The Person And Work Of Christ
The Christology of the New Testament, by Oscar Cullman (Westminster Press, 1959, 342 pp., $6.50), is reveiewed by Dr. David H. Wallace, Associate Professor of Biblical Theology, California Baptist Theological Seminary.
The scholarly reputation of Professor Oscar Cullmann, who stands in the front rank of contemporary European scholars, is further enhanced by this major contribution to the study of the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is invigorating to read this book, for it is Biblical Theology as it ought to be written. Cullmann’s prime intent is to exegete the New Testament data on this subject, and only secondarily does he maintain a dialogue with Bultmann, Dodd, and others. His aim is not polemic, but exegetical and theological. While his purpose is not argument, the author nonetheless clearly differentiates his method from that of Bultmann by committing himself to philological-historical treatment of the text.
Heilsgeschichte, or “redemptive history,” is the larger context of the development of the theme of the book. Cullmann sets forth Christology on the basis of the names of Jesus which our Lord used of himself, or which were used of him by the early Church. The author is not reluctant to claim the benefits of form-criticism, for at every level of the Gospel tradition we encounter the testimony of the primitive Church to a supernatural Jesus. This concern of the early Christian community serves as a means of recovering historical reality.
All the New Testament names and titles of Jesus are grouped in four classes. The first part of the book is devoted to those titles which bear on the earthly work of Jesus: these are Prophet, Suffering Servant, and High Priest. The second part treats the titles indicating the future work of Jesus: Messiah and Son of Man. Thirdly, the present work of Christ looks to the expressions Lord and Saviour. Lastly, the pre-existence of Christ is suggested by Jesus the Word, Son of God, and God. Every title of Jesus is examined in the light of parallel or similar titles in comparative religions, the history of the title in Judaism, Jesus’ own usage, and the understanding of the title by the early Christian writers. In such a technical study it would be easy to become lost in complexity of detail, but Cullman reflects good pedagogy in providing frequent and concise summary statements. Clarity is often the first casualty of scholarship, but Cullmann nicely avoids this pitfall.
The book is freighted with provocative ideas and interpretations. It is inevitable the reader may find some suggestions that are not entirely compelling. But the New Testament scholar ought to be cautious and reserved in disagreeing with so competent an authority. Cullmann cites Mark 11:1 in reference to the voice from heaven (p. 66 ff.) and says this is a summons to Jesus to become the ebed Yahweh. The author regards the baptism, therefore, as a sign primarily to Jesus prompting his self-awareness of the role of Suffering Servant. The reader may infer that Jesus was not informed about this prior to his baptism. However, Matthew 3:17 represents the voice as directed to the spectators of the event. May it not plausibly be understood from Matthew’s account that the voice is a pronouncement to the crowds as well as a sign to Jesus? Luke 2:41–52 implies that long before his baptism Jesus knew in some degree his nature and mission.
Not all will agree with Cullmann’s assertion (p. 170) that the Imago was lost at the fall. The author sides with Barth in conceiving the Imago as relational rather than substantial. Over against the alleged loss, Genesis 9:6 strongly implies the survival of the Imago, even if in damaged form.
Perhaps the thesis most exposed to criticism in the entire book is the virtual equation of the Greek eikón (image) with morphé (form, essence, nature), especially in relation to Philippians 2:6–11. Cullman states that Philippians 2:6 “does not refer to Jesus’ divine ‘nature,’ but rather to the image of God which he possessed from the beginning” (p. 176). This would seem difficult to maintain in the light of Greek lexicography and the general exegetical tradition of this passage. Cullmann’s conclusion reasserts itself throughout the book when the kenosis passage is discussed. If this exegesis is accepted, then what is meant by Jesus being “equal with God”? Moreover, if the morphé is equated with the image of God, what is to be done with the image of the servant in verse 7? Does the servant bear two images? Altogether, it is better to hold to the idea of essence or nature in morphé, and to regard eikón as the external manifestation of essence. Cullmann’s exegesis proceeds from his concept of Heilsgeschichte which rules out the possibility that the New Testament has any concern for the nature of Jesus Christ. Any metaphysical statements in the Bible are reinterpreted so as to avoid “later Greek speculations about substance and natures” (p. 306). Cullmann is caught in an inconsistency here, for several titles of Jesus reflect his nature and not only his deeds in self-revelation. Logos, Son of God, and God all affirm the nature of Christ. Heilsgeschichte is a comprehensive and useful method of interpretation, but its usefulness is defined by its fidelity to the rights of language.
