Danny E. Olinger
“He was probably the best exegete Princeton ever had,” Benjamin B. Warfield once told Louis Berkhof about his friend and colleague Geerhardus Vos. And yet when Princeton Seminary Bulletin printed a two-page memorial for Vos in the winter of 1950, the Bulletin misspelled his first name as “Gerhardus” in the title of the memorial. The correct spelling “Geerhardus” then appeared in the opening word of the lead paragraph of the article.
Despite the ominous start to the memorial, it noted Vos’s opposition to the Presbyterian Church’s revision of the Westminster Confession of Faith and his distinct contributions in the field of biblical theology. “In the special field of Biblical Theology, Dr. Vos emphasized process and progress within the Bible—but it was a process which had objective, and not merely subjective, religious validity.” This meant that the Bible was not primarily a story of human progress and discovery in religion. Rather, Vos believed that “God was the active agent who revealed Himself in Biblical events and in the Biblical interpretation of these events.”
Recalling the events that surrounded the reorganization of Princeton Seminary in 1929, the memorial stated that “in matters of theological and religious principles Dr. Vos was unyielding in conviction, but charitable in spirit.” Vos “had, both in the home and in the classroom, a refreshing, at times almost an irrepressible, sense of humor which was often whimsical and always kindly.” Even so, Vos “was one of the most learned and one of the most devout in Princeton Seminary’s long line of teachers.”
The memorial concluded with lines of poetry that Vos had written about the resurrection hope set before believers at their death because of Christ’s resurrection.
Our Easter should have flowers
From fields where nothing dies,
Transplanted from the life-streams
Of God's new paradise.
Thou sayest: this were a wonder
Such as no memory knows;
Was it a lesser wonder
That Christ from Hades rose?
Before and after Vos’s thirty-nine year stay at Princeton, he lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was well known in Dutch Reformed circles. Hope College professor Nicholas Steffens shared his judgment of Vos with Abraham Kuyper in 1891. He said, “I agree, he is not a leader in public affairs, but he is a scrupulous scholar and a meticulous worker. And there is nothing to be said against his principles. I love him.”
Jacob Vanden Bosch knew Vos during the period when Steffens wrote Kuyper. Vanden Bosch recalled that such was Vos’s reputation among church goers that every seat was filled to hear him preach. Vanden Bosch himself came away “impressed with the prayers which to me were tender and beautiful rather than his sermons which were too profound for my young mind.”
Vanden Bosch predicted that no biographer was likely to do justice in writing about Vos. “Every account of him is sure to omit some less outstanding trait or to stress it out of its correct proportions.” Part of the complexity was Vos’s modest nature. He preferred the quiet of his study and never sought public applause. His inner life was kept a closed domain and curiosity mongers were repelled. But, when Vos was with others, he was unfailingly courteous and left a lasting impression. “One could not be in the presence of Dr. Vos and converse with him without being impressed with his learning, his incisive thinking, and his subtlety of mind.”
Vanden Bosch acknowledged that, while many in Grand Rapids lamented the loss of Vos to Princeton in 1893, Vos at Princeton had influenced Christendom in a greater fashion than he could have if he had remained. “In a world in which theological scholarship was increasingly dominated by the forces of unbelief and of liberalism Dr. Vos was in his gentle way a hero of faith.”
Still, it would not be at Princeton or Grand Rapids, but at J. Gresham Machen’s Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia where Vos’s legacy would grow. Cornelius Van Til in apologetics and systematic theology (1929–1976), John Murray in systematic theology and biblical theology (1930–1966), and Ned Stonehouse in New Testament theology and biblical theology (1929–1962) each expressed a deep appreciation for Vos.
Van Til biographer John Muether argues that when Van Til officiated Vos’s burial service on August 17, 1949, in Roaring Branch, Pennsylvania, the torch was passed from Vos to Van Til with respect to defending the self-attesting Christ of Scripture. Muether states, “Van Til’s goal was to preserve Vos’s memory as much as that of Machen.”
According to Muether, Vos stood behind Van Til’s rejection of Kant’s autonomous interpreter of reality and his insistence that revelation was required for the human mind to interpret reality. “Vos taught that humanity, as the image bearer of God in covenant with God, was always subject to God’s revelation. Taking his cue from Vos, Van Til argued that there was no human knowledge that was not revelational.” Muether concludes:
It may not be too great a stretch to imagine, therefore, that Vos provided Van Til with the tools to comprehend not only redemptive history but also the story of Western philosophy. In neither soteriology nor epistemology is neutrality possible.
Van Til also shared Vos’s doctrine of the spirituality of the church and an amillennial eschatology. Muether observes:
Van Til wrote little about millennialism because he regarded the matter as settled. The eschatological focus of Geerhardus Vos, implicit in much of Van Til’s work, pointed to a covenant relationship with God, a story of life that was hid in Christ in the heavenlies, not seeking cultural advancement in the present evil age.
In 1967 Charles McIhenny, then a student at Moody Bible Institute, wrote Van Til to ask about his eschatological views. Van Til replied, “I am of the opinion that careful exegesis favors the amillennial position.” He went on to recommend Vos’s The Pauline Eschatology, adding, “I really do not see how I can say anything that has not already been said many times over in defense of amillennialism.”
