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


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]


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.”1

“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]”

Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 6]

[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]

Acts of the Apostles


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]


B) Chapter Summary:

I) Content

“The contents of this book is naturally divided into two parts; in each of which the main topic is the establishment of the Church from a certain center:

 I. The establishment of the Church from Jerusalem, 1:1—12:25 …

 II. The Establishment of the Church from Antioch. 13:1—28:31.”8 

II) Characteristics

 “1. The great outstanding feature of this book is that it acquaints us with the establishment of Christian churches, and indicates their primary organization. According to it churches are founded at Jerusalem, 2: 41-47; Judea, Galilee and Samaria, 9: 31; Antioch, 11: 26; Asia Minor, 14: 23; 16: 5; Philippi, 16: 40; Thessaalonica, 17:10; Berea, 17:14; Corinth, 18:18, and Ephesus, 20:17-38.”2 

“2. The narrative which it contains centers about two persons, viz. Peter and Paul, the first establishing the Jewish, the second the Gentile churches. Consequently it contains several discourses of these apostles …”3

“3. The many miracles recorded in this writing constitute one of its characteristic features.”4

“4. The style of this book is very similar to that of the third Gospel, though it contains less Hebraisms. Simcox says that “the Acts is of all the books included in the New Testament the nearest to contemporary, if not to classical literary usage,—the only one, except perhaps the Epistle to the Hebrews, where conformity to a standard of classical correctness is consciously aimed at.” The Writers of the New Testament, p. 16. The tone is most Hebraic in the first part of the book, especially in the sermons in chs. 2 and 13 and in the defense of Stephen ch. 7, in all of which the Old Testament element is very large ;—and it is most Hellenic in the last part of the book, as in the epistle of the church at Jerusalem, the letter of Lysias, the speech of Tertullus, and the defense of Paul before Agrippa. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that the first part of the book deals primarily with Jewish, and last part especially with Gentile Christianity.”5

III) Title

 “The Greek title of the book is πράξεις ἀποστόλων, Acts of Apostles. There is no entire uniformity in the MSS. in this respect. The Sinaiticus has simplyπράξειςalthough it has the regular title at the close of the book. Codex D is peculiar in havingπράξις ἀποστόλων, Way of acting of the Apostles.We do not regard the title as proceeding from the author, but from one of the transcribers; nor do we consider it a very happy choice.”6

Continue reading “Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 6]”

Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 5]

[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 Gospel of John


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]


B) Chapter Summary:

I) Content

“The contents of the Gospel of John is also divided into five parts:

I. The Advent and Incarnation of the Word, 1:1— 13 …

II. The Incarnate Word the only Life of the World, 1:14 — 6:71 …

III. The Incarnate Word, the Life and Light, in Conflict with Spiritual Darkness, 7:1 — 11:54 …

IV. The Incarnate Word saving the Life of the World through his Sacrificial Death, 11:55 — 19:42 …

V. The Incarnate Word, risen from the Dead, the Saviour and Lord of all Believers, 20:1 — 21:25.” [1]

II) Characteristics

“1. The gospel of John emphasizes more than any of the others the Divinity of Christ. It has no historical starting-point, like the Synoptics, but recedes back into the depths of eternity, and starts out with the statement sublime in its simplicity: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”” [2]

“The miracles of the Lord, narrated in this Gospel, are of such a character that they give great prominence to his divine power.” [3]

See John 4:46, 5:5, 9:1, 11:17

“The teaching of Christ greatly predominates in Johns Gospel, but this is quite different from that contained in the Synoptics. We find no parables here but elaborate discourses, which also contain a couple of allegories. The all absorbing topic is not the Kingdom of God but the Person of the Messiah.”[4]

Christ presents himself as the source of life, 4:46— 5:47; the spiritual nourishment of the soul, 6:22-65; the water of life, 4:7-16; 7:37, 38; the true liberator, 8:31-58; the light of the world, 9:5, 35-41; and the living principle of the resurrection, 11:25, 26.

“The scene of action in this Gospel is quite different from that in the Synoptics. In the latter the work of Christ in Galilee is narrated at length, while He is seen at Jerusalem only during the last week of His life. In the Gospel of John, on the other hand, the long ministry of Christ in Galilee is presupposed rather than narrated, while his work and teaching in Judea and particularly at Jerusalem is made very prominent.” [5]

“4. The Gospel of John is far more definite than the Synoptics in pointing out the time and place of the occurrences that are narrated; it is in a certain sense more chronological than the other Gospels. We are generally informed as to the place of Christ’s operation. Definite mention is made of Bethany, 1:28; Cana, 2: 1; Capernaum, 2:12; Jerusalem, 2:13; Sychar, 4: 5; Bethesda, 5 : 2, etc. The designations of time are equally distinct, sometimes the hour of the day being given.” [6]

