Pulpit Chronicle

A History of Preaching In Britain and America, by F. R. Webber, Northwestern, Milwaukee, 1952–1957. Three volumes. $7.00 ea.

The author will hardly need an extensive introduction to the clergy of America. His previous books, Studies in the Liturgy, The Small Church, and Church Symbolism are standard in their respective fields and have won him a reputation for sound scholarship combined with a high degree of versatility, always expressed in limpid prose, with Celtic verve and, frequently, in striking phrase.

Mr. Webber, for many years Secretary of the Committee on Church Architecture of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and editor of The Church Builder, is himself a preacher of wide experience in the pulpit of a large church in Cleveland. And although he is now listed by his denomination as emeritus, he still preaches every Sunday.

These three volumes, containing a total of more than 2000 pages, discuss the history of preaching in the British Isles and in America, much of which has never before been gathered into one place, and little of which, perhaps, has ever been so fascinatingly told.

In the first volume the author tells the story of preaching south of the Tweed from the time of the original Celtic preachers to the present day. His extensive chapters on the trends and movements of the theological scene provide invaluable background for the biographies of the many eminent men of the pulpit whom he presents.

Among the topics of this volume are chapters on the Celtic Church, the English Reformation, the Puritan Age, the Evangelical Awakening and the Tractarian Movement, besides a chapter on preaching in Cornwall.

The second volume treats preaching in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The Covenanters, the Field Preachers, the Marrow Controversy, the Evangelical Awakening and the Disruption of 1843 are the subjects of some of its chapters.

Volume III deals with preaching and preachers in America, from Elder Brewster, who came over on the Mayflower, to Gilbert P. Symons, who died in 1956; and it contains orienting chapters similar to those found in Volumes I and II.

Webber’s work is based for the most part on secondary sources. There are some repetitions which are inevitable, perhaps, when, after the discussion of an era, the biographies of the preachers of that period are related. Some sections have been carelessly proofread and are consequently blemished with more typographical errors than should be found in any work of its distinctive merit.

Mr. Webber is well known for his staunch conservatism. He does not slant his material. And although he presents few biographies of Lutheran preachers—none at all, of course, in Volumes I and II, he is frankly and honestly a protagonist of the theology of Martin Luther. But non-Lutheran Christians interested in the field that he covers will find compensation for that circumstance in his unconcealed and enthusiastic admiration of Calvinistic, Arminian and even, in some instances, Roman Catholic preachers. They will delight in the patent essential ecumenicity of Christian love with which he regards those not of his own denomination who hold the fundamental tenets of Christianity. Webber has knocked about a bit and knows that there are often good things and excellent men on the other side of the denominational fence. And in the present work he has gone to great lengths to search some of them out.

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Somehow in this trilogy Webber has managed to combine the factuality and informativeness of a work of reference with an eminent degree of entertaining and—for most preachers, we should guess—fascinating reading. This is the magnum opus of its author, a work which should find an honored place not only on the shelves of the libraries of theological seminaries but also in the studies of Christian pastors, young and old, who are concerned with the effective preaching of the truths of Holy Scripture. For all Christian ministers who are concerned with effective preaching, these three volumes should prove a rewarding study and a powerful stimulus.


Apostolic Religion

Paul and Jesus, by Herman Ridderbos, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1957. $3.75.

Each generation needs a fresh statement of basic biblical problems in the light of contemporary criticism. The relationship of Paul’s preaching and teaching to Jesus is one of these problems. J. Gresham Machen served his generation in this important area of New Testament studies in his famous Origin of Paul’s Religion. Now Herman Ridderbos, Professor of New Testament at Kampen Theological Seminary in the Netherlands, has put the present generation in his debt by his recent publication, Jesus and Paul.