Richard Gaffin Jr. states that Van Til was “not only knowledgeable in but thoroughly committed to the kind of biblical theology fathered by his Princeton Seminary professor and friend, Geerhardus Vos.” John Frame declares, “Many critics are unaware of the fact that Van Til’s favorite professor at Princeton was Geerhardus Vos, the brilliant biblical theologian. The influence of Vos upon Van Til is profound, though rarely seen on the surface of Van Til’s writings.” William Dennison believes that “as long as Van Til’s students fail to wrestle with Vos’s influence upon this great Reformed apologist, they will never comprehend fully the depth and uniqueness of the person of Christ in Van Til’s entire apologetic system.” His brother Charles Dennison argued that, “because of Van Til’s great dependence upon Vos, Van Til never lost sight of the eschatological end to which, we, as God’s creatures, were pressing.” Charles Dennison also contended that Vos’s biblical theology “tremendously influenced” Van Til’s thought through a biblical philosophy of history.
But, it was not just Van Til who promoted Vos at Westminster. Murray’s teaching also showed the influence of Vos’s biblical theology, and he did not hide his admiration of Vos. When Banner of Truth reprinted Vos’s Biblical Theology in 1974, Murray contributed to the promotion of the book. He said, “Dr. Vos is, in my judgment, the most penetrating exegete it has been my privilege to know, and I believe, the most incisive exegete that has appeared in the English-speaking world in this century.”
Murray biographer Ian Murray surmised that it was probably Vos’s influence upon Murray that instilled in him the conviction that doctrine must be arrived at through the examination of the Scriptures in the original languages. Lawrence Eyres, a student under Murray at Westminster, said:
I believe that it was in my class of 1938 that biblical theology first became a required course in Westminster’s curriculum. Murray leaned heavily on Geerhardus Vos, but the biblical theological method was part and parcel of his thinking from the very beginning.
Edmund Clowney explained the connection between Vos and Murray and Murray’s teaching at Westminster.
Before Geerhardus Vos at Princeton Theological Seminary brought into American Calvinism the history of redemption and of revelation, classical Reformed theology used separate proof-texts to establish biblical doctrines. John Murray at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, however, had studied under Vos at Princeton. Murray taught a course in biblical theology. He proceeded through the periods of the history of redemption: creation to fall; fall to flood; flood to the call of Abraham; Abraham to Moses; Moses to Christ. Murray summarized the theology of each period and showed how each prepared for and pointed toward the full range of systematic theology in the New Testament.
Gaffin agrees with Eyres and Clowney that Murray advanced systematics at Westminster in a Vos-like manner. He argues that Murray, building upon Vos’s insights, stands out in Reformed orthodoxy for the development of the relationship between biblical theology and systematic theology.
When Murray himself explained the relationship between biblical theology and systematic theology, he pointed to Vos:
Biblical theology deals with the data of special revelation from the standpoint of its history; systematic theology deals with the same in its totality as a finished product. The method of systematic theology is logical, that of biblical theology is historical. The definition of Geerhardus Vos puts this difference in focus. “Biblical Theology is that branch of Exegetical Theology which deals with the process of the self-revelation of God deposited in the Bible.” The pivotal term in this definition is the word “process” as applied to God’s special self-revelation. Or, as Vos says later, when taking account of the objections to the term “biblical theology,” the name “History of Special Revelation” is to be preferred.
When Murray died in 1975, his longtime friend and colleague Van Til praised Murray by equating him with Machen and Vos. He said, “His reputation as a scholar was never of primary concern to him, so long as by his work, the triune God of Scripture was magnified. In both of these respects he resembled Dr. Machen and Dr. Vos.”
The promotion of Vos on the campus of Westminster, however, was not limited to Van Til and Murray. Stonehouse recommended to students going into the pastoral ministry that they should read Vos’s The Kingdom of God and the Church on a yearly basis. Stonehouse’s books the Witness of Matthew and Mark to Christ and the Witness of Luke to Christ evidenced a Vosian recognition of unity and diversity in special revelation.
But, perhaps the strongest indication of his appreciation for Vos was his June 7, 1962, letter to K. Lavern Snider of the Free Methodist Seminary of Japan. Snider had asked what books Stonehouse would recommend for background study in teaching a course on New Testament biblical theology. Stonehouse replied that there were an almost endless number of books in this general area, but unless the authority of the Scripture was maintained, the books should not be described as biblical theology. Stonehouse continued that there was “one man who sought to develop a biblical theology on a thoroughly scriptural basis, and that is my old Professor Vos who taught at Princeton Theological Seminary for many years.” He then detailed his own dependence upon Vos.
In my own courses I do not follow a strictly textbook method but continue to assign the reading of substantial portions of Vos’ works. These books include especially one called Biblical Theology which was published posthumously . . . , a work which contains a good deal of material relating to the Old Testament and a briefer section on the New. One of the most useful of Vos’ books in this field is his Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church. To an extent indeed there is an overlapping between the contents of this book and certain sections of the larger book just referred to, but the little book is distinguished by the clarity of its presentation and serves better than any of his publications as a textbook. The broad work on biblical theology is supplemented also by a volume entitled The Self-Disclosure of Jesus. Besides there are works on Pauline eschatology and the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Stonehouse then gave Snider the address of the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company in Grand Rapids and encouraged him to purchase Vos’s books. “Vos,” in Stonehouse’s judgment, “displayed ability of a superior order.”