“5. The style of the fourth Gospel is not like that of the other three. It is peculiar in that “it contains, on the one hand, except in the prologue and χαρᾷ χαίρειin 3:29, hardly any downright Hebraisms,” Simcox, The Writers of the New Testament p. 73, while, on the other hand, it approaches the style of Old Testament writers more than the style of any other New Testament writing does …

His sentences are generally connected in the most simple way by καί, δεor οὖν, and his descriptions are often elaborate and repetitious. He exhibits a special fondness for contrasts and for the use of the parallelismus membrorum.” [7]

III) Authorship

“The voice of antiquity is all but unanimous in ascribing the fourth Gospel to John.” [8]

“The internal evidence for the authorship of the Gospel is now generally arranged under the following heads:

1.The author was a Jew. He evidently had an intimate acquaintance with the Old Testament, had, as it were, imbibed the spirit of the prophetical writings. He knew them not only in the translation of the LXX, but in their original language, as is evident from several Old Testament quotations. Moreover the style of the author clearly reveals his Jewish nationality. He wrote Greeks it is true, but his construction, his circumstantiality and his use of parallelism, are all Hebraic …

2.The author was a Palestinian Jew. He clearly shows that he is well at home in the Jewish world. He is intimately acquainted with Jewish customs and religious observances and with the requirements of the law, and moves about with ease in the Jewish world of thought [see e.g. 1:21; 4:9; 5:1 ff.; 7:22 ff; 9:2; 9:14 ff] …

3.The writer was an eyewitness of the events he relates.He claims this explicitly, if not already in 1: 14, “we beheld his glory” (Cf. I John 1:1-3), certainly in 19:35. “And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true that ye might believe.” This claim is corroborated by the lively and yet simple manner in which he pictures the events; by the many definite chronological data and naming of localities …

4. [By the process of elimination] The author was the apostle John …” [9]

“Not until the last part of the eighteenth century was the authorship of John attacked on critical grounds, and even then the attacks were of small significance. Bretschneider in 1820 was the first to assail it in a systematic way. But he was soon followed by others, such as Baur, Strauss, Schwegler, Zeller, Scholten, Davidson, Wrede e. a. It has been their persistent endeavor to show that the Gospel of John is a product of the second century. Some would ascribe it to that shadowy person, the presbyter John, whose existence Eusebius infers from a rather ambiguous passage of Papias, but who, in all probability, is to be identified with John the apostle. Others positively reject this theory. Wrede, after arguing that the authorship of John cannot be established, says: “Far less can the recent hypothesis be regarded as proven which purports to find the author of the Gospel in John the presbyter.” The Origin of the New Testamentp. 89.” [10]

“The most important considerations that led many rationalistic critics to the conclusion that the fourth Gospel was written in the second century, are the following: (1) The theology of the Gospel, especially its representation of Christ, is developed to such a degree that it points beyond the first and reflects the consciousness of the Church of the second century. (2) The Gospel was evidently written under the influence of the philosophic and religious tendencies that were prevalent in the second century, such as Montanism, Docetism and Gnosticism. (3) The great difference between the fourth Gospel and the Synoptics appears to be the result of second century cavilling respecting the nature of Christ, and of the Paschal controversy.

But the idea that the Gospel of John is a second century product goes counter to both the internal evidence to which we already referred, and to the external testimony, which is exceptionally strong and which can be traced back to the very beginning of the second century. Some of the Epistles of Ignatius show the influence of John’s Christology, and the writings of both Papias and Polycarp contain allusions to the first Epistle of John, which was evidently written at the same time as the Gospel. The latter was in existence, therefore, in the beginning of the second century.” [11]

Continue reading “Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 5]”

Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 4]

[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 Gospel of Luke


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]


B) Chapter Summary:

i) Contents

“Like  the  contents  of  the  previous  Gospels  we  may  also  divide  those  of  Luke’s  into  five parts:

I. The Advent  of  the  Divine  Man, 1:-4:13 …

II. The Work  of  the  Divine  Man  for  the  Jewish  World, 4:14 – 9:50 …

III.  The  Work  of  the  Divine  Man  for  the  Gentiles, 9:51 – 18:30 …

IV. The Sacrifice  of  the  Divine  Man  for  all  Mankind, 18:31 – 23:49 …

V. The Divine  Man  Saviour  of  all  Nations, 24.”[1]

ii) Characteristics

“1.  In  point  of  completeness  it  surpasses  the  other  Synoptics,  beginning,  as  it  does,  with a  detailed  narrative  of  the  birth  of  John  the  Baptist  and  of  Christ  himself,  and  ending  with a  record  of  the  ascension  from  the  Mount  of  Olives.  In  distinction  from  Matthew  and  Mark this  Gospel  even  contains  an  allusion  to  the  promise  of  the  Father,  24:  29,  and  thus  points beyond  the  old  dispensation  to  the  new  that  would  be  ushered  in  by  the  coming  of  the  Holy Spirit.  The  detailed  narrative  of  Christ’s  going  to  Jerusalem  in  9:  51-18:14  is  also  peculiar  to this  gospel.”[2]

“2.  Christ  is  set  before  us  in  this  Gospel  as  the  perfect  Man  with  wide  sympathies.  The genealogy  of  Jesus  is  trace  back  through  David  and  Abraham  to  Adam,  our  common  progenitor,  thus  presenting  him  as  one  of  our  race.”[3]

See 2:40-52; 3:21; 9:29.

