The Epistles of Paul to the Philippians and to Philemon
JAC. J. MULLER
(Wm. B. Eerdman, Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1955)
The appearance of this additional volume of the New International Commentary on the New Testament brings one step closer to the completion of this truly fine undertaking. Like the other volumes in this series that have been issued, this one is thoroughly conservative, being written by one who is committed to the Reformed Faith.
As Dr. Stonehouse, general editor of the series, states in the foreword, Dr. Muller received his doctorate from the Free University of Amsterdam in 1931, having written a dissertation on The Kenotic Theory in Post-Reformation Theology. This specialization in the Christological passage in Philippians 2, together with his continued study and work both as a pastor for fifteen years and now as Professor of New Testament for ten years in the Theological Seminary at Stellenbosch, South Africa, certainly gives Dr. Muller the kind of background necessary for writing such a commentary as this one.
In the introduction the author notes the question that some of the Tubingen School and recent radical theologians have toward the Pauline authorship, and answers them, perhaps not as fully as might be done, yet in a satisfactory manner. He also notes the various possible places from which Paul could have written the letter and concludes in favor of Rome after two years of imprisonment in 62–63 A.D.
Following the pattern of the other volumes in this series, the commentary on the text is given without technical discussion of the Greek text problems or of the Greek words themselves. This makes the commentary itself most valuable for the aver· age Bible student who is unable to use the Greek language. For the more scholarly student there are footnotes dealing with the Greek linguistic and textual problems.
The author shows his high regard for the Word, by his careful and scholarly treatment of the text. His treatment of the difficult passage of the second chapter which has caused so much controversy is a most excellent example of this. Acknowledging the literal translation of 2:7 to include the phrase “He emptied Himself,” Dr. Muller comments thus: “In a literal and absolute sense He could not have emptied Himself of His divine essence or nature, for by so doing He would have ceased to be God” (p. 80). The metaphorical sense of the word is adopted, which Dr. Muller notes is the sense found in the four other cases where Paul uses the word. He goes on to point out that: “The kenosis (emptying) of Christ namely existed in His ‘taking the form of a servant’ and ‘being made in the likeness of men’” (p. 81). “Nothing is mentioned of any abandonment of divine attributes, the divine nature, or the form of God, but only a divine paradox is stated here: He emptied Himself by taking something to Himself, namely the manner of being, the nature or form of a servant or slave” (p. 82). In addition to this exegetical treatment of the subject. Dr. Muller gives in an expanded footnote the dogmatic objections to the modern kenotic theory.
The remainder of the commentary is of this same high type, including the brief commentary on the short book of Philemon. We recommended most highly this and all the commentaries of this series that we have seen thus far for the use of both the layman and the scholar. When the entire series is completed a major contribution to the field of conservative New Testament scholarship will have been made. We only wish that there were a companion series being produced in the Old Testament field.
Our only criticism of the volume before us is that it does on occasion show the Dutch idiom in the English and there are some spelling errors. Also it seems to us that the fine scholarly work of the authors of this series of commentaries deserves a uniform format and paper quality. Perhaps the fact that different volumes have been printed over a period of several years in three different nations, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States, accounts for the variation, but we do wish that future editions could be standardized.
May we conclude by again commending this volume as most excellent, and a commentary that every Bible student should consult in studying Philippians and Philemon.
– MORTON H. SMITH, Belhaven College
Revelation Twenty, An exposition
J. MARCELLUS KIK
(Presbyterian Reformed Publishing Company. Philedelphia, 1955. Price $2.00)
There are very few commentators, even in the Reformed circle, who are completely agreed upon the correct interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Rev. Kik has chosen the well known chapter 20 in order to set forth his views regarding the millennium. He probably could be called a millenarian. He disagrees with post-, pre-, and a-millennialists and refuses to be pigeonholed under any preposition.
If possibly you think that he tries to steer clear from disagreements with other commentators of fame, you are mistaken. Revelation 20:4 speaks about “the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the Word of God and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image….”
Kik is of the opinion that the millennium does not refer at any time to the saints in heaven, but always to the saints on earth. All the bleSSings of Revelation 20 therefore must refer to saints of the militant church; they reign and rule with Christ a thousand years. He concludes from other passages that the word for soul (psuche) can also be translated as life (Matthew 2:20, Acts 20:10 etc.).
He would then paraphrase the text in the following fashion:
“I beheld the saints seated upon thrones, ruling over the flesh, the world and the devil; yea, I beheld the victorious lives of those who had been beheaded and also those who suffered because they refused to worship the beast; as a matter of fact all saints lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”
Says Kik: “It is not so evident that the reference to souls indicates the intermediate state; if so, why are only the martyrs mentioned? All departed saints are in this intermediate state.” Kik wants to hear nothing about a renewed world in the sense of a renovated material heaven and earth. In that connection, he says, the Bible does not speak of a material concept, but of a spiritual One. In Revelation 21 there is mention of the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
This is no reference to any material city in the consummation in any form or shape, but refers to the church on earth. It must be a description of the church during the gospel dispensation, says the author, because before the consummation the church is the bride of the Lamb; in the end Christ will deliver the kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all. The holy city cannot be a description of heaven, because it descends from heaven. Lastly, it must be here and now, for there are still tears, which God shall wipe away.