In addition to Van Til, Murray and Stonehouse, two junior members of the Westminster faculty in the 1950s, Edmund Clowney and Meredith Kline, advanced the Vosian teaching they had received as students at Westminster. Kline maintained that his book Kingdom Prologue sought to unfold and develop the infrastructure found in Vos's Biblical Theology. In his book Preaching and Biblical Theology, Clowney argued that when the interpreter allows the claims that the Bible makes about itself to stand, as Vos did, “biblical theology is both proper and rewarding,” not simply descriptive, but “a labor of worship.”
The greatest promoter of Vos at Westminster, however, would be Richard Gaffin Jr. According to Gaffin, his high regard for Vos was cultivated by his teachers at Westminster.
Still, the breakthrough for Gaffin regarding Vos’s thought came as Gaffin, under Murray’s supervision, began to work on his master’s thesis, Calvin and the Sabbath. The study raised questions for Gaffin regarding protology and eschatology. In reading Vos’s Biblical Theology, Gaffin realized that Vos had anticipated and answered the questions in Vos’s treatment of the Sabbath. In Gaffin’s own words, “The theological genius and unparalleled biblical insight of Geerhardus Vos began to dawn on me.” Gaffin’s self-appraisal of his own theological writings is that he is among those who consider themselves Vos “enthusiasts.” That is, he is enthusiastic about a redemptive-historical interpretation of Scripture (biblical theology) and understands himself as building upon the insights of Vos, “that prince of Reformed exegetes.”
Gaffin sees Vos, “the father of a Reformed biblical theology,” as providing a valuable “alternative to the biblical theology resulting from the Enlightenment and the historical-critical method of interpretation with its controlling commitment to the rational autonomy of the interpreter (e.g. J. Gabler).” This valuable alternative is not limited simply to drawing attention to the historical nature of revelation. It also reflects the interface between the historical progress of special revelation and the absolute character of revealed truth. For Gaffin, Vos’s distinctive contributions in his pioneering work of Reformed biblical theology included:
Gaffin describes Vos’s Biblical Theology as “the most instructive single summary treatment of issues related to biblical-theological method.” He states that Vos’s Pauline Eschatology “has abiding worth and timeliness because Vos saw himself, in continuity with Paul, as following in the footsteps of him who ‘may justly be called the father of Christian eschatology.’” Vos’s “The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit,” represents “a milestone in the history of Pauline studies and shows him as a scholar well in advance of his time.” Even Gaffin’s book Resurrection and Redemption is “an attempt to develop and put in a somewhat broader setting the brief, but exceedingly rich and provocative, sketch that Vos has given of Paul’s resurrection theology.” Gaffin testifies, “Anybody that knows me at all knows my high regard for Vos, which I share with many, many people.”
Westminster professors Machen, Van Til, Murray, Stonehouse, Clowney, Kline, and Gaffin were also Orthodox Presbyterian ministers. Therefore, it is no surprise that Vos’s influence has also been felt in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In his article, “Geerhardus Vos and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church,” Charles Dennison remarked:
It could be that the most important theologian to the OPC in its formative days was Geerhardus Vos. Even though he never joined the new church or even sought to influence it, Vos could be as much the OPC’s fundamental counselor and as essential to OPC identity as any of the people usually mentioned.
Dennison maintained that Vos’s interest in being true to the character of God’s self-revelation had an impact upon this remnant body. Vos taught that the church is bound to the Word of God, but he also taught, according to Dennison, that “the circle of revelation is not an academy for the consideration of religious ideas, be they metaphysical, ethical or practical.” Rather, “It is a covenant, a relational bond, established in eternity, coming to expression on the plan of history in and through God for ends He has sovereignly predetermined.” Dennison concluded, “Vos was a thorough Calvinist.”
In Dennison’s judgment, Vos’s teaching came to expression in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church through Van Til. The antithesis between the present evil age and the age to come in Vos’s thought serves as the foundation for the antithesis between the unregenerate and regenerate mind in Van Til’s thought. Vos also taught Van Til that to grasp a religion’s hope, or eschatology, is to penetrate that religion at its center and in its deepest significance.
John Muether, who succeeded Dennison as Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and Darryl Hart, agree with Dennison regarding Vos’s impact: “It can be fairly said that no non-OPCer this century has influenced the denomination as much as Geerhardus Vos.” According to Muether and Hart, Vos embodied the hybrid between Old Princeton and Dutch Calvinism that has marked Orthodox Presbyterians. “More than anyone else, Vos’s long career at Princeton forged links between American Presbyterianism and Dutch Calvinism that were to shape the character of the OPC.”
Muether and Hart also argue that “Vos’s biblical-theological identification of the church as a pilgrim people has made the most indelible imprint on the OPC, even while it has provoked some of the OPC’s strongest critics.” This influence has impressed upon Orthodox Presbyterians a different standard when judging success. American Christians often judge the success of the church in terms of its influence in the world. Consequently, “many have dismissed the OPC as ‘irrelevant’ for its want of a social or cultural agenda.” Seen from the eschatological perspective that Vos promoted and many in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church have embraced, however, “it is more accurate to say that the OPC is committed to the ‘irrelevance’ of the world to the church.”
In his address “The Sabbath and OPC Identity,” Muether furthers the argument. He says, “In maintaining a [Vosian] sense of the eschatological location of the church, the OPC has insisted that the church is not for hire, neither by the state nor by any other cause short of the hope to which it is called to testify.” Grasping the heavenly character of the church, as Vos taught, the corporate identity of Orthodox Presbyterians in this world has been that of a pilgrim people, disenfranchised and counter-cultural in character.