“3.  Another  feature  of  this  gospel  is  its  universality.  It  comes  nearer  than  other  Gospels to  the  Pauline  doctrine  of  salvation  for  all  the  world,  and  of  salvation  by  faith,  without  the works  of  the  law.”[4]

See 4:25-27;  7:2-10; 9:52-56;  10:30-37;  17:11-19

“4.  More  than  the  other  evangelists  Luke  relates  his  narrative  to  contemporaneous  history and  indicates  the  time  of  the  occurrences.”[5]

See 1:1, 26;  2:1;  2:2; 3:1, 2

“5.  Luke  writes  a  purer  Greek  than  any  of  the  other  evangelists,  but  this  is  evident  only, where  he  does  not  closely  follow  his  sources.  The  Greek  of  the  preface  is  of  remarkable purity,  but  aside  from  this  the  first  and  second  chapters  are  full  of  Hebraisms.  Of  the  rest of  the  Gospel  some  parts  approach  very  closely  to  classical  Greek,  while  others  are  tinged with  Hebrew  expressions.”[6]

iii) Authorship

“Irenaeus  asserts  that  “Luke,  the  companion  of  Paul,  put  down  in  a  book  the  Gospel  preached by  him.”  With  this  agrees  the  testimony  of  Origen;  Eusebius,  Athanasius,  Gregory,  Nazianze, Jerome,  e. a.”[7]

“In  1882  Dr.  Hobart  published  a  work  on,  The Medical  Language  of  St.  Luke,  showing  that  in  many  instances  the  evangelist  uses  the  technical  language  that  was  also  used  by  Greek  medical  writers,  as  παραλελυμἐνος,  5:18,  24  (the other  Gospels  have  παραλύτικος);συνεχομένη  πυρετῷ  μεγαλλῳ 4  :38;  ἔστη  ἡ  ῥύσις  τοῦ ἅιματος 8  :44  (cf.  Mt.  5 :29)  ;  ἀνεκάθισεν, 7  :14,  Luke  carefully  distinguishes  demoniacal possession  from  disease,  4:18;  13:  32;  states  exactly  the  age  of  the  dying  person,  8:42;  and the  duration  of  the  affliction  in  13:11.  He  only  relates  the  miracle  of  the  healing  of  Malchus ear.  All  these  things  point  to  Luke,  “the  beloved  physician.”[8]

“The  question  must  be  asked,  whether  Paul  was  in  any  way  connected  with  the  composition  of  the  third  Gospel.  The  testimony  of  the  early  Church  is  very  uncertain  on  this  point.

Tertullian  says:  “Luke’s  digest  is  often  ascribed  to  Paul.  And  indeed  it  is  easy  to  take  that  for the  master’s  which  is  published  by  the  disciples.”  According  to  Eusebius,  “Luke  hath  delivered in  his  Gospel  a  certain  amount  of  such  things  as  he  had  been  assured  of  by  his  intimate  acquaintance  and  familiarity  with  Paul,  and  his  connection  with  the  other  apostles.”  With  this the  testimony  of  Jerome  agrees.  Athanasius  states  that  the  Gospel  of  Luke  was  dictated  by the  apostle  Paul.

In  view  of  the  preface  of  the  gospel  we  may  be  sure  that  the  Church  fathers exaggerate  the  influence  of  Paul  in  the  composition  of  this  Gospel,  possibly  to  give  it apostolic  authority.  Paul  s  relation  to  the  third  Gospel  differs  from  that  of  Peter  to  the  second; it  is  not  so  close.  Luke  did  not  simply  write  what  he  remembered  of  the  preaching  of  Paul, much  less  did  he  write  according  to  the  dictation  of  the  apostle,  for  he  himself  says  that  he traced  everything  from  the  beginning  and  speaks  of  both  oral  and  written  sources  that  were at  his  command.  Among  these  oral  sources  we  must,  of  course,  also  reckon  the  preaching of  Paul.  That  the  great  apostle  did  influence  Luke  s  representation  of  “the  beginning  of  the Gospel,”  is  very  evident.  There  are  175  words  and  expressions  in  the  gospel  that  are  peculiar to  Luke  and  Paul.  Cf.  Plummer  p.  LIV.”[9]

Continue reading “Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 4]”

Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 3]

[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 Gospel of Mark


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]


