits, men are filled with good hope for the future and cheerful courage for the present."
Universal peace was the first condition for a universal mission like that of Paul. The apostle could travel everywhere with a good degree of safety and could meet men who, because they were occupied with the affairs of peace rather than the anxieties of war, were inclined to listen to the gospel of peace. "God," says Origen, "prepared the peoples for his doctrine and brought it about that the Roman Emperor had the rulership over the whole world. There were not to be several kingdoms. Otherwise the peoples would be strangers one to another, and the carrying out of the mission command would be rendered more difficult. Had the peoples been compelled to carry on wars and defend their fatherland . . . how then could this peaceful doctrine, which does not even allow revenge against enemies, have made its way?" (C. Cels. II, 30).
But equally important was the previously mentioned Hellenization of the entire Mediterranean area. From this resulted the fortunate fact that men everywhere spoke and at least understood the one language, Greek. An activity like that of Paul, which called him one day into Asia Minor, the next into Macedonia, another day into Syria and still another into Italy, would have been impossible for a modern missionary, who first with much toil must learn the language of the people to whom he is to minister. In the days of the apostle, this difficulty was removed. Even in Jerusalem he would have been understood if he had spoken Greek to the people instead of Aramaic (cfr. Acts 22:2). In Lycaonia, whose inhabitants among themselves talked their own native language, the hearers knew well how to appraise Paul's eloquence--he was Mercury, they said; and, though he spoke Greek, yet they understood his reprimands. It is less remarkable that Greek was the dominant language in the coast cities of Asia Minor. On the other hand, it might seem strange that Paul could assume general understanding of Greek also in Rome. His letter to the Roman Christians was written not in Latin but in Greek. But we have ample testimony that in Rome, Greek was used side by side with the Latin. Quintillian, the teacher of eloquence, recommended to the young Roman to acquire skill in speaking Greek before he mastered Latin. The philosophic speeches of Epictetus come down to us in Greek. The imperial philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, wrote his meditations in Greek. The immense importation of slaves from the east had made Greek familiar also in the lower strata of society. The world was thus prepared for the apostolic message also by the prevalence of the common language. Paul could speak everywhere to the people in the language in which he had himself been brought up and which also was not a foreign language to his hearers.
Every traveller knows from experience that the crossing of national borderlines means transition not only into a new language but among other things also into a new system of money, etc. Also this obstruction had to a great extent been removed by the Roman unification of the many countries around the Mediterranean sea. There was in the empire one coin that everywhere had the same value. This was the Greek-Roman silver-coin called the "denarius." With this, one could make payment in Palestine and Syria, in Italy and Spain. Roman copper coins also were current everywhere, even though alongside of these in many places local coins were used for change. The India traveller Kosmas could truthfully write: "Another sign of the power which God has given to the Romans is that they with their money make commercial journeys to all peoples, and everywhere from one end of the world to another this money has currency, since it is accepted by all men in every state. Also in measures and weights the Romans had introduced unity. Of greater importance to the apostle was the fact that they also had uniformity in their judicial proceedings. Roman justice was available to every Roman citizen--like Paul--also in the provinces. Local custom and law had to yield to it.
To this is to be added the far-reaching tolerance which the Roman religio-political regime extended to every religious propaganda. The Romans generally were not concerned about beliefs and opinions, but fixed one condition, i.e., outward recognition of the official state religion, which in the time of the emperors practically speaking meant submission to the prevalent Caesar-cultus. But fortunately it required some time before this question reached an acute state. Not until the latter part of the first century did this matter press upon the life of Christians. During this convenient time the church could carry on its mission activity in peace so far as the state was concerned.
Christianity as a Jewish sect enjoyed the benefits of the protection which Roman law guaranteed to Judaism and of the exceptional privileges that the Jews had secured in the matter of acknowledgment of the religion of the state. Also the widely practiced religious unionism which the Roman regime within certain limits tolerated, offered loopholes for any new religion; its adherents could organize themselves as a religious union--something of which the Christians evidently availed themselves (See Oscar Moe, Den antike stat, synagogen og kirken, 1894).
But the very first accommodation which a missionary who was to travel from country to country needed, has not yet been mentioned, namely, roads and facilities for travel. Also in this respect the Roman state had done a great work which was of great preparatory value and which in a large measure was an element in the fullness of time for the spreading of the gospel. The Romans had constructed a network of roads and a system of inter-communication which have had no parallel in the world until more recent times. "The deep ruts of wheels in the basaltic Roman roads also in areas far from Rome furnish testimony even today as to how great the traffic was on the roads. . . . Stoics and improvisors, teachers of elocution, actors, jugglers, enchanters, soothsayers, wandered over land and sea in all directions" (Stephan, Das Verkehrsleben im Altertum, 1868, p. 52 sq.). In an epitaph of a Phrygian merchant we can read that he visited Rome no less than 72 times (C.I.G. No. 3920).
The Roman roads are shown on maps in ancient documents. These likely do not extend as far back as to the time of the apostles, but may yet permit us to draw quite reliable inferences as to what roads Paul travelled on his various missionary journeys. We may name first of all the world-chart of Castorius, or the so-called Peutinger's Table, which embraces the world from the east coast of Britain to the eastern border of the world kingdom of Alexander the Great (probably from the fourth century A.D.), and a description of a journey by a pilgrim from Bordeaux (likewise from the fourth century). Lack of space forbids giving a survey of the principal highways from Rome to Africa in the south, to Asia in the east, to Germany and Britain in the north and to Spain in the west. To do so would also anticipate the description of the apostle's journeys. Nor can we dwell on the ancient means of communication, such as the postal service of the state, the two-wheeled and the four-wheeled vehicles, private chariots, the various animals for riding, the horse and the mule. At any rate, Paul did not make much use of these means of travel; he undoubtedly made his journeys largely by traveling on foot. Only in two of his journeys may we assume that he used a mule or a horse: first on his journey from Jerusalem to Damascus (when he was still a persecutor); but as we have seen he was at any rate on foot at the moment when the Christ-revelation occurred. The other time, on his journey from Caesarea to Jerusalem; the distance here is about 80 miles and the apostle negotiated it in two days (Acts 21:16 cod. D), and it is scarcely credible that he, accompanied by a large group, could have made the trip on foot in two days. But in other cases it is quite certain that whenever he travelled on land, he did so on foot. Moreover, his travel-equipment was as simple as it could be (cfr. the instruction given the apostles in Matt. 6:8 sq.).
