A Look at Books

A Distinctive Translation of Genesis, by J. WASH WATTS, W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich., 1963. Price $1.95.

It is called a “distinctive translation”, and distinctive it is. Here are some samples:

Genesis 1:3–5, “Afterward God proceeded to say, ‘Let there be light’; and gradually light came into existence. Also God proceeded to observe the light [seeing] that it was good; so he proceeded to divide the light and the darkness. Then God began to call the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. Thus there came to be an evening and a morning, even one day.

2:19: “Also Yahweh God continued to form from the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the heavens and to bring them to the man to see what he would call them.”

2:25: “And the two or them continued to be naked. the man and his wife, but no sense of shame developed.”

3:7: “Thus the eyes of the two of them were opened gradually, they became conscious of their nakedness, and they proceeded to sew together fig-leaves and to make for themselves girdles.”

5:5: “Thus an the days of Adam’s life came to be nine hundred and thirty years; then he passed away”, cf. also vss. 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, etc.

9:20: “Afterward Noah started out as a farmer, proceeded to plant a vineyard. to drink some of the wine, and to get drink; as a result he began to he uncovered in the midst of his tent.”

But this is enough for purposes of this situation. The translation is said to be distinctive especially in five particulars: (1) transliteration of the divine name Yahweh; (2) indication of special emphasis present in the Hebrew text (by italicizing the emphasized word or words, cf. 2:19 above); (3) writing poetry in parallelistic pattern and marking its periodic stress: 4 ) providing “distinctive translation for Hebrew consecutive imperfects”; and (5) doing the same for “Hebrew correlative perfects” (consecutive perfects).

Observing that “Old Testament composition reveals certain very prominent characteristics for which no dear parallels in other languages have as yet been found”, the author goes on to assert that “some of these peculiar characteristics, though recognized have never been utilized in translation; some have not been thoroughly analyzed and understood by translators; and some have never been clearly distinguished because consistent methods of reproduction in English were not chosen” (Preface). The present translation is offered as an attempt to overcome these alleged deficiencies.

The most radical departure here—and radical it is—from other translations reflects the translator’s rejection of the long. standing interpretation of the waw-consecutive (a peculiar combination of conjunction and verb employed many thousand times in the Old Testament). This is, in fact. the most distinctive aspect of this version also. For that reason, this is a work for scholars. not for the philologically untrained. At this stage its only real function can be the testing of the translator’s novel view of Hebrew syntax. And on that score it is this reviewer’s judgment that the “eating” has gone a long way to disprove the “pudding.”


The Art of Christian Living, by REV. RALPH HEYNEN, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 171 pages. Price $2.95.

The book under review was solicited by popular demand. Much of the material in it had appeared as a column feature in The Banner, a religious weekly published by the Christian Reformed Church. It has now been made available on the general market, and certainly deserves a wide reading.

It might be suspected that a compilation of articles would lack unity. Be sure this is not the case in this book. The author has arranged the material in seven main rubrics, a few of which are: Learning to Conquer Ourselves, Living with Our Emotions, Handling Our Tensions and Anxiety, Towards Emotional and Spiritual Maturity.

Under these and similar headings the author has cogently set forth the ideals for the developing of a full Christian character. Not that only; he also fills the pages with wise and courteous counsel for the attitudes we display towards those who have not such character. He offers countless suggestions to families of troubled persons. Such problems as loneliness, jealousies, anger, hatred, lack of purpose and organization of life, prejudice, guilt, failure, pessimism, and not the least, the sin problem and forgiveness…these and many other personal matters the author examines.

Throughout he shows himself to be an astute observer of human soul. The book reflects fine insights on the part of the writer. There is a rich, practical wisdom about it. Also there is “heart” in the book. It is colored by a warmth aIld kindliness that those striving to master THE ART OF CHRISTIAN LIVING will much appreciate.

Probably, however, the greatest value of the book lies in this, that it shows bow SCripture may cast light upon every aspect of human need, or human development, human behaviour and human relations. Not that the book is a catalogue of proof texts; rather the whole discussion is Bible-orientated in its spirit. The Bible is the ocean in which this ship sails.

