Sunday, 21 December 2008

Commentary on Colossians by John Davenant

This comprehensive commentary was originally published in Latin in 1627; the English edition was published in two volumes in 1831 (about 850 pages in total). Included in this one-volume edition is a substantial biography of John Davenant (1576-1641) by the translator of the commentary, Josiah Allport.

In addition to the many helpful footnotes provided by the translator, particularly with regard to references by Davenant to writers from the early church and Reformation periods, there is a useful index of subjects dealt with in the commentary and a list of intriguing theological questions discussed by the author.

The author was a celebrated theologian (he was the writer of an important work on the doctrine of justification) and churchman (he was Bishop of Salisbury), as well as being one of the Church of England delegates at the Synod of Dort in 1618. As was the case with several theologians of the Anglican Church at that time, he did not accept limited atonement, and indeed wrote a dissertation in defence of an unlimited atonement. Nevertheless, as a leading scholar of the Reformed Faith in England, his vast learning and his devotional habits enabled him to produce a commentary that was not only outstanding in its original edition but also an excellent resource for subsequent generations of preachers. It is not surprising that this work was highly recommended by Spurgeon and others for its depth, accuracy and discursiveness.

Obviously, the commentary does not deal with issues that have been the topic of recent discussion of this letter. Nevertheless, this commentary will be a very useful help for preaching through the Book of Colossians. The language is straightforward and easy to understand, and his comments are usually relevant to aspects of the passage about which preachers and others need insight, whether it deals with important aspects of Christology or areas of Christian living. In conclusion, I would suggest that his remarks on Colossians 4:3-4 on praying for ministers and on preaching by ministers, if implemented, would result in edifying sermons.

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