Pauline Hermeneutics

Paul’s Use of the Old Testament, by E. Earle Ellis, Eerdmans, 1957. 204 pp., $3.00.

This volume is further evidence that there is arising in this country a group of young and capable evangelical biblical scholars. Dr. Ellis has only recently (1955) completed a doctorate at the University of Edinburgh and is now Assistant Professor of Bible and Religion at Aurora College in Illinois.

Investigations of Paul’s use of the Old Testament have met with various pitfalls. One of these has been to explain everything in terms of Paul’s background in Judaism. Although one must not minimize the importance of this in any attempt to understand Paul, the fact remains that the Damascus Road experience transformed the Old Testament for him. The disciple of Gamaliel became the disciple of Christ, and this made the Old Testament a new book for Paul. Especially is it true that it is impossible to explain Paul’s principles of interpretation in terms of contemporary Judaism. But where then did Paul derive his hermeneutics?

To answer this question Ellis examines Pauline passages parallel to Christ’s teaching and to other New Testament writers and concludes that the interpretation and application of the Old Testament texts are “too varied, for the most part to support a theory of borrowing or direct dependence. The most likely explanation is that these ideas, and these ideas associated with these particular O.T. texts, were—more or less—the common property of the apostolic church.” The author rejects R. Harris’ “Testimony Book” hypothesis in favor of C. H. Dodd’s “text plots.” This theory maintains that the early Church applied an interpretive method to selected Old Testament passages which were viewed as “wholes,” and “verses were quoted from them not merely for their own significance but as pointers to the total contexts.” Who pointed out these pertinent Old Testament sections and developed the interpretive principles by which they were to be understood? Ellis follows Dodd in maintaining that it was probably Jesus himself.

Only about half of Paul’s citations follow the LXX. Of the rest, a considerable number follow other versions fully or in part. The variations cannot be accounted for on the basis of textual study. The answer is to be found in the hermeneutical principles which govern Paul’s citation of the Old Testament. The last chapter of Ellis’ book is a fascinating investigation into Pauline exegesis. This exegesis the author describes as “grammatical-historical plus.” By this is meant that although Paul does not disregard the significance of grammar and history, how he renders a passage is often determined by how he is going to apply it. Paul, in doing this, was only following the hermeneutical methods of the early Church.

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Of special interest is Ellis’ application to Pauline material of the results of K. Stendahl’s investigation of the Old Testament quotations in Matthew.

This is a scholarly and definitive volume. Industry and research are everywhere present. The footnotes contain enough bibliographical data to draw up an amazingly broad and extensive New Testament bibliography.


Sermons On Church Year

The Sermon and the Propers, by Fred H. Lindemann, Concordia, 1958. Vol. I, Advent and Epiphany, 197 pp.; Vol. II, Pre-Lent to Pentecost, 243 pp., $4.00.

This is a scholarly work by a preacher who holds to the old Lutheran custom of preaching on the appointed epistles and gospels of the standard pericopal system of the Western church. Essentially these two volumes are books of sermons and outlines covering the entire historical year of the Church. The propers for each Sunday and festival, with the exception of the epistle and the gospel, are given in full.

What makes these two volumes distinctive is the introductory material, which is the same in both volumes (pages 1–14). Their purpose is frankly stated in the first sentence: “to encourage preaching according to the Church Year and in harmony with the appointed propers.”

The preacher on “free texts” will point out the lack of close correspondence in the themes of epistle and gospel on some Sundays, at least. He may ask, “Does the congregation need what is suggested by the epistle or the gospel at that particular time?” There is trouble in the church, perhaps, and a particular congregation is crying for a sermon on love, or on peace. Should we ever preach on Gospels the mere reading of which will edify the simplest as well as a 20-minute sermon could? Shall we ever preach on such a text as Galatians 4:21–31 (Fourth Sunday in Lent)? Why not substitute Romans 6:14, which is much more readily intelligible today and presents the same truths? And then, what about preaching from other pericopal systems, keeping the introit and collect of the ancient series? All other considerations aside, perhaps the answer to these questions is, as Lindemann says, that “the sermon should be in harmony with the chief thought of the day if the service is to constitute a well-rounded, purposeful whole” (italics ours). It is obvious that he has an irrefutable point there.