But whenever Paul had the opportunity, he chose the sea; and for a traveller who on land was limited to going on foot, sea travel must have been more attractive than it appears even to the modern traveller, who has his choice between railroads and steamships. Sea-traffic, however, was at that time as a rule limited to the summer time, or the time from the beginning of March till the beginning of November. A sea-voyage in the winter time was more or less perilous. It was customary to keep as close to the coasts and ports as possible. Where it was practicable, the traveller chose to travel by land a part of the distance (cf. Acts 20).
Real passenger ships, in the modern sense, were more or less unknown at that time, unless we take into account the pilgrim boats which, for example, carried the thousands of Jews who went to Jerusalem to join in celebrating the great feasts. It is presumable that the reference is to such a pilgrim ship in Acts 20:3, where we are told that Paul intended to go by sea from Corinth to Jerusalem, but gave it up when he discovered that the Jews had laid a plot against his life. Ordinarily, travellers in ancient times had to avail themselves of accommodations offered by various freight vessels (cfr. Acts 20:16; 27:2-5, 6-44; 28:11-13). These ships were in some cases quite large. Embarked on the lost ship from Alexandria were, according to Acts 27:37, not fewer than 276 men. The ship on which Josephus, the Jewish historian, sailed for Rome had even 600 persons aboard.
How rapidly did people travel? W. M. Ramsay has concluded that the imperial post (on land) travelled about 37 kilometers (about 23 miles) per day, and that riders did not advance much faster. Imperial couriers might make twice this distance, about 46 miles a day. The average daily march of an active pedestrian was reckoned at about 17 Roman miles (a Roman mile is 1,000 paces, about 1 1/2 kilometers) or 25 1/2 kilometers per day (approximately 16 miles). How rapidly ships as a rule could travel, it is of course impossible to calculate, inasmuch as they were dependent upon the moods of wind and weather. For the voyage from Puteoli (west of Naples) to Alexandria about 20-25 days have been estimated, but for the return (on account of direction of wind) about 50 days. For the trip from Philippi to Jerusalem Paul made an estimate of six weeks. This, in spite of frequent interruptions and sojourns in some places, proved to be ample time. The voyage itself certainly did not consume more than half of that time. According to Acts 27:5 (cod. D), the first ship on which he sailed part of the way in his journey to Rome, from Caesarea to Myra, a city of Lycia (in Asia Minor), consumed 15 days.
As to lodging, accommodations for travellers were very undeveloped in the Roman Empire. Travellers with larger requirements generally avoided hostelries and left them for their coachmen and sailors. Hospitality, on the other hand, was more developed. He who was so fortunate as to have relatives or acquaintances in a strange place could without any feeling of bashfulness count on their hospitality and be assured of a good reception. The Christians, who felt that they mutually were brethren, maintained a relation of hospitality to one another; yet letters of recommendation were necessary in the case of strangers. Also the Jews were very hospitable towards the fellowmen of their race. When Paul came to a strange place, he no doubt as a rule did as he did at Corinth, sought lodging with a Jewish fellowman.
Compared with our age, the age of electricity and steam, the accommodations for missionaries in the first century after Christ were quite meager. The apostle had to travel on foot (could at best only ride on horse or mule) where now railroad trains rush swiftly onward. Voyage on the sea was subject to the variations of wind and weather. But, ancient times considered, the travel by land and sea was on the whole as practicable and safe as could be expected. And, all in all, we have to concede that all possible conditions had been adjusted in such a way as to promote the widest and most rapid spread of the gospel throughout the then known world. Were we to mention still another outward circumstance favorable to the gospel mission, it would be the prominent position which the cities, especially the large cities, occupied in the Roman Empire. Life was to such a degree centered in and around the larger cities that he who could win these for a great cause had thereby won also the surrounding areas. As we shall see, it was a part of Paul's Christian strategy to concentrate his attack on the cities, especially the large cities in the empire. Only in this way can it be explained that he, in the course of such a comparatively short time, could reach as far as he did with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A world united under one scepter, a state with well ordered conditions, peace and security of rights, the best possible means of communication and most active intercourse, which also promoted intellectual development, a common culture which expressed itself in a common cultural language--such were the outward conditions that obtained on the Pauline mission field. And, on the other hand, an immense religious fermentation and restlessness, an intense seeking after new religious values, which could not be met by philosophic speculation or by oriental mysticism--indeed not even by a religion of ancient revelation, but only by one that was new and yet connected with the old revelation and which gave both religious certainty and ethical power--such were the internal conditions on the same mission field. The situation called for the gospel and prepared the way for the gospel. Surely, the fullness of time had come. And the chosen instrument was there: a man who had experienced the highest form of religion yet known, Judaism, and had learned that it does not bring one to the goal, but is only a preparation for a still higher form. A man who also knew the spiritual values that were offered by the Greek spirit and at close range had seen how they had failed: Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? A man who first of all knew from personal experience that the gospel is a power of God unto salvation for every one who believes, and who by the love of Christ was bound to live no longer unto himself but unto him who died for him, who knew himself directly called to be a witness unto all and felt that he was a debtor unto all until he had proclaimed to them the message of salvation which had been entrusted to him, though he had not sought it, but which he was happy to present even if it should cost him his life.
This is a highly acclaimed book coming from the pen of Moody Bible Church's senior pastor. Well it should be. I would rate this as one of the best analyses of Islam. It ought to be read by every pastor, Bible teacher, and church leader in America. Lutzer is unafraid of laying all of Islam's cards on the table and challenging us non-Muslims to wage "spiritual war" with our neighbors.
Lutzer does not scare you with military language or stories of blood and self-imposed martyrdom. For that you will have to look elsewhere. What Lutzer gives us is an insightful look into the Koran and the Islamic tradition that clearly outlines the objectives of all Muslims, both moderate and radical. He quotes frequently and accurately from the Koran. Working from numerous parallels to Scripture and Christianity, he shows that the agenda of Muslims is the overthrow of the West and Christianity, on the grounds that theirs is the only true religion and that ours is idolatry. They have a vision of a global Islamic State governed by Sharia, the law of the Koran. Lutzer points out that "they are careful to disguise their aims such that their work goes unnoticed" (p. 178). He also gives us insight into the ways by which the United Kingdom has allowed Muslims to establish multiple districts where Sharia is the law of the land, superseding the British constitution.
