Book Reviews

Protestant Preaching in Lent

by Harold J. Ockenga

Published by the W. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 255 Jefferson Ave., SE Grand Rapids 3, Mich., 1957; price $3.95.

This is the first volume in the Eerdmans Annual Lenten Series. The volume consists of seven series, each including from four to eight messages. The messages are condensed sermons, or, if you prefer, expanded sermon outlines. The author is Dr. H.J. Ockenga, pastor of Park Street Church, Boston. The first section of the book is devoted to a discussion of The Dinner Parties of Jesus; the second to the theme Glorying in the Cross; the third to The Suffering Messiah (a discussion of Isaiah 53); the fourth to Questions Asked of Jesus; the fifth to the theme Jesus, Pray For Us; the sixth to the subject At The Cross of Christ; and the seventh or final one to Character Conflicts at Calvary.

This is an excellent book. The approach throughout is warm, practical, evangelical. The author is not trying to please everybody doctrinally. He believes, for example, in the eternal security of believers, and his discussion of the much debated subject is very sane and well-balanced (p. 169). He also affirms that when Jesus prayed, “That they all may be one,” he was not praying for the organizational unity of the church, p.178. The style is clear and simple. The presentation is most Interesting. The organization of the various topics, so that the content of each sermon-digest is easily retained in the memory, is superb. This book should be bought and read not only by every minister but by everyone interested in good religious literature, especially literature for Lent. –Wm. Hendriksen


De Eerste Brief Aan De Kerk Te Korinthe, by F.W. Grosheide

Tweede, herziene druk; published by J.H. Kok, Kampen, 1957; price f 19.25.

“How to live a life to the glory of God in the midst of a wicked, pagan world,” summarizes the contents of I Corinthians. Since in a sense believers are always living in the midst: of a wicked world, the teachings here presented are always up-to-date. They have significance for every period of history.

I Corinthians is a most interesting epistle, and the author of this commentary reveals himself as a master-exegete. The book contains no less than 448 pages. One finds here the author’s explanation of such difficult pages as the following:

“I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (I Cor. 6:3). What kind of angels are meant good or evil? What does it mean that we shall judge them?

“Yet if the unbelieving departeth, let him depart: the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases” (I Cor. 7:15). “Not under bondage” in which sense? Does it mean, “free to be divorced,” or also, “and free to marry again”? Just what does it mean? Here, perhaps, the explanation might have been fuller.

“We know that we all have knowledge” (I Cor. 8:1). Is Paul himself saying this or is he quoting this?

“Divers kinds of tongues” (I Cor. 12:10). What is meant by these tongues?

“But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three” (I Cor. 13:13). Does hope go with us to heaven? Does faith?

I do not c!aim that Dr. Grosheide has written the final word to his explanation of these and many similar passages. In some cases—I am thinking particularly of his interpretation of the tongues—his interpretation may lead to further questions. One thing is certain, however. Among the many excellent commentaries on I Corinthians this is one of the finest. And the style in which the thoughts are presented is always clear, readily understandable. No one who desires to become thoroughly acquainted with this great epistle of Paul can afford to miss this great commentary. – Wm. Hendriksen

Paul and Jesus, by H.N. Ridderbos

Translated from the Dutch by David H. Freeman; published by the Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1958; price $3.50.

Dr. Herman Ridderbos is professor of New Testament in the Theological Seminary at Kampen, The Netherlands. He is the author of several books in his field of specialization; for example, a Commentary on Galatians (which is a volume in The New International Commentary on the New Testament), and his major work The Coming of the Kingdom, which is now being translated from the Dutch.

In the book now under review the author discusses the origin and general character of Paul’s preaching about Christ. The chapter-headings are:

The Problem of “Paul and Jesus” in the New Criticism

Jesus’ Self-Revelation and the Christian Kerygma

The Sources of Paul’s Preaching

The General Character of Paul’s Preaching of Christ Paul, the Early Christian Church, and Jesus

The Notes found on pp. 133–155 indicate that Dr. Ridderbos has done considerable reading with reference to the subject which he is treating. He is well at home in New Testament theology. His discussion, moreover, is up-to-date. Hence, he not only summarizes the views of Wrede, Reitzenstein, and Bousset, but also those of Bultmann. His own view as to the source of Paul’s religious ideas is stated as follows:

“In summary, with respect to the sources of Paul’s preaching of Christ, the direct data of the New Testament point before everything else to the revelation which Paul received from the risen, exalted Christ, and to the tradition received from the early Christian church . . . Paul is . . . a legitimate proclaimer of the historical Jesus Christ, and . . . in full harmony with his fellow apostles, and is also in a continuous relationship with the Old Testament revelation. Moreover, Paul passionately opposes any falsification of the gospel, and appeals to the leading of the Spirit of Christ in support of his conception of the wisdom of God.” Well, with this we are in hearty agreement.

There is much in this book that reminds us at once of J. G. Machen’s The Origin of Paul’s Religion, though Ridderbos naturally is more up-to-date. Hence, I strongly recommend that both of these books be studied.