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Optimistic Eschatology

The Millennium, by Loraine Boettner. Presbyterian and Reformed, 1958. 375 pp. $4.50.

So the world is growing better—day by day and altogether! Such is the theme song of Dr. Boettner’s latest book. Here we have postmillennialism, which some of us thought had been decently buried by World Wars I and II, resurrected out of its grave and given new life in an age that nonchalantly supposed that its Armageddon was just around the next historic corner.

Not so, we are confidently informed in this book. The race is merely in its infancy. Don’t become pessimistic concerning present world conditions; they are but the sombre prelude of a majestic symphony of glory that awaits the world beyond the present gloom. It may take, of course, many centuries before that glory, through the Church’s activity, is fully (even if imperfectly) revealed.

Boettner, staunchly orthodox as he is, firmly believes, on the authority of his interpretation of Scripture, in the inevitability of the world’s betterment. This ultimate Christianized world is to be realized by the gospel of redemption—not by the emasculated “social gospel” of modernism.

In the first part of his book Boettner defends his type of postmillennialism, which turns out to be the same kind as held by such scholars as David Brown, J. H. Snowden, B. B. Warfield, and others. No new arguments are advanced in favor of this eschatological system. In his chapter entitled “The World Is Growing Better,” the author carefully cites facts supporting his view but just as carefully ignores facts detrimental to his position. The increase in the sale of the Bible and the increase in church membership prove that the world is growing better (pp. 40 ff), but why shouldn’t the astounding increase in pornographic magazines and books, not to speak of the alarming rise in juvenile delinquency, point in the direction of the degeneration of “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4)?

In the middle portion of his work Boettner gives about 30 pages to a rather scant treatment of amillennialism. One feels here that the author would rather not “pick a fight” with this system, for he is hurrying along to the main bout—against premillennialism.

The major part of The Millennium (about 225 pages) is thus devoted to an attack on premillennialism, which the author identifies with dispensationalism, maintaining that the two systems cannot “be logically separated and kept in watertight compartments” (p. 375). His refutation of dispensational premillennialism follows the pattern already established in the writings of Mauro, Reese, and Allis.

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Boettner is undoubtedly more persuasive in his interring dispensationalism than in his resurrecting postmillennialism. In fact, his postmillennialism still seems rather macabre; it refuses to come to life in the glaring light of Scripture and of history.

Quite arbitrary statements are made in defense of postmillennialism. For example, we are told that “A careful reading of Paul’s words [in 2 Thess. 2:1–12] should convince an open-minded Bible student that the antichrist and the apostasy are long since past” (p. 218). We are likewise informed that Paul’s description of “the last days” in 2 Timothy 3:1ff. refers to the time of the early days of Christianity rather than to the time preceding the Parousia. “It is illegitimate, therefore, to say that the New Testament teaches that the times will grow worse and worse” (p. 344). On the basis of this kind of interpretation, one wonders what Paul should have written in these places if he had believed that, after a temporary recession, Christianity would flourish according to the postmillennial pattern.

At times rationalizing methods of argument are used, reminding one of similar methods in Roman Catholicism. We are told that this world is very, very old; but God could not have spent all that time preparing the world if, according to premillennialism, this old world is corrupt and about to pass away. Rather, we should look for the millennial glory of the Church—so our author argues—on the assumption that God, having spent such a long time in the world’s preparation, will surely spend a millennium, more or less (probably more), in the world’s betterment (pp. 346 ff.).

Boettner’s work is quite readable; it contains long extracts from various authors; and it is as persuasive as any work on postmillennialism can be. But many readers will be inclined to believe that, in this case at least, it will be better to let postmillennialism lie in its grave until and unless we have better arguments from Scripture and from history for its resuscitation.


View Of The Scrolls

The Scrolls and the New Testament, edited by Krister Stendahl, Harper, 1957. 308 pp. $4.00.