Lutzer is particularly adept at showing the subtle, deceptive strategies of Muslims in provoking us to self-imposed paralysis, primarily because we have emphasized toleration over truth. In our efforts to be tolerant, we remove the cross because they find it "offensive." We become complicit in their agenda when we grant their requests. They use our "separation of church and state" to leverage the adoption of their Islamic state. Lutzer advises against any such compromise, reminding us that this is a "spiritual war." After carefully dissecting other opinions (pp. 203-8), Lutzer gives us practical, concrete strategies for waging the spiritual war in which we will almost certainly have to fight. These are outlined for us in chapter 10, pp. 208-24.
From the days of Mohammed (A.D. 600) to the present, there have been repeated attempts by the followers of "the Prophet" to conquer the world. Lutzer uses the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 to remind us that the church militant is often conquered and overcome. He also illustrates how once-Christian Europe has become a religious wasteland progressively influenced by Islam. He warns us: unless we gird ourselves with the proper armor, we will be next. That is good reason to get the book and read it for all it is worth.
Reviewed by OPC Minister, Norman De Jong
New Horizons, December 2013, pp. 22-23.
Published by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church
Used by permission.
Can you remember the last Systematic Theology book you read? Perhaps you think that such theological material is too deep and technical for you, and that it is better suited for Bible College or Seminary students only. Well you need think that no longer. Dr. Culver has given us a one-of-a-kind work that belongs in every Christian's library, whether he is young or old in the faith. Dr. Walter Kaiser in his Foreward writes that this work of Dr. Culver "represents the fruit of a lifetime of studying God's word and teaching theology to collegians, seminarians, and the body of Christ." It is the sheer magnitude, thoroughness, and clarity of exposition for the average Christian that makes this volume so distinctive.
I am being completely truthful when I say that I read the book from beginning to end over a period of months, usually a couple of hours at a time. It was never boring, dull, or a chore to read -- except maybe for the section on existentialism, a subject which I have never had an easy time grasping. Overall, however, reading it was a pleasure I looked forward to each day! The book, however, did have one weak point -- it was big and heavy. Finding a way to comfortably sit while holding it in a good reading position was the only obstacle to overcome. But once I managed that, I read through all 1,156 pages with great delight. I learned a tremendous amount about subjects in the Bible I knew just a little about or almost nothing about, and much about issues that I didn't even know existed!
Perhaps the best way to give a good review is simply to quote from the book itself. For example, Dr. Culver gives definitions throughout. Following is the definition of repentance (page 708).
Theologians of immediate post-Reformation times were acutely aware of the importance of a sound, biblical definition of repentance. Doing 'penance' in the papal system had thoroughly perverted the meaning of the biblical doctrine and dislocated it in the way of salvation. It is hard to improve on the following: Repentance unto life is a saving grace (Acts 11:18), whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin (Acts 2:37), and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ (Joel 2:13), both, with grief and hatred of his sin turn from it unto God (2 Cor. 7:11; Jer. 31:18, 19; Acts 26:18), with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience (Ps. 119:59).
Here is one example, from among many, where Culver gives referrals to other works. This is from the section on "Theodicy" (page 211):
The Bible never mounts an effort at theodicy, an effort to save the character of God from harmful inferences derived from the presence of evil. Evil is allowed in the world for reasons God has never seen fit fully to disclose and which no human wisdom, Christian or otherwise, has been able fully to discover or to explain. As we have seen, evil is not beyond His control. This has prompted such biblical sayings as, 'Surely the wrath of man shall praise you' (Ps. 76:10). It also has resulted in reports of how God raised up wicked tyrants 'that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth' (Exod. 9:16; cf. Rom. 9:17) and in prophetic declarations wherein God called an oppressive and destructive emperor 'my servant' (Jer. 25:9).
This does not mean that it is wrong to wonder if God was obligated to create the 'best possible of all worlds' or if the best possible is one where there would have been no freedom to sin, or if there really is something rightly called 'free will' without qualifications. These and other musings have been canvassed enough. There has been great difference of opinion among theologians on these questions. Gordon Clark's chapter 'God and Evil' [in Reason, Religion and Revelation (1961)] treats the problem of theodicy in a manner deserving respect. Anyone interested might start his research by examining the articles by John Feinberg on 'Theodicy', 'Problem of Sin' and 'Pain' in his 2001 volume on the doctrine of God, No One Like Him, and pursue the bibliographical suggestions.
Everyone likes to know the practical applications of God's Word and especially theology. Culver has kept this in mind and has included a number of sections under various topics labeled "Practical Benefits." Under one such section dealing with God's incomprehensibility, he writes (page 91):
Each of the texts quoted above represents saintly folk's worshipful wonder at the surpassing greatness of God. These things do not inspire long speeches, rather stumbling words of repentance and silence, as illustrated by Job's excellent example (Job 38-40). They also lend great support to two admirable human impulses and enterprises -- artistic expression and the pursuit of knowledge. No painter will ever exhaust the beauty of God's own workmanship; nor will any oratorio attain the heights and depths of the LORD God Omnipotent whom the composer seeks to praise. As for learning -- the researches of the academic disciplines -- as one of Job's 'friends' declared, we will never know more than the outskirts of His ways. There will always be immensely more to challenge the researcher.
Practical analogies abound. There is a helpful analogy at the end of this discussion of "Propitiation" (page 554).
This important word is used only three times in the English Bible (KJV) and not at all in some recent Versions: 'Whom [Christ Jesus] God hath set forth to be a propitiation [hilasterion] through faith in his blood, to declare his [God's] righteousness for the remission of sin' (Rom. 3:25 KJV). The sense of 'propitiation' (hilasterion) here is propitiatory sacrifice. 'He [Jesus Christ] is the propitiation [hilasmos] for our sins' (1 John 2:2). 'God . . . loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation [hilasmon] for our sins' (1 John 4:10).
If there is any word to focus the specific meaning of Jesus' death on the cross it is our word 'propitiate' (and propitiation) -- as opposed say to a more general term, such as 'sacrifice,' and a word of different specific meaning, such as 'expiate.' Propitiate means to cause someone unfavorably inclined to become favorably inclined. Synonyms are 'appease,' 'conciliate (one offended)'. . .