The book has a subtitle: Christian Faith and Mental Health. Christians ought to be well balanced persons. People of true char· actor they should be, folk whose lives demonstrate that love to Cod above all and to our neighbor as ourselves call produce great victories, and the richest possible lives. Rev. Heynen does not claim that the Christian faith will cure all psychoses. or for that matter, even prevent them. What he does say, and he says it well, is that the Christian faith promotes mental health and brings the character to its finest and fullest development. And it is clear that the person who has any faculty of response. when be prays to God to “unite my heart to fear Thy name”, will find himself enriched to the full extent of his capabilities for enrichment. The Christian faith, says this Psychologist. Pastor, is relevant and even indispensable to the growing of a mature and mentally healthy person.

You should have this book. and read it with one eye upon your own soul.

And then six months later…read it again.


The Reformation: Rediscovery of Grace, by WILLIAM CHILDS ROBINSON, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1962, 189 pages, Price $5.00.

“Standing today in the midst of an ecumenical movement which envisages unifications with non-Reformed churches, the heirs of the Reformers must understand their legacy. Otherwise we may surrender the truth of God for which many of them gave the last full measure of devotion”. These opening sentences of the Preface state the purpose of the author in publishing these Alumni Lectures, dedicated to the graduates and students of Columbia Theological Seminary.

There are seven chapters in which the theme is developed. from an equal number of aspects. Since there is continued insistence on the rediscovery of grace there is also a certain measure of repetition of the same ideas in differing contexts. But this repetition is helpful in driving home the very important central message. It is also partly accounted for by the fact that these are lectures originally given in various places and at different occasions.

Dr. Robinson has done an immense amount of reading and almost every page contains several footnotes. It is too bad that there is no separate bibliography which would greatly benefit those interested in further reading. There are references not only to the original works of the Reformers, but to many modern scholars, including Berkouwer and Polman.

A review which I read some time ago called attention to the fact that in citing such writers as Barth, Nygren, Kraemer and even Tillich, Robinson often does so uncritically and the unwary reader might get the impression that they are wholly in the true Reformation succession. This criticism is warranted in part, although it is true that there are some incisive criticisms of Bultmann’s “demythologizing” (pages 19 and 99) and of Nygren and Tillich (pages 104, 105). Robinson’s apparent approval of works of neo-orthodox writers should be viewed in the light of such a statement as the following: “As a form of humanism, current existentialism begins with man, and for the theology based thereon, faith is the actualization of man’s self-understanding. The Reformers begin with God, and for them faith is primarily an understanding of God from his self-revelation” (page 36).

A topical index would greatly increase the value of the work as a reference book for the student. It is a mine of information on almost every aspect of theology. There are also some very fine devotional illustrations that preachers could put to good use in their sermons.

The “Excursus on Mariolatry”, forming the concluding section of the lecture on “The Gospel of the Reformation”, is packed with timely information. We do well to remember this prominence of Mary in Roman theology and practice. Only this morning I heard the Ave Maria recited at least a dozen times in less than live minutes on a Roman Catholic radio station. According to Christian Heritage for November, 1963, there is a crucifix in Rome (actual photograph) with Mary on the cross with her Son as co-redemptrix of the world. Rome needs the positive message of the first three parts of this lecture on Jesus Christ as our all-sufficient Prophet, Priest and King.

The lecture on “The ‘Theologian of the Reformation” (Calvin) is not a biography of the reformer, but a brief summary of his teaching. There are enlightening remarks on how there have been departures both to the right (ultra-Calvinism) and to the left (Arminianism). Robinson points out that Calvin hied to keep his balance in all problems by remaining true to Scripture and not indulging in speculation. Especially interesting are the references to R Baxter’s error, taken over by John Wesley, tending to confuse justification and sanctification. Those who think of Calvin as a sternly logical dogmatician will do well to read his hymn: “I Greet Thee, Who My Dear Redeemer Art”, of which a longer version is given on pages 117, 118, than in the Psalter Hymnal, No. 432

In a day of theological vagueness and uncertainty it is good to welcome such a substantial testimony to the historic, evangelical faith of the Reformation. It deserves a place in the library of every Reformed minister.


Beschouwingen over Genesis I, by N.H. RIDDERBOS, Kampen: J.H. Kok, 1963, 2nd ed., 130pp.

Those who, like myself, were for various reasons disappointed in the first edition of this work, at least as it appeared in English translation (Pathway Books: Is There A Conflict Between Genesis I and Natural Science?, Eerdmans, 1957), will find this second edition a more satisfying piece of work. Most of the chapters have been rewritten, at least in part, and the scope of the study has been enlarged. Further, account has been taken of the extensive discussions which have taken place around the general subject since 1954. In issuing this second edition Prof. Ridderbos has done his readers a welcome service simply by bringing them up to date on the progress of the discussion.

