Book Review

The Dort Study Bible: an English translation of the Annotations of the Dutch Staten Bijbel of 1637 in accordance with the decree of the Synod of Dordt. 1618-1619. Volume 1. Genesis – Exodus. Translated by Theodore Haak, edited by Roelof A. Janssen. Neerlandia, AB; Pella Iowa: Inheritance Publications, 2003. 351 pp., $18.90 US, $24.95 CN, hardcover. Reviewed by Rev. Jerome Julien.

This book is a wonderful addition to a home, church, school, or minister’s library. Not since 1657 have these notes been available in English, except perhaps through facsimile editions from time to time. In 1657, an English translation was made by Theodore Haak. Originally, these notes were commissioned by the Great Synod of Dort, 1618-1619, along with the Staten Bijbel, a completely new translation of Scripture. In a very real sense, this is probably the earliest study Bible ever produced. We might say of it that this is a short commentary of the Bible.

This volume, the first of what is planned, D.V., to be a republication of the whole set of annotations, contains an historical sketch – written most likely by Theodore Haak, and other documents from the 1637 edition. There is an account of a gold coin produced by the States General of the United Netherlands commemorating the Synod. This coin is also stamped in gold on the front and back covers. (It must be added that the binding is beautiful!) Inside the front and back covers are reprinted the title pages of the Dutch Staten Bijbel and the English translation by Haak, dated 1657.

The notes are preceded by an introduction to each Bible book, and a summary at the end of each chapter. While the notes on Genesis are much more detailed than the notes on Exodus due to the nature of the content, many insights are found on all the pages. These notes would not be what you might read in a commentary published today, but the give concise explanations of the verses. Regularly, they give cross references to other Biblical passages which shed further light on what God says in the text. Also, these notes give an historical-redemptive understanding of the Bible history. Ministers, as well as Bible students, will find helpful information here, as well as ideas to develop.

For those who might be interested, the position on creation days is “that night and day…made up one natural day together…comprehending twenty-four hours” (see Genesis 1:5). Further, the Book of Genesis lays open God’s “everlasting covenant.” The note on Genesis 17:7 states that it is “Everlasting for all believers in Christ…” This subject is discussed at great length in the appropriate places.

Of what value is this new, but very old, set of notes? Some scholars might look with disdain on a republication of these notes. Yet, historically they have value because we can read in English what our fathers at Dort taught and believed concerning Biblical teachings other than those well explained in the Canons of Dort. It is foolhardy to cut ourselves off from our heritage, as so many wish to do today. Now, what has been readily available in the Dutch language for the last three hundred fifty years, is in a newly translated and typeset English edition for our reading and spiritual benefit.

Further, this volume has a practical level. For those who attend church society meetings, or for those involved in Bible studies, here is a concise and helpful Reformed commentary. Its format allows it to be on the table with our Bibles, Psalters, and notes.

This is an ambitious project which Inheritance has undertaken. We must be grateful for their dedicated work. It is the hope of this reviewer that the day will come, beginning now, when this set will not only be displayed in many, many homes, but also well worn through use. In this day of seemingly shrinking interest in the Reformed faith, we and our children must be grounded in God’s truth!

If you cannot find a copy at your local bookstore, it is available direct from Inheritance Publications, Box 154, Neerlandia, AB TOG 1R0, or Box 366, Pella, IA 50219.