Professor Ridderbos is primarily concerned with the origin and character of Paul’s religion, as the subtitle of his book indicates. He finds its origin in Jesus’ Kerygma about himself, and in the proclamation of the early Church. Both are important. To bypass the Kerygma of the early Church is not to do justice “to the position which the person of Jesus as the Christ assumes within Paul’s preaching … and to understand the faith of the early Christian church without accepting the factuality of Jesus’ Messianic self-disclosure and resurrection, brings with it unsolvable historical riddles.”

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The primary sources of Paul’s preaching are revelation, the tradition of the Church and the Old Testament. Ridderbos recognizes Hellenistic influences in Paul but rejects with good reason the reconstructions of the religionsgeschichtliche school which would derive Paul’s Kerygma from the pagan world. It is in this regard that Ridderbos enters into vigorous debate with Bultmann and his Christology.

The general character of Paul’s preaching is eschatological. That is, Paul was “the proclaimer of a new time, the great turning point in the history of redemption, the intrusion of a new world aeon.” In this heilsgeschichtliche approach Ridderbos finds the answer to the question of the relationship between Jesus and Paul. Paul’s preaching in essence is “simply the expression of what Jesus referred to when he spoke of the kingdom of heaven being at hand.”

This is a stimulating book and a solid contribution to New Testament theology. Its value, especially to American readers, is further increased by its constant interaction with the best of European scholarship.


Scholarly Comment

Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians, by E. K. Simpson and F. F. Bruce, Eerdmans, 1957. 328 pp., $4.00.

This is the seventh volume now available in the New International Commentary on the New Testament, whose general editor is Prof. Ned B. Stone house. This series has distinguished itself as a standard of scholarly exactness and evangelical orthodoxy among those who take the Bible as the infallible Word of God.

Mr. Simpson writes the comments and notes on Ephesians; Prof. Bruce expounds Colossians. Both scholars maintain the Pauline authorship of these epistles. Technical problems are confined largely to the footnotes. Thus both the scholar and the general reader will find material suited to their needs.

Criticisms of this valuable work are few indeed. The somewhat elegant style of Mr. Simpson’s comments is distracting at times. Difficult words abound. On page 59, for example, are found such words as “mystagogues,” “pharos,” “pyrrhonism,” “purlieux,” and a Latin quotation. It is almost easier to read Paul’s Greek than some portions of Simpson’s English! We feel also that illustrations should have been cited more from the Septuagint rather than Greek and Roman writers. Modern problems of interpretation (such as the dispensational use of Eph. 3:5) are sometimes completely ignored.

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However, there can be no doubt that we have in this volume a worthy addition to exegetical literature.


Pre-Exilic History

Fertile Soil, by Max Vogelstein, American Press, New York, 1957. 137 pp., $3.00.

This is a concise thought-provoking history of the Divided Kingdom from Solomon’s death in 933 B.C. (Vogelstein’s date) to the Babylonian Exile in 586 B.C. Although the subject is highly technical and bristles with problems on every page, the author’s treatment is so fascinating that he lures the lay reader over the pages without losing him in the problems. The expert, on the other hand, will not only find the problems, but will discern with delight that the author has wrestled with them and presented challenging, if not always convincing conclusions. Behind the author’s conclusions, whether one accepts or rejects them, can be detected original research.

Moreover, the college student or the seminarian will also find this volume an eminently suitable text on ancient Israelite history. Its clear outline by topics, its useful maps and its thorough use of original and other sources (there are 16 pages of single spaced notes), and its vigorous treatment will not only illuminate the student, but lend zest to any professor’s class.

Anyone conversant with the general period behind the Book of Kings will already be familiar with Max Vogelstein’s chronological studies dealing with this period. While all chronologists will not agree at all times with the details of his reconstruction of this era, the author’s thorough familiarity with the field does command attention. His chronological survey of the Divided Kingdom in the framework of the contemporary Near Eastern scene at the end of the book will be a valuable feature, enhancing the general brevity and lucidity of treatment.