For 10 years speculation and controversy have raged over the Dead Sea Scrolls. Now an attempt is being made to give a “mature summation of the verdict of original scholarship” concerning the influence of the Qumram sect on the New Testament. Fourteen essays by leading critical scholars who have worked with the Qumran texts are brought together to give the conclusions reached. The thesis of all the writers seems to be: “The abiding significance of the Qumran texts for the New Testament is that they show to what extent the primitive church, however conscious of its integrity and newness, drew upon the Essenes in matters of practices and cult, organization and constitution” (p. 87).

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According to the conclusions reached by the authors, the New Testament draws most of its concepts from the Essenic Qumran sect. John the Baptist was really John the Essene who left the narrow confines of the Qumran community to proclaim the Messianic hope of the Essenes to the nation as a whole. The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount is an attempt to purify the false interpretation of the Essenes, who are in view in the words “You have heard that it hath been said.…” All the positive precepts in the discourse are adopted from Essenic teaching. The Lord’s Supper is unrelated to the Passover meal, but rather is an adaptation of the communal meal of the sect. In the New Testament Church order Essenic influence is especially prominent. The concept of the foundation of the Church by the outpouring of the Spirit, the ideas of communal sharing, communal meals, the grace of poverty, government by apostles and elders, the repudiation of the Temple, all had their origin in the Qumran community life. The thesis is presented that the connection between the Essenes and Christianity was the Hellenists, who are thought to be former members of the sect who followed John the Baptist and then left him to follow Christ, who contributed their thought to the New Testament concept.

The authors are careful not to equate Christianity with Essenism, even though they emphasize the contribution of Essenism toward the formulation of New Testament thought. They recognize that the Teacher of Righteousness differs from the scriptural concept in both the value of his death and in the contrast between the two-Messiah concept of Essenism as opposed to the biblical doctrine of one Messiah who is prophet, priest and king.

It is frequently observed that the “assured results” of critical scholarship, propounded by a critical school, are swept aside by some new theory, which comes into ascendancy and claims to speak authoritatively. Criticism seems to thrive on change. The main theses of this book illustrate how scholars will turn to a new basis in their attempt to explain the origin of the Scripture on a naturalistic basis. Essenism is presented today as the new key to unlock the sources of the New Testament. Doubtless the day will come when that which is here presented as the result of mature scholarship will give way to some new theory in turn. Such is the prospect of those who reject the scriptural doctrines of revelation and inspiration.

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Implementing True Love

Clinical Training for Pastoral Care, by David Belgum, Westminster, 1956. $3.00.

David Belgum is Associate Professor of Pastoral Counseling at Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary in Minneapolis. This book aims to be “a guide to students of pastoral care, whether they are in theological schools and clinical training centers or actively engaged in the parish ministry.”

The author indicates that the Church has always had an interest in the care of the sick. Recent trends of increased interest are encouraging because “Christianity is able to generate wholesome, constructive emotions and attitudes, as well as provide means of dealing with destructive ones.”

In the same connection, Prof. Belgum states, “Christianity, viewed psychologically, strives to equip the individual with spiritual resources to meet the stresses of life with faith, hope and love, and to provide security, purpose and wholesome interpersonal relations for his life here and now as well as for eternity” (p. 20).

The contents of chapter two, “The Health Team,” will be of primary interest to chaplains and students who are preparing for the specialized ministry of the hospital or institutional chaplaincy. Chapter three, “Resources of the Pastor,” contains many helpful psychological insights which can be instructive for pastors. For example, the author says, “Frequently, a patient will ask a seemingly academic question about some biblical character such as Job; but underneath lies the implicit question, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ Therefore, the Bible should not be used mechanically, nor administered as an injection of just so many verses at random, but rather with an alert awareness of the patient’s needs and what the biblical reference might mean for him. Then it is recognized as a living and relevant word of God to him in his individual need.”

The most valuable section of David Belgum’s book is the material found in chapter five, “Learning from Clinical Experience.” The samples of the verbatim reports are worth much and the comments on the students’ reporting are pithy and arresting.

