A Look at Books

Man: The Image of God by G.C. BERKOUWER Eerdmans, 1962. 375 pages. Price $6.00

This is the eighth volume to appear in the American edition of Professor Berkouwer’s “Studies in Dogmatics.” It is an excellent source-book for any one who wishes to study the history of the dogma of man as the image of God. It shows clearly among other things that present day humanists, though they place strong emphasis on the dark aspects of human nature, resolutely reject the Reformation doctrine of total depravity and affirm their faith in the potentiality of human nature to rise to desirable heights. It is also interesting to note that Berkouwer, when he gives a resume of Karl Barth’s doctrine of man, takes sharp issue with Barth’s teaching that we participate in Jesus’ nature. Berkouwer very properly insists that this view is in conflict with various scriptural declarations, which tell us that Jesus at the time of His incarnation became like unto us.

As might be expected we find in this volume many passages which echo the writings of Calvin and various other Reformed scholars on anthropology. Berkouwer time and again insists, eve as Calvin did, that true knowledge of man is out of the question apart from true knowledge of God. According to Berouwer man everlastingly stands in an unescapable relation to God. But Berkouwer is by no means a traditionalist, who slavishly repeats what may be called the consensus of opinion on the nature of man among Reformed theologians of former year. He does not hesitate to point out what he considers to be weaknesses in certain view of theological giants like Abraham Kuyper Sr. and Herman Bavinck.

But what is the content of the phrase image of God? The clearest answer to this question is to be found if we study in connection with Genesis 1:26, 27, those passages in the New Testament, which speak of the re-establishment of God’s image in the redeemed, and of Christ as being God’s image, to which image God’s children are conformed. It is precisely in the redeemed that the image of God is visible. It is in a comparatively small section of the volume, which we are reviewing, that this matter is discussed rather thoroughly, namely on pages 98–118. This means of course that according to Berkouwer the content of the image of God is to be sought primarily in what Reformed theologians have been wont to call the image of God in a narrower sense, that is that image of God, which man possessed in the morn of creation, lost completely in the fall, and regains when he is saved by Christ. We say essentially the same thing when we declare that man is the image of God when he is conformed to the will of God.

Are we now to take it that according to Berkouwer fallen man, as long as he is not regenerated, is not the image of God? No, that conclusion would be contrary to fact. Berkouwer agrees that when Reformed theologians spoke of the image of God in a broader sense, they had Biblical warrant for speaking thus. Fallen, unsaved man is the image of God in a certain sense. There are, as the Reformed Confessions teach, remnants of the image of God in fallen man. But when we search in Berouwer’s book for a clear and unequivocal answer to the question what the content is of the image of God in fallen man, we search in vain. He does say that the whole man including his body is the image of God. And he also teaches that man after the fall retained his humanness and was neither bestialized nor demonized. But we are not informed how fallen man retains some likeness to God. We might at least expect some explication of the small remains of God’s excellent gifts, of which ARticle 14 of the Belgic Confession speaks, and of the glimmerings of natural light mentioned in the Canons of Dordt III, 4, but Berkouwer does not supply it. He evidently is not enthusiastic about elaborating on the image of God in the broader sense for he says that there are dangers in stressing the image of God in fallen man, since such emphasis tends to weaken or even destroy the reality of sin and corruption. And to prevent such danger he shows at some length that Scripture teaches clearly and forcefully the doctrine of total depravity. See pp. 140–144.

One review of Berkouwer’s “Man – The Image of God” would be wholly inadequate if we did not call attention to the remarkable fact that he time and again voices his agreement with Booyeweerd and Vollenhoven, the proponents of the philosophy of the law of spheres, who have attacked two doctrines held by many Reformed theologians, namely the doctrine that man is a composite of body and soul, and the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Berkouwer readily admits of the soul. Berkouwer readily admits that the Reformed Confessions sometimes use language which favors the idea that man consists of body and soul and the idea that man’s soul continues to exist after death. But, so says, Berkouwer, the language of the Confessions is not scientific language, such as schoolmen use. So there is no warrant for declaring scientists and philosophers to be heretics because they employ expressions which are apparently out of harmony with the unscientific language used by the church to express its faith.

We know, of course, that Dooyeweerd, Vollenhoven, and Berkouwer declare that they do not find it difficult to subscribe to the teaching found in Lord’s Day 22 of the Heidelberg Catechism to the effect that the sould of the believer at the moment of death is taken immediately to Christ, its Head, but we can hardly see that it is self-evident that there is no conflict between Lord’s Day 22 and the denial of both the substantial dichotomy of soul and body and the immortality of the soul. We find no satisfactory answer in Berkouwer’s book to the question what of man continues to exist consciously at the moment of his corporeal death. We should like to know how Professor Berkouwer exegates the words of Christ found in Matthew 10:28, “And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him, who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”


Modern King James Version of the Holy Bible by J.P. GREEN, $7.95.