The growing appreciation of Vos over the decades has also led to posthumous publications. In 1956 Johannes Vos, then professor of Bible at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, put his father’s lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews into a single volume, The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Johannes noted that the book did not include the extended articles that his father had published in the Princeton Theological Review, “The Priesthood of Christ in the Epistle to the Hebrews” and “Hebrews, the Epistle to the Diatheke.”
In The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews Vos stated that the outstanding feature of Hebrews was its connection with the Old Testament. When the writer draws a comparison between the Old Testament and the New Testament, he does not use the comparison merely to warn the readers away from a false attachment to the Old, but to show the superiority of the New. Angels superintended the Old Testament economy, but Christ is superior to them (Heb. 2:2).
The original readers battled religious externalism that resulted in a deficient Christology. In particular, they wanted Christ’s glory to be present visibly. But, Christ was crowned with glory and honor because of his sufferings and death (Heb. 2:10).
The priesthood of Christ is a heavenly priesthood. “This had been foreshadowed in the Old Testament by the entrance of the high priest from the Holy of Holies, out of the sight of the people. So, Christ also ascended out of their sight into heaven.”
Hebrews 5:1 explains what a priest does: “he acts for man in things pertaining to God, and he brings both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” Hebrews 4:15 emphasizes the sinlessness of Christ as a necessary qualification for his priesthood. Hebrews 2:17–18 teaches that Christ was made like his brethren and became a merciful and faithful high priest in order to make expiation for the people’s sins. The mercy Christ as high priest extends is not a reference to the sacrifice of Calvary, but to his intercessory work as priest which is now being exercised in heaven.
The high priest on the Day of Atonement slew the animal in the court before offering the sacrifice in the Holy of Holies. “This corresponds exactly with Christ’s priestly act, which He performed outside of the sanctuary, that is, outside of heaven, on Calvary.” That Old Testament, horizontal act which was performed with reference to the Holy of Holies foreshadows the New Testament, vertical act of Christ on Calvary which has its ideal reference to the sanctuary in heaven.
Hebrews teaches that believers have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22). Vos said, “We miss the writer’s meaning of this if we regard this as a mere metaphor. Christians are in vital connection with the heavenly world. It projects into their lives as a headland projects out into the ocean.”
The Epistle’s representation of the two ages differs from Paul’s emphasis. Paul stresses the ethical contrast between this present age and the age to come. Hebrews presents a bisection of the history of redemption as the old covenant is the Old Testament period. This bisection results in a philosophy of redemption and revelation. The covenantal focus in Hebrews is not on the evil character of the present age. It is on “the inadequate, preparatory character of the one as over against the perfect, final character of the other.”
Vos explained the relationship through a metaphor. In artistic terms, the Old Testament possesses the preliminary outline or sketch, the New Testament possesses the real picture. But, both sketch and real picture are only representations of the heavenly reality which lies beyond both of them. In theological terms, Old Testament is the antitype. The heavenly type, of which the Old Testament is the antitype, was shown to Moses on Mount Sinai.” The New Testament is not merely a reproduction of the heavenly reality; it is “the Reality itself come down from heaven.” Vos diagrammed the relationship:
Fred Kuehner reviewed The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews for the Westminster Theological Journal. Kuehner rejoiced that the Reformed Episcopal Theological Seminary, where Kuehner taught, would no longer have to utilize mimeographed copies of Vos’s lectures on Hebrews. He praised the content of the book’s teaching. “With these lectures on Hebrews now joining the company of Vos’s exegetical volumes already lined up on their shelves, readers of Vos will be amazed, more than ever before, at the singularly profound grasp of the whole sweep of Scripture that was his.”
Kuehner particularly appreciated Vos’s treatment of the finality of Christology that appeared in the third chapter where Vos explained the Epistle’s philosophy of revelation and redemption. Believers are said to taste “the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 6:5) and participate now “in the good things to come” (Heb. 9:11; 10:1). Kuehner wrote, “Thus considered, Christianity, while constituting an historic epoch in time, actually marks the beginning of the future world.” He continued, “That which was the divine intent at the creation of man finds its realization in Christ. With Him, therefore, is ushered in God’s new creation, His ultimate order.”
Samuel Cartledge reviewed The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews in Interpretation. He stated that, although Vos was thoroughly conservative in his conclusions, Vos had with “typical European thoroughness” made full use of historical criticism and was exceedingly careful in his detailed exegesis.
In 1967 Bernardus Vos told Roger Nicole, then professor of theology at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, that the only major writing that his father had worked on but not published was his “Eschatology of the Old Testament.” Bernardus reported that his father had been working on the manuscript, about five hundred double-spaced typed pages, when he retired from Princeton in 1932. Vos took it with him to Santa Ana and was even hopeful in 1936 that it might be mimeographed by Dr. Robert K. Rudolph in Philadelphia. When Bernardus contacted Rudolph years after Vos’s death to see if his father had sent the manuscript to him, Rudolph could not find it. Bernardus then talked to his brother, Geerhardus Jr., who believed that the manuscript was inadvertently thrown away when their father moved from Santa Ana to Grand Rapids in 1939.
