Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 8]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

The Epistles of Paul

(pp.87-90)

A) About the author of the chapter:

Louis Berkhof “graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1900 …

In 1902 he went to Princeton University for two years earning a B.D. degree …

In 1906 he was appointed to the faculty of Calvin Theological Seminary. He assumed the presidency of the seminary in 1931 …” [1]

[1] http://www.calvin.edu/hh/seminary_presidents/semm_pres_berkhof.htm

B) Chapter Summary:

“Little can be said regarding the personal appearance of the great apostle. In the Acts of Paul and Thecla he is represented as “short, bald, bow-legged, with meeting eyebrows, hooked nose, full of grace.” John of Antioch preserves a similar tradition, which adds, however, that he was “round-shouldered and had a mixture of pale and red in his complexion and an ample beard.” His opponents at Corinth said of him: “His letters are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible,” II Cor. 10:10 ff. He himself refers once and again to his physical weaknesses. In all probability he was not a man of magnificent physique.”1

“His personal life was full of contrasts, as Deissmann correctly observes. He was encumbered with an ailing body, and yet was a man of great endurance and of almost unlimited capacity for work in the Kingdom of God.”2

“… we obtain the following result:

  • Pauls Conversion A. D. 37
  • First Visit to Jerusalem A. D. 40
  • Beginning of his Work at Antioch A. D. 44
  • First Missionary Journey A. D. 45—48
  • Delegated to the Council of Jerusalem A. D. 50
  • Second Missionary Journey A. D. 5 1—53
  • Third Missionary Journey A. D. 54—58
  • Captivity at Jerusalem and Caesarea A. D. 58—60
  • Arrives at Rome A. D. 61
  • First Captivity at Rome A. D. 61—63
  • Period between first and second Captivity A. D. 63—67
  • Second Captivity and Death A. D. 67 or 68.”3

Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 7]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

The Epistles in General

(pp.80-86)

A) About the author of the chapter:

Louis Berkhof “graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1900 …

In 1902 he went to Princeton University for two years earning a B.D. degree …

In 1906 he was appointed to the faculty of Calvin Theological Seminary. He assumed the presidency of the seminary in 1931 …” [1]

[1] http://www.calvin.edu/hh/seminary_presidents/semm_pres_berkhof.htm

B) Chapter Summary:

i. The Epistolary Form in Biblical Literature

“This form of teaching was not something absolutely new in the time of the apostles, although we find but few traces of it in the Old Testament. Mention is made there of some letters written by kings and prophets, f. i. in I Kings 21: 8, 9; II Kings 5:5-7; 19:14; 20:12; Jer. 29:1; but these are quite different from our New Testament Epistles.”4

“The letter as a particular type of self-expression took its rise, so it seems, among the Greeks and the Egyptians. In later time it was also found among the Romans and in Hellenistic Judaism, as we notice from the epistle of Aristion, that treats of the origin of the Septuagint. According to Deissmann
the Egyptian papyri especially offer a great amount of material for comparison.”2

“In all probability, however, it was Paul who first introduced the epistle as a distinct type of literary form for the conveyance of divine truth. Aside from the Gospels his Epistles form the most prominent part of the New Testament. In this connection it is well to bear in mind the important distinction made by Deissmann between a letter and an epistle, of which the former is non-literary, or, as J. V. Bartlet says, “pre-literary,” and the latter is a literary artistic form of communication.”3

Thomas Dehany Bernard, The Progress of Doctrine in the N. T. pp. 156, 157: “The prophets delivered oracles to the People, but the apostles wrote letters to the brethren, letters characterized by all that fulness of unreserved explanation, and that play of various feeling, which are proper to that form of intercourse. It is in its nature a more familiar communication, as between those who are or should be equals.” “The form adopted in the New Testament combines the advantages of the treatise and the conversation. The letter may treat important subjects with accuracy and fulness, but it will do so in immediate connection with actual life. It is written to meet any occasion.  It is addressed to peculiar states of mind. It breathes of the heart of the writer. It takes its aim from the exigencies, and its tone from the feelings of the moment ”

ii. The Inspiration of the Epistles

“… in the case of the Epistles, as distinguished from that of the Gospels, it did not almost exclusively assume the character of a ὑπομνήσις [hypomnēsei], but was also to a great extent a διδασκαλία [didaskalos]. Both of those elements are indicated in the promise of the Holy Spirit given by Christ before his departure: “But the Comforter, even the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you.” John 14: 26. Cf. also 16:12,13.”4

“In the Gospels we have the totality of the apostolic κήρυγμα [kērygma] hence their production naturally depended in great measure on a faithful memory. The Epistles, on the other hand, contain the fruit of the apostles reflection on this κήρυγμα, their interpretation of it. Therefore it was not sufficient that the writers in composing them should faithfully remember former things; they needed more light on them, a better understanding of their real meaning and profound significance.”5

“The apostles were evidently conscious of being inspired by the Holy Ghost in the composition of their Epistles. This follows from the authority with which they address the congregations. They feel sure that their word is binding on the conscience; they condemn in unqualified terms those who teach any other doctrine as coming from God; they commend and praise all that diligently follow their directions; but they also reprimand and censure those that dare to follow another course.”6
See 1 Cor. 2:10, 13; 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:10-12

“It is true that for a time five of them, viz., the Epistles of James and Jude, II Peter and II and III John, were classed as antilegomena, but this only means that their canonicity was subject to doubt and dispute for a while, not that they were ever numbered among the spurious books. They have been recognized by the majority of ecclesiastical writers from the very beginning, and were generally accepted by the Church after the council of Laodicea in A. D. 363.”7

Continue reading “Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 7]”