There are questions of interpretation left, Kik admits, but he hopes to publish a book on the last two chapters of Revelation soon. At no time does Revelation speak about the state of consummation; the Bible is entirely silent on what the state of eternity shall be in respect to the environment of the spiritual body.
The book is interesting to read and the average reader can fully understand it. As a whole it seems that Kik is overanxious to establish his own position in respect to this Bible book. He is definitely guilty of slippery exegesis and makes a totally unwarranted separation between martyrs and saints as being two separate classes. There are too many conjectures in the treatise to make it acceptable.
Anyone who wants to acquaint himself or herself with various Reformed interpretations of the last book of our Bible can add another one to the list by buying this book. It’s surely worthwhile to spend the time and the money.
The publishing house did a neat job for the money.
– L. MULDER, Neerlandia, Alberta
New Testament Commentary Exposition of I and II Thessalonians
WILLIAM HENDRIKSEN (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1955. 210 pages, $4.50)
This is the third volume to appear in the projected New Testament Commentary by Dr. Hendriksen. A commentary of this calibre is a welcome addition to the library on New Testament material.
The author begins his treatment of first and second Thessalonians by giving a clear and interesting introduction to the two books. In this introduction he deals with such questions as authorship, the date of writing, and the place from which each book was written as well as the specific occasion for the writing in each case. The introductory material is concluded with a discussion of the general content of each book and the presentation of an outline which helps the reader to see clearly the unity of each book.
The commentary itself is clearly written. Each section of the biblical material is first carefully analyzed; a concise summary is then made which helps to place the section in its broader contextual setting. A commentary of this type which analyzes and summarizes each section in the light of the broader context makes it possible to see clearly not only the trees but also the woods.
Dr. Hendriksen has given a fine devotional commentary and in doing so has not neglected to provide also a careful treatment of the various problems which present themselves in the books.
The author is to be commended for making another fine contribution to the library of New Testament material. We may all look forward to the eventual completion of this fine New Testament Commentary.
– REIN LEESTMA, Dutton, Michigan
Billy Graham: A Mission Accomplished
(Fleming H. Hevell Company, Westwood, N.J., 1953, pp. 156, $2.00)
This book, written by a professional reporter, who covered the 1955 Billy Graham crusades in Scotland, England, and on the Continent, presents a powerful picture of the dynamic of the Gospel. Neither Graham nor the reporter are ashamed of the Gospel. The book makes good reading. It graphically pictures Billy meeting kings, queens, addressing capacity crowds outdoors, rain or shine, with practically everybody cooperating. Yes, there were a few liberals, and a few traditionalists who opposed him or refused to work along; and there was an ex-king, one Farouk, who was too busy with wine, women and song but all in all, preaching the old-fashioned religion is still news. Some four million people heard and about one hundred and twenty five thousand made decisions for Christ.
I am not now going to evaluate Graham’s preaching since the present volume does not project his sermons but merely the results. Those results were newsworthy in 1955 and continue to be as Graham is traveling in India and the East. Let us not sit in the seat of the scorners (Christian Century et alia ) but rather with the apostle of old rejoice that Christ is being preached and that people are believing the Gospel.
– HENRY R. VAN TIL, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Ruth The Gleaner
CARL AUERT GIESELER, Th.D.
(Concordio Publishing House, Saint louis, Missouri, 1956, pp. 66. $0.75)
Here is a short, popular treatment of the book of Ruth, from the orthodox point of view. It stresses the ancestry of Christ; the providence of God, who is not a respecter of persons; the beauty of friendship; filial piety; the problems of widowhood, mixed marriages and witnessing for one’s faith; the blessedness of a good and godly husband and wife, or, marriage in the Lord. It may well serve to give us a better appreciation for God’s divine self-revelation as found in this “most remarkable piece of Oriental literature,” as Benjamin Franklin used to say in introducing it to a worldly company.
– HENRY R. VAN TIL, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Love Thy Neighbor for God’s Sake, An exposition of the Heidelberg Catechism, volume nine
(Eerdman’s Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, 1955, 195 pages, $2.50)
Rev. Hoeksema’s wish to complete his exposition on the Heidelberg Catechism has almost been fulfilled. He plans to do it in ten volumes, so that all that remains is one volume dealing with the Lord’s Prayer. Says the author “I look forward to completing it.” As we can expect from this author, he deals with his subject in a scholarly and rather exhaustive fashion. Several chapters are sometimes devoted to one single Lord’s Day.
It goes without saying, I suppose, that Rev. Hoeksema reveals himself in his writings as one who violently disagrees with the Christian Reformed Church on matters of common grace and the covenant of grace. Whenever these subjects enter into the scope of a particular Lord’s Day, he unhesitantly shows his colors. That is the main objection I have to a brilliantly written book. Rev. Hoeksema proceeds from a presupposition, which is dangerously related to a certain brand of rationalism. This is not the place to enter upon a debate pertaining to the salient differences which exist between him and us, but the fact is they are there, permeating all of his dogmatics.
His view of divorce and remarriage can be stated in simple terms. The marital bond is indissoluble, hence no remarriage, not even for the innocent party in case of fornication. He does not enter into the problems which arise because of remarriage.
“God’s promises are for the elect and for them only” is a phrase which recurs rather frequently throughout the book. That of course was to be expected and does not surprise us in the least. It means, however, that his books, valuable as they are, should be handled and used by discerning people.
– L. MULDER, Neerlandia, Alberta