Almost a decade after Bernardus wrote Nicole, Marianne Vos Radius asked her brother Johannes to examine their father’s papers and notes and to bring them to Toledo, Ohio, a halfway point between Grand Rapids, where Marianne lived, and Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, where Johannes lived. The materials that Johannes turned over to Marianne for deposit in the Heritage Hall Archive of Calvin College and Seminary in Grand Rapids included: 1) Vos’s handwritten outline notes on the “Eschatology of the Old Testament”; 2) Vos’s 1930–31 handwritten “Syllabus of the Eschatology of the Old Testament”; 3) An incomplete typescript “Some Remarks on Eschatology”; 4) Vos’s handwritten “Questions in Eschatology of the Old Testament; and 5) Henry Schultze’s typewritten notes entitled “Old Testament Eschatology.” In 2001 James T. Dennison Jr. gathered these sources and constructed what he believed was the most complete text possible of Vos’s The Eschatology of the Old Testament.
The opening sentence of the Eschatology of the Old Testament presented the same view on eschatology that Vos had put forth in the Biblical Theology and Pauline Eschatology.
Etymologically, the term eschatology (eschatos logos) means “a doctrine of the last things.” Eschatology deals with the expectation of beliefs characteristic of some religions that: (a) the world or part of the world moves to a definite goal (telos); (b) there is a new final order of affairs beyond the present. It is the doctrine of the consummation of the world-process in a supreme crisis leading on into a permanent state. As such, it is composed of two characteristic elements: (1) the limited duration of the present order of things: (2) the eternal character of the subsequent state.”
What Vos immediately added in the Eschatology of the Old Testament was that eschatology presupposes that God is the Creator. A denial that God created all things severs the beginning from the end.
A God who cannot create cannot consummate things because he is conditioned by something outside of himself that will not lend itself to him for the execution of a set purpose and for the plastic handling of what is antecedently given to him toward that end.
The correlate of eschatology is creation, but the goal of eschatology is not a return to the garden before the fall into sin. “Eschatology aims at consummation rather than restoration. Therefore, redemptive eschatology must be restorative and consummative. It does not aim at the original state, but at a transcendental state of man.”
Vos argued that the Fall into sin did not lessen this eschatological longing for consummation. He said, “It will be noted that the intervention of sin, so far from destroying the underground of eschatology, has on the contrary imparted to it an altogether new and more intensified religious significance.” Appealing to Paul’s words in Romans 8:22, he continued, “If an uncorrupted world already stretches itself out toward some goal of consummation, how much more will a creation fallen into sin and corruption.” God built the plan of redemption so that it retains the principle of eschatological finality. “The biblical redemption aims at a new creation and nothing less than that. Therefore, all the threads of purposeful finality are made to run together in the redemptive revelation of grace.”
This was Vos’s touchstone in his biblical-theological teaching, the belief that “eschatology is the essence of true religion as it is shown by its pre-redemptive existence.” The promised attainment, communion with God on a superlative estate, is not through evolution, but through a principle of action. Before sin, it was natural to point to eschatology; after sin, it was natural to point to redemption. This redemption unto possession of eternal life is promised through the seed of the woman who will crush the head of the serpent. Vos explained,
In sum, the original goal remains regulative for the redemptive development of eschatology by aiming to rectify the results of sin (remedial) and uphold, in connection with this, the realization of the original goal as that which transcends the state of rectitude (i.e., rising beyond the possibility of death in life eternal).
Nearly seventy years after his death, interest in the teaching of Geerhardus Vos seemingly has never been stronger. In 2016 Richard Gaffin Jr. completed the translation and editing (with the help of others) of Vos’s Reformed Dogmatics from Dutch into English in five volumes. The volumes, which cover the entirety of systematic theology from theology proper to eschatology are Volume 1: Theology Proper, Volume 2: Anthropology, Volume 3: Christology, Volume 4, Soteriology, and Volume 5: Ecclesiology, the Means of Grace, Eschatology.
In his review of the five volumes, Lane G. Tipton declared that Gaffin’s “editorial oversight of the translation of Geerhardus Vos’s Gereformeerde Dogmatiek has brought to light yet another theological treasure from perhaps the finest Reformed theologian since Calvin.” Tipton states that Vos combined a superb handling of traditional loci with the warmth of a theological reflection “pursued in vital communion with the absolute, triune God through Spirit-gifted, faith-union with Christ.” In his judgment, this renders the five volumes ideal for both seminary instruction and devotional reading.
The quiet scholar during his years at Princeton has become a theologian to whom Christendom pays attention. He is truly the father of Reformed biblical theology, which has blessed scholars, preachers, and those in the pew. Were he alive today, however, Vos would undoubtedly deflect the attention and point to the inscription he penned in the Pauline Eschatology:
DEUS CREATOR REDEMPTOR CONSUMMATOR
IN HIS TRIBUS RELIGIO NOSTRA UNIVERSA PENDET 
 Letter, Louis Berkhof to Ned B. Stonehouse, December 21, 1954. Archives of Westminster Theological Seminary.
 “Gerhardus Vos, PH. D., D.D.,” Faculty Memorial Minutes, Princeton Seminary Bulletin, no. 3 (Winter 1950): 44–46.
 Ibid., 45.
 Ibid. Although the memorial appeared without an author listed, the copy used for publication, located in the Geerhardus Vos Special Collection at Princeton Seminary, indicates that Princeton Seminary church history professor Lefferts A. Loetscher was the author. Loetscher was uniquely qualified to write about Vos. The son of Frederick W. Loetscher, professor of homiletics and church history at Princeton Seminary from 1910–1945, Lefferts grew up in the neighboring house and was a playmate with the Vos children. With Johannes Vos as a classmate, he attended Princeton High School, Princeton University, and Princeton Seminary. His observations about Vos’s manner at home and in the classroom, were not mere niceties, but the testimony of someone who had spent his formative years in the presence of Vos.
