Ryle’s Canon of the Old Testament

The following public domain book is now available on-line in PDF.

Herbert Edward Ryle [1856-1925], The Canon of the Old Testament, 2nd edn. London: MacMillan & Co. Ltd, 1899. pp.316.

The Canon of the Old Testament

Introduction

Recent Biblical discussion has familiarised English readers with many of the chief problems raised by modern phases of Old Testament Criticism. But the interest, which is naturally felt in the investigation of the structure of the Sacred Books, has tended to throw into the background that other group of problems, which concerns their admission into the Canon. To the Christian student the latter, though a less attractive, or, at least, a less promising field of investigation, must always be one of first-rate importance. For, after all, whether a book has had a simple or a complex history, whether or no the analysis of its structure reveals the existence of successive compilation, adaptation and revision, are only secondary questions, of great literary interest indeed, but yet of subordinate importance, if they do not affect the relation of Scripture to the Church. They are literary problems. They need not necessarily invite the interest of the Christian student. Whether they do so or not, will depend upon his habits of mind. A better knowledge of the structure of a book will not, as a rule, affect his view of its authority. His conviction, that a book is rightly regarded as Holy Scripture, will not be shaken, because it proves to consist of elements whose very existence had been scarcely imagined before the present century.

Other problems, however, arise before the Biblical student. He never ceases to wish to learn more accurately, nay, he is compelled, against his will, to reflect more seriously upon, the process, by which the books of Holy Scripture have obtained recognition as a sacred and authoritative Canon.

The process, by which the various books of the Old Testament came to be recognised as sacred and authoritative, would, if we could discover it, supply us with the complete history of the formation of the Old Testament Canon. By that process, we know, books, believed to be divine, were separated from all other books. By that process, we know, writings, containing the Word of God, became recognised as the standard of life and doctrine. These are only the results which lie at our feet. We instinctively inquire for the causes which led to them. How were these writings separated from all other Hebrew literature? When did the separation take place? What was the test of Canonicity, which determined, in one case, admission into, in another, exclusion from, the sacred collection ? Questions such as these, cannot fail to suggest themselves to every thoughtful Christian mind. Indeed, the literature of the Old Testament is itself so varied in character, that an inquiry into the formation of a Canon, which includes writings so different as Genesis and the Song of Songs, Esther and Isaiah, Judges and the Psalter, needs no justification. It is demanded by the spirit of the age. It is even demanded, as just and necessary, by the requirements of reverent and devout study.

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Plummer’s 2 Corinthians Commentary

The following public domain commentary on 2 Corinthians is now available in pdf:

Alfred Plummer [1841–1926], A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. Edinburgh: T &T Clark, 1915. Hbk. pp.404.

Don Carson notes in his New Testament Commentary Survey (6th edn.), that this commentary:

“…tends to be pedestrian, but is worth picking up second hand; I cannot imagine paying those prices [$50.00] for a new copy.”

 2 Corinthians

Introduction

1. Authenticity

The evidence, both external and internal, for the genuineness of 2 Corinthians is so strong that a commentator might be excused for assuming it without discussion. In the present state of criticism there is no need to spend time in examining the captious and speculative objections which have been, during the last sixty years, urged against this and others of the four great Epistles of St Paul by a very small group of eccentric critics, and various recent commentators not only abstain from doing so, but do not even think it worthwhile to give so much as a summary of the evidence in favour of the genuineness.The external evidence does not begin quite so early as that for 1 Corinthians; for we may regard it as certain that the Second Epistle was unknown to Clement of Rome, who was so well acquainted with the First. Much of the Second would have served his purpose much better than the First Epistle; yet, frequently as he quotes the First, he nowhere exhibits any knowledge of the Second, for none of the five or six passages, in which some writers have thought that there may be an echo of something in 2 Corinthians, can be relied upon as showing this. Those who care to verify this statement may compare 2 Cor. i. 5, viii. 9, x. 3, 4, x. 13, 15, 16, x. 17, x. 18 respectively with Clem. ii. l, xvi. 2, xxxvii. 1, i. 3, xiii. l, xxx. 6.Clement is writing on behalf of the Church of Rome to rebuke the Corinthians for rebelling against authority, and he tells them to “take up the Epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle” and see how he rebukes them for party spirit. It would have been far more to the point to have referred to the Second Epistle in which St Paul rebukes them far more severely for rebellion. “Yet in the sixty-five chapters of Clement’s epistle there is not a single sentence which indicates that he had ever heard that the Corinthians has before his own time rebelled against those set over them, or that they had ever repented of their rebellion, though he tells the Corinthians that he has handled every argument”(Kennedy, The Second and Third Epistles to the Corinthians, p. 147). The absence of any clear quotation may be regarded as conclusive. “In the whole field of literature it would hardly be possible to adduce a stronger case of proof” (Rendall, The Epistles of St Paul to the Corinthians, p. 91). The inference is that 2 Corinthians in A.D. 96 was not known in the Church of Rome; it had not yet been circulated through the Churches.

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Alfred Plummer’s Thessalonian Commentaries

The Rev. Alfred Plummer wrote a number of commentaries on the books of the New Testament. As he died more than 70 years ago these are now in the public domain, so I have digitised his two-volume set on Paul’s Letters to the Thessalonians:

Alfred Plummer [1841–1926], A Commentary on St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians. London: Robert Scott, 1918. Hbk. pp.116. Click here to download in PDF.

Alfred Plummer [1841–1926], A Commentary on St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians. London: Robert Scott, 1918. Hbk. pp.118. Click here to download in PDF.

Alfred Plummer [1841–1926],

A Commentary on St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians.

Introduction

The Epistles to the Thessalonians do not tell us a great deal about the city in which these most interesting converts of the Apostle of the Gentiles lived; but what they tell us harmonizes very well with what we learn from other sources. The passage of the Gospel from Asia to Europe is a momentous event in the history of the Apostolic Age; and it took place when St. Paul, in obedience to what he believed to be a Divine command, ‘set sail from Troas’ and came ‘to Philippi, which is a city of Macedonia, the first of the district, a Roman colony’ (Acts xvi. 8-14). To us this means the spread of Christianity from one continent to another. But that is not the way in which it is regarded in the N.T., in which the word’ Europe’ does not occur, and in which ‘Asia’ never means the continent of Asia. The Apostle of the Gentiles and his historian, St. Luke, seem rather to have regarded the event as a passage from Eastern to Western civilization, an advance from a world in which the best elements had centred in Judaism to a world in which the best elements were found in the art and thought of Greece, and in the political and military organization of Rome.

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