B) Chapter Summary:

i) Contents

“We  may  divide  the  contents  of  Mark’s  Gospel,  that  treats  of  Christ  as  the  mighty Worker,  into  five  parts:

I. The Advent  of  the  mighty  Worker, 1:1 — 2:12 …

II. The Conflict  of  the  mighty  Worker, 2:12 — 8:26 …

III. The  Claim  of  the  mighty  Worker, 8:27 — 13:37 …

IV. The Sacrifice  of  the  mighty  Worker, 14:1—15:47 …

V. The mighty  Worker  as  Conqueror  of  Death, 16:1-20.”[1]

ii) Characteristics

“The  most  striking  peculiarity  of  the  second  Gospel  is  its  descriptive  character.  It  is Marks  constant  aim  to  picture  the  scenes  of  which  he  speaks  in  lively  colours.”[2]

e.g. the  look  of  anger  that  Christ  cast  on  the hypocrites  about  him,  3:5;  Jesus  taking little  children  in  his  arms and  blessing  them,  9:36;  10:16;  Jesus,  looking  at  the young  ruler,  loved  him,  10:21

“This  Gospel  contains  comparatively  little  of  the  teaching  of  Jesus;  it  rather  brings  out the  greatness  of  our  Lord  by  pointing  to  his  mighty  works,  and  in  doing  this  does  not  follow the  exact  chronological  order …

Mark,  though  considerably  smaller  than  Matthew,  contains  all the  miracles  narrated  by  the  latter  except  five,  and  besides  has  three  that  are  not  found  in Matthew.  Of  the  eighteen  miracles  in  Luke,  Mark  has  twelve  and  four  others  above  this number.”[3]

“In  the  Gospel  of  Mark  several  words  of  Christ  that  were  directed  against  the  Jews  are left  out,  such  as  we  find  in  Mt.  3:  7-10;  8:  5-13;  15:  24,  etc.  On  the  other  hand  more  Jewish customs  and  Aramaic  words  are  explained  than  in  the  first  Gospel,  f.  i.  2:18;  7:3;  14:12;  15:6, 42;  3:17;  5:41;  7:11,  34;  14:  36.  The  argument  from  prophecy  has  not  the  large  place  here that  it  has  in  Matthew.”[4]

“The  style  of  Mark  is  more  lively  than  that  of  Matthew,  though  not  as  smooth.  He  delights  in  using  words  like  εὐθύς or  εὐθέως and  πολύς prefers  the  use  of  the  present  and  the imperfect  to  that  of  the  aorist,  and  often  uses  the  periphrastic  εἶναι with  a  participle  instead of  the  finite  verb.  There  are  several  Latinisms  found  in  his  Gospel,  as  κεντυρίων,κορδάντης, κράββατος,πραιτώριον,  σπεκουλάτωρ and  φραγελλοῦν.”[5]

iii) Authorship

“Just  as  in  the  case  of  Matthew  we  are  entirely  dependent  on  external  testimony  for  the name  of  the  author  of  the  second  Gospel.”[6]

“… the  voice  of  antiquity  is  unanimous  in ascribing  it  to  Mark.  The  most  ancient  testimony  to  this  effect  is  that  of  Papias,  who  says: “Mark,  the  interpreter  of  Peter,  wrote  down  carefully  all  that  he  recollected,  though  he  did not  [record]  in  order  that  which  was  either  said  or  done  by  Christ.  For  he  neither  heard  the Lord  nor  followed  him;  but  subsequently,  as  I  have  said,  [attached  himself  to]  Peter,  who used  to  frame  his  teaching  to  meet  the  [immediate]  wants  [of  his  hearers]  ;  and  not  as making  a  connected  narrative  of  the  Lords  discourses.  So  Mark  committed  no  error,  as  he wrote  down  some  particulars  just  as  he  called  them  to  mind.  For  he  took  heed  to  one thing—to  omit  none  of  the  facts  that  he  heard,  and  to  state  nothing  falsely  in  [his  narrative] of  them.”  Several  other  church  fathers,  such  as  Irenaeus,  Clement  of  Alexandria,  Tertullian, Origen,  Jerome,  Eusebius,  e. a.,  follow  in  his  wake;  there  is  not  a  dissentient  voice.”[7]

“After  the  death  of  Peter  he [i.e. Mark]  is  said  to  have  visited  Alexandria,  where  he  was  the  first  to  found  Christian  churches,  and  finally  died  a  martyrs  death. This  tradition,  though  old,  is  not  without  suspicion.”[8]

Daniel Seely Gregory: “[Mark was] like  Peter  more  a  man  of  action  than  of  deep  and  abiding principle,  a  man  of  fervor  and  enthusiasm  rather  than  of  persevering  effort;  but  he  was transfused  by  the  power  of  the  same  Christ  who  transfused  Peter  into  the  man  of  rapid, continued  and  effective  effort  in  the  missionary  work  of  the  Church.”[9]