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The orientation of Dr. Belgum appears to be that of responsive counseling, an excellent aid to the counselor to help him discover “where the patient is” and to help him determine how he can best reach him. But there must also be an alert awareness for the time when the Christian pastor can seek to use “indirect direction” to bind his counselee to Christ (cf. Matt. 19:16–22 and John 4:7–26). Religious counseling orientated to the historic Christian faith must proceed from a love for and a commitment to Jesus Christ, the chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4). The pastoral obligation to bind counselees to Christ is also involved in ministerial ordination (2 Cor. 4:6 and 5:20).


Reporter’S Account

The Healing Power of Faith, by Will Oursler, Hawthorne, New York, 1957. $4.95.

“All informed persons … would agree on one fact: since the end of the Second World War there has been a steadily increasing interest in religious healing, not only in Roman Catholic shrines and Christian Science, but also in all major Protestant faiths,” declares Will Oursler. “I have tried … to hold the reporter’s point of view” in investigating the phenomena behind this rising interest, he declares, and have deliberately limited “this work to investigation of healing falling within what is called the Christian-Judaic tradition.”

To this end Oursler reports upon a wide range of viewpoints from the general results of a survey by the National Council of Churches, the Episcopal Order of St. Luke, the Methodist “New Life Movement,” Christian Science, Roman shrines, and Oral Roberts. The report is devoted largely to the contemporary American scene. This is not a textbook in the methodology or practices of faith healing.

Though Oursler sets forth his study as a “reporter’s” work and professes “objectivity,” no one actually escapes his own bias and bent. The author’s bias is of no little import to the reader who is to place an interpretation upon the work. And knowing nothing of Oursler’s personal faith, nor as much his religious affiliation, except for an assertion in the book that he is a “Christian who believes in God and in prayer,” I would venture to say that he is a theological liberal who has been strongly influenced by the supernaturalism of neo-orthodoxy. This predisposition would seem to underlie such statements as, “Among the gifts Christ brought to man is the concept of … a love that can have no part of sickness or pain … Ancient concepts of a God of vengeance and punishment and pain are swept aside.… The illogicality of a God who punishes the individual by making him sick, but allows him to engage a physician to make him well, thereby thwarting the punishment, finds no place in the new religion.”

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It is significant, I think, that few if any of the persons interviewed by Oursler can conceive of a divine purpose, much less a blessing, in illness. Most, including the author, would seem to agree with Oral Roberts, “I don’t believe it is the will of God that man be sick. It cannot be the will of God that man suffer. It cannot be the will of God that man endure poverty or despair. And nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus say or indicate that his teaching requires us to believe in a God of punishment.” Just how much of the Bible have such people read? Or accepted? Or understood?

Another common concept among faith healers of many stripes is the recognition that man must be brought into vital contact with God for the achievement of healing. This is good, but it is disturbing that none of these men or movements, at least set forth here, conceives of Jesus Christ as the essential link between God and man. One must have faith, some kind of faith, and Jesus taught about this faith. But nowhere is Christ set forth as the heart and object of this faith. Oursler himself declares, “We are told that the Kingdom of God is within us.… Thus we must seek faith within ourselves.… It is a demanding mission.… It is the exploration of the Kingdom of God of which Jesus spoke. It is where faith is found.”

Healing nonetheless does take place. “Records are available in many cases, with X-rays, statements of witnesses and hospital reports. Dismissing all of it as medical error, hypnotic suggestion or hysteria which will wear off, does not meet a scientific standard of objectivity. Psychosomatic medicine can explain some of the cures but not all.”

What shall we say then? Is this another of those areas to which too little attention has been paid by those who espouse the historic Christian faith? Should we consider seriously the words of Christ when the disciples complained, “Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followed not us: and we forbade him, because he followed not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak of me. For he that is not against us is on our part” (Mark 9:38–40). Perhaps we who think of ourselves as “orthodox, evangelical and conservative” should pay more heed to this aspect of the earthly ministry of Christ.