Yet this last has obviously not been the writer’s primary purpose. He has written, rather, to sharpen his own perceptions, to clarify for his readers matters which they had not well understood. and to bring under the critique of his own perspective the inadequate and sometimes extreme, if not irresponsible, positions espoused by others.

The writing is not always elegant, but the scholarship is mature, the manner kind, the argument careful, the observations for the most part acute, the conclusions generally judicious. In short, it is the kind of study which will contribute materially to progress in current study of Genesis 1. It will do so because it is a clear and careful presentation of a very real option which interpreters of Gen. 1 must take into account.

The question which Prof. Ridderbos claims to ask himself (cf. Introduction) is the oft-recurring one: Is there conflict between Genesis I and the results of the natural sciences? And in connection with that question the closely related query: What are we 10 understand by the “days” of Genesis 1?

This reviewer has the distinct impression that this way of delineating the central problem is a concession to popular interest, or at least to traditional ways of putting the question. In reality the content is more precise1y designated by the title: “Reflections on Genesis 1”.

For this is essentially an exegetical study. It is very definitely not an attempt to harmonize science and the Bible. If the results of the exegetical inquiry seem to leave the Bible open to certain current conclusions and hypotheses of the natural scientists, that is only an unforeseen, be it happy or unhappy, consequence. In reality, the natural sciences have nothing to say about how any portion of Scripture is to be interpreted (We zullen vit de resultaten van de natuurwetenschappen nooit kunnen afleiden, hoe een bepaald Schriftgedeelte vitgelegd moet worden – p. 26).

Incidentally, there are many such valuable hermeneutical guides scattered throughout this little book, in both text and notes. We have here not a commentary on Genesis I but II concise discussion of exegetical problems confronting us in this passage. Prof. Ridderbos has a sharp and experienced eye for exegetical pitfalls. Although unsystematically given, these hermeneutical counsels alone make this work well worth reading.

With respect to the writer’s basic thesis, it is well-known that Prof. Ridderbos is a proponent of a “framework” hypothesis for the interpretation of the section under study. This hypothesis, let it be said again, is not offered as a way to “harmonize” Scripture and science. Such attempts at harmonization are wholly inappropriate for the biblical exegete. The framework hypothesis is offered. here as a genuinely exegetical hypothesis, i.e. it is offered in on seriousness as the right understanding of what the Scripture writer actually and consciously intended. Among many other considerations our attention is called to the fact that the author was no naive scribe but a highly cultured writer, and that the people for whom he wrote were well-conditioned to understand the framework as a literary device. It will be of interest to readers of this review to hear that or Ridderbos, while finding a “framework” of sorts present in Genesis 2 also, denies that Genesis 3 shows any evidence of embodying such a device.

Having said this much about tile writer’s thesis I must allow him for the rest to speak for himself to on interested readers. (Perhaps John Vriend will render us the service of translating into English this 2nd edition also.)

From the point of view of biblical scholarship it is most unfortunate that the exegesis of Genesis 1 must be carried on today in a context charged with theologic, scientific, and philosophic tensions. In dealing with this portion of Scripture, it is very difficult for the biblical exegete to go about his work unprejudiced (i.e., having but one prejudice that the irucripturated Word of God must be allowed to speak for itself) and undistracted by extraneous influences. And it is equally difficult for him, whcn he has linished his worle, to get an unprejudiced hearing for his conclusions. This reviewer can only hope that this important study from the pen of Dr. Ridderbos will be given the careful reading and full hearing that it so clearly deserves. In my opinion, Dr. Ridderbos has much to teach us about how to study Scripture. More specifically, he has demonstrated that the “framework” hypothesis must be taken seriously into account in on further attempts to understand what the Spirit has to say to us in the crucial first chapter of the inspired Word.

On certain secondary matters this reviewer feels unsatisfied. Why, for example, does Dr. Ridderbos incline toward the view that Genesis 1–2:4a comes from a different literary source, or circle of oral tradition, from that of 2:4bff if, as Ridderbos himself asserts, we have to do in Genesis with an author of no small skill or literary development? And why is 2:4a assigned to what precedes, but 2:4b to that which follows when to do so “dislocates” this recurring statement by placing it at the end of its unit rather than at the beginning as in all other instances, and, moreover, leaves the unit 2:4b–4:26 without a corresponding title? And what is the significance of calling attention to the triple use of bara’ in the account of the creation of man (vs. 27) when the whole account begins with na’a.’seh (“Let us make”) (vs. 26)? But, as was said above, these matters are secondary.


