The Bible and Archaeology J.A. THOMPSON Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1962, 438 pp., $5.95.
Of the many publications in the general area of archaeology and the Bible this is one of the better. It is a revised edition of a single-volume version of three earlier works on Biblical archaeology issued by the same author and publisher in the Pathway Series: Archeology and the Old Testament, 1957, 1959; Archaeology and the Pre-Christian Centuries, 1958, 1959; and Archaeology and the New Testament, 1960.
Mr. Thompson is Lecturer in Old Testament Studies, Baptist Theological College, New South Wales. Australia. In his foreword to this volume. F. F. Bruce informs us that the author has long made a special study of biblical archaeology and has bad practical experience at Jericho and Dothan. This no doubt accounts for the authority with which the author writes.
This volume is to be commended fur its basic theological position which is essentially sound, for its judicious choice and organization of material, for its helpful appendices, and for the truly lavish manner in which it is illustrated.
It is, however, a “handbook for Bible readers” and not an encyclopedic presentation of significant archaeological materials. It must be expected, therefore, that it shares in the defects of all band boob. Most obviously among these is the abbreviated treatment of many matters. Often the author must simply indicate that treasures of information have come to light which he cannot detail.
This reviewer’s enthusiasm for Thompson’s work is somewhat tempered by the fact that the author seems at times to be too uncritical of the dictums of W. F. Albright, and occasionally appears to be under the influence of the historicist approach to the Bible manifested by many writers in this field. Is it really true that “there cannot be a true appreciation of the significance of Abraham if we attempt to understand him without the important background material” unrovered by archeaologists (p. 36)? that the “additional material” which has come to light is what really “enables us to place the kings of Israel in a true perspective” (p. 135)? or that the understanding of the Roman world of the first Christian century afforded us by archaeology is “necessary for an appreciation of the meaning of the New Testament writings” (p. 301)? Beyond a doubt archaeology has brought to light much information which, from historical and lexical points of view illumines the pages of Scripture. But is it true, as the author in agreement with many others seems to suggest, that the Bible was largely opaque until modern archaeology brought light and clarity? This reviewer registers a vigorous protest against any such suggestion. To accept it is to ignore the fact that Scripture is a written revelation and not just the record of a history which is revelatory. Scripture has always been “perspicuous,” and its unique and fundamental message has always been transparent to the diligent and believing student. It is history and lexicography which archaeology illumines, not “the significance of Abraham,” or the “true perspective” of the kings of Israel, or “the meaning of the New Testament writings.”
The above is a criticism of the author’s view of the role of archaeology in biblical studies. This reviewer questions also some particulars, such as; (1) that Israel in Egypt is to be described simply as a “little group” (p. 52), without taking account of its great expansion in the latter part of the Egyptian sojourn; (2) that the plagues in Egypt were “neither improbable nor unusual” but were a “part of the local color” (p. 64); (3) that the reference to the Red Sea is really to “its marshy extensions” (p. 66); (4) that there was a “strong physical reason” why Edom was not attacked by the migrating Hebrews, namely, that it would have been “foolish indeed to attempt to scale the heights of the Edomite plateau” (p. 73); (5) that Samuel only “seemed” to be unwilling to agree to Israel’s request for a king (p. 94); (6) that Solomon’s methods of government are to be characterized as “foolish” (p. 107); (7) that “representations of men and animals were forbidden by the commandments of Moses” ( pp. 284, 307, 358).
JOHN H. STEK
This I Confess by NICHOLAS J. MONSMA Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1962, 65 pages.
This is a brief explanation of the Form for Public Profession of Faith as used in the Christian Reformed churches. The writer explains that this material was used by him in his catechism classes a few weeks before the close of the season. We readily believe that this was profitable for the catechumens and for the congregation!
The author’s interpretation of the liturgical Form in question is lucid, factual and spiritual. Personal responsibility is well stressed throughout. The meaning of public profession of faith, the preamble of the Form and its four questions and answers as well as the dosing prayer arc dealt with in this fashion.