 Letter, Nicholas Steffens to Abraham Kuyper, January 25, 1891, in George Harinck, “The Poetry of Theologian Geerhardus Vos,” in Dutch-American Arts and Letters in Historical Perspective, ed. Robert P. Swierenga, Jacob E. Nyenhuis, and Nella Kennedy (Holland, MI: Van Raalte, 2008), 74.
 Jacob G. Vanden Bosch, “Geerhardus Vos,” in Reformed Journal 4, no. 10 (November 1954): 11.
 Ibid., 12.
 Ibid., 14.
 John Frame writes, “Many Westminster professors also advocated the “biblical theology” of Geerhardus Vos, a Princeton professor who was too much neglected during his years at Princeton.” John M. Frame, “Preface,” Redeeming the Life of the Mind: Essays in Honor of Vern Poythress, ed. John M. Frame, Wayne Grudem, John J. Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 13.
 John Muether, Cornelius Van Til (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2008): 131.
 Ibid., 129.
 Ibid., 130.
 Ibid., 218.
 Letter, Cornelius Van Til to Charles McIhenny, February 24, 1967. Archives of Westminster Theological Seminary. Mclhenny would become ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serve as pastor of First Orthodox Presbyterian Church in San Francisco from 1974 to 2005.
 Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Some Epistemological Reflections on 1 Cor 2:6–16,” Westminster Theological Journal 57, no. 1 (1995): 103.
 John Frame, Van Til: The Theologian (Chattanooga, TN: Pilgrim, 1976), 27.
 William D. Dennison, “A Review of Greg Bahnsen’s Van Til’s Apologetic,” in William D. Dennison’s In Defense of the Eschaton, ed. James D. Baird (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2015), 158.
 “An Interview with Charles G. Dennison,” in History for a Pilgrim People, ed. Danny E. Olinger and David K. Thompson (Willow Grove, PA: Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church), 218.
 Ibid., 217. Muether and William Dennison make the same point as Charles Dennison. Muether writes, “Most of Van Til’s readers have come to understand that the controlling principle in his philosophy of history is the principle of the covenant, and that his work reveals the influence of Geerhardus Vos.” Muether, Van Til, 172. William Dennison argues, “For Van Til and Vos, the primary issue in understanding biblical revelation and redemption is not an analysis of what literary genre is confronting us; rather, it is a confrontation with facts that presuppose a philosophy of history, which in turn presuppose the interpositions of the triune God of the Bible.” William D. Dennison, “Analytic Philosophy and Van Til’s Epistemology,” in Westminster Theological Journal 57, no. 1 (Spring 1995): 53.
 Edmund P. Clowney, “Professor John Murray at Westminster Theological Seminary,” in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine, ed. David VanDrunen (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2004), 38.
 Sinclair B. Ferguson, “Introduction,” in Geerhardus Vos, Grace and Glory (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1994), ix.
 Ian Murray, “The Life of John Murray,” in Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 3 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), 29.
 Lawrence Eyres, “Reflections on Professor John Murray,” in Pressing Toward the Mark, ed. Charles G. Dennison and Richard C. Gamble (Philadelphia: Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1986), 441.
 Edmund P. Clowney, Preaching Christ in All of Scripture (Wheaton, IL; Crossway, 2003), 17.
 Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology,” in Westminster Theological Journal 38, no. 3 (Spring 1976): 288.
 John Murray, “Systematic Theology: Second Article,” Westminster Theological Journal 26, no. 1 (November 1963): 33.
 I. Murray, “Life of Murray,” 157. Regarding Murray’s eschatological views, Gaffin argues that Vos “decisively influenced” Murray’s “Structural Strands in New Testament Eschatology,” a paper read at the seventh annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in December 1954. See, Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Theonomy and Eschatology: Reflections on Postmillennialism,” in Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, ed. William Barker and W. Robert Godfrey (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 199.
 When he reviewed Herman Ridderbos’s The Coming of the Kingdom in 1952, Stonehouse declared that while Ridderbos’s book was outstanding, Vos’s Kingdom of God and the Church had anticipated many of the insights. In August 1949, Stonehouse, in the Netherlands as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s representative to the Reformed Ecumenical Synod, had visited Ridderbos in Amsterdam. Whether the two talked about Vos, we do not know. The review did not indicate that Ridderbos was aware of Vos’s contributions, but Ridderbos himself testified of Vos’s influence a quarter of a century later. In 1975 Ridderbos travelled to America and was honored at Calvin College with a dinner celebrating his theological contributions. At the event, Ridderbos was informed that Vos’s daughter, Marianne Radius, a faculty member at Calvin, was in attendance. He greeted her with a warm handshake and confessed his dependence upon her father in his own thinking. See, James T. Dennison Jr., “The Life of Vos,” in Letters of Geerhardus Vos, ed. James T. Dennison Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2005), 81. Twenty-nine years later, Ridderbos contributed a personal word to open Resurrection and Redemption, a festschrift for Richard B. Gaffin Jr. Ridderbos honored Gaffin by tying him directly to Vos’s methodology. Ridderbos said, “The line of [Gaffin’s] investigations remember to those of Geerhardus Vos, in the sense of what we may call the “heilshistorische” way of exposition of the New Testament: an indication on the one side of a real difference of the dogmatic method of exposition, on the other side of the far more biblical approach than that of the consequent historic-critical school.” Herman Ridderbos, “A Personal Word from Herman Ridderbos,” in Resurrection and Redemption, ed. Lane G. Tipton and Jeffrey Waddington (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2008), xix.
