Explorations in Stone-Campbell Bibliography: Commentaries

I have in mind a series of reflections on commentaries in the Restoration Movement.  This genre is only beginning to be explored, so I think a short series is in order.  As I continue to look into it, consider three broad time frames:

–19th century: this list will be rather short

–20th century to 1950 or DSS (Dead Sea Scrolls, discovery of the scrolls brought new light to bear on biblical studies).  Dividing the 20th century right down the middle at 1950 doesn’t necessarily entail that the post-1950 commentaries take into account the impact of the scrolls, but it is a handy dividing point.

–20th century 1950-to present

If you have comments or suggestions, please chime in.

David Lipscomb on Acts reviewed in Christian Standard, 1897

I notice today is the 27th, and, so, a happy 27th to all.  But I come empty-handed as far as a new installment for Explorations in Stone-Campbell Bibliography is concerned.  As a substitute I offer this review of David Lipscomb’s Commentary on Acts.



“A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, with Questions, Suited for the Use of Families and Schools.”  By D. Lipscomb.  Nashville, Tenn.: Gospel Advocate Publishing Company, 1896.

This is a volume of 249 pages, octavo, neatly printed and well bound.  The commentary proper is preceded by “Biographies of the Apostles,” among whom Barnabas is accorded a place.  An Introduction sets forth briefly the work of the Holy Spirit, and the general purpose of the Book of Acts.  In the body of the  work the text of both the A. V. and the R. V. is printed in parallel columns at the top of the page–a waste of space as respects the former.  The commentary is in no sense a critical one.  The author has not subjected his own literary style to criticism, but writes with the same improprieties of diction and awkward construction of sentences which characterizes his newspaper articles.  This is a defect which should have been avoided in a commentary.

The comments in the main are judicious, and will meet the general approval of scholars.  The study of it in families, in schools, or in any other way, must prove decidedly beneficial to all who are beginners in the study of the New Testament.  It is to be regretted, however, that it contains many slips in matters of detail which might easily have been avoided with more care.  For example, it is said “The two letters to the Corinthians were written during his second tour from Ephesus;” the name Theophilus is said to be a Latin word (p. 25); on Thursday they had seen him arrested, tried, buffeted; and on Friday they saw him in open day nailed to the cross [; sic] the catching away of Philip after the baptism of the eunuch was “Back to Azotus” (p. 95); “Cyprus was on the road from Jerusalem to Tarsus” (p. 113); “The ‘world’ frequently means the land of Judea” (p. 114); “The first and second ward mean the first and second gates” (p. 116); “It is certain that Silas and Titus did this for Paul at Corinth, since he baptized only the first fruits of his preaching there’ (p. 121); James is called, just as the school of Baur would have him, “the head of the Judaizing party,” and in the conference on circumcision it is said, “The apostles and elders at first disagreed” (p. 142); Paul and his company are said to have made the trip from Troas to Macedonia in one day (p. 147); of Paul’s journey from Athens to Corinth, a distance of forty-five miles, it is said: “He probably went by water” (p. 163).  But enough of these.  All such mistakes should be corrected in a second edition.

Christian Standard, January 23, 1897, p. 121.


The Book Table for this issue of the Standard contains reviews of two books: DL on Acts, and the “Practical Commentary: S. S. Lessons, 1897” published by Fleming H. Revell.  J. W. McGarvey, Lexington, Ky. is the author of the second, and I assume also of the first.  It is natural that JWM reviews a commentary on Acts, given that the second edition of his commentary on Acts was published in 1892.  From this review it appears that Little Mac and Uncle Dave stand in basic agreement on Acts.  JWM raises no serious objection (the reference to Baur is as bad as it gets, but I doubt that JWM could find much more agreement between FC Baur and David Lipscomb) and his criticism is limited to matters of style and negligence in detail.  One would want McGarvey to proof-read a mss.!  For McGarvey, that Lipscomb’s work is “in no sense a critical one” may well be compliment, not a criticism.  I thought this review is a nice complement to the recent posts of “memories” of McGarvey.  Your comments welcome.

