Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Books I would like to read or see written

Doug Kutilek lists his books he would most want to see written. I like a lot of his choices.

Books I Would Like to Read or See Written
(Taken from As I See It Vol. 11, No. 1, 2008)

When I find my interest in a subject sparked (which happens constantly in a dozen different ways--a stray reference in book I’m reading, a comment from a well-read and respected friend, something I see in the electronic media, and such like), the first thing I do is cast about for some article or book that treats the subject in a thorough, interesting and authoritative way. Whether the subject be a biography, an historical event, a literary work, something involving the natural world, linguistics, theology, or whatever it might be, I set out to discover and obtain something worthwhile to read and thereby inform myself and satisfy my curiosity.

Sometimes my search yields just what I need in short order. Other times, I search for years for just what I want, and fail to discover it. Sometimes what I want simply doesn’t exist--the requisite volume or article remains unresearched and unwritten. Occasionally, I have tried to fill such a deficiency by writing on the subject myself--my extended study, “Hebrew New Testament Translations: A Comprehensive History,” parts I, II, III (As I See It 9:3, 9:4; 9:5) is one such effort.

More often than not, what I do find on my interest de jour are decidedly inferior, incomplete, outdated or badly distorted second-rate works that were scarcely worth the search or worth the time and trouble to read.

Sometimes what I need and want exists--I just don’t know where to look. At other times, I know what I want--I know it exists, but it is remote or otherwise inaccessible to me to buy, beg or borrow.

This being said, there are a number of works I would love to discover, or see written, or gain access to, so that I could feast on their information. Some of these include--

--A good biography of Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), the 19th century Hebrew Christian whose Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah is a classic treatment, which ransacks ancient Jewish literature for the light it can cast on that most important of all human lives. The brief Dictionary of National Biography entry mentions a short memoir by daughter Ella Edersheim which was attached to a posthumously-published work, but nothing comprehensive seems to exist.

--A good biography of Samuel P. Tregelles (1813-1875), a devout British Christian, thoroughly learned, meticulously attentive to detail, profuse in his literary productions and pre-eminent among 19th century students of NT Greek manuscripts; even so, only small unsatisfactory treatments of Tregelles’ life exist--he was early on associated with Darby and the Plymouth Brethren, but departed from that group. Had he remained among them, they would no doubt have been careful to record his life in detail. At the very least, an extended analysis of his literary remains, accompanied by a biographical sketch, cries out to be written.

--An English language biography of Johannes A. Bengel (1687-1752) the German Pietist, Bible commentator and founder of modern NT textual criticism--a study he pursued to satisfy his own mind regarding the reliability of the Greek text of the NT as extant today. While there exist several German accounts of his life and labors (one of which I own), to my knowledge, there is no biography in English.

--An appreciation of the contribution of the virtually unknown Samuel Berger (1843-1900) to the study of ancient and modern translations of the Bible into the languages of Western Europe. He did much thorough and authoritative pioneering work on Medieval Bible versions, published numerous still-valuable articles in periodicals and encyclopedias of his day, but is today all but unknown.

---An honest biography of George W. Truett (1867-1944), predecessor to W. A. Criswell as long-time pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. The one extant book-length biography, by son-in-law Powhatan James and first issued while Truett was yet alive, is an embarrassingly bad work, gushing with praise and devoid of criticism--and completely lacking any reference to J. Frank Norris whose pastorate in nearby Fort Worth largely overlapped in time with Truett’s; their paths crossed repeatedly, and often not cordially. Someone needs to write Truett’s life worthily.

--A good biography of J. R. Graves (1820-1893). Though Graves and his Landmarkism were a major source of contention among Baptists of the South in his day and since, he was nevertheless through his writing and editing one of the most influential, perhaps the most influential Southern Baptist of that era. The one book-length (ever-so-brief) biography of Graves, by son-in-law O. L. Hailey, is a poor production, very short on specifics. The sketch of Graves’ life, views and influence by Harold S. Smith in Baptist Theologians, edited by Timothy George and David Dockery (1990), is good but too brief to satisfy my interest. I want more.