 N.B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Matthew and Mark to Christ (London: Tyndale Press, 1944), and The Witness of Luke to Christ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953). Stonehouse wrote that his aim with both books was to encourage Christians who were assured as to the unity of the witness of the Gospels to take greater pains to do justice to the diversity of the expression of that witness. See, Stonehouse, Luke, 6.
 Letter, Ned B. Stonehouse to K. Lavern Snider, June 7, 1962. Geerhardus Vos, Special Collection at Princeton Theological Seminary.
 Kline wrote, “Our main focus is on the historical drama of the covenantal kingdom with its epochal events of covenant transaction and kingdom establishment. What is in Vos’s Biblical Theology the infrastructure, the particular historical pattern in which the periodicity principle gets applied, becomes here the surface structure.” Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue (S. Hamilton, MA: Meredith Kline, 1991), 5.
 Edmund P. Clowney, Preaching and Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961), 18–19.
 Gaffin commented, “Teachers that I had—Ned Stonehouse, Edmund Clowney, John Murray, Meredith Kline—they were all very much influenced by Vos’s biblical theological approach.” Interview with Richard Gaffin by Peter Lillback, May 10, 2016, https://faculty.wts.edu/posts/an-interview-with-richard-gaffin/.
 See, Danny E. Olinger, “The Life and Writings of Richard B. Gaffin Jr.” (tentative title) in Word and Spirit: The Shorter Writings of Richard B. Gaffin Jr., ed. David B. Garner and Guy P. Waters (forthcoming).
 Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Preface” in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos, ed. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1980), vii.
 Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Biblical Theology and the Westminster Standards,” in The Practical Calvinist, ed. Peter A. Lillback (Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus, 2003), 425. In 1980 Gaffin brought back into public view many of Vos’s forgotten addresses, articles and reviews in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos.
 Richard B. Gaffin Jr, “Contemporary Hermeneutics and the Study of the New Testament,” in Studying the New Testament Today, vol. 1, ed. John H. Skilton (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1974), 18.
 “In a word, Vos is significant because he is the father of a Reformed biblical theology, or, as he much prefers to describe the discipline, “History of Special Revelation.” Gaffin, “Introduction,” in Vos, Shorter Writings, xiv.
 Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Geerhardus Vos (1862–1949),” in Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, ed. Donald McKim (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2007), 1017.
 For a detailed reflection on Gaffin’s defense of Vos’s teaching regarding the inseparability of the history of special revelation and absolute character of revealed truth, see Lane G. Tipton’s “Jesus in the Old Testament: The History of Apostolic Imagination or the History of Redemption,” in No Uncertain Sound (Philadelphia: Reformed Forum, 2017). Tipton believes Gaffin’s implementation of Vos has significant implications for enriching the grammatical-historical method of exegesis in the service of the history of a Christ-centered revelation. Tipton declares, “To sum up, Vos’s formulation yields a view of Christotelism (Christ as consummate telos) that depends at this very point on Christ being the central redemptive subject matter of the Old Testament in its own terms (Christocentrism).” Ibid. 16.
 Gaffin writes, “Recognition of the orientation of revelatory word to redemptive act or, more broadly, of the history of revelation to the history of redemption has become a theological common place. It was introduced into Reformed scholarship, primarily, and most effectively by Geerhardus Vos.” Gaffin, “Contemporary Hermeneutics,” 16.
 Gaffin, “Introduction,” in Vos, Shorter Writings, xvi.
 One of Gaffin’s favorite citations from Vos concerns this point. Vos writes on page 24 of Biblical Theology, “Revelation is so interwoven with redemption that, unless allowed to consider the latter, it would be suspended in the air.” Gaffin references the quotation in such articles as “Geerhardus Vos and the Interpretation of Paul,” in Jerusalem and Athens, ed. E.R. Geehan (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1980), 468; “Introduction,” in Shorter Writings, xvi; “The Vitality of Reformed Dogmatics,” in The Vitality of Reformed Dogmatics, ed. J.M. Batteau et al. (Kampen: Kok), 26; “A Cessationist View,” in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?, ed. Wayne Grudem (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 54; “Paul as Theologian,” in Westminster Theological Journal 30, no. 2 (May 1968): 224; and “Vos, Geerhardus (1862–1949),” Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, 1017.
 Geerhardus Vos, “The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology,” in Shorter Writings, 23.
 Gaffin, “Introduction,” in Vos, Shorter Writings, xv.
 Gaffin writes, “In the days in which we find ourselves it is necessary more than ever that every believer has a sense of history—a sense of redemptive history. But it is especially demanded of the minister of the Word in whatever capacity that he understand himself in his labors as one together with Paul, “upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). There is need that in his methods, as in all else, everyone involved in the theological enterprise—not just the New Testament scholar—seek to make good his status, shared with the apostle, as “minister of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:6). This, it seems to me, was the approach of that prince of Reformed exegetes, Geerhardus Vos.” Gaffin, “Contemporary Hermeneutics,” 18.