“Papias  says  that  “Mark was  Peters  interpreter  and  wrote  down  carefully  all  that  he  recollected.”  Clement  of  Alexandria  also  says  that  he  wrote  down  the  discourses  of  Peter,  as  he  remembered  them.  Irenaeus, Tertullian  and  Jerome  all  style  Mark  “the  interpreter  of  Peter.”  Tertullian  even  says  that  “the Gospel  published  by  Mark  may  be  reckoned  Peter’s,  whose  interpreter  he  was.”  And  Origen still  stronger:  “Mark  wrote  his  Gospel  according  to  the  dictates  of  Peter.”  Similarly  Athanasius.  All  these  testimonies  agree  in  asserting  that  Mark  was  dependent  on  Peter  in  writing his  Gospel;  they  disagree,  however,  as  to  the  degree  of  dependence,  some  claiming  merely that  Mark  recorded  what  he  remembered  of  Peters  preaching,  and  others,  that  he  wrote what  Peter  dictated.”[10]

“The  Gospel  itself  incidentally  testifies  to  the  relation  in  which  it  stands  to  Peter.  There are  many  touches  that  indicate  first-hand  knowledge,  as  in  1:16-20;  1:29;  9:5; 15:54,  72;  16: 7.  Some  things  found  in  the  other  Synoptics  are  unexpectedly  omitted  by  Mark,  as  Peters walking  on  the  water,  Mt.  14:  29;  his  appearance  in  the  incident  of  the  tribute  money,  Mt. 17:  24-27;  the  statement  of  Christ  that  He  prayed  for  Peter  individually,  Lk.  22: 32;  the  significant  word  spoken  to  him  as  the  Rock,  Mt.  16:18.  In  other  cases  his  name  is  suppressed, where  it  is  used  by  Matthew  or  Luke,  as  7:17  cf.  Mt.  15: 15;  14:13  cf.  Lk.  22:8.”[11]

Continue reading “Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 3]”

Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 2]

[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 Gospel of Matthew


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]


B) Chapter Summary:

i) Contents

“The  Gospel  of  Matthew  may  be  divided  into  five  parts:

The Advent  of  the  Messiah, 1:1 – 4:11 …

The Public  proclamation  of  Messiah’s  Kingdom, 4:12 – 16:12 …

The  Distinct  and  Public  Claim  of  Messiahship, 16:13 – 23:39 …

The Sacrifice  of  Messiah  the  Priest, 24:1 – 27:66 …

The Triumph  of  Messiah  the  Saviour  and  King.”[1]

ii) Characteristics

“As  to form  we  find,  in  the  first  place,  a  characteristically  Jewish  numerical  arrangement of  things  in  this  Gospel.  The  genealogy  in  ch.  1  consists  of  three  groups  of  generations  of fourteen  each.  There  are  seven  beatitudes  ch.  5;  seven  petitions  in  the  Lord’s  prayer  ch.  6;  a group  of  seven  parables  ch.  13;  and  seven  woes  on  Pharisees  and  Scribes  ch.  23.”[2]

“As  to  the style  of  Matthew,  in  the  second  place,  may  be  said  that  it  is  smoother  than  that  of  Mark, though  not  so  vivid.  But  it  is  tinged  with  Hebraisms,  less  indeed  than  the  language  of  Luke, but  more  than  that  of  Mark.  It  is  rather  impersonal,  lacking  in  individuality.”[3]

“The  arrangement  of  the  material  in  this  Gospel  also  differs  considerably  from  that  in the  other  Synoptics.  The  narrative  is  not  continuous,  but  is  interrupted  by  five  great  discourses,  such  as  are  not  found  in  the  Gospels  of  Mark  and  Luke,  viz,  the  Sermon  on  the Mount,  chs.  5-7;  the  charge  to  the  apostles,  ch.  10;  the  parables  of  the  Kingdom,  ch.  13;  the discourse  on  the  church,  ch.  18;  and  the  final  eschatological  discourses  of  Christ  on  the  last judgment,  chs.  23-25.  After  every  one  of  these  discourses  we  find  the  words:  “And  it  came to  pass,  when  Jesus  had  ended  (made  an  end  of,  finished)  these  sayings,  etc.””[4]

“As  to  contents  the  following  peculiarities  deserve  our  attention:  In  the  first  place  the Gospel  of  Matthew  has  a  more  Jewish  aspect,  than  the  other  Synoptics.  Its  predominant subject  is,  the  Messiah  and  his  Kingdom …

