Herman Ridderbos’ “Paul:” A Review Article -- By: William L. Lane

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 22:4 (Dec 1979)
Article: Herman Ridderbos’ “Paul:” A Review Article
Author: William L. Lane


Herman Ridderbos’ “Paul:” A Review Article

William L. Lane*

Herman Ridderbos is professor emeritus of NT at the Theological School of the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands at Kampen. His recent retirement as professor of NT studies at Kampen, a position he had held since 1943, provides an appropriate occasion for a brief review of some aspects of his contribution to his field. His published work suggests that his academic career was marked by two successive phases. The first phase was dominated by concern with the synoptic gospels, and more particularly with the gospel of Matthew. In 1936 Ridderbos had qualified for the doctorate at the Free University at Amsterdam with a distinguished dissertation on the sermon on the mount (De Strekking van der Bergrede naar Matthegis [The Tendency of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew]). He subsequently published an investigation of the tension between self-disclosure and self-concealment in the teaching of Jesus (Zelfopenbaring en Zelfverberging [Kampen, 1946]), a monumental work on the kingdom of God (De Komst van bet Koninkrijk [Kampen, 1950]; English translation The Coming of the Kingdom [Philadelphia, 1962]), and a two-volume commentary on Matthew in the Korte Verklaring series (Kampen, 1952). In all of these studies Ridderbos demonstrated an ability to interact responsibly with the text of the gospels in the light of the discussion it had prompted, especially in the twentieth century.

The second phase of Ridderbos’ distinguished career has been marked by a sustained concern with the letters of Paul. In the year prior to the appearance of his commentary on Matthew there was published a Festschrift honoring F. W. Grosheide, who had served as Ridderbos’ major professor at the Free University. The essay contributed by Ridderbos concerned the relationship between freedom and law in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (“Vrijheid en Wet volgens Paulus’ Brief aan de Galaten,” Arcana Revelata [Kampen, 1951] 89-104). The subject of that essay signaled a transition of interest from the earlier concentration on the gospels and served to introduce a second period of concentrated research. The following year a brief introduction to the study of Paul appeared (Paulus en Jezus [Kampen, 1952]; English translation Paul and Jesus [Grand Rapids, 1958]), and then one year later the commentary on Galatians in the NICNT series (Grand Rapids, 1953). Over the course of the next fourteen years a series of major publications provided abundant evidence of the fruitfulness of Ridderbos’ patient interaction with the thought of the apostle Paul. These included commentaries on Romans (Aan de Romeinen [Kampen, 1959]), Colossians (Aan de Kolossenzen [Kampen, 1960]), and the pastoral lett...

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