Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible:
An Historical and Exegetical Study, Harris, R. Laird, Ph.D., Grand Rapids, Mich., 1957, $4.50, 282 pp., indexed.
Biblical Criticism: Broomall, Wick, A.M., Th.M., Grand Rapids, Mich., 1957, 316 pp., not indexed.
Aligning themselves as they do on the side of supernaturalism, and deal ing with matters closely related to yet distinct from Introduction, these two books complement and supplement the recent evangelical works on Introduction by E. J. Young, Merrill F. Unger, and H. C. Thiessen. At the same time they complement and supplement each other, the one address ing itself to inspiration and canonicity, the other to inspiration and criticism.
In his work, Dr. Harris, professor of Old Testament at Covenant College and Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, devotes 111 pages to the doctrine of inspiration. Of particular interest is his discussion of the many apparent or alleged discrepancies in Scripture which seem to under mine faith in a verbally inspired, in fallible Bible. It would seem that Dr. Harris has made a hobby of seeking solutions to these problems. For the most part his observations are acute and his solutions acceptable, although the reader may at times be left with a question mark in his mind.
The latter half of Dr. Hanis’ book is a discussion of the much neglected problems of canonics. The author con siders his chief contribution here to be his study in the “determining principle of the canon.” He finds the views of the naturalistic theologians untenable on historical grounds, especially in the light of recent archeological discoveries. His own conclusion is that the books of the Old Testament were recognized as authoritative from the date of their writing of soon thereafter on the basis of the recognized authority of the writers. Following in the tradition of Moses these men were all prophets whose prophetic inspiration was evident to their contemporaries. Dr. Harris does not recognize the often posited distinction between the prophetic office and the prophetic gifts. Nor does he recognize the three-fold division of the Old Testament as being original. He finds rather the simple two-fold division of the Law and the Prophets. Consequently he is not bothered by the special problems usually recognized in regard to the canonicity of the Writings. All the Old Testament books have been received on the basis of the prophetic inspiration of their authors. Dr. Harris concludes:
“We have here a practical and reasonable test of canonicity that could have been applied by all the generations of the Jews and, except for a few places where evidence now is more slender, can be readily applied even today. What was prophetic was regarded as the Word of God. What was not prophetic was, as we know from I Maccabees 4:46, etc., not regarded as the Word of God. The canon grew as the prophets succeeded one another in their ministry; it was finished, as Josephus says, when the Holy Spirit ceased speaking through prophets in Israel. Moses, the great precursor of the prophetic line, specified tests to be applied in determining the reality of prophecy….When all these tests were applied and a prophet was acknowledged to be true, his words and writings were received forthwith by the faithful as from God, i.e., canonical.” pp. 174, 175.
For the New Testament Dr. Harris concludes that the determining principle of the canon is the Apostolic character of the writings.
“As in the case of the Old Testament prophet, what (an apostle) wrote was naturally as authoritative as what he spoke, and, there fore, any production of an apostle would at once be accepted as divine. It is this which the apostles in their writings command and expect. It is this which Jesus’ commission to them would imply. W e need speak of no strong intuition in the Early Church, as does Westcott, whereby these holy writings were distinguished from others. I t was not an intuition; it was simple obedience to the known commands of Christ and His apostles. This view would fully explain the sudden rise of the New Testament as an authoritative corpus of undoubted authority.” pp. 233, 234.
To maintain this thesis the author must posit that Mark acted as the amanuensis of Peter, Luke as the amanuensis of Paul, and the unknown writer of Hebrews as also an amanuensis of Paul. Furthermore, the James and Jude of the epistles must be considered to be apostles, either from among the original twelve or from among those later raised like Paul to the apostolic office.
This points up one of the outstanding weaknesses of this book. The writer is definitely guilty of oversimplifying both the problems and the solutions. To maintain his oversimplifications he must ignore or belittle certain historical evidences. The reader is inclined at times to question whether or not this is responsible scholarship. On the whole, however, this work is a worthy addition to a Bible student’s library. It is well documented and has a useful index.
Wick Broomall’s Biblical Criticism is a more ambitious work. After discussing inspiration more briefly and less adequately than does Dr. Harris, Professor Broomall lets his pen range over such a wide range of subjects as “Revelation and Criticism,” “Principles of Criticism,” “The Higher Critical Position Stated and Refuted,” “The Text and Canon of the Old Testament in the Light of Criticism,” “Archeology and Criticism,” “The Book of Daniel in the Light of Criticism,” and “Criticism and Interpretation.” Each of these subjects is no doubt worthy of a separate monograph, but this writer must limit himself. Consequently we find as a constant refrain throughout the book such expressions as this, “There are many points of importance that must be passed by…” This leaves the reader dissatisfied and discouraged.
In addition to being at once too ambitious and too brief, this book has many other defects. It is in large part an apology, but the author still assumes that there is a “reasonable,” “unbiased” mind to which defenders of the Scriptures may appeal. Again, his defense of the traditional view of the Bible is sometimes weakened by unsupported generalizations. He re minds us, for example, that Zoroastrianism and Mohammedanism obviously borrowed their essential ideas from the inspired writings of the Jews and Christians respectively, and then he adds, “The same can be said about the other religions of the world.” Of Shintoism? we could ask. The author would also defend the improbable hypothesis that the Greeks borrowed the best of their ideas from Moses and the Prophets. “Everything,” he tells us, “is in favor of the supposition that the Greeks borrowed from the Jews.” p. 147. At other times tlle author em ploys weak logic. When refuting the modern assertion that the prophets were often mistaken in their predictions he gives a double reply: (1) “…no such case has been proved,” and (2) “If it can be proved that the prophets were wrong in their predictions, then there is no reason why we should accept them as right in their other statements.” The former of these two statements is pertinent but the latter, while true, is hardly adrem.