Cullmann disavows any attempt to be “conservative” or to refute the ‘liberal,” but he candidly states his presuppositions in the beginning of the book, and his goal is to lay bare the New Testament teachings concerning Jesus Christ according to the insights afforded by Heilsgeschichte. His presuppositions and methodology lead him into direct conflict with the radical school of criticism. For example, he compellingly argues against Bousset and Bultmann in their determination to see even the Aramaic expression Marànàthá (1 Cor. 16:22) as a non-Palestinian confession about Jesus. Cullmann points out that there is no other explanation for this phrase but that it is an early ascription of Deity to Jesus Christ by the Palestinian church (p. 214). This militates strongly against Bousset’s theory in Kyrios Christos. Writing of Jesus as Logos, Cullmann refuses to explain John’s use by resorting to Philo or the comparative religion solution. He firmly identifies the Logos with the historical Jesus of Nazareth “who is God’s definitive revelation to the world in human life” (p. 264).
Apart from a few minor printing errors, such as the incomplete pointing of the Aramaic (p. 71), two errors in Greek breathing signs (pp. 120 and 318), and a misspelled word (p. 289), this is an attractively prepared book. Professors C. A. M. Hall and S. C. Guthrie deserve an expression of thanks for an able and readable translation.
Professor Cullmann has set a high standard of biblical scholarship in this book, and all students of sacred Scripture are in his debt. His ability as a scholar is combined with a sure sense of reverence for the text. Repeatedly he evinces his capacity as an analytical theologian of the Bible and early Church history. That he does not stand detached from the object of his study is persuasively demonstrated in these words: “Only when we ourselves become ‘sons’ by accepting in faith Jesus Christ’s witness to his sonship, and by doing his divine will, can we know that Jesus is the Son. Only in this way can we ever be able to testify with the apostles that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world (1 John 4:14)” (p. 303).
DAVID H. WALLACE
The Thought of Reinhold Niebuhr, by Gordon Harland (Oxford, 1960, 298 pp., $6.00), is reviewed by Edward John Carnell, Professor of Ethics and Philosophy of Religion, Fuller Theological Seminary.
Edgar Sheffield Brightman once observed that Niebuhr is majestically indifferent to his critics. I should say that as long as Niebuhr is flanked by dedicated disciples, such as the author of this book, he can well afford to be indifferent. The author has drawn a head on most of Niebuhr’s major critics. He has charged them with lifting a teaching out of its context, or with neglecting some counterbalancing element in the vast Niebuhrean literature.
Despite the Niebuhr-can-do-no-wrong approach, this is a pleasing book. It sets forth the manner in which Niebuhr defends Christian love as a limiting ideal which simultaneously inspires and judges all partial attainments of justice in history. Another strong point is its artistry in showing how some of Niebuhr’s thoughts have been enriched or discarded in time’s passing parade.
The sparkle of concise writing is lost, however, by the author’s habit of quoting long passages from Niebuhr, only to turn around and summarize what Niebuhr has already said so effectively. Moreover, the reader looks in vain for any serious attempt to evaluate Niebuhr’s thoughts by the precise claims of Scripture. The author is content to judge Niebuhr from an existential, rather than an exegetical, viewpoint.
All in all, this is a worthy book, for it helps us appreciate how one of the great thinkers of our day has applied the Christian faith to prevailing social, political, and economic issues. Niebuhr may not say the last word on a subject, but what he does say is authentic, germane, and arresting.
EDWARD JOHN CARNELL
The Historic Reality of Christian Culture, by Christopher Dawson (Harper, 1960, 124 pp., $3), is reviewed by C. Gregg Singer, Professor of History at Catawba College.
Christopher Dawson, distinguished guest professor of Roman Catholic Theological Studies at Harvard University, and eminent Catholic spokesman, has set forth in a compelling manner the Thomistic concept of the relationship that should exist between Christianity and culture at all times. He freely and rightly admits that the great secularization of culture which took place during the nineteenth century is the great scandal of modern Christendom. Dr. Dawson fully recognizes that our contemporary civilization is not only not Christian but actually the product of 200 years of progressive secularization, during which the distinctively Christian institutions and social standards have been gradually eliminated. Although he is able to find in both Europe and America certain vestiges and marks of culture that was at one time distinctly Christian, he believes that we are now living in what is essentially a post-Christian world, and that our present vague attachment to Christian moral ideals is temporary. He feels that unless there is a definite restoration of a Christian culture, modern civilization will become more positively and aggressively secular in its character and will show a great hostility to the Gospel.