Confusion between expiation and propitiation will be avoided as long as it is kept in mind that sins (offenses, trespasses, etc.) are expiated. Wrath, or the person who is wrathful, is propitiated. One does not expiate God; one expiates sin. Nor does one propitiate sin; one propitiates God or His wrath. Since the same act of offering sacrifice viewed from the aspect of sin is expiation and, from the aspect of God, propitiation, confusion arises. Every successful propitiation therefore is also an expiation but propitiation and expiation are not the same. A pound of salt may be seasoning to a batch of my dill pickles but as regard the weeds in someone's asparagus bed it is a herbicide. It is not herbicide in pickles or a seasoning in an asparagus bed. So in the passages that speak of Christ as 'propitiation for our sins,' it is not the sins that are propitiated. Rather with reference to the wrath of God occasioned by the sins--God is propitiated.
Topics are covered throughout with an amazing thoroughness. For example, the chapter on the virgin birth of Jesus is 14 pages long. When writing on "Divine Control," Culver breaks this topic down into four parts: Preventive Control, Permissive Control, Directive Control, and Limiting Control. The section encompassing "Personal Consequences of Sin" is given in seven segments: Defilement, Perversion, Paralysis, Bondage, Misery, Guilt, and Death.
Dr. Culver is an honest theologian and does not hesitate to say that some questions cannot be answered (pages 235-36):
There are several questions about mankind's nature and original state that reflection on these revelations in the light of later biblical statements inevitably arouses. People want to know if man's nature was morally free or determined; if he was able not to sin or not able not to sin; if soul is the same as spirit in mankind, or if they are different; and if the souls of human offspring are procreated by parents, as are their bodies, or if God creates the souls in some other manner and infuses them into the bodies, and, in either case, when? and how? A further question is, "What constitutes 'the image of God' in which God created 'them' (i.e., the first pair)?
The significance, difficulty and importance of these questions is indicated by the size of the books theologians write, sometimes on only one of the above questions. An older work, Hurd's, The Tripartite Nature of Man for example, on the question of whether soul and spirit are the same, runs to nearly 400 pages. Volume One ('Human Nature') of Reinhold Niebuhr's The Nature and Destiny of Man runs to over 300 pages, while G. C. Berkouwer's Man: The Image of God runs to 375 pages. The anthropology sections of standard works of Systematic or Dogmatic Theology for over fifteen centuries (if we include Augustine's Anti-Pelagian Writings) have been about the most ponderous of all sections of those works.
These questions of interpretation must not obscure what ought to be plain as day: mankind's original state was one of happiness wherein personal and community fulfillment were possible. This is the normal state of mankind. It was sadly not to be a permanent state. As to why God allowed sin to enter, we can speculate but our best answers fall short of certainty. This is true not only because God has not revealed why, but also because the reasoning powers of fallen people such as we, in such an area of investigation, are not fully to be trusted. It is too easy to let erroneous or sinful presuppositions get in the way.
Other hard questions, however, can be answered (pages 1024-25):
If physical death is punishment for sin, why do believing, forgiven sinners die like everyone else? If death is a penal evil, why does God inflict it on those He has absolutely justified?
Let us start by reminding ourselves that 'for those who love God all things work together for good' (Rom. 8:28) and that nothing 'will be able to separate us from the love of God' including 'death' (Rom. 8:38, 39). This means death is a means of our complete sanctification. It is not an invariably necessary means, because Enoch and Elijah were taken to God's presence without death and all believers who survive until Jesus comes at the parousia will be translated and completely sanctified without experiencing physical death. Further, death and a supposed subsequent purgatory in order to complete satisfaction for sins -- either venial or mortal, as in the Roman eschatology -- is a wholly unscriptural notion. It is certain that death of believers is compatible with God's work of vicarious redemption. For reasons of His own God sees fit not to give His people every benefit until the right time, on a schedule for our best interest, as 'wholesome and sanctifying chastisement.' What are these benefits?
Let Robert Dabney explain [Lectures on Systematic Theology (1878)]. 'From the earliest day' the prospect of death 'begins to stir the sinner's conscience,' and serves 'to humble the proud soul, to mortify carnality, to check pride, to foster spiritual mindedness.' He adds:
It is the fact that sicknesses are premonitions of death, which makes them active means of sanctification. Bereavements through the death of friends form another class of disciplinary sufferings. . . . And, when the closing scene approaches, no doubt in every case where the believer is conscious, the pains of its approach, the solemn thoughts and emotions it suggests, are all used to ripen the soul rapidly for heaven. . . . we shall see that all other chastisements put together are far less efficacious in checking inordinate affection and sanctifying the soul. . . . A race of sinners must be a race of mortals; Death is the only check . . . potent enough to prevent depravity from breaking out with a power which would make the state of the world perfectly intolerable.
This is strong language about the moral restraint of death on evil in general and chastisement of believers for their sanctification, but it finds support in the words of Peter: 'Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed' (1 Peter 4:12, 13; see also 14-19 and Phil. 3:7-10).
Also, Culver gives the reader a number of his own "Concluding Reflections." The following reflections end his section on the doctrine of sin (page 417):
I close this section of the volume with some regretful reflections about sin's irrational presence in a world ordered by a God whose name is holy, and the unwelcome necessity of discussing such a monstrous thing. Who, in writing a volume like this one, would not prefer to confine the subject to an obscure footnote or a brief appendix? I have indeed confined it to a condensed treatment in the shortest section. G. C. H. Berkhouwer, who has written numerous large volumes of theology, produced his book on sin rather late in his career. It is the largest (599 pages in English translation) of the series, but with the shortest title, simply, 'Sin'. On the surface it seems strange the great Dutch scholar could say sin is 'a riddle that is truly an "objective" and "essential" enigma . . . an "ineffableness" that has no analogue in the ineffableness of God's works' (Berkouwer, Sin, p. 135) and then write 600 pages about it.
My choice has been to summarize what might be said. Almost every paragraph might be enlarged. Yet, it may rightly be claimed that from this point onward this entire volume focuses on the problem of sin. Christology, or the Provision of Salvation from Sin, is next. Then comes Soteriology, or the Application of Redemption from Sin; after that Ecclesiology, or the Assembly of Redeemed Sinners saved from Sin, and finally Eschatology, concerning the final destiny of Redeemed Sinners and the consummation in the City of God. Of that City it is said, 'They will bring into it the glory and honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.'