Why I Became A Preacher, James A. Harding, concluded

[see part one here]

… after their business transaction was closed. No amount of business, no success, no adversity could cause him to forget God and the souls of men. The good he did is incalculable. Blessed is the memory of “Uncle Minor.”

I had not been long at Hopkinsville, teaching, before he wanted to make appointments for me in the country churches and schoolhouses round about. With some hesitancy and dread I consented, as I have always done, to the call to preach; and I was soon pretty busy with me teaching during the week and preaching on Sunday. At the end of five years’ work at Hopkinsville I was full of malaria. I fainted in the schoolroom, and had to be taken home in a carriage. So I left Hopkinsville and went back to Winchester, Ky., to get well. I was idle for several months, but was slowly getting well when Bro. John Adams of blessed memory, came for me to go with him back into the mountains to conduct a protracted meeting. I told him I had never conducted a protracted meeting; that it would be better for him to get some one else. But he said he could not get any one else, that I had been brought up in church and Sunday-school, that I had been to Bethany College, that I ought to be killed if I could not preach and that I was to shut my mouth and get my horse and come on with him. “Besides,” he said, “you know I can exhort like five hundred, and you come and preach the best you can, and I will exhort, and we will have a grand meeting. So I went with him; I doubt if I could have gone with a truer, bolder, kinder, better man. My eyes moistened with tears, and my heart is full of sweet, tender memories as I think of him. Sweet indeed to me is the memory of brave, strong, gentle, loving John Adams. I look forward, too, in hope to the day when he and I shall walk together the golden streets of the celestial city.

I went with Bro. John to each of his four preaching places that fall. We had five baptisms at the first place, five at the second, about seventeen at the third, and about twenty-seven at the fourth. Then I felt like I was man of not a little experience in evangelistic work, and was prepared to give points to the uninitiated. For four years my field of labor, for the most part, was the mountainous region of Eastern Kentucky. The people were very poor, the church houses were built of logs, and frequently lighted with tallow candles. They were poorly educated, if at all; but many of them were strong in native good sense and wisdom. Some of my most highly esteemed friends I found in those regions, and a number of them are there still. I know well, I have had goo opportunities to learn it, that a man is a man, whether in a mountaineer’s cabin or a brownstone front; and that a moral coward is just as likely to be found clothed in broadcloth; as in blue jeans.

After my father, the men of whom I am most indebted, I believe are Alexander Campbell, Benjamin Franklin, J. W. McGarvey and David Lipscomb. I have not named them in order in which I think they have been helpful to me, but in which I came under their influence. Campbell’s Christian Baptist, Franklin’s American Christian Review, McGarvey’s commentaries, in articles for the papers, Authorship of Deuteronomy and other writings, and Lipscomb’s editorials have furnished me the best reading I have found out of the Bible. I have used, of course, more or less, many of the great commentaries of ht sectarian world, but they have been of little value to me in comparison with the benefit I have received from the brethren just mentioned.

But the most valuable gift I ever received, I believe, was a little Bible my father gave me while I was yet a small child. It had pictures in it; and very plain and simple they were; not at all to be compared to the splendidly illustrated volumes of today. But those pictures were marvelous to me. My father trained me to turn the leaves without tearing them; and he and my mother would tell me the stories the pictures illustrated. For a long time that Bible was my chief treasure, and those stories my greatest delight. I was the first born in our house, and in course of time I showed the pictures and taught the stories to the other little ones. God only knows how much of blessedness that little book brought to be and to our house. I have made it a rule to have plenty of picture-books for my little ones, and their mother has given much time to telling them the stories. The sooner God’s truths are impressed upon the mind the better. He who is full of God’s truth, who delights in it, will preach. Not in public, may be, but he will preach; and his life will be a benediction to those who come under its influence. –James A. Harding.

Explorations in Stone-Campbell Bibliography, #9: The Art of the Books (GA and McQuiddy)

In installment #8 I looked at a few early to middle 19th century Stone-Campbell books.  I pick up here with pre-1900 Gospel Advocate Publishing Company books.