The only hope for the West in its present dilemma is found in the historic reality of Christian culture, and in this concept lies the way to a renewal of human life. Dawson clearly rejects the idea of a return to the old alliance of Church and State to restore this Christian culture, and declares that it is the very nature of Christianity to be a world-transforming movement. Although Christianity for Dawson is to be interpreted in terms of the encyclicals of Pius X and Leo XII, he nevertheless accords to Calvinism a greater role in our cultural heritage than is customary for Roman Catholic apologists.
There is a great deal of value in this book for the evangelical reader, and the reviewer is impressed with the fact that Professor Dawson comes much closer to a true delineation of the cultural issue confronting us today than do contemporary liberal attempts in this direction. It is unfortunate that the author seems to imply that the Reformation, as well as the Renaissance, was the cause of the secularization of Western civilization, but it is not a major point in his thesis and should not blind the reader to the many merits of the book.
C. GREGG SINGER
The Small College
The Small College Meets the Challenge, by Alfred T. Hill (McGraw-Hill, 1959, 215 pp„ $4.95), is reviewed by James Forrester, President-elect, Gordon College.
The past decade has been famous for predictions of the doom of the small colleges in America. But the vitality and the missionary zeal of small college leadership were not appraised by the pessimists as factors of such relevance as Dr. Alfred T. Hill, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of Small Colleges, has proved them to be.
The Small College Meets the Challenge is the story of the Council since its organization in Chicago, April, 1956. It is more than mere history, however; it is a document breathing the vital air of creativity and courageous initiative at a strategic point for American culture. The book is dedicated to Dr. Wilson Compton whose counsel has been widely sought in college program improvement. His encouragement has enabled these “forgotten colleges” to “increase their visibility.”
The potentialities of small colleges are now important to the higher educational future of America. Individual colleges have had difficulties attracting support, but as a group they have been highly successful.
The importance of smallness is apparent. The real pioneering has been done where there has been no need “to buck an idea through the departmental organization” (p. 26). The potential of the small college has already been demonstrated through the response from those sources of help which have heard the Council’s messages. As a group the small colleges can meet the challenge of “diversity and independence” in American education.
The Council has used the workshop technique in arriving at an answer to the question “What should the small liberal arts college be?” Criteria for self-evaluation emerged from these discussions to which all church-related college administrators could profitably give attention. Each school must have a special character and affirm it in the “jungle of pressures” (p. 42) if it is to merit support and survival. The Council’s workshops have led to the achievement of mutual insights and common effort which might not have been possible out of such diversity as is represented in their membership.
The philosophy of the Council is embodied in the author’s words: “When you consider the controls of bureaucracy manifested in state and Federal government and the red tape of big business today, the trend toward conformity is so impressive that you wonder if there is any place left for ‘rugged individualism.’ … One place to look is in the small colleges. There are challenging opportunities for trustees and presidents in these institutions which are not hindered by tradition but are free to experiment boldly with both the content and form of the academic program.”
The CASC has been practical in its approach and has obviously motivated corporation and foundation executives to rally to the cause. Methods provide factual information rather than appeal based on self-pity. The appendix of the volume is an up-to-date revision of The Directory of Small Colleges which appeared in 1958.
The function of CASC is clearly spelled out in the book. It is to serve the small colleges in research, coordination of effort, public relations, and fund raising. The results, in so short a period, have validated the basic hypothesis of the value of the small American college. The gains can be interpreted in terms of great encouragement for the small evangelical colleges. The spirit and substance of the volume are a strong antidote to the prevailing “other-directedness” of higher education.
Christian Science Today, by Charles S. Braden (Southern Methodist University Press, 1958, 432 pp., $5.95), is reviewed by Harold Lindsell, Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Missions at Fuller Theological Seminary.
Braden, in retirement after having served as a missionary and later as professor at Northwestern University, has authored this latest volume on Christian Science. The effort is a noble one. Much research has gone into it and the resultant product is one of which he can be proud. By way of background for the uninitiated, he has two valuable introductory chapters on Mary Baker Eddy and the organization of the Church of Christ, Scientist, up to the time of the founder’s death.
