Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Classic book review: John Murray and The Epistle to the Romans

For Reformed theologians and Berean Christian students alike,  the academic writings of the Scottish born professor of Systematic Theology, John Murray, are well known and held in high regard. For the rest of us mere mortals, an introduction to this man's oeuvre might be helpful. His exhaustive commentary on Romans is a very good place to start exploring the exemplary precision of this theologian's academic acumen. From it, the reader will comprehend the hermeneutical process Murray uses to exegete biblical truths out of the Good Book.

The format of this commentary is fairly straightforward, parsing Romans using both the traditional chapter and verse markers along with, what most commentators agree is, a paragraphing of ideas throughout the text since the original manuscripts showed no breaks in thought (as was the customary style of writing in the Koine Greek at the time). Murray has done well, in my opinion, of dividing Paul the Apostle's argument into cogent 'chunks' that other highly respected Reformed theologians like Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones would approve of.  And just like The Doctor, Murray rarely offers an opinion outside of strict orthodox understanding without substantiating it with sufficient text, referring to and reproducing the original Greek (and sometimes even the Hebrew) with detailed footnotes at the bottom of almost every page throughout this two volume collections of books numbering 676 pages in total. And not only does he cite text, many times he will tell you exactly which original manuscript he uses as a source.

Any advanced student of language or linguistics will also appreciate Murray's grammatical analysis of tense, mood and inflection from the original Greek in order to verify his conclusions about a certain passage. For example, please refer to the following footnote image in which Murray details his understanding of Romans 8:11b: "he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you."

All in all, Murray's commentary on The Epistle to the Romans is not for the fainthearted or the Sunday morning church goer who is simply satisfied with tabloid sermonettes or pop theology. It is written for Christians who hunger for a richer taste of the Word and who "pant after God like a deer that pants for water" (Psalm 42:1). Christ Jesus said that "this is eternal life, that they might know you, the only true God" (John 17:3).  I know of know other way to know God except the Way that He has revealed himself to us through Scripture. Anyone who truly desires a deeper understanding and fuller drink from the well of living water that Christ has promised to all those who believe, would do well to make time to read John Murray despite the challenges involved because it is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings (Proverbs 25:2). And as the Apostle Peter writes: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). 

Exercise your regal prerogative and, like Martin Luther who was transformed by the reading of Romans, do not rest satisfied until you have climbed up the Tree of Life, shaken every branch, turned over every leaf and searched tirelessly for the wondrous hidden mysteries that live in God's Word. 
John Murray 1898-1975