F. D. Srygley, Smiles and Tears, or Larimore and His Boys (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Publishing Company, 1889) in bold red cloth with black floral designs on the spine and front cover.  This particular design shows up on books printed by the Southern Methodist Publishing House; they did the mechanical work for early GA books.

F. D. Srygley, Seventy Years in Dixie (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Publishing Company, 1891) with the nice gilt letting on the spine.  Civil Government (1889 first edition and the 1913 reprint) has a similar diagonal design on the front cover.  Come to think of it, so does the 1914 edition of Seventy Years.

Celia P. R. Boswell, My Book, At the Age of Eight Years (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Publishing Company, 1893) is a small book for a juvenile audience.

Andrew P. Stout, The Jerusalem Tragedy (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Publishing Company, 1895) has a gilded Jesus and a black floral design which diesn’t show up too well against the dark blue cloth.

David Lipscomb, Notes on the International Sunday School Lessons for 1895 (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Publishing Company, 1895) might be mistaken for Peloubet’s if only the spine is visible.  the next time you are in a used book store, don’t gloss over Peloubet’s too quickly.  You might miss Uncle Dave in the process.

David Lipscomb, Commentary on Acts (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Publishing Company, 1896) in simple black cloth with understated blind-stamped designs on the covers.  The spine has minimal gilt design; somehow I think it is just what DL would prefer in a book design.

E. S. B. Waldron, The Gospel Proclaimer: A Book of Twenty Sermons (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Publishing Company, 1898) echoes Shepherd’s Handbook albeit in a scaled-down fashion.  Waldron is a good LaVergne, tennessee preacher.  There are yet many Waldrons in Churches of Christ in northeast Rutherford County.  He had other volumes and editions of the Gospel Proclaimer. One was self-published and one was published by F. L. Rowe.

This brings us to 1900.  Look for 20th century items in future posts.

Explorations in Stone-Campbell Bibliography: Addendum to 2009 Year-in-Review

Last week I quickly surveyed a few books published in 2009 which I think merit attention for their contribution to Stone-Campbell studies.  I neglected to include a milestone publication in Biblical studies.  About this time last year ACU Press issued The Transforming Word, a one-volume commentary on the Bible. 

It is a landmark achievement in that it is the first multi-authored one-volume commentary produced from within the Stone-Campbell movement (each of the three major streams are represented among its authors, although most authors are from Churches of Christ). Also, about six weeks ago it was announced that Books-A-Million will carry it in each of its retail stores, making it the first such volume of “ours” available in this way to the wider reading public. 

There has been a consistently strong tradition of commenting on the Biblical text from within the movement, particularly on the New Testament.  We have not published many commentaries on the Old Testament and still fewer commentaries engaged (much less employed) the methodologies of current Biblical scholarship for the sake of a wide readership.  Only in the last generation or so have Churches of Christ commentators with the highest academic credentials (Ph.D.’s in their field of publication) published commentaries and most of these have been for the academic community.  Our emphasis, historically, has favored in-house commentaries which eschewed “technical questions.” 

Now, whether you agree with this emphasis or not, and whether they acheived their purposes or even did a good job, is another matter for future posts.  The Transforming Word  is the first of its kind, and for this reason alone I think it should have been included in my earlier list.  As I have opportunity to read it, study with it, and read reviews of it, I may weigh in again on its merits.  For that matter, I smell a few installments of Explorations about commentaries brewing already.

Tolle lege!

I’ll tell you mine…(a post, with questions, for bibliophiles)

I nurture a few interests in my reading and book-collecting…in generally this order

–Books published by Gospel Advocate Publishing Company, McQuiddy Printing Company (both of Nashville), and F. L. Rowe (out of Cincinnati).

Festschriften for Restorationist scholars (Restorationist broadly construed here; I have a particular interest in Churches of Christ scholars publishing in and being honored by festschriften).

–Biblical and theological scholarship produced by Churches of Christ writers.