Vogelstein still holds to the existence of Benhadad I, II and III. The reviewer maintains with W. F. Albright that the Melcarth Stele of Benhadad recovered from the Aleppo region of North Syria in 1941 argues for the identity of the so-called Benhadad I and Benhadad II (see Israel and the Aramaeans of Damascus, James Clarke, London, 1957, pp. 59–61; 141 f.). This evidence, however, has not been accepted by all scholars.

Dr. Vogelstein’s reinterpretation of the contemporary Assyrian records is stimulating, as well as his observations on the Zakir Stele and the Mesha Stone. The book simplifies an exceedingly complex period. The author is to be congratulated for his ability to say much in few words.

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Handbook Of Evidences

Archaeology and the Old Testament, by J. A. Thompson, Eerdmans, 1957. $1.50.

It will be difficult to find anywhere else, in such brief compass, so much valuable material on the foremost subject in biblical studies. The author, who is a professor in the Baptist Theological College of New South Wales, Australia, is not a career archaeologist. Yet he has provided a collection of the most pertinent evidence from competent sources. He has also avoided extremes of interpretation of the facts.

The date of the Exodus from Egypt has long been a topic of discussion. Thompson presents a series of convincing arguments both from the Bible and from archaeology for a date about 1300 B.C. The encouraging feature is that he does it, not by discounting the statements of the Bible, but by seeking to show their consistency.

At certain points the author has shown how archaeology clears away some obscurities in the King James Version, indicating also that the Bible is an accurate source of ancient geography. For example, the King James Version, in 1 Kings 10:28, tells us that Solomon “had horses brought out of Egypt and linen yarn” (Hebrew QWH). Recent study has shown that QWH or Que, was a district in Asia Minor from which horses were procured (p. 84). According to the King James Version of 2 Kings 7:6, the Syrians fled from Israel because they thought they heard the sound of Hittite and Egyptian forces. It is now known that there was a land of Musur north of Palestine, and a proper reading would be “Hittite” and “Musurite.” The misunderstanding in the Authorized Version was natural enough, since the Hebrew root for Egypt was MSR. The combination of Musurites with nearby Hittites is undoubtedly more accurate, however (p. 101).

Joseph is described on p. 37 as “vizier” of Egypt. Some doubt has been cast upon this view by recent studies. Joseph may very well have been second only to Pharaoh in his ministry as supervisor of granaries.

On the whole, this is an excellent handbook for the student of the Bible, whether pastor or layman.


Anthology Of Mystics

Late Medieval Mysticism, edited by Ray C. Petty, Westminster Press, 1957. 424 pp., $5.00.

This thirteenth volume of the Library of Christian Classics consists of selections, none newly translated, from Bernard, the Victorines, Francis, Bonaventura, Lull, Eckhart, Rolle, Suso, Catherine of Siena, van Ruysbroeck, Theologia Germanica, Nicolas of Cusa, and Catherine of Genoa.

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The editor notes that asceticism is the normal source and accompaniment of mysticism. Thus most of the mystics were monks.

In spite of this unhealthy and unscriptural mode of life, mystics sometimes write intelligibly and their thoughts are profitable, e.g. Bernard On the Love of God (p. 54). The selection from Ramon Lull is not so much mystical as it is a fanciful though serious plea for the study of foreign languages in preparation for missionary work.

Francis, on the other hand, shows his Mariolatry; and the Victorines are intolerably allegorical. So is Eckhart, who wrote, “Why did Christ say, Martha, Martha, naming her twice? Isidor says there is no doubt that prior to the time when God was man he never called anyone by name lest any should be lost whom he did not name and about whom it was doubtful. Christ’s calling I take it, means his eternal knowing.… Why did he name Martha twice? He meant that every good thing, temporal and eternal, destined for creature, was Martha’s. The first ‘Martha’ stood for perfection in temporal works; the second one for her eternal weal” (pp. 194–195).

The selections are good examples of the travesty of Christianity effected by monasticism, mysticism, and Romanism. The volume has carefully prepared indexes.


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