 Gaffin, “Introduction,” in Vos, Shorter Writings, xix. Gaffin draws attention specifically to Vos’s statement on pages 325–26 of Vos’s Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), “Still, we know full well that we ourselves live just as much in the New Testament as did Peter and Paul and John.” In his article, “Geerhardus Vos and the Interpretation of Paul,” Gaffin references the above quotation and then adds, “In the same context Vos makes the perceptive and highly suggestive observation that the seeming disproportion in chronological extent of the Old Testament and the New Testament ‘arises from viewing the new revelation too much by itself, and not sufficiently as introductory and basic to the large period following’” (469).
 Gaffin, “Geerhardus Vos and the Interpretation of Paul,” Jerusalem and Athens, 235.
 Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Resurrection and Redemption (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1987), 28–29. Gaffin explains, “The interpretation of Paul above all involves careful attention to underlying structure. In [Paul’s] writing and teaching we encounter a mind of unusual constructive energy with an unparalleled capacity for synthetic thinking, in a word (again with Vos), a ‘master-mind’” (29).
 Gaffin, “Biblical Theology and the Westminster Standards,” Practical Calvinist, 427.
 “Noteworthy historically is the fact that among the first to perceive the significance of this point, especially in Paul, was Geerhardus Vos, Warfield’s (cessationist) Princeton Seminary colleague (and regular walking companion for over two decades.” Gaffin, “A Cessationist View,” Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? 29.
 Gaffin, “Paul as Theologian,” 209.
 Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Redemption and Resurrection: An Exercise in Biblical-Systematic Theology,” in A Confessing Theology for Postmodern Times, ed. Michael Horton (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000), 245.
 Gaffin, “Paul as Theologian,” 227.
 Ibid., 209.
 Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption, 16.
 Interview with Richard Gaffin by Peter Lillback, May 10, 2016.
 Charles G. Dennison, “Geerhardus Vos and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church,” History for a Pilgrim People: The Historical Writings of Charles G. Dennison, eds. Danny E. Olinger and David K. Thompson (Philadelphia: Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 2002), 77.
 Ibid., 81.
 Ibid., 73. For an extended defense of this thesis, see William D. Dennison, Paul’s Two Age Construction and Apologetics (New York: University Press of America, 1985), 89–98.
 In a sermon preached on November 14, 1982, at Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, Dennison explained, “Have you ever read the end of a book before its beginning? . . . What is true about the books of the Bible is true about life and history. Over sixty years ago, Geerhardus Vos expressed this thought in regard to religion and philosophy. He taught his students at Princeton that to penetrate a system’s eschatology is to master it. In other words, analyze just how someone views the end, the goal, the destiny of life—analyze someone’s hope—and you will understand the deepest inner motivation of that person’s system of thought or religion.” Archives of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
 John R. Muether and D. G. Hart, “Geerhardus Vos (1862–1949),” Ordained Servant 8, no. 3 (July 1999): 54.
 Ibid., 55.
 John R. Muether, “The Sabbath and OPC Identity,” in Perspectives: A Pre-Assembly Conference Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, 1996 (Coraopolis, PA: Committee for the Historian, 1997), 75.
 Geerhardus Vos, The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, ed. and re-written Johannes G. Vos (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), preface.
 Although the same topics are covered in chapters 2 and 4 in a combined 41 pages of The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the two articles at a combined 107 pages contain Vos’s detailed argumentation. These articles should be consulted first for Vos’s teaching on the theology of Hebrews. See, Geerhardus Vos, “The Priesthood of Christ in the Epistle to the Hebrews,” in Shorter Writings, 126–60, and “Hebrews, the Epistle of the Diatheke,” in Shorter Writings, 161–233.
 Vos, Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 22.
 Ibid., 99.
 In support of Vos’s contention, Gaffin points out that in Hebrews 2:17, the verb form is a present indicative. He says, “That stresses then that the propitiatory activity in view is to be done repeatedly, and if we were to apply that to the death of Christ, then that would run aground just in terms of the writer’s own frame of argumentation in Hebrews 9 where he will talk about the once-for-all-ness of the death. So, it seems that what the writer has in view here is an activity of propitiation which is progressive or ongoing. As Vos suggests then, what we have here is not a reference to the death of Christ, but to a subsequent activity by which Christ continually applies the propitiatory power of his sacrifice.” Richard B. Gaffin Jr., A Theology of Hebrews [sound recording] tape 6, (Westminster Media, 1992).
 Vos, Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 114.
 Ibid., 51.
 Ibid., 52.
 Ibid., 58.
 Ibid., 57.
 Review of Geerhardus Vos, The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, ed. Johannes G. Vos, by Fred Carl Kuehner, Westminster Theological Journal 19, no. 1 (November 1956): 116.
 Ibid., 117.
 Review of Geerhardus Vos, The Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, by Samuel A. Cartledge, in Interpretation 10, no. 4 (October 1956): 478.
 Letter, Bernardus Vos to Roger Nicole, December 3, 1967. Archives of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
 Geerhardus Vos, The Eschatology of the Old Testament, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2001).
 Ibid., 1.
 Ibid., 74.
 Ibid., 6.
 Ibid., 7.
 Ibid., 75.
 Ibid., 73.
 Ibid., 74.
 Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, trans. and ed. Richard B. Gaffin Jr., et al., 5 vols. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2012–2016). The volumes are also available in digital form from Logos.
 Lane G. Tipton, “Review of Geerhardus Vos’s Reformed Dogmatics,” New Horizons in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church 39, no. 4 (April 2018): 9.
 “God is our Creator, Redeemer, Consummator: on these three things our whole religion depends.”
Danny E. Olinger is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as the General Secretary of the Committee on Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Ordained Servant Online, March 2018.