Reviewed by: Alan D. Strange
Date posted: 05/03/2020
Exegetical Lectures and Sermons on Hebrews, by Charles Hodge, edited by William VanDoodewaard. Banner of Truth, 2019. Hardcover, 264 pages, $19.80. Reviewed by OP professor Alan D. Strange.
Charles Hodge (1797–1878) of Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) was renowned as the premier Old School Presbyterian theologian of the nineteenth century. He is perhaps best known for his magisterial Systematic Theology, written late in his career (1871–1873); the PTS Board of Trustees had long dreaded him writing such a work, fearing that it would devalue studying under him. When he did write his three-volume Systematic Theology, he did not simply mine his classroom lecture notes but wrote a new work altogether, a mark of the sort of tireless servant Hodge was. Its publication did not discourage prospective students from continuing to flock to Princeton. Hodge, however, was not always a systematic theologian: before Hodge succeeded Archibald Alexander in the theology chair in 1840, he had taught for two decades in biblical studies. He published biblical commentaries both during and after his time in the biblical department, particularly on Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Ephesians.
This new book is most welcome as an addition to Hodge’s published works on the Bible. These lectures and sermons of Hodge on Hebrews, both from his own hand and those of others, have lain dormant in the PTS archives, being brought to publication and edited by William VanDoodewaard, professor of church history at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. With respect to the first part of this work, exegetical lectures on Hebrews, it derives from two sources: an early (1821) “brief set of notes, in part summarizing John Owen’s commentary on Hebrews, but only covering chapter 2 through 5 of the epistle” (xii); the second, and more significant source, are the lecture notes on the epistle from a class that Hodge taught in 1842 on the Pauline epistles (Hebrews was historically assumed to come from Paul’s pen). These notes cover the whole book of Hebrews save chapter 13. The second part of the book contains sermons and outlines of Hodge’s preaching on Hebrews, most of which have not been previously published.
VanDoodewaard points out that those familiar with Hodge’s other New Testament commentaries will recognize the typical Hodge style in which “broad themes and fine points of the epistle merge together in a coherent whole,” resulting in a product eminently useful for “pastors, theologians, and church members” (xiii). VanDoodewaard also notes that Hodge employs an exegetical exposition similar to Calvin’s storied “lucid brevity.” The introduction provided by the editor is generally a helpful orientation to the work, though marred by two observations about Hodge’s view on creation and slavery that warrant a historical contextualization that they lack.
When Hodge cites Greek, an English transliteration is provided, so non-Greek students need not fear purchasing this. This slender volume, certainly in its first section, will become a helpful resource for a pastor or Sunday school teacher wanting quickly to ascertain the meaning of a verse or a collection of verses of Hebrews. The second section contains fifteen sermons and outlines. The outlines are typically a few pages (three or four), or shorter, and the full sermons are often between fifteen and twenty pages. As VanDoodewaard notes, “Hodge’s Hebrews sermons supplement his commentary, providing the reader more expansive exposition and application of numerous key sections of the epistles” (xv). Hitherto unpublished writings of Hodge should always gain an audience among Old School Presbyterians!