In  the  second  place  the  first  Gospel  alludes to  the  Old  Testament  more  frequently  than  any  other:  It  emphasizes  the  fact  that  the  New Testament  reveals  the  fulfilment  of  Old  Testament  promises;  that  Christ  was  born,  revealed himself  and  labored  as  the  prophets  of  old  had  foretold.  Matthew  contains  more  than  40 quotations,  while  Mark  has  21  and  Luke,  22.”[5]

iii) Authorship

“The  superscription  ascribes  the  first  Gospel  to  Matthew.  That  this  embodies  the  opinion of  the  early  Church  is  evident  from  the  testimony  of  Irenaeus,  Tertullian,  Origen,  Eusebius and  several  others,  who  all  point  to  Matthew  as  the  author.”[6]

“The  Gospel  itself  shows  unmistakably,  by  its  Jewish  physiognomy,  that  its  author  was  a  Jew,  yea  even  that  he  was  a Palestinian  Jew,  for  he  quotes  from  the  Hebrew  and  not  from  the  Septuagint.”[7]

“It  contains  no direct  evidence,  however  to  the  authorship  of  Matthew,  though  there  are  a  couple  points  of difference  between  it  and  the  other  Synoptics  that  are  best  explained  on  the  assumption  that Matthew  wrote  it.  When  we  compare  the  lists  of  the  twelve  apostles  in  Mt.  10:2-4;  Mk.  3: 16-19;  and  Luke  6:14-  16,  we  notice  that  only  in  the  first  Gospel  the  name  Matthew  is  followed by  the  less  honorable  qualification  “the  publican  ;”  and  that  it  has  the  order,  “Thomas  and Matthew”  instead  of,  “Matthew  and  Thomas.’”[8]

“Our  information  regarding  Matthew  is  very  scanty.  We  read  of  him  first  in  connection with  the  call  to  follow  Jesus,  Mt.  9:  9,  10;  Mk.  2:14,  15;  Lk.  5 :  27-29.  There  is  no  reason  to doubt  that  the  Matthew  of  the  first  Gospel  is  the  Levi  of  the  second  and  third.  Possibly  his name  was  changed  by  the  Lord  after  his  call  to  the  discipleship,  just  as  those  of  Peter  and Paul.”[9]

“A  veil  of  obscurity  is  cast  over  the  apostolic career  of  Matthew.  Tradition  has  it  that  he  remained  at  Jerusalem  with  the  other  apostles for  about  twelve  years  after  the  death  of  the  Lord,  laboring  among  his  fellow-countrymen. When  the  work  was  done,  it  is  said,  he  preached  the  Gospel  to  others,  according  to  the popular  opinion  in  Ethiopia.  He  probably  died  a  natural  death.”[10]

iv) Composition

“A  hotly  debated  question  is  that  regarding  the  language  in  which Matthew  originally  wrote  his  Gospel.  The  difficulty  of  the  problem  arises  from  the  fact  that external  testimony  and  internal  evidence  seem  to  disagree.  As  a  result  the  camp  is  very  much divided,  some  scholars  ardently  defending  a  Hebrew,  others  with  equal  zeal  a  Greek  original.”[11]

“… evidence  both  external  and  internal  has  given  rise  to  several  theories,  which  we  can  briefly  state  in  the  following  manner:

(1.)  Matthew  wrote  his  Gospel  in  Hebrew  and  someone  else  translated  it  into Greek.  This  position  was  held  by  the  Church  in  general  until  the  time  of  the  Reformation. Since  then  several  Protestant  scholars  took  another  view,  because  Rome  defended  the  ultimate authority  of  the  Vulgate  by  pointing  out  that  the  Greek  Matthew  was  also  merely  a  translation. The  attacks  of  Rationalism  on  the  so-called  second-hand  Matthew,  and  the  dubious  character of  a  part  of  the  ancient  testimony,  also  served  to  bring  this  theory  into  discredit …

(2.)  There  never  was  a  Hebrew  original,  but  Matthew  wrote  his  Gospel  in  the  Greek language.  The  present  gospel  is  not  a  translation,  but  an  original  work …

(3.)  Matthew  wrote  neither  a  Hebrew  nor  a  Greek  Gospel,  but,  if  anything,  a  work  called the  λόγια by  Papias,  which  must  have  been  a  collection  of  the  sayings  or  discourses  of  the Lord.  According  to  some  these  λόγια are  lost,  but  must  probably  be  identified  with  one  of the  supposed  sources  (Q)  of  our  present  Gospels.  Others  as  Godet  and  Holdsworth  believe that  the  work  contained  the  discourses  that  we  find  in  the  Gospel  of  Matthew  and  was therefore  incorporated  bodily  in  our  present  Gospel.