The bulk of the book deals with the internal and external struggles of the cult since Eddy’s decease. Braden carefully delineates the internal battle waged when conflicting factions sought to control the organization. The numerous law suits are recounted. For an organization that denies the reality of matter, the legal warfare of the cult fully bears out the paradox of its unsound philosophical presuppositions. The acounts of schismatic, heretical, and nonconformist Christian Scientists are fascinating. The ultimate emergence of a monolithic, totalitarian structure and its rigid and unyielding use against dissidents is documented carefully. The control of thought, publication, teaching, and personal conduct over the individual staggers the imagination.
On page 10 Braden says, “Any group which makes the Bible the basis of its faith and makes Christ so central as Christian Scientists do can hardly be refused the name Christian.” This value judgment certainly does not represent the consensus of the Christian Church today as witnessed by the fact that Scientists are excluded from every evangelical organization as being non-Christian.
This book is a first class piece of work and worthy of study.
Import Of Betrothal
Engagement and Marriage, by the Family Life Committee of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (Concordia, 1959, 207 pp., $3), is reviewed by E. P. Schulze, Minister of the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Peekskill, New York.
Studying betrothal in its relation to marriage, the authors trace the history and implications of engagement from the ancient Hebrews down to the present time. They deny the older Missouri Synod view that Christian engagement is substantially the same as Hebrew betrothal, that consent constitutes the essence of marriage and that engagement is tantamount to marriage in binding force. They make concessions to current mores in seeming to agree that engagement nowadays means that a couple is “partly but not completely committed,” and in stating that ordinarily young people should not be disciplined ecclesiastically for breaking engagements.
Luther insisted that engagement, to be valid, must have the consent of the parents of the parties, and most Lutherans are, no doubt, in staunch agreement with his opinion. “Lutherans hold that marriage must be entered into by mutual promise of contracting parties, given with the full knowledge and consent of the contracting parties’ parents. Neither children nor parents may make exception to this rule, which is based upon biblical example and ethical teaching” (Lutheran Cyclopedia, 1954, p. 655). If young people nowadays would follow that wholesome principle with consecrated hearts and full awareness of all that is implied, the likelihood of broken engagements would hardly exist, and many a young person would bless his pastor for pointing this out.
E. P. SCHULZE
A Light to the Nations: An Introduction to the Old Testament, by Norman K. Gottwald (Harper, 1959, 615 pp., $6.50), is reviewed by Clyde T. Francisco, Professor of Old Testament Interpretation, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
There is an old saying, “What you are speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” This book will have the opposite effect upon many evangelicals. What the author says will so antagonize them that they will not appreciate the positive values that belong to the work. The author makes it quite clear at the beginning that those in the group to which he belongs “not only reject the premises and conclusions of verbal inspiration,” but also seek the overthrow of a theory about the Bible that is historically untenable and religiously deceptive” (pp. 7–8). These are fighting words.
People who cultivate the attitude of reverence toward the Bible, not because it is a god but because here God speaks to man, are strongly offended when reading Professor Gottwald’s descriptions of biblical passages. He remarks concerning the account of Genesis 6:1 ff. that there are “no other equally blatant Hebrew examples of myth” (p. 26). He accuses the Deuteronomist of being guilty of a “blatant overstatement” (p. 159). The tower of Babel account is branded as “hopelessly childish” (p. 229), and the principal claim of the book of Joshua a “jaundiced view” (p. 252). His use of the term “renege” (familiar to card players), is strangely anachronistic when describing the career of Abraham (p. 253). The Chronicler is guilty of “a grievous error in chronology” (p. 432), and the story of Esther is “symmetrically contrived” (p. 515). Holding up for ridicule the biblical description of Moses passing up and down Mount Sinai “with Herculean disregard of the climb” (p. 112), he concludes that in the Pentateuch, “instead of a biography of Moses we have a biography of Israel” (p. 113). Alt’s work is said to do “great service by stressing the fact that Joshua cannot be taken at face value” (p. 155). One of his strongest statements is found on page 151: “The superiority of Israel’s faith was not something patent at the start by which she rejected the Canaanites and obliterated them; her faith was as much something that only became ‘superior’ in the course of conflict with Canaanite religion.” In fact “the Canaanites became Israelites under the kingdom of David” (p. 160). The author’s lack of respect for much of the Old Testament writings is demonstrated in his explanation of the reason for the canonization of Old Testament books, due, he says, to the “national and historical impotence” of the post-exilic Jews and accordingly to their “need for stanch authority” (pp. 30–31).
