03 May 2011

Lange's Bible Commentary on Logos

by Dan Phillips

Logos Research Systems, Inc. (2008; repub of vols orig dating from 1857)

Having used Lange's with profit in the print edition from Zondervan, I was delighted when Logos provided me with a review copy of their Logo-tized version.

This commentary set is the brain-child of Johann Peter Lange (1802-1884), who was a professor in Z├╝rich,  professor of evangelical theology in the University of Bonn, and a prolific author. Lange began this commentary series in 1857.

As the introduction to the American version (found not in Genesis, but in the first NT volume) says, this commentary series "aims to give all that the minister and Biblical student can desire in one work." The claim is not hyperbole. Lange aims high, and the contributors and editors give it their all.

To this end, the design is a wonder. I wish some modern series would emulate it as effectively. Each book has an introduction that is both academically and homiletically (i.e. with an aim to preaching) focused. The text is a fresh translation, followed by a threefold commentary on each section.

The first part is exegetical and critical, containing the exegetical and interpretive analysis of the original text, including textual notes, often studying every word. Second comes the doctrinal and ethical section, focusing on theological and moral truths gleaned from the passage. Finally the homiletical and practical section communicates suggestions as to how the passage can be preached and applied, drawing suggestions both from German (Luther, Tholuck, etc.) and English-language (Hodge, Henry, Spurgeon, Clarke, Charnock, etc.) sources. This is genius. It isn't only a help in analyzing the passage, but often it assists in formulating a plan to proclaim or teach it.

The contributors include some of the more prominent German and English-language scholars of the day. The English-language contributors comprise a pretty impressive constellation of scholars from around the doctrinal spectrum, including Philip Schaff, Charles A. Briggs (boo), W. G. T. Shedd (yayy), Patrick Fairbairn (yayy), W. Henry Green, John A. Broadus (yayy), James Strong, and C. H. Toy (boo). Not all are equally orthodox (Briggs, Toy), but all are eminent scholars.

The English edition was commenced in the 1860s. Disappointingly, while the German version featured the scholars' fresh translation, the English-language edition reverts to "the collation [of the KJV] adopted by the Board of Managers [of the ABS] in 1858, and printed in 1860 and since," with notes or improvements inserted in brackets.

I'm certainly not endorsing every word in the volumes, but I've been glad to have them. Not all the writers come from the same doctrinal neighborhood as we, and the whole should be read with discernment. Still, it was a real help to me in preaching Psalms and teaching Romans. It is dated, and needs to be supplemented by more up-to-date scholarship. But the Bible wasn't written yesterday, and the insights of our long-gone brothers, standing on the shoulders of their long-gone brothers, are of enduring value.

The doctrinal orientation is basically orthodox, with some thises and thats. But for instance, the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals is heartily affirmed, as is the Petrine authorship of 2 Peter and sixth-century origin of Daniel, and so on. But Lange had some sympathy for Schleiermacher, and you'll read things like this from the introduction to Genesis:
Does the Old Testament theocracy rest then on the completed compilation of scriptural books, or, indeed, on writings at all, or does it not rather rest on the living, actual revelation of God, which preceded all writings? And now all Christendom! The church also rests, indeed, not on the authenticity of the New Testament books, but on the living revelation of God in Christ, although it is regulated by the canon of the New Testament.
Many of us use Keil and Delitzsch with profit, though not always embracing every thought. Lange's is valuable in that it is a bit more recent than K&D, so the authors interact with and comment on K&D's previous work.

Of greater weight than my commendation is that of Spurgeon in Commenting and Commentaries:
I do, however, greatly prize the series lately produced under the presidency of Dr. Lange. These volumes are not all of equal value, but as a whole, they are a grand addition to our stores. The American translators have added considerably to the German work, and in some cases these additions are more valuable than the original matter. For homiletical purposes these volumes are so many hills of gold, but, alas, there is dross also, for Baptismal Regeneration and other grave errors occur.
The the presence of "grave errors" did not stop Spurgeon from heartily commending the whole. In a Sword and Trowel review (1880, 92), Spurgeon says:
WITH this volume the English issue of Lange’s great Commentary is completed, and all ministers and students are deeply indebted to Dr. Schaff and the Messrs. Clark for so great a boon. The several volumes differ in value according to the ability of the various authors and translators, but we could not spare one of them. ...our younger men who are not yet compelled to devour the library in the nursery ought to possess themselves of the complete set as soon as possible. Homiletically, these commentaries are of high value. Often by a single sentence they will start the mind and give it a push along a line of thought, and this is the chief thing that most of us need.
Logos even found and included a "lost volume" on the Apocrypha which, though not canonical and inerrant Scripture, are useful in reconstructing intertestamental history and thought.

This set would make a fitting gift from a church, or a good wish for a birthday or Christmas list. I think the preaching pastor will find himself dipping in regularly and gladly, as I did when preaching through books.

Dan Phillips's signature


WyldOlive said...

Great, there goes my book allowance...thanks.

David Regier said...

Either you're moderating with a very heavy hand today or everybody agrees with you.

Should have titled it "Lange's Bible Commentary in Legos"

DJP said...

1. I deleted all objections to the tone of my review.

2. I think you understand my demo better than I.


Drew said...

Thanks for the information Dan. A member of my church gave me the entire commentary set a few years ago, but I didn't really know anything about it 'til I read your review. I'll be sure to start using it more now.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. If I may I would just add that all the commentaries by Lange himself are very good. Also good are Luke & Pastorals by Van Oosterzee, Kring on Corinthians is very exegetical. Braune on the epistles usually good; Fronmuller teaches baptismal regeneration big time.

In the OT the standard is pretty high (Moll on Psalms is poor, as are the Wisdom books generally, and the Minor Prophets are too brief). For me Lange on the first 4 books, Bahr on Kings, Nagelsbach on Isaiah and Jeremiah are the highlights.

I'm really glad to hear that it's on Logos now!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Lange's. Yes, David Regier, I do agree with the host 's assesment : )

A 60-year member of my home church passed her set to me when I was just passed my teen years because she could no longer see to read them. They have been a gold mine for a couple decades.

I found that the volumes are available for download in various formats at archive.org.