In recent years not a few new versions of the Bible have appeared—too many in our opinion. Familiarity with the words of Scripture and the ability to quote from it are bound to suffer when readers of Scripture use several versions or substitute a new version for an old. And yet, old versions, more specifically the King James Version, for those who use the English language, are bound to be more or less incomprehensible because living languages change constantly. Words become obsolete or their meanings change, grammar changes, and errors in translations, discovered through intensive study of the language in which the Bible was written, need correction.

Three principal objections are often raised against the new versions. First, they have lost the rich flavor of the King James Version, whose “simplicity, dignity, power, happy turns of expression, general accuracy, the music if its cadences, high standard of excellence” are praised by so many scholars. Second, some of them are not translations in the strict sense of the word, but interpretations, paraphrasings. Third, the most serious charge against the newest of these version is that they have altered some of the most fundamental concepts of the Bible in the interest of modern theology.

Thus the very long introduction to the volume now being reviewed contains a partial list of some of the changes mentioned last. We quote: “The virgin birth is cloud by translating ‘young woman’ in Isaiah 7:14; by translating that Joseph was the father of Jesus; by removing ‘first-born’ from Matthew 1:25.  The Godhood of the Lord Jesus becomes dubious when the new versions accord a ‘Thou’ to God, but only a ‘you’ to Jesus. In similar vein, the Son of God is rendered ‘God’s son’ or ‘a son of God’. The handling of Romans 9:5 and I Timothy 3:16 removes two solid proof verses to the divinity of Christ. The use of ‘only son’ instead of ‘only begotten Son’ is in the same category.

“Propitiation become merely a ‘remedy for the defilement of sins.’

“Justification by faith is marred by presenting faith as a meritorious work which procures righteousness…

“Peter and John and the beast are ‘worshipped’, even idols are ‘worshipped’ but the Lord Jesus is not worshipped; all only ‘pay him homage’ or ‘do obeisance.”

“Redemption becomes a mere ‘release’; faith is only an ‘awakening’; believing degenerates into a simple ‘yielding of allegiance’; righteousness in the modern version is but ‘goodness’; the miraculous darkness on Resurrection Day is translated ‘eclipse’; and the demon-possesion so prevalent in Jesus’ day becomes nothing more than ‘epilepsy’. Not one of these can be claimed to be precise translation of the Greek words God’s apostles wrote.”

I can agree with much of this severe criticism of the popular RSV. That is the reason we refuse to make use of that version in our family worship. At the same time, we do not use and never have used the King James Version for the same reason which moved Jay P. Green to publish his MODERN DAY KING JAMES VERSION of the Holy Bible, namely, the many obsolete and archaic terms in the original King James Bible—terms which are no longer understood today. Green’s revisions lists many of these as for example such words as amerce, besom, bruit, champaign, clout, fray, neesing, tabering, and bestead. Many more are added.

Personally I have used the American Revised Version since my youth and feel no need of the newer versions except for the purpose of comparison. But if I belonged to the large to the large number of English speaking people who still cling to the King James Version I would certainly consider using Jay P. Green’s MODERN King James Version. It has preserved, I believe, the excellent features of the original King James Bible and removed all the words and phrases which are meaningless to the modern reader, I have perused the sample page which shows both the original expressions which have become obsolete and their substitutions and judge that the reviser has done a thorough piece of work. In fact, I feel that his zeal at times gone even beyond what was necessary, as for example when “stayed” is substituted for “lodged”, “here” for “hither”, “lived” for “dwelt”. But perhaps even my vocabulary is in the process of becoming antiquated! By the way, is not the substitution of “And before they had laid down” for “And before they were laid down” an error? The verb “lie” takes “lain” not “laid” in the perfect.

Green’s version is to be commended to all who still wish to use the King James Version of the Bible. It is a beautiful book, but large. The print is one that the very young as well as the aged can read. The page is an attractive feature for those who wish to make this a gift Bible. The subject index in the front, together with a glossary of terms at the end, enhances the value of the book.

I do not pretend to have the specialized knowledge which a capable reviewer of Bible versions should have. But since the publisher kindly inscribed my name on the front cover I felt obliged to write something about his MODERN KING JAMES VERSION OF THE HOLY BIBLE.

H.J. Kuiper