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Not The Christ Of Scripture

The Ontological Theology of Paul Tillich, by R. Allen Killen, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1956. $3.50.

Dr. Killen, of the Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, has done evangelical Christianity the great service of presenting the full sweep of the complex theological thought of one of the world’s leading, contemporary existentialists in systematic form, complete with an extensive evaluation. This able and comprehensive volume is his dissertation for the doctorate at the Free University of Amsterdam. It was written under the guidance of the pre-eminent, Reformed theologian, G. C. Berkouwer.

The study is divided into three parts: biography, doctrine, and critique, with the expository section being the most extensive. The attempt is to do justice to Tillich as both a philosopher and a theologian, although Killen limits himself “to his theology and to the philosophical problems which influence his system” since “his philosophy forms the foundation of his theology and therefore requires special and separate treatment which must be left for someone else to perform” (1). Any reader looking for an appropriate doctoral project, please take note.

In the biographical section, Killen offers a chronological development of Tillich’s fundamental concepts in terms of their roots in his personal experience. He credits Tillich with developing the first completely ontological philosophy; he believes that this is the reason for the great interest his system has attracted (7). While basing all theology upon philosophy, Tillich places the two disciplines in separate circles, so they cannot undermine one another: “Philosophy asks the questions and theology gives the answers” (7). Killen notes that a thorough study of his system reveals that it is actually philosophy that does all the talking (8). “Tillich applies his ontological philosophy to theology but he does not systematically develop the individual doctrines of theology, nor the ontological philosophy itself” (9).

In the second and main section of the volume, Killen outlines Tillich’s views on the main doctrines of Christianity: revelation, truth, God, Christ, evil, and eschatology. He shows how his concepts of Being and Non-Being underlie all these doctrines and he deals with some of the problems that grow out of Tillich’s transcendental philosophy. Since there is not space in a short review to deal even in general with this extended exposition and accompanying criticism, we shall turn to Killen’s over-all evaluation of Tillich’s theology.

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Part III is entirely critical. Here he sums up the best and the worst that he can say for Tillich. He returns to each of the separate doctrines discussed in Part II and considers the main points involved. Before he does this, however, he deals with what he judges to be the key problem in Tillich’s system: truth. Only God is absolute, therefore, truth is only relative (206). Yet, Tillich believes that he escapes a thorough-going relativism in two ways: first, he understands dynamic, changing truth to be “a correlation of the existential situation and the Logos principle in God, and which he calls truth in the kairos”; second, he attempts to solve the moral dilemma consequent upon relative truth by asserting that truth is absolute but only in and for the moment it fits into its corresponding kairos, and it is dynamic since it advances to different kairoi (206–7).

Man can existentially transcend the dilemma of relativism-absolutism by making his decisions in reference to truths of revelation and metaphysics, in love; however, the decisions thus reached are not eternally valid since each correlation is only for its contemporary situation (207–8). The trouble with fundamentalism, says Tillich, is that it attempts to live on the basis of past and thus no longer valid correlations (208). What is the valid correlation for today?—the “New Being in Jesus Christ” (208). For tomorrow?—perhaps Tillich’s view of the dynamic God (cf. Being, Non-Being, and the Power of being) will be replaced by a fundamentalism suddenly up-to-date! Certainly, Tillich’s thinly disguised relativism cannot deny the possibility.

Killen’s conclusion is no overstatement: “Christ as the truth, and the revelation of truth in the Bible, cannot be separated, for as soon as they are separated Christ himself is lost. The Christ which Tillich produces is not the Christ of the Bible” (239–240).


Protestantism In U. S.

The Spirit of American Christianity, Ronald E. Osborn, Harper, 1958. $3.75.

One interested in understanding the complexity of American Christianity will find help from this book. Its purpose is not to present a systematic treatment of theology nor church history, but to discover “the reasons for the distinct quality” of American denominations and to appraise their ecumenical significance.

The work is slanted to non-Americans, but will be read with interest in this country as well.