In closing this review, let me address one more question that you, perhaps, may have. Why is a study of systematic and biblical theology important? In Culver's own words (p. 5),
If new believers are to be instructed, false doctrines exposed, described and corrected, and if the teachings of the Bible are to be seen in their wholeness, then something not in the written book called the Bible but written in human nature must be brought to it. We call it orderly arrangement or system.
We all need a much deeper study of the Word, and this is the book where anyone and everyone can start. The Scripture Index alone approaches 50 pages; the General Index is over 75! In writing this work Dr. Culver amassed a bibliography totaling 17 pages! Such a wealth of knowledge by a renowned scholar and fine Christian man should not be neglected. I urge you to buy for yourself this great work, because the dividends are enormous.
Note: we also have two of Dr. Culver's other books posted in their entirety: Daniel and the Latter Days and The Sufferings and the Glory of the Lord's Righteous Servant.
Some might be wondering what this title means, The "Unity" of Isaiah. Not to be too simplistic, it means that the entire 66 chapters of the Book of Isaiah were written by one man--the eighth-century B.C. prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz. It is a shame that in Christendom such a subject need even be addressed. However, ever since the time of the apostles, heresy has crept into the church, and the nineteenth century A.D. was no different. There are far too many today who hold to the view that Isaiah wrote only chapters 1-39 and that some unknown prophet wrote the rest.
Is this an important issue? Indeed it is. This view is based on a denial of the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. That is why the subject is so serious.
How, you may ask, did this view come about? The answer is simple: many liberal scholars presuppose that nothing supernatural can happen, specifically divine revelation and predictive prophecy. If Isaiah wrote during the Assyrian period long before the Babylonian exile (which began in 605 B.C.) and prophesied that a man named Cyrus would conquer Babylon (539 B.C.) and issue an edict that the Jews could return home from their exile in Babylon (ch. 44:28), then he truly was a prophet to whom God revealed the future. However, since Isaiah lived about 150 years before Cyrus was even born, then according to many liberal scholars he could not possibly have written all this. Instead, this passage in the Book of Isaiah must have been written during the time of Cyrus or even later. Isaiah wrote chapters 1-39, but someone else must have written chapters 40-66, called "Deutero-Isaiah."
But a problem still remains for those who deny the possibility of predictive prophecy. If Isaiah wrote in chapter 53 of a Suffering Servant and if that Suffering Servant is Jesus, then Isaiah predicted the death and resurrection of the Messiah some 700 years before Jesus was born. But this would be predictive prophecy even for someone writing during the time of Cyrus! Therefore, the liberal scholars who deny the existence of predictive prophecy must take a different approach. They interpret the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 to be the nation of Israel rather than a personal Messiah. Dr. Allis discusses this interpretation as well as several others.
The details of how and why this heresy of "two Isaiahs" arose and with what ramifications for the church today constitute the purpose of Allis' book. Don't think that this is just an academic issue for debate in the seminaries. It is vitally important for every believer to be aware of this issue because of its implications for the doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible. Perhaps you should inquire whether your own pastor holds such a position. If he does, your church has a serious problem.
Dr. Allis is a scholar of the highest order, and he takes what may be called a "heavy" subject and makes it totally understandable for every Christian. The book is short, only 134 pages, and is written in an orderly and logical arrangement. To give one example, in discussing how "higher criticism"1 interprets prophecy, Allis gives 21 Scriptures and explains how the critics change the situation of the prophecy or its scope in order to avoid predictive prophecy, and he then follows immediately with a chapter discussing prophecy according to the Bible.
The heart of the book is concerned with two subjects--the Cyrus Poem found in Isaiah chapter 44 and the Servant of the Lord passages which appear so prominently in chapters 40-66. The reader will definitely find it helpful to refer back to the one-page chart of the Cyrus Poem each time Allis makes a reference to one of the phrases; otherwise it may become confusing or require a second reading. It is an important section and should not be skipped over.
Allis' chapter called "Conclusion" is given in part following this book review. I think you will find it helpful to read it as an inducement to buy this fine book. Used copies and some new are available for online purchase. They are not expensive, but they are of great worth.
1Defined abstractly, higher criticism is the study of the date, authorship, provenance, purpose, nature, and circumstances of composition of the biblical books. As such, it is a valid and necessary area of biblical studies. However, the term is most often used in connection with that school of thought that assumes nothing supernatural can happen.
by Oswald T. Allis
The aim of this brief study of the subject of Prophecy has been to direct attention to two matters which are of the utmost importance in dealing with the problem of the Unity of Isaiah. The first of these is that the unity of Isaiah finds clear and adequate support in the evidence furnished by the Bible as a whole as to the true nature of Prophecy. According to this evidence, prediction formed an important part of the message of the prophets. They spoke, it is true, of things present, but they also spoke, frequently and impressively, of things to come. And when they spoke of the future, they sometimes spoke of its events as future; at other times they spoke of things to come as if they were living among them and as if the scenes of which they spoke were being enacted before their very eyes. The almost unanimous acceptance during twenty-five centuries of the Isaianic authorship of the entire Book of Isaiah can be adequately and fully accounted for only by the fact that such a view of it is fully in accord with the conception of Prophecy set forth in the Bible as a whole. And this explanation is confirmed by the further fact that it was not until another and radically different conception of prophecy began to gain acceptance with critics of the Bible--a theory which insisted on confining prophecy more or less completely to contemporary events with a view to eliminating the predictive element from it--that the unity of Isaiah was seriously questioned and finally utterly rejected by them. Such a view of prophecy must of necessity destroy the unity of Isaiah, but--and this must never be forgotten--it must first recast, remodel, and all but destroy the entire structure of Biblical prophecy of which Isaiah 40-66 forms only a part, though a most important one. In other words, Biblical prophecy and the unity of Isaiah stand or fall together!
The second point which has been stressed is that the whole question of Messianic prophecy, of a New Testament fulfilment of Old Testament predictions, is involved and is at stake in the problem of the unity of Isaiah. The claim that Isaiah 40-66 must date from the time of Cyrus because Cyrus is represented as the contemporary of the prophet has as its necessary corollary the conclusion that the Suffering Servant of Isa. 53 was also a contemporary of the prophet who describes him so vividly. For it cannot be successfully maintained that the one figure is more vividly present to the eye of the prophet than is the other. If then the prophet is thinking and speaking of a contemporary, as the thoroughly consistent among the critics do not hesitate to insist, there is logically no room for a Messianic interpretation and a New Testament fulfilment of this wonderful prediction of the Suffering Servant, which is so precious to multitudes of Christians, because they believe that it speaks so plainly of One who has borne their sins upon the Cross and risen victorious over death for their justification. The meaning placed on the words "situation" and "scope" by the critics makes it difficult for them--it really makes it impossible for them--to find for a prophecy uttered by an Old Testament prophet regarding a contemporary a real fulfilment in the New Testament.