When one can calm his aroused indignation at the carnage left after this “holy war” upon traditional Christianity, he discovers that Professor Gottwald has written a comprehensive and very helpful work. It is a veritable storehouse of information. The treatment of the history of the text is thorough, and the description of the contemporary world of the Hebrews most enlightening. The inclusion of a glossary and pertinent Ancient Near Eastern texts (including the Enuma Elish and The Gilgamish Epic, as well as others) makes the study an invaluable reference book. Not only is the source material valuable, but in the exposition of particular passages of the Old Testament the author has a profound respect for the revealed truths to which the Scriptures give witness. His lack of respect for many of the Old Testament writings is not reflected in his evaluation of the eternal truths of Israel’s faith. These he proclaims with all the fervor and insight of a true evangelical.
CLYDE T. FRANCISCO
Stories And Paintings
Behold My Glory, by William Purcell (Hawthorne Books, Inc., 1957, 160 pp., $8.95), is reviewed by Thea B. Van Halsema, Author of This Was John Calvin.
As its subtitle indicates, Behold My Glory is a handsome volume combining “great stories from the Bible and the masterpieces they have inspired.” British clergyman-author William Purcell retells the stories, and the 32 full-color illustrations are beautifully reproduced from great paintings. “The emphasis is on the life of Christ and His teaching.”
Mr. Purcell is an able story teller. His language is both striking and reverent. He uses many direct quotations from Scripture, particularly in reproducing conversation. For descriptions of places, people, and customs, he draws freely from his own knowledge and imagination and thus produces an expanded version of biblical incidents. While this creates vivid unforgettable pictures in the mind of the reader, it also obliges him upon occasion to distinguish between the fiction of Purcell and the fact of the Bible. For example, we do not know from the Word that in the Garden of Eden before the fall “the beasts of the field had the power of speech,” or that the plague of water turned to blood resulted from flood water of “red marl brought down from the Abyssinian mountains.”
On the other hand, one appreciates anew, particularly in the Gospel stories, each place, character, and event because of the author’s vivid word sketches. While Mr. Purcell pays attention to biblical verses concerning the Virgin Birth, the significance of Christ’s death, his resurrection and ascension, it is as a gripping portrayal of the human nature of our Lord that Behold My Glory makes its impact.
THEA B. VAN HALSEMA
Handbook of Church Finance, by David R. Holt, II (Macmillan, 1960, 201 pp., $5)—A practical, spiritually-oriented guide for financial planning in the local church.
Elizabeth I and the Religious Settlement of 1559, by Carl S. Meyer (Concordia, 1960, 182 pp., $4.95)—A graphic account of events and issues surrounding the establishment of the Anglican Church.
Faith is My Fortune, by Richard L. Clark and Jack W. Bates (Pepperdine College Press, 1960, 316 pp., $3.75)—The life story of George Pepperdine, one of America’s leading businessmen who had an overmastering faith in God.
The Hymn and Congregational Singing, by James R. Sydnor (John Knox Press, 1960, 192 pp., $4.50)—A practical and non technical consideration of the factors that make for more effective Christian worship in song.
Strictly Personal, by Eugenia Price (Zondervan, 1960, 180 pp., $2.50)—Opens the door to realistic adventure in the personal discovery of God.
J. G. Hamann: A Study in Christian Existentialism, by Ronald Gregor Smith (Harper, 1960, 270 pp., $5)—An introduction to the thought of a great German liberal theologian, who was highly regarded by Kierkegaard.
How to Get Along with People in the Church, by A. Donald Bell (Zondervan, 1960, 159 pp., $2.50)—A practical manual for pastors and local church leaders by a professor of psychology in a leading theological seminary.
Nature and History, by Bernhard Erling (CWK Gleerup, Lund, 1960, 286 pp., $4)—A study in theological methodology with special attention to motif research.
God’s Son and God’s World, by A. A. Van Ruler (Eerdmans, 1960, 79 pp., $2)—Meditations on the person of Christ and the wide scope of God’s creation by a University of Utrecht professor.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more
More from this Issue
Read These Next
- TrendingJunia, the Female Apostle Imprisoned for the GospelWhat Scripture tells us about the story of this “outstanding” Jewish woman in chains.
- From the MagazineWhy Does Creation Groan?Scripture and science suggest that animal suffering fits into a divine artistic story.
- Editor's PickPresbyterian School Mourns 6 Dead in Nashville ShootingVictims include the head of school and the 9-year-old daughter of the church’s lead pastor.español