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A more accurate title for the book might have been “The Spirit of American Protestantism,” since only a passing notice has been given to the activities of non-Protestant groups. The author draws heavily upon his own experiences as a member of the Disciples of Christ in which he has served as pastor, editor and professor. One feels, though, that he has been fair and objective in the treating of his subject.

Since American Christianity grew up in the atmosphere of religious freedom, all groups have “had to make headway up the same stream.” With no favored religion present, there has resulted a feeling of personal responsibility for the support of the church, a necessity for evangelism and a personal identification between pastor and people.

In appraising recent developments, Professor Osborn points out that liberalism came as a reaction against a traditional faith which had lost its vigor amid the scientific age. To correct the extreme humanism of the liberal movement, fundamentalism appeared on the scene and restored the place and dignity of Jesus in the Christian faith. Neo-orthodoxy seems, in the mind of the author, to be bringing the whole of man’s endeavors under the scrutiny of Christian criticism which liberalism failed to do.

Professor Osborn is disturbed by the so-called revival in America. He is not pessimistic about it, but warns against the power of conformity which would cause persons to join church just because it is the popular thing to do.


Guidance In Music

Church Music Comes of Age, by Ruth Nininger, Carl Fischer, New York, 1957. $4.00.

Ruth Nininger’s first published book, Growing a Musical Church, appeared more than a decade ago (1947) and enjoyed a good sale. The present volume of 157 pages is a guide for pastors, church musicians, and workers in the field of religious education. A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, and educated at Westminister Choir School, Princeton, New Jersey, Miss Nininger brings wide experience in church music to the writing of this book.

Twelve chapters cover topics such as congregational singing, the “minister’s viewpoint,” selection of a choir director, and the training of graded choirs. The author obtained much material directly from church musicians and pastors by correspondence. Such material appears frequently in the book. An example is the 28-page listing of suggested choir anthems and organ music found at the close of the book (pp. 129–157). The style of the book would have been improved had the extensive excerpts from letters in chapters VI, IX and XI been incorporated within the text itself.

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Basic thesis of Church Music Comes of Age is that in the last 10 years great progress in choir and congregational singing has taken place in American churches. Suggestions and sample programs are given as a means of promoting further progress. Although experienced musicians will have limited reason to learn from this book, church musicians with less experience and laymen may find it helpful.


The Prophets: Liberal View

The Prophets: Pioneers to Christianity, by Walter G. Williams. Abingdon, New York. 1956. $3.50.

The author of this volume is professor of Old Testament Literature at the Iliff School of Theology, Denver, Colorado. This book purports to show the indebtedness of Christianity to the Old Testament prophets. We are indeed aware of our deep obligation to these faithful servants of the Lord, as God has made them known to us in Scripture. However, the portrayal of the prophets as given us by Dr. Williams seems quite different from that which has been given us by God.

I find myself in continuous disagreement with Dr. Williams. He makes many statements that any self-respecting and consistent conservative would reject. For example, he declares that he does not believe there is any theology in the Old Testament. To speak of the Old Testament as pre-Christian literature is said to be misleading. The laws of God, the covenants and the prophecies are not presented as revelations given by God, but rather the results of the development of an evolution of religion and of personal and national experience. The story of creation as set forth in Scripture is traced to the efforts of a priest who rewrote a polytheistic poem.

Part Two of the book is titled, “Man Discovers God.” The idea of God revealing himself to man is summarily dismissed. Monotheism is said to be a highly developed concept. It seems at times that nothing the Christian holds dear shall escape the destructive pen of the author. The miraculous element comes in for its share of twisting. The miracles of Elijah are called “mimetic magic.” He states that he thinks it strange that Elijah during his contest with the prophets of Baal should resort, as he says, to magical techniques. Hosea would undoubtedly be surprised to learn that, according to the writer, he learned of the love of God through an observance of Baalism.

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Consistently adhered to is the liberal theological explanation of Scripture—from error to less error, but never seemingly arriving at the truth. Here are but a few more of the unacceptable presentations: Abraham’s offering of Isaac was but the following of a religious precedent in which the first-born was regularly sacrificed to Deity. There are said to be at least two Isaiahs. The Book of Daniel receives the late dating of two hundred B.C. Dr. Williams belittles future significance to prophetic utterances, declaring that the prophets were not interested in distant events.