–Nashville life, history, culture…even historical geography.


Chime in…what are your collecting interests?  or at least, what tends to fill your shelves?

Explorations in Stone-Campbell Bibliography, #8: Unpublished Books

In my scanning of our periodical literature I found a few references to books which for one reason or another have never been published.  Some are proposed and evidently the author never carried through, or sometimes a call is issued for a study on topic X or Y but no one takes up the challenge, or even more tantalizing are those books which we know are being written but just can’t find.  I had a researcher at DCHS just this week who knows his person  was writing a book on prophecy…but whatever became of it is a mystery.

In the proposed-but-never-written category we have C.E.W. Dorris desiring to collate David Lipscomb’s comments in the Gospel Advocate, and elsewhere, on the Old Testament into a running commentary.  It was never published that anyone knows of.  I can’t even say that it ever moved beyond the idea stage.

Here we have T. W. Brents, extraordinary theologian of the middle 19th century Stone-Campbell movement, possibly authoring a commentary on the New Testament.  Again, all indications are it never appeared.  But there are a several who would have loved to see it in 1894 (and not a few of us here in 2009 who would as well).

This note appeared in the Gospel Advocate, January 4, 1894, page 9.  W. H. Sheffer is an evangelist and minister who moved some in both the emerging acapella and instrumental circles in Nashville and Middle Tennessee and elsewhere.  He was at one time (details are in my files at the office) minister at Vine Street Christian Church in Nashville.W. H. Sheffer on T. W. Brents, Gospel Advocate 1894

I want to add my name to the list of those who would like to see a Commentary written on the New Testament, or the whole Bible, by Dr. T. W. Brents.  Why should we not have some standard works on the Bible as well as other people?  It is true that we have much valuable literature on the Bible and Bible themes, yet I think there are demands for much more.  And who is more competent to add to the richness of this needed literature than our worthy and respected Brother Brents?  Should he undertake the task , let us pray the Father that he may be spared to complete it.  — [W. H. Sheffer, Tullahoma, Tenn.

Six weeks later a group of Nashville Bible School students made notice in the pages of the Advocate that they “earnestly beseech brother T. W. Brents to undertake the work of writing a Commentary on the New Testament.”  This from the February 22, 1894 Gospel Advocate, page 128:

Nashville Bible School students on T. W. Brents

We, the following Bible students of the Nashville Bible School, earnestly beseech Brother T. W. Brents to undertake the work of writing a Commentary on the New Testament.  We hope he will undertake the work, and we shall pray God to spare his life, give him strength, and bless him in the effort.

J. E. Dunn, Tenn.; P. H. Hooten, Tenn.; W. K. Harding, Ky.; John Soper, Jr., Ky.; L. K. Harding, Ky.; H. C. Wylie, Ala.; Ernest A. Timmons, Tenn.; James T. Harris, Tenn.; David Cook, Tenn.; Wm. Shaub, Tenn.; Madison Wright, Texas; A. Foster, Texas; Liff Sanders, Texas; Campbell Miller, Texas; J. W. Tally, Tenn.; J. D. Barfield, Tenn.; David A. Nunn, Tenn.; G. W. McQuiddy, Tenn.; L. L. Yeagley, O.; R. J. Cooke, Tenn.; R. C. White, Tenn.; J. N. Armstrong, Tenn.; E. V. Mills, Ark.; L. L. Holloway, Ky.; S. M. Jones, Tenn.; A. Rutledge, Tenn.; Wm. J. Bishop, Tenn.; O. T. Craig, Jr., Tenn.; W. W. Phebus, Tenn.; J. D. Gunn, Tenn.; I. B. Bradley, Tenn.; A. E. Lycar, Ill.; Richard Crim, Tenn.

John B. Cowden, in his biography of Brents (Dr. T. W. Brents, Superman and Master Builder of The Christian Church and The Church of Christ, Prophet of God, Nashville: John B. Cowden, 1961), does not mention this proposed commentary. 

Whatever became of Brents’ commentary?