“What The Bible Teaches,” R.A. Torrey – a Discussion

At the open invitation of Lex – TheEstherProject.com, I’ll join in posts related to the R. A. Torrey publication “What the Bible Teaches,” printed in 1898 by Fleming H. Revell Company (now in the public domain). (See Torrey’s brief bio here.) Myself being partial to 19th century books about God and the Bible (like the Kiel & Delitzsch commentaries on the Old Testament, Phillip Schaff’s 8 volume History of the Christian Church, as well as even older publications like John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion), there is great refreshment and spiritual nourishment found in these “ancient” publications, simply because the authors are obviously exceptionally gifted writers devoted to the glory of God and His Word with a phenomenal wealth of learning dripping from their pens. I confess I am less conversant with contemporary writers but there is only so much time!

Prior to this book I’ve not read any RA Torrey, but skimming these pages shows me the author has objectives identical to those referenced above. Expound God’s Word in a manner that is faithful to the text, edify the reader, and bring glory to God rather than men. Whether my own reflections on the chapters (there are 53 of them) does justice to those objectives is to be seen. I have no illusions of my capabilities but this is my hope. Lex and I have decided to split the chores writing every other week with Lex starting this Thursday March 1.

A note on the book itself before plunging into this commitment. Published in 1898 Torrey states in the Preface that his book

“is based on a careful study of the original text as decided by the best textual critics (especially Tischendorf and Westcott and Hort in the New Testament, though other editors, and the manuscripts themselves have been considered in some instances). Wherever possible the text of the Authorized Version has been given. In many instances this was impossible, as the Revised Version is manifestly much more exact. Had it appeared that the Revised Version would soon obtain that general acceptance and use which it seems to so richly deserve, the author would have adopted it throughout, except in those rare instances where it is manifestly in error. In a few instances, it was necessary to adopt renderings differing from both the Authorized Version and the Revised Version, and from the American Appendix to the Revised Version.”

Desiring not to enter any flame wars it should be admitted that translations available now in 2012 are of surpassing value in assisting a meaningful study of the Scriptures, textual criticism marching so much further in the past hundred and fourteen years. I personally find more satisfaction using a more accurate version of the Scriptures like the New American Standard (NASB) to facilitate my understanding of the text of the Old and New Testaments and the message God intended to impart, as the NASB and other recent translations are just so much more readable; and it should go without saying that having an accurate biblical text is better than having a copy prone to errors of translation. But ultimately there is no impediment to understanding God’s Word if you use an older translation. It may take a bit more work, but will still be profitable if one has ears to hear. I’m glad to read that Torrey himself was just so concerned with reading an accurate biblical text.

A free copy of What the Bible Teaches can be downloaded at these links: a facsimile copy of the 1898 publication, and a more readable version of the same text with some updates.

What the Bible Teaches can be loosely described as a primer on Christian doctrine, much as Calvin’s Institutes are, though Calvin is mightily verbose, where Torrey is brief and concise. Torrey posits a belief then a list of Scriptures follows in support. The book is divided into six books: what the Bible teaches about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Man, Angels, and the Devil. Torrey summarizes:

“THE AIM OF THIS BOOK is to ascertain and state in systematic form what the Bible teaches. The method pursued will be to first give the Scripture statements, and then summarize their contents in a proposition, following the proposition with comments when necessary.”

So with that Lex will begin book one, WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES ABOUT GOD. 1. GOD AS SPIRIT. We hope this will stimulate abundant comments and conversation following each post, concerning God, His Word, and our life in His creation. That should encompass about everything!

To the glory of God.

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One Response to “What The Bible Teaches,” R.A. Torrey – a Discussion

  1. Lex says:

    I’m glad you’re looking forward to this as much as I am! :)