Tho most commendable feature of this treatment is the emphasis on the inherent connection between baptism and profession of faith as both leading to the Table of the Lord. It is to be noted that the language of this formulary is practically identical or certainly very similar to the language used in the Christian Reformed forms for baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
This reviewer finds no occasion for negative criticism of any portion of this work. Instead of using it in the catechism classes it might be preferable to give a copy to each one who appears to make profession of faith (a presentation page is included for that purpose. Reading this book and following its directions will make the act of public profession more responsible and self-conscious. And the author is entirely right when he suggests that “a perusal of this booklet by older members of the church will, I trust, likewise prove to be profitable.” Personally, I found it so.
The author has done a job that needed doing. We recommend without reservation!
Het Tweede Boek Samuel GOSLINGA, C.J. J.H. Kok, Kampen, 1962, 479 pp.
It is a pleasure to introduce the readers of TonCH ANn ThUMI’ET to a new volume in the series: Commentaar Op Het Oude Testament, which is appearing under the general editorship of W. H. Gispen and N. H. Ridderbos. The author of the present work is an emeritus minister, obviously belonging to that breed so rare among us: the scholar-minister. His work, an expansion of his volume on the book of II Samuel in the more popular Korte Verklaring, is a worthy addition to the Commentaar series.
This is clearly a scholar’s commentary. Linguistic and exegetical problems are discussed in detail, and with competence. Variant points of view are weighed. The author carries on a running discussion with fellow Old Testamentalists, especially of Germany and Holland. In fact, quotations from German sources arc so frequent that a fair knowledge of the German language is helpful for the most fruitful use of this work. References to Dutch writers are sufficiently plentiful to provide the reader with a good basic bibliography of Dutch Old Testament literature.
Any formal discussion of Introductory matters is wanting in this volume, having been reserved for the volume on I Samuel, which the same author is preparing. Jt is evident, however, that Dr. Goslinga rejects the development hypotheses of the dominant schools of higher criticism. This he does explicitly in h is Korte Verklaring volumes. There he calls attention to the integrity of design and unity of purpose evident in I and II Samuel, and properly argues from this to the unity of authorship: “wanneer er geen plan, geen eenheid van conceptie is te ontdekken, kan men spreken van compilatie, maar dan is het werk als zodanig een mislukking” (Korte Verklaring, Samuel, Vol. I, p. 11). In the expanded commentary here under review the author has not departed from this position.
It is obvious that Dr. Goslinga stands firmly in the historic Reformed tradition. He refuses to experiment with new hermeneutic principles based on hypotheses regarding the genesis of Scriptural writings propounded by those who presume to know too much. Viewing the text: of Scripture and he rightly accepts the Masoretic recension of the consonantal text as essentially reliable—as the theopneustic (God-breathed) Word of God, he takes his stand under it. By paying close attention to the text he allows it to speak, without raising theological, philosophical, stylistic, or historical objections to it. Furthermore, he interprets within the framework of a sound view of the canon, i.e., that as a book of revelation the Bible is one; its component parts are not to be interpreted in isolation. This means, interalia, that a unique pattern of typology is duly recognized as permeating the revelations of the Old Testament. This is not to suggest that the author has tended to “spiritualize” with abandon. In fact, in this reviewer’s judgment, he has erred in this matter more on the side of defect than of excess. A fuller development of the typological element, after the pattern of de Graaf’s Verbonds Geschiedents, would have increased the usefulness of this work for the preacher and teacher.
There is little point in a review of this nature to illustrate the author’s work by evaluating specific instances of commentary. Suffice it to say that I found the comments genuinely helpful on all passages that I cheeked. I commend this work with highest praise to an serious students of the Old Testament.
In closing let me express my regret that candidates for the ministry in the Christian Reformed Church need no longer show competence in the Dutch language. Lacking this, they are cut off from a living tradition of sound biblical scholarship which has retained high standards of scholarly achievement without yielding to the massive pressures of the modem critical hypotheses which have vitiated the work of most modem biblical scholars outside of this tradition. Here is a tradition from which we may not isolate ourselves. Here are treasures we must tap if we are not to lose the riches of the biblical message.
JOHN H. STEK