The volume under review is d&serving of high recommendation, If I may, nevertheless, be permitted to offer one word of criticism, it would be this: the style is rather heavy (shall we say European?). Technical terms are sometimes left unexplained. The theologian who is at home in the terminology of recent New Testament studies will have no difficulty in grasping the meaning of a statement such as this:

“It is true that Boltmann opposes the liberal Jesus, as the preacher of a timeless religious moral truth, with the Ereignis-character of the gospel. But this Ereignis consists in its very depths in an appeal to Entscheidung which came and continues to come to man as the word of God in Jesus’ preaching and self sacrifice.” Whether this will be readily grasped by the “average” reader, even among those who are deeply interested in religious literature, is debatable. Such terms as Seinsverstandnis, Entscheidung, theologoumenon, formgeschichtliche, expressis verbis, corpus-alienum, etc., sprinkle the pages. Moreover, here and there the treatment suffers from being overly concise. The author seems to take for granted that the reader, whoever he may be, is already well at home in the subject. Clarity of expression is sometimes lacking. (To a certain extent this could be the result of translation.)

Apart from this fault—for I do not hesitate to call it a fault—the book deserves high recommendation. – Wm. Hendriksen

Dienaren van de Koning: Dr. H. Mulder

Publisher, J.H. Kok, Kampen, 1956.

Dr. Harry Mulder is one of the pastors of the Reformed Church of Delft, the Netherlands. He is the author of several boob, all of them dealing with New Testament subjects, one of the latest being “De Vondsten bij de Dode Zee.” Dr. Mulder has made a special study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and has written a number of worthwhile articles on that and other subjects in Gereformeerd Weekblad and other Dutch periodicals.

DIENAREN VAN DE KONING is a 168-page study of the outstanding character. among those who were associated with our Lord during his earthly life and ministry. These are: John; the Friends of the Bridegroom; Joseph, the husband of Mary, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the Twelve.

These chapters are not meditations but which present a wealth of valuable material based on the New Testament passages which deal with the servants of Christ and their relation to their Lord.

We found the chapter on John the Baptist very informing and convincing. We read with interest the author’s analysis of the incident in which the Forerunner sent a deputation to Jesus with the question; “Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another?” The writer defends the position—the only tenable one, in our opinion—that John asked this question not to the first place for the benefit of his doubting disciples but because he himself, while in prison, began to wonder whether this Jesus whom he himself had presented at the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, really was the Christ, seeing he was performing merely miracles of mercy and not, as John had predicted, miracles of judgment to separate the wheat from the chaff in Israel.

In the chapter on Joseph, Dr. Mulder presents convincing evidence for the contention that Jesus was of the house of David both via Mary and via Joseph. The two genealogies (Matthew 1 and Luke 3) are interpreted, not a tracing only the line of Joseph, as some contend—a theory which, according to the author, confronts us with insoluble problems—but as establishing Jesus’ descent from David in both Mary’s line and Joseph’s line. Why this was necessary is explained as follows: “Jesus receives through Joseph the right to David’s throne, thus Matthew declares; and he participated through Mary In the blood relationship of David’s family, thus writes Luke.” Some have appealed to Luke 3:23 to bolster their view that Luke as well as Matthew indicates the genealogy of Joseph. Mulder’s translation reads as follows: “And Jesus himself, when he began to teach, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed of Joseph) of Eli, of Matthat . . .” That is, Luke here leaches that though Jesus was thought to be the son of Joseph, he was In reality the descendant of Eli—Eli being the father of Mary.

There is great depth In this chapter. It contains many striking: paragraphs, for example on pages 56 and 57. Beginning on page 57 Mulder discusses the question whether children were born to Joseph and Mary after the birth of Jesus, The .position of the Church of Rome on this score is well known. Its doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary was so generally held by the Roman Church that even Calvin and later Kuyper defended it, according to the writer. However, he shows conclusively that this view is contrary to Scripture.

The chapter on Mary is just as satisfying as that which deals with Joseph. The writer begin, his discussion with the statement that “the association of Joseph and Mary can be characterized by the expression: lint division, then union, A. to the relation between Mary and her son, who is conceived of the Holy Spirit, the order of the above mentioned words is just the reverse. First we read about a close tie and thereupon of a gradual separation, The milestones on the road of progressive division are indicated clearly in the Gospels.” The latter thought govern. the chapter on Mary. The writer discusses successively Jesus’ birth; his visit to the Temple; the meeting of Jesus and Mary at the wedding in Cana, at the beginning of his public ministry; the farewell at the cross; and the absence of Mary from the circle of disciples after the ascension.

There is considerable “history of revelation” in this and the other chapters of this book.

The final chapter deals with the Twelve Apostles. The fact is stressed at the outset that at least half of those chosen by Christ to be the leaders in his Kingdom were recruited from the circle of John’s disciples. In this connection the writer pinpoints especially the continuity between the Old Testament and the New. In fact, he holds that all the apostles had been in touch with the preaching of John.