Since the Cyrus Prophecies have figured so prominently in the attempt to prove the critical theory of two or more Isaiahs, the problem of the correct interpretation of these prophecies has called for particular attention. The aim has been to show that while Cyrus is at times referred to with a vividness which suggests that the prophet was speaking of and to a contemporary, the prophet has at the same time made it quite clear by means of a poem which exhibits a remarkable chronological emphasis and gives every indication of very careful design, that Cyrus belongs to the distant future. If this be so, the Cyrus Prophecies themselves may properly be regarded as constituting a remarkable confirmation of the time-honored and we believe thoroughly Biblical belief that "Isaiah the son of Amoz was the author of every part of the book that goes under his name."
In this study of the Unity of Isaiah, the discussion has been largely confined to the two great figures, Cyrus and the Suffering Servant. But it is to be remembered that the great burden of this wonderful book is Messianic and eschatological. And this major theme runs through the whole of it. The vision of the glory of the "last days" meets us already in 2:2-4. It is enlarged upon in 11:1-9. It is the great theme of chaps. 24-27, which mention among other things the conquest of death, the "last enemy," (25:8; cf. 1 Cor. 15:26, 54). And finally it speaks of the "new heavens and the new earth" (65:17; 66:22), thus supplying the theme for the glorious picture of the Holy City with which the Book of Revelation closes (chaps. 21-22). . . .
It cannot be too strongly emphasized that all the hopes of the Christian, both for this world and the next, rest on the promises of God as they are made known in the Scriptures. These promises are great and exceeding precious. But if these promises are dependable and sure, then they are predictions. They are a sure word of prophecy. They concern things to come. . . .
This is a very good commentary on 1 and 2 Peter, written in 1869. Philip Schaff wrote the introduction, which points to its value at that time. You would think, however, that it was written in 1969, for the English grammar is wonderful. There are no lengthy sentences hard to follow, very few (if any) archaic words, and written with a warmth and passion that is found wanting in many commentaries of today. In addition, not only will the reader learn much about the epistles of Peter, but he will at the same time gain a much needed respect for Peter himself, whom I am afraid has taken a "back seat" in many of our churches to the Apostle Paul. It is a scholarly work, but not one that is beyond the ability of any serious reader of the Bible. I read it online at Open Library, but you may be able to find a used copy for your own library.
Some excerpts will be beneficial in promoting this fine commentary.
First, practical insights are always of interest, and there are many in this book that are relevant to our day. Commenting on 1 Peter 5:5, "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder," we find the following:
I am well aware how little agreeable such teaching is to an age which rather laughs and prides itself in the development of quite another spirit, while the natural bonds of the family and of society too often seem as if dissolving before its eyes. Both in the Church and in the management of civil affairs, the tendency now is rather to set the aged aside, and to pay our court to the young. And, as the lessons of flattery are easily learned, we need not wonder at the many instances in which 'the child behaves himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honorable.' Is there not danger that the threatened curse of Judah may light on us, 'And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them'?
Second, very often Dr. Lillie gives "word studies." These I found particularly interesting. For instance, commenting on 2 Peter 1:1, "to them that have obtained like precious faith with us," he writes:
And their faith, he says, was 'precious.' It was so as having God for its Author, as being one of His choicest gifts, and the immediate fruit of His Spirit's regenerating power, working through the external word. Of this thought there is even a direct suggestion in the text. The word rendered 'have obtained' is the same that we find in Luke 1:9, 'his lot was to burn incense,' and again in John 19:24, 'let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be;' so that by the mere use of this term the readers were to be reminded that, if they had really believed to the saving of their souls, they were indebted for their faith, not at all to their own superior sagacity, but solely to the allotments of grace. It had been with them as with Peter himself; a revelation had been made to them, not by flesh and blood, but by the Father of lights. In the dispensation of His favors, that was a blessed portion that had fallen to their share.
Third, at the end of many chapters throughout his commentary Dr. Lillie gives most helpful insights. What better way to end this book review than including that which he writes on 2 Peter 1:1-11:
The eleven verses that we have now reviewed are a remarkable instance of the flow and fervor of apostolic utterance. Like the Nile, the Epistle starts full, strong, and rapid from the very source. One could hardly find another passage containing within the same limits a clearer and more exuberant statement of Christian privilege and obligation, or a more distinct assertion by implication of the harmony existing between Divine decree and human responsibility, between God's all-providing, all-suffering grace and the necessity of man's unremitting efforts on his own behalf. The whole passage is a fine illustration of the way in which Apostles themselves were accustomed to fulfil the charge that Paul laid on Titus (3:8): 'This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works.'
And there are several other important lessons to be learned from these last four verses: as,
1. First, that the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and forgiveness of sins in His name must lie at the foundation of all genuine morality; vs. 8, 9.
2. Secondly, that all claims of an immoral man to superior knowledge and insight within the sphere of the highest truth are utterly delusive; v. 9.
3. Thirdly, that we are bound by our Christian calling, not only to abstain from every appearance of evil, but to grow in all that is good in the sight of God and profitable unto men. A stagnant life of negative decorums and proprieties is a sad sign of spiritual torpor and death; v. 8.
4. Fourthly, that to aspire to certainty in regard to our salvation--to 'the full assurance of hope'--is a perfectly legitimate ambition for a child of God; and that the only way of attaining to it is the highway of the redeemed--the way of holiness; v. 10.
5. Fifthly, that while the opening of the kingdom of heaven does not depend on our good works or on the abundance of them, they will yet be found to have a momentous bearing on the character of our entrance, and on the measure of our reward; v. 11.
Finally, let us be much in the habit of considering that great hope of our calling--'the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.' Daily, for many generations, has the Church, with whatever imperfect and sometimes erroneous views as to the meaning of the petition, been praying for the coming of that kingdom. And come at last it will, no shadowy phantom of authority, but such a realization of mighty, resistless, unquestioned, beneficent rule, as no heir of an earthly throne ever dreamed of. From sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth, Christ shall reign, and we shall reign with Him. Blessed amends for all our wrongs and sorrows here! Glorious recompense of all our toil!
