Will the Real Matthew Henry please speak up?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by asterisktom, Dec 5, 2009.

  1. asterisktom

    asterisktom
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    Will the Real Matthew Henry please speak up?

    I think I will have to call my online version of Matthew Henry's Commentary "Henry-lite". It is really quite muted and bland compared to the magnificent exposition of the unabridged Henry. Here is a case in point: the cursing of the fig tree. First, here is the passage, then the Henry-lite, then (as far as I am willing to type!) the unabridged Henry. I added emphases in places.

    The Passage: Mark 11:13-14, 20-21:
    13 And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.

    14 And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples
    heard it.
    ...
    20 And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.

    21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.

    Abridged Matthew Henry:
    Vs. 19-26: The disciples could not think why that fig-tree should so soon wither away; but all wither who reject Christ; it represented the state of the Jewish church. We should rest in no religion that does not make us fruitful in good works. Christ taught them from hence to pray in faith. It may be applied to that mighty faith with which all true Christians are endued, and which does wonders in spiritual things. It justifies us, and so removes mountains of guilt, never to rise up in judgment against us. It purifies the heart, and so removes mountains of corruption, and makes them plain before the grace of God. One great errand to the throne of grace is to pray for the pardon of our sins; and care about this ought to be our daily concern.


    Unabridged Matthew Henry (but only about one sixth of his comment on 19-26!):
    "How the disciples were affected with it [the withering of the tree]. Peter remembered Christ's words, and said, with surprise, "Master, behold, the fig-tree which thou cursedst is withered away, v. 21. Note, Christ's curses have wonderful effects, and make those to wither presently, that flourished like the green bay-tree. "Those whom he cursed are cursed indeed." This represented the character and state of the Jewish church; which, from henceforward, was a tree dried up from the roots, no longer fit for food, but for fuel only. The first establishment of the Levitical priesthood was ratified and confirmed by the miracle of a "dry rod", which in "one night" budded, and blossomed, and brought forth almonds (Num. 17:8), a happy omen of the [fruitfulness*] and flourishing of that priesthood. And now, by a contrary miracle, the expiration of that priesthood was signified by a flourishing tree dried up in a night, the just punishment of those priests that had abused it. And this seemed very strange to the disciples, and scarcely credible, that the Jews, who had been so long God's own, his only professing people in the world, should be thus abandoned; they could not imagine how that "fig-tree" should "so soon wither away". But this comes of rejecting Christ, and being rejected by him."

    * Note: His original says "fruitlessness", which must be a typo, since that wouldn't fit.

    Assessment:
    1. There is a Lot of pithy material in the unabridged version. I typed about one sixth of his comment on verses 19- 26. which you can compare with the abridged's covering of the same ground.

    2. It is unavoidable that abridgements to this extent must necessarily favor general (and obvious) comments over specific (and more helpful) insights and applications.

    3. Abridgements are actually an editorial culling out of what, in this case, a modern editor sees as expendable. In this case, Henry's distinctive Reformed understanding and "non-dispensationalism" is quite often snipped out. To check this assertion out, just compare the two Henry's on John 17, Daniel 9:24- 25 or, especially, the temple passages of Ezekiel. The tragedy here - and the main point of this post - is that conscientious readers, wanting to have a balanced pool of reading sources, is being duped into thinking that he is actually reading Matthew Henry. He is instead being cheated with a pastiche of snippets and quotes that. by their omissions, is closer to modern Christianity than the original writer.

    4. The original commentary of this Mark 11 passage makes a startling comparison of the text with the budding of Aaron's rod in Num. 17. This is a connection that I, at least, have never read in modern works. And yet, once you read it, it makes perfect sense. It also underscores the decidedly UNdispensational teaching that God is indeed through with Israel - as a nation. I find that, the more I read, the more I have an unfailing sense of the unity of the Word of God (as opposed to the fractured result of dispensationalism today). Those few candle-and-candy Christian bookstores that still carry Henry's Commentary would quit stocking him if they knew he was so anti-Semitic (according to their view) as to say that the Jews were inexorably abandoned and rejected by their Messiah!

    Bottom line:

    Go out and buy the unabridged Matthew Henry. And - if you are getting the one volume unabridged (like I have. It cost 20 something.) - get a good magnifying glass! Or you can get the multi-volume that is harder on the wallet (50 something at CBD I think), but easier on the eyes. But I really recommend his writing, overall. Especially his commentary. I don't know how many times I have been really challenged by his observations.

    BTW, Matthew Henry didn't live to finish his commentary. The Epistles (and possibly Acts too, I forget) were written by a committee of good, but decidedly lesser, scholars.Perhaps the best of these other scholars was William Tong, who did the Hebrews and Revelation portion, perhaps others as well.

    Getting back to those 70 Weeks of Daniel

    BTW #2, I encountered a similar ill-advised cutting up of an older writing from Ages Software. I have read Adam Clarke's Commentary extensively, both in hard copy and in the Ages CD version. I find it odd and suspicious (to me, at least) that Clarke is faithfully printed in my version of Ages CD everywhere except in his comments on Daniel 9:24-27. In that section (at least in the part covering verse 24) every other line of Clarke's comments is left out. This makes his comments garbled and unintelligible. Take a look at the original. You will see Clarke teaching the very thing that Calvinists teach, the overwhelming Christocentric interpretation that has blessed generation of saints who are entering in the true Jerusalem of God. This shows that the view that is now dismissively marginalized as "Calvinist" was once more widely received and taught, by such people as Adam Clarke, who supposedly shouldn't have known better!
     
    #1 asterisktom, Dec 5, 2009
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  2. exscentric

    exscentric
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    There is a "Concise" Henry as well as the full. E-sword and others have varying versions. E-sword live has the Concise but his program has both available
     
  3. asterisktom

    asterisktom
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    I am wondering how the concise differs from the abridged. I suspect it is similar.
     

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