--Some readily accessible account of the lives and labors of some of the conservative 19th century German OT scholars, such as E. W. Hengstenberg, K. F. Keil, Franz Delitzsch and H. A. C. Haevernick (something similar on English NT scholars--Alford, Westcott, Lightfoot, Ellicott, Hort, etc.--would also prove invaluable). I am aware of a meaty German biography of Hengstenberg. Praiseworthy volumes composed of brief summary articles (biographical and theological) on American theologians, American Bible scholars, and Baptist theologians have appeared in the past couple of decades, but nothing similar on 19th century scholars, whether German or English or American.

--A history of 20th Century Baptists. There are scattered histories of small segments within the larger Baptist world--GARBC, BBF, SBC (in part), etc., but nothing even close to comprehensive. Such a volume would likely need to be a joint effort by a dozen scholars, to make it truly worthwhile and authoritative.

--A modern “Cathcart.” William Cathcart edited The Baptist Encyclopedia in the 1880s. While it covers a broad spectrum of Baptists, especially Americans of the 19th century, the entries are regularly fulsome in the extreme, wholly devoid of bibliography, and more than 130 years out of date. The volume provides very inadequate or no treatment of many points and issues. The Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists of the 1950s and later, in 4 volumes, fills some of the gap, but far from adequately. A project to occupy 25-40 scholars for a decade, I should think.

--Biographies of any sort of Princeton OT scholar Robert Dick Wilson, evangelist Vance Havner, and pastor and radio preacher J. Vernon McGee.

--The autobiography of Josephus’ translator William Whiston (1667-1752). I have seen it, and even read in it for about an hour while in the library in Cambridge University a year ago. But it was only there that I have seen a copy. Whiston, mathematician and professorial successor to Newton, was rather eccentric, theologically cultic, a “Baptist” in religious association, and a speculator on the date of the Second Coming. I want to write up a 10-20 page article about Whiston (akin to some of my AISI biographical sketches), but cannot adequately do so without these 18th century volumes. The New Schaff-Herzog article is surprisingly full on this relatively minor figure.

--A modern biography of Henry Jessey (1601-1663). This Cambridge-educated sometime Anglican priest became by turns a non-conformist, an adherent of believer’s “baptism,” and then an immersionist, and ministered in the area south of London Bridge, not far from where Spurgeon’s Tabernacle would be built two centuries later. Jessey was one of the most highly educated Baptists of his day, being a master of Hebrew, Syriac, Aramaic, Greek and Latin. He prepared, with the assistance of others, a complete revision of the KJV which was left in manuscript at his death. He was a convinced pre-millennialist, and a generous friend of oppressed Jews. There are so many points of interest about Jessey that a modern treatment is called for. The only thing available is a 1671 biography (which I have read--also while at Cambridge) of just over 100 small pages by Andrew Whiston (any relationship to William Whiston is wholly unknown to me). I have long projected doing something along these lines and have collected some materials.

--The autobiography of Ebenezer Henderson (1784-1858), Scottish linguist (with a knowledge of almost 20 languages), missionary, Bible scholar (author of excellent commentaries on most of the OT prophets), and promoter of Bible societies. I briefly examined this mid-19th century autobiography at Cambridge, but have sought in vain for a States-side copy to buy or borrow.

--A good survey of ancient Jewish literature for the Christian reader--covering everything from the apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, Qumranic and apocalyptic writings, Philo, and Josephus, to the Mishnah, Tosephta, midrashim, targums, talmuds, commentators and masoretes. There are hundreds, yes thousands, of things in this literature that illuminate or illustrate both the NT and the OT, and give a better and clearer picture of Jewish thought and history in general. Some Christian commentators from past centuries (chiefly John Lightfoot, John Gill, J.J. Wettstein, and Strack and Billerbeck) have mined this trove, but most Christian readers, including most contemporary theologians and scholars, are largely or entirely ignorant of it, to their and our great loss. Some few works have appeared of late in this subject area, but nothing quite like what I have in mind. Were I teaching such a course on a regular basis in a Bible college or seminary, I would try by the third or fourth cycle of classes to have something ready to publish. If, if, if.

--An accounting of Holy Land pilgrimages, perhaps covering all of Christian history (beginning from the 4th century), or perhaps limited to the 19th century, of which there must be dozens of published accounts--scholars Philip Schaff, John Broadus, Horatio Hackett, to mention but three, and even Mark Twain, visited the Holy Land and saw it as it was before all the modern view-obscuring development, and what is better, wrote accounts of what they witnessed. Someone should survey and summarize these pilgrimages in a handy-sized volume, or at least in a well-researched journal article.