You can read two excerpts from John Lillie commentaries on these pages:
This is without a doubt the most thorough and helpful book I have read on Proverbs. As we all know, Proverbs addresses primarily the subjects of knowledge and foolishness, wisdom and folly, the wise man and the foolish, the righteous man and the wicked, the laborer and the slothful, the way of life and the way of death. With a total of 31 chapters, one wonders just how many new things can be said on these subjects. After reading Wardlaw's book, you will wonder no longer. The answer is--a lot! He writes, "Even on the same subject, how frequently soever introduced, there may generally be found some diversity in the position it occupies--the light in which it is presented; some new phase of its source, its nature, or its results."
The reader will quickly discover that Wardlaw has a wonderful gift of insight. His portrayal of the foolish man is so often right on the money that you would be hard-pressed not to see someone you know. And when he portrays the righteous man in so heartwarming and encouraging a manner, you know his description is of someone you want to be.
I found it of tremendous benefit to read all three volumes straight through. It took me close to a month to do so, reading two, three, and sometimes four hours a day. And it was something I truly enjoyed! Steeping myself, so to speak, in these sublime and valuable maxims was a means of imprinting them on my mind and heart. Very soon I started to look for myself in each proverb; and sure enough, I found me. Where? All too often in those proverbs dealing with folly! It was not a joyous discovery. At the same time, however, I endeavored to take to heart the positive proverbs, trying to absorb all the different aspects of them so that I might put them into practice in my own life.
Although the book is entitled "Lectures" on the Book of Proverbs, they are actually sermons delivered in the Sunday services during the ordinary course of Ralph Wardlaw's ministry. They are heartfelt, flowing with a sense of love for the church and a passion for the equipping of the saints. Advice and kindly warnings are urged throughout, especially to the youth, with many chapters ending with a call to the unsaved.
Quite frequently a proverb has been given different interpretations by different commentators. Sometimes this is due to the meaning of a single word. Wardlaw discusses the origins of these words and enumerates the different interpretations that commentators have given, without demeaning any but showing how each has its merits. It is obviously a difficult task for commentators to decide which was Solomon's intended meaning. However, whichever meaning was Solomon's actual intent, the other interpretations by commentators can still provide valuable advice to Christians. Wardlaw's writing is easy to follow, and you can read through these sermons rather quickly, one reason being that you are caught up in his passion for the subject. Occasionally a sentence might require a second reading, but this stems mostly from not knowing, at first, what the antecedent to a pronoun is.
We have incorporated a number of entries from these Lectures on the Book of Proverbs into this Web site. You will find his sermon dealing with wine under "Application Issues" in the main menu and his sermon on "Wisdom Cries" under "Application Issues" ---> "Helpful Sermons." There are a number of entries in the "Daily Devotions from the Classics," and these you will readily find by checking the Author Index. I encourage you to read them, hoping that you will then wish to read the whole commentary.
Finding a copy of any of the original volumes is difficult. I read Volume I on Open Library. Volumes II and III were downloaded for $9.00 each from Abebooks. There are also some print-on-demand publishers (on the same page at Abebooks). Let me assure you that any effort expended to obtain them will be well worth it. Discovering our own sins and shortcomings, and at the same time finding wisdom and knowledge, are goals every sincere Christian should set before him. And to have them presented to us in sermon form, where we actually feel we are the ones being addressed, is most helpful and inspiring.
Here is a wonderful book on prophecy. I imagine you're thinking, "Don't we already have tons of books on prophecy?" Yes, we do. Most of them, as you would rightly assume, are on the books of Revelation and Daniel. But how many books do you know of that deal exclusively with fulfilled prophecy? Probably close to none. We all seem to focus our attention on those prophecies that are either well-known or future to us. We enjoy reading about the seventy weeks, the four world empires, the beast and the antichrist, the millennium and the New Jerusalem. But what do we know of those prophecies concerning Moab, Edom, Ammon, Jerusalem, Nineveh, Babylon, and Tyre, to name just a few? Or for that matter, what prophecies do we know of that concern the nature of the Christian religion, the land of Judea, and even Christ's rejection by the Jews? It shames me to say that before reading this book I would have been hard pressed to name even one or two.
In this book Alexander Keith acquaints us with all the prophecies concerning the above subjects, as well as many more. His format is to take a subject, for example Moab, and give all the prophecies concerning it, one following directly after another. In other words, the reader may have one, even two, pages of nothing but direct prophecies from the Bible to read. You should not even consider skipping over these sections! Far too many of us are totally ignorant of these prophecies, and to have them all before us at one time is of tremendous help. Following the quotations, Keith then goes on to give the evidence of their fulfillments. This evidence comes from historians as well as travelers to the areas, who, in a great many cases, are enemies of Christianity. Nevertheless, often times their quotations describing a site use the same words as the Bible does in the prophecies themselves.
To read about the desolation of Edom, Tyre, and other places is quite fascinating. But it serves two other purposes beside: it gives the Christian confidence in the truth of the Word of God, and it provides the skeptic with undeniable proof that Christianity is true--for only an omniscient God could foretell the future with such unfailing particularity.
Keith wrote in the mid-1800's. His writing is good, but sentences are rather long. So it will pay to take your time. I read the sixth edition of 1850 on Open Library. You can find it here. A Kindle edition is available as well as a hardback edition. A quotation on the Amazon site states that Chief Justice John Marshall was converted to the Christian faith after reading it just months before his death.
Let me close with a quote from the Introduction:
The apathy of nominal Christians, in the present day, is often contrasted with the zeal of those who first became obedient to the faith. The moral influence of the Christian religion is not what it has been, or what it ought to be. The difference in the character of its professors may be greatly attributed to a fainter impression and less confident assurance of its truth. . . . The lives of professing Christians, in general, cease to add a confirmation to the truth of Christianity, when they have often been the plea of infidels against it. Yet religion and human nature are still the same as they were when men were first called Christians, and when the believers in Jesus dishonoured not his name. But they sought more than a passive and unexamining belief. They knew in whom they believed; they felt the power of every truth which they professed. . . .
To the sincere Christian it must ever be an object of the highest interest to search into the reason of his hope. The farther that he searches, the firmer will be his belief. Knowledge is the fruit of mental labour--the food and the feast of the mind. In the pursuit of knowledge, the greater the excellence of the subject of inquiry, the deeper ought to be the interest, the more ardent the investigation, and the dearer to the mind the acquisition of the truth.