William James by GORDON H. CLARK, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1963, 47 pages, $1.25.

This is the second monograph which Dr. Clark has contributed to the Modern Thinkers Series. The general plan of the work as outlined by the author suggests exposition coupled with incidental criticism to be followed by a summary criticism which is to carry “massive objections” to the religion and morality of James. The reader will understand that here morality has reference to the ethics of James and not to his personal life.

Two of James’ major works have been chosen as representative sources for his thought, A Pluralistic Universe and Pragmatism. It is suggested that the criticisms may possibly help the cause of Christian theism. So, beginning with a discussion and criticism of James’ approach to the universe Clark takes James to task for his basic pluralism, his belief that the universe is composed of unrelated entities. In this criticism, the basic arguments of the monistic rationalists are used, e.g. the whole is not the sum of its parts, etc.

James was wont to call the rationalistic monists, intellectualists. But if James eventually succumbs to the intellectualist’s weapons does this mean that the cause of Christian theism is being promoted. Hardly. We could wish that Clark had spent a bit more time outlining the Christian position over against the pluralistic cosmology of James. There’s scarcely more than a paragraph reference to the fact that monistic idealism and Christian theism do not share cosmologies.

Furthermore, there is a strong impression that James can be downed by rationalistic weapons alone. To use a figure, we might suggest that tilting against the windmills of a pragmatist’s pluralism with the lance of intellectualism, be it ever so sharp, can only turn into a quixotic misadventure as far as the Christian theist is concerned. An irrationalistic pluralism holds to a nonChristian principle of discontinuity while a rationalistic monism holds to a non-Christian view of continuity in its thoughts concerning the relationship of God and the universe. No telling damage will be inflicted on either position if one places some modern habiliments on the form motive of Parmenides or the matter motive of Heraclitus and then rides out to combat.

With respect to the problem of the one and the many, James is actually in a dilemma. He doesn’t want to .give up the notion of relationship between entities completely. Still he doesn’t want to subscribe to the notion of a relating faculty in man which is any more than a mere process. He must make a choice. He must give up what he wants to profess, “a psychology without a soul” or he must reintroduce some spiritual agent which will act as a relating, unifying force. Another alternative, which really makes it a trilemma, as Clark calls it, is to declare the problem to be insoluble; “and either give up intellectualistic logic or admit that life is irrational.” To this Clark appends the parenthetical remark, “Perhaps the reader might be excused for thinking that the last two alternatives are identical” (William James, p. 23)

Were he a layman, the reader might be excused for assuming that the loss of intellectualistic logic must lead to a life that is irrational The Christian philosopher cannot be so excused. Clark doesn’t really say whether or not he agrees that the two alternatives are identical. It would no doubt depend on what use one made of intellectualistic logic. If it is to make the final court of appeal in all determinations of truth and meaning, then the Christian theist must say that a rational view of life does not depend on the operations of that logic. He would have to hold that ultimate rationality would have to depend on ultimate meaning. This is not found in the operations of logic as such as the nature of God and the universe are not finally determined by the operations of the laws of logic.

The second part of this work is devoted to the ideas which James developed in his book. Pragmatism. Verification of ideas and related epistemological matters are discussed as well as the place of Cod and religion. Following this discussion, Clark ends his treatment of James with a section of criticism. He promised that this would take the form of massive objection to the religion and morality of James. However, the promise remains larger than the fulfillment.

James wants a universe in which one can make a religious choice in favor of meliorism. By this James really means that be wants man’s improvement, that is, man’s ultimate salvation to depend on man himself. James is willing to risk his future destiny on such R universe. He believes that any red-blooded individual worth his salt would gladly accept such a challenge.

Clark calls attention to the fact that James apparently has overlooked the fact that the world has its Hitlers and Stalins. These rogues postdate James so we can furnish such examples as the Roman emperors Caligula and Nero as well as such latter rogue’s gallery candidates as Attila the Hun, Louis XIV and Charles I. Here is empirical proof that James is too optimistic, that his confidence is misplaced. Would it not be more intelligent to stake one’s future on a choice that could guarantee a sure salvation?