The key to the author’s thought seems to be found in experience or pragmatism. The prophets and Jesus were said not to have been orthodox because they could not appeal to history but rather, because they appealed to their own experiences.

When you have finished reading the book you realize that many things the historic Christian Church has held precious have been attacked, e.g. the plenary and verbal inspiration of the Scriptures and the infallibility and authority of Holy Scripture as set forth in the Old and New Testaments. We might continue, for certainly this does not exhaust the list. The author is to be commended in the fact that he does not permit the reader to remain in doubt concerning his liberal theological position. The conclusion of the book reveals the basic point of view of Dr. Williams: “Theologians must build their systems of religion from the experiences that are common to all men.” This is obviously pragmatism.

It should be quite clear that I do not recommend this book but rather reject it as being out of accord with the Word of God and with the Christian faith.


Gospel Portraits

They Knew Jesus, by George W. Cornell, Morrow, New York, 1957. 288 pp., $3.75.

Because of their human appeal, studies of biblical characters, if well done, always stimulate interest. The present volume by the religion editor of the Associated Press, however, does much more than stimulate the reader’s interest. It stirs the depths of one’s soul.

In 24 exciting chapters (two are given to Mary of Nazareth), Cornell sketches 23 of the greater and lesser persons who, for good or for ill, came face to face with Jesus Christ in the days of his flesh. An epilogue is devoted to Saul of Tarsus.

The author has based his studies on careful historical research among extra-biblical sources, as well as the New Testament; and thus he probes beneath the surface of the sacred text and behind the actions and attitudes of his subjects. His interpretations reflect a large measure of human understanding and sympathy which enable him to set in a new light individuals like Thomas, who have long been seen through the eyes of prejudice and misunderstanding. He writes in the dramatic style of an on-the-scene-reporter. His treatment is faithful to the biblical record, it is reverent, and is colored by restrained imagination.

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But this book is not only an analysis of characters who knew Jesus. It is pre-eminently a portrait of our Lord himself, for his shadow is cast across the lives of those who speak from these pages. Actually, what we have here is a step-by-step account of the life and ministry of Jesus which come to a crashing climax in the darkness of Calvary and the radiance of the empty tomb.

The reading of this book will help the preacher to vivify his sermons and the layman to catch something of the realism of the Gospels. It is especially appropriate to the Lenten season.



Journey to Easter, by Laurence N. Field. Augsburg, Minneapolis, 1957. $2.00.

This book of 46 brief meditations for the Lenten season, designed for use in daily devotions and family worship, achieves its purpose admirably. An appreciation of the purpose and design of the volume can be gained by quoting from the author’s own foreword: “The many events, concentrated as they are pretty much into the last night and day of our Lord’s suffering, are not easy to spread out over 46 days and keep the proper order intact. And the six Sundays of Lent, with their texts, are anything but amenable to chronological regimentation. Nor is the exact sequence completely agreed on by scholars. But surely this does not matter a great deal, since the Bible has left it so. We make therefore no apologies for an occasional aberation, and only ask the reader’s indulgence. We have spread plot and chronology over a period of 46 days, in presenting the divine epic that transcends them both! We have striven to make the sermonettes brief, simple, and personal. We hope that this will make them more graphic and helpful.”

Written in crisp, concise style these meditations will catch the readers’ interest and stimulate his thinking on many significant themes of sacred history. As musician and hymnologist the author reveals his broad familiarity with music and poetry. The prayers at the close of each meditation are well adapted for inducing true worship.

The value and charm of this book are enhanced by the manner in which it reveals the personality of the writer. Dr. Field is known as a whole-souled forthright individual, impatient with cant and pretense and dominantly a man of action. As a consequence his writing at times lacks the smoothness one is accustomed to find in devotional literature. Yet this in no wise detracts from the usefulness of the book, but rather helps to stimulate and hold the reader’s interest. The man in the pulpit will find here seed thoughts for many telling sermons.


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