This book on the Sermon on the Mount was absolutely wonderful. Such clear and powerful teaching was really a delight to read.
The address delivered by Jesus called the Sermon on the Mount is familiar to us all, and many questions arise as to whether it directly applies to us in this day and age. Some feel that it was addressed primarily to the Jewish disciples and thus is not suited to this "church" age. Some portions are profitable, of course, but not all is to be followed. I've always had a hard time believing that. Others feel that the teaching is for today, but they nevertheless feel a need to find some round-about and clever way to address those difficult portions, such as turning the other cheek, giving up your coat too, etc. This book by Walter Smith shows without a doubt that it is all to be followed, and it all can be simply and clearly explained. There is no teaching of Christ here given that can be put aside, but all must be incorporated into our daily living.
One cannot read this book without feeling ashamed at the level of lukewarmness, the lack of faith, and the sinful habits evidenced in his own life; yet at the same time the reader will find much to encourage him. These sermons by Rev. Smith were given with much warmth and loving exhortation. It is hard to hear of our faults from someone whom we think has more of them than we do. That is one good reason to read this book. Smith is a man of great humility, and he will let us see where the beam is in our own eye without that judging spirit that we so often use ourselves. It is plain that he himself has taken to heart the lessons taught in the Sermon on the Mount.
I read this book on Open Library, but a printed copy is readily available. Although it was written in 1867, it is not hard reading; and it will definitely hold your interest from start to finish. In fact, I found it to be the most helpful book I've ever read in regards to daily Christian living.
You will find one sermon from the book on our Prayer page.
How wonderful is God's providence that I came across this most remarkable book. I had never heard of the author in any of my readings, so I had no reason to search for his writings. Nor had I been looking for a book to read on the Olivet discourse. But very fortunate it was for me that I came across it, for it was totally engrossing! I absolutely loved it.
The intent of the author is to examine the parallel accounts of the Olivet discourse in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, arrange them in harmony, and then address in particular the figurative interpretation that scholars have given to it. The majority of these scholars (writing before 1853) took the view that all was fulfilled during the time leading up to the Roman war and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Rev. Buck goes to great lengths in his research to totally demolish this theory. As a consequence, the reader will come away with a great knowledge of history together with sound Bible teaching.
Now it may be that you do not adhere to the view that the prophecies contained in the Olivet discourse have been fulfilled already, and that's good. Your view is, perhaps, that some of the prophecies might refer to A.D. 70 while others are probably future to us. You may believe that parts of the discourse should be taken in a merely figurative manner while other parts may be taken quite literally. On what do you base these beliefs? For many of us, I'm afraid it's based simply on what we've heard in Sunday School or from the pulpit. Let's be honest. Pastors seldom, if ever, give both sides of any doctrinal issue. We are basically "spoon fed" what the pastor or church believes without even considering any other position held by renowned Christian scholars. This is truly a pity. How far removed we are from the Bereans who "searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11).
It is important that we, and I am including myself here, be thoroughly acquainted with the arguments presented in this book in order to defend our own eschatological position, assuming we do indeed have one. (We are not warranted in saying we hold a position if all we can say is "I believe Jesus is coming again.")
Although written in the mid-1800's, the English is easy to follow. You will have no trouble whatsoever in following Rev. Buck's arguments. Now there will be times when a second reading is necessary; but this is most probably because we are so unacquainted with the objections raised in the first place. A careful, second reading will make all clear.
The book is very well organized. The arguments for the figurative interpretation of the text are given in detail, and Rev. Buck addresses each one quite thoroughly. Then he gives, with much feeling and enthusiasm, what he believes to be the correct literal interpretation. In no way can the book be called dry and dull! It was impossible for me not to finish it as quickly as possible in spite of it being 472 pages.
You may not be able to find a hard copy, but it can be read online at Open Library. Here is the link:
We have included a portion of his chapter on the word generation on our web site. To read it, click "Biblical/Theological Studies" in our home page main menu, scroll down the page that comes up, and watch for "D. D. Buck." You will also find his section on the meaning and significance of Romans 11 under "Historic Premillennialism."
Here is a wonderfully practical book for all who desire contentment in the Christian life. Would you call yourself a happy, confident Christian, one who continually recognizes and embraces God's sovereign and providential dealings not only in your own life but in the affairs of nations? Or are you endlessly fretting over and lamenting about the state of the world and hardships of life, much like the grumbling Israelites on the way to the promised land? If you belong to the second group, then this book is for you.
It is always helpful to hear a sermon on providence or read a lecture or two. But how much greater advantage there is in immersing yourself in an entire book on the subject! To have providence actually thrust upon your mind for a whole week reaps great benefits. You begin to see it in a whole new light. You begin to see it all the time. Evidence of God's providential care that was overlooked before now becomes the source of great encouragement and contentment. What before had been thought of as "chance" or just plain "bad luck" is now seen in its true reality, the hand of God working all things according to his perfect wisdom--"for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28).
The author points out the many consolations a true understanding of providence provides, particularly in regard to those chastisements and afflictions of which we all partake. We also find that consolation abounds when we truly believe those doctrines of God's omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, immutability, justice, truth, goodness, sufficiency, long-suffering, and mercy.
Let us learn the necessity and importance of submitting to the providence of God. In Divine Providence Bishop Weaver gives us the needed encouragement to do so.
A few ladies were in the habit of meeting at each others' houses for the purpose of studying the Scriptures. When they came to the third chapter of Malachi, the conversation turned on the method of purifying silver. They desired to know what was meant by the language, "He shall sit as a refiner, and purifier of silver." So one of the ladies visited a silversmith and inquired of him: "Do you sit during the operation of purifying?" "Yes," was the reply, "for I must keep my eye steadily on the furnace, lest the silver become injured by the intense heat." "But how do you know when it is pure?" "When I can see my own face reflected in the metal."
Are you in the furnace of affliction? Jesus is sitting close by: his eye is upon you, and when he can see his own image reflected in you the heat will be removed.
I highly recommend this book. Let God's providential leadings in your life become the great source of comfort and encouragement they are meant to be.
The reader will find an excerpt from this book on our Sermons page (Providence - Mysterious), and also one entry in our Daily Devotional. The book can be read on Open Library. Here's the link: Divine Providence
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