The whole system of James’ morality depends on man’s personal morality and James says “nothing to recommend that morality to others. Hence his philosophy as a whole lacks support. This situation is not sufficient to convince a man with a different morality that refuses to gamble against overwhelming odds. Surely, Christian theism is preferable to Pragmatism” (p. 46).

With these suggestions Clark ends his criticism. One gets the impression that Christianity is a better bet than Pragmatism b&cause it is a bet on a sure thing. Clark leaves Implications but he does not raise massive objections to the basic atheistic naturalism and the complete relativism of Pragmatism as outlined by James. One may say, Does not subjectivism imply relativism? True. However, direct statements would sharpen the criticism for most readers.

In one of the concluding paragraphs, Clark begins by suggesting, “Now, the trouble with James’ theology is its complete lack of a reasonable basis” (p. 46). Elsewhere Clark has already relegated James to the irrationalist’s camp to join Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Durkheim, Dewey and Ayer. At the risk of being included in the aforementioned company, one might suggest that in his treatment of James, and Dewey for that matter, Clark seems to be somewhat too preoccupied with the law of contradiction. If one is to reject James’s theology because it lacks a reasonable foundation, does this suggest that Christianity can be recommended because it does not have this deficiency? James forthrightly admits that he has chosen his kind of theology on the basis of faith. Does not the Christian do the same? In any case, Christianity is not more reasonable in the eyes of those intellectualists and monistic idealists with whom James disagreed as be did with Christian theism.

Clark suggested in his introduction, “The entire monograph, written from a definite point of view, as all philosophic writing must be, is designed to help the defense and development of Christian theism. Most of this help may be negative: either simply adverse criticism of James’ position or the utilization of his arguments against other non-Christian philosophies. Yet possibly there could emerge something more positive also” (p. 9).

The philosophically oriented reader will appreciate the negative aspects of Clark’s treatment and will benefit by the addition of this work to his library as well as by the addition of Clark’s monograph on John Dewey. The theologically oriented reader will wish that the positive development had been carried beyond mere indirect implications. These may even at times elude his notice. Clark did not promise the positive but the positive would have been a positive asset to the work.


Salvation by ERNEST F. KEVAN, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 130 pages, price $2.50.

This little book is one of Baker’s Christian Faith Series. It is a good book for individual study and could well be used profitably as a text for study groups in Bible doctrine. The author is principal of the London (England) Bible College, and a Baptist minister. Apparently he stands in the tradition of Spurgeon and is definitely committed to the Reformed faith in such matters as election, irresistible grace, etc.

As its title implies, the book is concerned with salvation, more specifically with soteriology, or the application of Christ’s work to the sinner by the operation of the Holy Spirit. It is not stated in the traditional order of the “ordo salutis”, but such matters as calling, regeneration, justification, sanctification and perseverance of the saints are defined and explained from Scripture.

Dr. Kevan has a gift of stating doctrine very concisely. Some of his sentences are almost aphorismic. and are easily retained in the memory. A few examples: “There is no election to damnation in the Bible” (page 39). “Justification is the believer’s established position; his unchanging status before God: it is the one constant fact that he is accepted in Christ” (page 51). And a footnote on the same page: “Note that a1though believers are ‘treated’ as if they had never sinned, they can never ‘be’ as if they had never sinned”. “Faith is living union with Christ and is the condition of every other Christian grace and of all Christian growth” (page 55). “There is no such thing as substitutionary sanctification” (p. 77). “Blessedness is progressive, and heaven will mean growth” (p. 101). “Man must be told that although he cannot come to Christ, he must come” (p. 110). “The best way to preach sinners to Christ is to preach Christ to sinners” (p. 113). And to mention on1y one more: “Christ’s appeal is compassionate, but never plaintive. God never puts himself at the mercy of man…” (p. 113).

The above citations must be taken in their context, but they give something of the style of the book. as well as its theological stand. There is much word study, and many references to Scripture bolster the arguments. The presentation is sane and careful. but there is no compromise with the truths of sovereign grace. Personally I found the chapter on Salvation Proclaimed, with its balanced discussion of the universal and well-meant offer of the gospel, especially helpful. There can he no doubt that many who may he somewhat confused by the debate about the love of God and gospel preaching now being carried on in our circles will find help by reading this section; in fact, the entire book throws light on this discussion.

We wish the Baker Book House well in its projected Christian Faith Series, and if the other books on similar topics are of like quality this ought to be a very fine contribution to popular Calvinistic literature. Highly recommended.