--A complete bibliography and a selective reprinting of the writings of John A. Broadus (1827-1895) as found in “The Religious Herald.” Broadus was the outstanding 19th century American Baptist (in the opinion of historian Thomas Armitage). “The Religious Herald” was the official periodical of the Virginia State Convention of the Southern Baptists, and regularly carried articles by Professor Broadus, including an account of his tour of the Holy land mentioned above. A selection of Broadus’ best writings from this paper would be worthwhile, since so relatively few works by Broadus were published in book form. The relevant issues are on microfilm--but not anywhere close to where I live!

--A modern pre-millennial equivalent of Christology of the Old Testament, Hengstenberg’s great 19th century work on OT Messianic prophecy. I had hoped as long ago as the mid-1970s to undertake such myself, but circumstances have prevented me from doing so.

--A study of failed date-setters for the Second Coming, of which there must be hundreds (not just the more famous Millerites, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Whisenant--of “88 Reasons” infamy). Such would serve as a warning to all who think themselves smarter than God.

--An authoritative but comprehensible presentation of the factual basis for Ancient Near Eastern chronology--dates and events--from Sumer and Babylon to Egypt, the Hittites, Assyrians, Persia and more. How “solid” are the commonly given dates (for example, 3100 B.C. as the beginning of literacy)?

--A complete chronological listing of all of Spurgeon’s sermons and addresses, whether published or not. A day-by-day accounting of Spurgeon’s life (such as has been done for Lincoln, and Stonewall Jackson) would also be of interest to me and I suspect to others.

--The publishing in book form of the tomb inscriptions copied by John Rippon (1751-1836) in Bunhill Fields, London. This cemetery holds the mortal remains of some 120,000 individuals, including many luminaries from non-Conformist Christianity between 1660 and 1860--John Owen, John Bunyan, John Gill, Daniel Defoe, Susannah Wesley, Henry Jessey and Rippon himself. Rippon spent many hours copying the stone tomb inscriptions--nearly all of which are wholly obliterated today. I understand that Rippon’s transcripts remain in manuscript in the British Museum. They ought to be published because of the historically important information they surely contain.

--A full accounting of the Christian faith of the Confederate high command. Many of the top commanders in the Army of Northern Virginia were devout Christians--Lee, Jackson, David Hill (Jackson’s brother-in-law), Richard Ewell, John B. Gordon, and many others. While there are 19th century accounts of the Great Revival in the Army of Northern Virginia in the winter of 1862-3, no full, documented account of the specific beliefs and practices of the generals exists, as far as I know. I have done some small reading and collecting of material for such a project, but have too many irons in the fire just now to make much progress on it.

--A fuller, more detailed account of the life of A. T. Robertson (1863-1937), the great Greek scholar. The one extant biography, by Everett Gill (1943), is good and adequate in its way, but it omits much information--more details are needed on his library, writings, class work, summer speaking engagements, his family (four children, one of whom--a son--was institutionalized due to some developmental problems, another son who ultimately rejected the faith of his father and grandfather, and died in unbelief sometime after the 1950s), and his theological views, systematically considered, etc. I would choose this project for myself, had I the freedom to make the choice and the resources to carry it through.

These are just some of the subjects that are stewing on the back burner of my mind, waiting the discovery or procurement of just the right written treatment that I have long sought. If any reader can direct me to extant books and articles in any of these areas--or if you have copies of the autobiographies of Whiston or Henderson lying about--please let me know.

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Blogger Scott Head said...

"--A study of failed date-setters for the Second Coming, of which there must be hundreds (not just the more famous Millerites, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Whisenant--of “88 Reasons” infamy). Such would serve as a warning to all who think themselves smarter than God."

I believe "The Day and the Housr" by Francis X. Gumerlock is that book. It is nothing but failed dates. Is that what you are after?


12:20 PM, January 10, 2008  
Blogger Daniel said...

I read that book about Truett, and it was pretty lame. Flattery shouldn't be published. Lots of high praise for fundraising, cowboy crusades, on the edge of your seat preaching. For a guy who was pastor of that church for 50 years, there has to be more to know!

5:37 PM, January 16, 2008  

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