Biblical Criticism is not all weak. The chapter on “Principles of Criticism” is worthy of careful study. The discussion of the higher critical position is helpful. The chief virtue of this work is its resurrection of many worthy defenses of the Bible by scholars of another generation. The author has read widely and is able to point the avenge reader to works of whose existence he may not have been aware. But even this service is only imperfectly rendered since the book lacks both footnotes and an index. A helpful bibliography is included, however.
JOHN H. STEK
Christ and the Church in the Old Testament by Howard Hanke
Published by Zondervan Publishing House, 1957, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 187 pages. Price $2.50.
The subtitle, “A Survey of Redemptive Unity in the Testaments,” is actually more exact, since the author shows the Unity of Christ and the Church in all the Scriptures. As such this is a worthwhile study and gives a wealth of Biblical materials on such topics as “salvation, the divine names, divine revelation, redemptive economy” and these all in relation to Christ and the Church. Much is made of the fact, not new to those who are acquainted with Reformation theology, that the Church is eternally the same and that there is a counterfeit Church opposing the true Church of Jesus Christ – namely, the Church of the antichrist.
I have one misgiving. It is the fact that the author assumes the Essene community, of which we hear so much of late since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, to be the continuation of the true Church (pp. 154 ff. ). But if the Lord preserved seven thousand in the day of Ahab, who had not bowed the knee to Baal, may he not have kept his own in the days of apostasy just before the com ing of Christ among those who re turned from exile? What of the simple shepherds, Joseph and Mary, John and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, and others? Of course, one can call them Essenes, which the author suggests; but I am not ready to go along with tins interpretation.
Furthermore, Christ is cited as witness to the fact that Moses “was held up as a kind of personification of the ‘ideal believer.’” However, Moses is quoted by Christ not on the basis of his ideal faith, but on the basis of His divine inspiration. Moses spoke the words of God and was therefore authoritative even in Jesus’ day.
For the rest I heartily recommend this book to our reading public.
H. R. VAN TIL
Messianic Prophecy in the Old Testament by Aaron J. Klingerman
Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1957, 155 pages, $2.95.
This is but one of the great number of Biblical studies that are appearing in quick succession from Zondervan’s presses. It is a pleasure for me to introduce this work of Dr. Kligerman, a converted Jew of Russian origin.
The material is divided into six chapters dealing with the Messianic prophecies in tlle Torah, the historical books, the Psalms, the Pre- and Post Exilic periods, Isaiah and the period of invasion by Assyrians and Babylonians. A final chapter is added in which the author glowingly speaks of his faith in the Messiah, Israel’s Saviour, as the true world-conqueror, who fulfilled the predictions made by the prophets. There are four hundred and fifty-six such references. The author contends that the chief method of the prophets for preparing “the Way of the Lord was by setting forth THE PERSON” who was to implement the heavenly kingdom.
In conclusion, the author presents the Lord Jesus Christ as the only hope of Israel, “for this is He of whom Moses and all the prophets wrote! He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world. He is the Prince of Peace, the King of Israel, the Lord our Righteousness, King of kings and Lord of lords!” (p. 147).
H. R. VAN TIL
She Shall Be Called Woman by Frances Vander Velde
Grand Rapids International Publications, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1957, 258 pp.
In the not-too-far distant past, the Bible study groups of the Christian chmch .were, almost without excep tion, under the leadership of a min ister or a gifted elder. Today the pic tlll’e has changed. More and more women are taking active part in the presentation of the Bible lessons of our week-day study of the Scriptures.
It is, therefore, gratifying to the women lay workers who desire to present the Bible lessons in a way that will be of spiritual benefit to the groups which they serve, to know that Christian Reformed writers are emerging with fresh, easily understood material written with a view to be helpful to just such societies and Bible study classes.
Mrs. Frances Vander Velde in her book, “She Shall Be Called Woman,” has produced a good treatise on some thirty women of the Bible, and has added to each lesson a number of questions which require thought and study to answer. Subjects which formerly were studiously avoided, are brought out with a view to gaining Biblical answers. Marriage, families, child care, “Mariolatry,” gossip, way ward children, and many other subjects are given thought in the light of some special lesson or Scripture pas sage. All of this makes the book a valuable asset to the women’s groups as well as the teenage girls’ classes in our churches.
This gifted author realizes the great benefit of reading related Scripture passages in any given lesson and often refers to these passages in her clear cut explanation of the subject mate rial. Her outlines are almost too simple, but cover the character study adequately for the particular goal each lesson presents.
Of special interest to women’s groups is the way Mrs. Vander Velde has searched out the heart of the story, in each case weaving great spiritual truths into the character study, for example: faith at work in the life of Jochebed and Rahab; mother-love in the story of Elisabeth, and prayer in the life of Hannah. One even finds a paragraph hew and there on modem ideas compared to the old methods of dealing with home problems, such as Herodias and her dancing daughter who clearly portray the result of worldly training; or the life of a godly Timothy which was molded and influenced by a saintly mother and grandmother. The author refers to other influential women whose sons left a worthy imprint on the sands of time. She refers to Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, and also the mothers of great men of his tory such a Clay, Washington, Cromwell, and Cowper.
While “She Shall Be Called Woman” is by no means exhaustive, we recognize in it a real contribution to the study material for the earnest Bible students of our day and their leaders who have long searched for modem ideas in the age-old Book and who discover more and more that the Bible has the answer to all our problems.
We heartily recommend it to all Bible students, and hope our women will gain new inspiration and instruction from its pages. May other writers be inspired to contribute more of such worth-while material to our Bible loving laymen.
(MRS.) ETHEL HOEKSTRA