This final chapter too deals with material which Is quite familiar to every Bible student; but it is presented in a fresh and thorough fashion.

If we were to characterize the book . . . a whole In a single word we could think of no better term than thoroughness.

Those who can read the Dutch are urged to .end for a ropy to J.H. Kok of Kampen. The price in our money is $1.52 (in fIorins 5.75). – H.J. Kuiper

Christenen in de Antieke Wereld, by Dr. A. Sizoo

J.H. Kok, Kampen, The Netherlands, 1953, 204 pages. Price f7.50.

About a decade ago the first edition of De Antieke Wereld en Het Nleuwe Testament appeared. It was written by the same author and had two reprints. Dr. Sizoo is a classicist not only but one who lives close to the Scriptures. The relationship of Christianity and the life of the early believers has been his constant concern. Hence I am happy to introduce this fine study of the early life of the Church to all those who can read modem Dutch, It is a rewarding experience to hear the testimony of the martyr as found in ancient document. and to read of the close fellowship and discipline that was exercised in the early Church,. The author pictures the life of the believers in monastic settlements in catechetical instruction, sermonizing, congregational meetings, polemics and theological debate, etc. A good deal of the material deals with Augustine, concerning whom we have very good records in his own writings. The family life and the education of the children in the early Church also is pictured.

The development of the hierarchicaI system of Catholicism already made his appearance at an early date and was abetted by Augustine, e.g., when he named his successor to the office of Bishop before his death. On the other hand, the ancient church does not suffer by comparison with the Church today in the matter of catechetical instruction before baptism for those who requested same. A total of a hundred and forty hours of concentrated instruction was given before baptism, but that was not the end; the instruction was continued for two more weeks after the communicant had been admitted to the fellowship of the saints.

On the basis of the dictum that we must know the past if we would understand the present, this book is a valuable contribution; beside, all those who love the Kingdom of God will be edified by this portrayal of the early Church in a pagan world. – H.R. Van Til

Kom Haastig! Gedichten over over de Wederkomst van Jezus, Verzameld en Ingeleid door Okke Jager

J.H. Kok, Kampen. Price f3.25 paper cover; f4.50 hard cover.

Here is a spiritual treat for those who have sufficient knowledge of the Dutch language to appreciate its poetry. Here the United States we have been on starvation rations when it comes to poetry on the last things. Indeed, we have here a few harps, and they are not all hanging on the willows; but the rescue would be meager If we tried to publish a book of such poems on the greatest subject of all, the return of the Lord. But woe to us if we, for reasons of imaginary safely, put the day of the Lord into the indefinite future. If we fall into this temptation we than miss the joyful anticipation of ultimate victory through the Captain of our salvation. Moreover, we shall not be prepared for the marriage of the Lamb.

Our Canadian and Australian brethren especially should avail themselves of the opportunity to get this bundle of one hundred verses under the title, Come Quickly. Okke Jager deserves credit for his enthusiastic introduction to which he has added a couple of poems of his own.

As to the contents, not all of these poems speak directly of the Lord’s return; but they do allude to it from various angles. This volume is very realistic in portraying the multiple life-situations in which we may expect our Lord. There is, for example, a striking picture of the glowing face and joyful song of the young “Salvation Army recruit.” But is it true, “the less doctrine, the more joy”? My answer is emphatic “NO!” The more we know of our exalted Lord and his many promises, the greater our joy can be.

This reviewer does not claim to be an authority on Dutch poetry, neither is he sure that the most deserving verses have been included; but with a loving heart he would recommend these songs to God-fearing readers of the Dutch language everywhere. A real spiritual lift is in store for those who read this collection of poems about Christ’s return.

Jongzijn in een Jong Land, by Dr. R. Kooistra

Published by the Pro Rege Publishing Company, Toronto, Canada, 1957.

This brochure offers a brief analysis of, and directives for, the life of immigrant young people in Canada. The life of young people, complex as it is through sin, is difficult to analyze. That of immigrant young people much more so since these have been transplanted into a new and foreign environment. To direct such young people requires an understanding of both elements. Dr. Kooistra gives evidence of understanding immigrant young people and also the Canadian situation into which they have come.

In such a brief work one must necessarily hit the high spots. In this, Dr. Kooistra has been successfully selective. And he has not made the mistake of setting young people entirely on their own but left them intact with the covenant-family relationship, not as parental puppets, but as responsible covenant children. Young people will find some very pertinent directives for this new life in Canada. For those immigrants who ask, “Why did we come to this unchristian Christian land?” the author had a good answer. Canada offers a real challenge to immigrant young people. As Christians they must help make Canadian life Christian.

The only brochure of its kind for Canadians, it naturally merits both reading and study. It is already being used in some societies as after-recess study material. It does not answer all of youth’s problems in this new land but gives sufficient directive to those who earnestly seek to serve and glorify God in Canada. – Cecil W. Tuininga, Williamsburg, Ont.