(4.)  The  evangelist  after  writing  his  Gospel  in  Hebrew  with  a  view  to  his  countrymen, possibly  when  he  had  left  Palestine  to  labor  elsewhere,  translated  or  rather  furnished  a  new recension  of  his  Gospel  in  the  Greek  language  with  a  view  to  the  Jews  of  the  Diaspora.  The former  was  soon  lost  and  altogether  replaced  by  the  latter.”[12]

“The  Gospel  of  Matthew  was  undoubtedly  destined  for  the  Jews. This  is  expressly  stated  by  Irenaeus,  Origen,  Eusebius,  Gregory  Nazianzen,  e. a.  This  testimony is  corroborated  by  internal  evidence.  The  genealogy  of  Jesus  goes  back  only  to  Abraham, the  father  of  the  Hebrew  race;  and  in  harmony  with  the  tenets  of  the  Jews  the  Messiahship of  Christ  is  proved  from  the  prophets.  The  whole  Gospel  impresses  one  as  being  occasioned by  the  exigencies  of  the  Jews  both  in  Palestine  and  without.”[13]

“Irenaeus  makes  a  very definite  statement,  viz.:  “Matthew  among  the  Hebrews  published  a  Gospel  in  their  own language,  while  Peter  and  Paul  were  preaching  the  Gospel  at  Rome  and  founding  a  church there.”  This  must  have  been  somewhere  between  63-67  A.  D.”[14]

“The  dates  assigned  to  this  Gospel  by  rationalistic  critics  range  from about  70  to  125  A.  D.”[15]

“The  question  arises,  whether  Matthew  used  sources  in  the  composition  of his  Gospel.  The  prevalent  opinion  at  present  is  that  the  writer  of  this  Gospel,  whoever  he may  have  been,  drew  in  the  main  on  two  sources,  viz,  on  the  λόγια of  Matthew  for  the  discourses  of  the  Lord,  and  on  the  Gospel  of  Mark  for  the  narrative  portion  of  his  work …

Against  these  see  Davidson  and  Salmon.  Zahn’s  opinion  is  that  Mark  employed  the  Hebrew  Matthew  in  the  composition  of his  Gospel,  and  that  the  writer  of  our  Greek  Matthew  in  turn  used  the  Gospel  of  Mark.”[16]

“All  we  can  say  is  (1)  that  in  all  probability  the  Hebrew  Matthew  depended  on  oral tradition  only;  (2)  that  our  Greek  Matthew  is  based  on  the  Hebrew;  and  (3)  that  it  is  not impossible  that  Matthew  had  read  the  Gospel  of  Mark  before  he  composed  the  present Greek  Gospel.”[17]

v) Canonical Significance

“This [i.e. traces  of  the Gospel of Matthew’s  use,  especially  of  the  Sermon  on  the  Mount  in  the  Didache, and the Gospel of Matthew being clearly  quoted  in  the  Epistle  of  Barnabas] proves  that  the  Gospel  was  used  and  recognized  as  canonical in  the  early  part  of  the  second  century.”[18]

“Further  it  is  abundantly  testified  to  until  the  beginning of  the  third  century,  when  all  controversy  ceases,  there  being  up  to  that  time  altogether  21 witnesses,  so  that  this  Gospel  is  one  of  the  best  attested  books  in  the  New  Testament.  Among these  witnesses  are  the  old  Latin  and  Syriac  Versions  that  contain  this  Gospel;  early  church fathers  that  refer  to  it  as  authoritative  or  quote  it;  and  heretics  who,  even  while  attacking the  truth,  tacitly  admit  the  canonical  character  of  the  Gospel.”[19]

“This  book  is  properly  placed  at  the  very  beginning  of  the  New  Testament.  It  forms  part of  the  foundation  on  which  the  New  Testament  structure  was  to  be  reared.  And  among  the Gospels,  which  together  constitute  this  foundation,  it  is  rightly  put  in  the  first  place.  It  is, as  it  were,  a  connecting  link  between  the  Old  Testament  and  the  New.  As  the  Old  Testament had  reference  to  the  Jews  only,  so  the  Gospel  of  Matthew  is  written  for  the  old  covenant people.  And  it  is  clearly  linked  to  the  Old  Testament  by  its  continual  reference  to  the prophets.”[20]

“The  permanent  spiritual  value  of  this  Gospel  is  that  it  sets  forth  in  clear  outline Christ  as  the  One  promised  of  old;  and,  in  harmony  with  the  prophetic  literature,  especially as  the  great  divine  King,  before  whom  the  Church  of  all  ages  must  bow  down  in  adoration.”[21]

[1] pp.37-38

[2] p.38

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] pp.38-39

[6] p.39

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] p.40

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] pp.41-42

[13] p.43

[14] p.44

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] p.45

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

C) Chapter Review:

  • Readability: 9/10
  • Theological depth: 8/10
  • Any other comments: Louis Berkhof’s summary of the different positions out there re the composition of Matthew is very helpful. It gives the reader just enough information & if the reader is curious to know more, he/she can delve into the scholarship on the issue.

Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 1]

[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 Gospels in General  


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]


B) Chapter Summary:

i) The Title of the Gospels

“The  word  εὐανγγέλιον passed  through  three  stages  in  the  history  of  its  use.  In  the  older Greek  authors  it  signified  a  reward  for  bringing  good  tidings; also,  a  thankoffering  for  good tidings  brought. Next  in  later  Greek  it  indicated  the good  news  itself.  And  finally  it  was  employed  to  denote  the  books  in  which  the  gospel  of  Jesus  Christ  is  presented historic  form. It  is used  very  extensively  in  the  New  Testament,  and  always  in  the  second  sense,  signifying  the good  news  of  God,  the  message  of  salvation.”[1]

“The  first  trace  of  the  word  as  indicating  a  written  gospel  is  found  in  the  didache [15:3], the  Teaching  of  the  Twelve  Apostles,  discovered  in  1873  and  in  all  probability  composed between  the  years  90  and  100  A.  D …

The  plural euanggelia,  signifying  the  four  Gospels,  is  first  found  in  Justin  Martyr,  about  152  A.  D.”[2]

ii) The Number of Gospels Recognised by the Early Church

“In  all  probability  the  earliest  evidence  that  the  Church  of  the  first  ages  accepted  the  four  Gospels  that we  now  possess  as  canonic,  is  furnished  by  the  Peshito,  which  most  likey  dates  from  the first  half  of  the  second  century.”[3]

“Another  early  witness  is  found  in  the  Muratorian  Fragment,  a  mutilated  work  of  which  the real  character  cannot  now  be  determined,  and  that  was  probably  written  about  170  A.  D.”[4]

“An  important  witness,  really  the  first  one  to  a  fourfold Gospel,  i.  e.  to  a  Gospel  that  is  four  and  yet  is  one,  is  Tatian,  the  Assyrian.  His  Diatessaron was  the  first  harmony  of  the  Gospels.  The  exact  date  of  its  composition  is  not  known;  the meaning  of  its  name  is  obviously  [the  Gospel  ]by  the  Four.”[5]

“In  one  of  his [i.e. Irenaeus (c. 120-200)] books  he  has  a  long  chapter  entitled:  “Proofs  that  there  can  be  neither  more  nor fewer  than  four  Evangelists.” Looking  at  the  Gospels  as  a  unit,  he  called  them  “the  Gospel with  four  Faces.””[6]

“Another  significant  testimony  is  that  of  Origin,  the  great teacher  of  Alexandria  of  whom  Eusebius  records  that  in  the  first  book  of  his  commentaries on  the  Gospel  of  Matthew  he  asserts  that  he  knows  of  only  four  Gospels,  as  follows:  “I  have learnt  by  tradition  concerning  the  four  Gospels,  which  alone  are  uncontroverted  in  the Church  of  God  spread  under  heaven,  that  according  to  Matthew,  who  was  once  a  publican but  afterwards  an  apostle  of  Jesus  Christ,  was  written  first;  .  .  .  that  according  to  Mark  second; .  .  .  that  according  to  Luke  third;  .  .  .  that  according  to  John  last  of  all.””[7]

“Church  History  VI, 25. Eusebius  himself,  who  was  the  first  historian  of  the  Christian  Church,  in  giving  a  catalogue of  the  New  Testament  writings,  says:  “First  then  we  must  place  the  holy  quaternion  of  the Gospels.””[8]

iii) The Literary Character of the Gospels

“The  Gospels  have  a  literary  character  all  their  own;  they  are  sui  generis. There  is  not another  book  or  group  of  books  in  the  Bible  to  which  they  can  be  compared.  They  are  four and  yet  one  in  a  very  essential  sense;  they  express  four  sides  of  the  one  εὐαγγέλιον of  Jesus Christ.”[9]

“The  Gospels  are  not  histories  of  the  life  of  Christ,  nor  do  they, taken  together,  form  one  history …

They  are  four  pen-pictures,  or  better,  a  four  fold  portraiture  of  the  Saviour  a  fourfold  representation  of  the apostolic  κήρυγμα;  fourfold  witness  regarding  our  Lord.”[10]

“Each  one  of  them  gives  us  a  certain  view  of  the  Lord,  and  only the  four  taken  together  present  to  us  his  perfect  likeness,  revealing  him  as  the  Saviour  of  the world.”[11]

“Matthew  wrote  for  the  Jews  and characterized  Christ  as  the  great  King  of  the  house  of  David.  Mark  composed  his  Gospel for  the  Romans  and  pictured  the  Saviour  as  the  mighty  Worker,  triumphing  over  sin  and evil.  Luke  in  writing  his  Gospel  had  in  mind  the  needs  of  the  Greeks  and  portrayed  Christ as  the  perfect  man,  the  universal  Saviour.  And  John,  composing  his  Gospel  for  those  who already  had  a  saving  knowledge  of  the  Lord  and  stood  in  need  of  a  more  profound  understanding  of  the  essential  character  of  Jesus,  emphasized  the  divinity  of  Christ,  the  glory  that was  manifested  in  his  works.”[12]

Continue reading “Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 1]”