FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s rare book collection recently was enriched by the donation of a historically significant New Testament commentary.
E. Earl Ellis, research professor of theology emeritus at the seminary, donated a first edition volume of Henry Hammond’s “A Paraphrase and Annotations upon All the Books of the New Testament,” which was was printed in London in 1653.
Although Hammond (1605-1660) may be obscure to some people, historians alternatively refer to him as either the father of English commentators or the father of English exegesis.
“This was the first commentary of any length to be published in the English language,” Ellis said.
Hammond was chaplain to King Charles I, who once said that Hammond was the most natural orator he had ever heard. After the king was imprisoned by parliament in the mid-1640s during the reign of Oliver Cromwell, Hammond continued to attend to him. Hammond’s royalist loyalties forced him into a kind of exile in Oxford during those years. Nevertheless, he was a respected scholar and gifted preacher, liked even by his opponents.
Berry Driver, Southwestern Seminary’s dean of libraries, said that the Hammond New Testament commentary is considered by many scholars to be Hammond’s magnum opus.
Southwestern’s library collection already contains 19th century editions of Hammond’s “Practical Catechism,” “Miscellaneous Theological Works,” and “31 Sermons Preached on Several Occasions,” Berry said.
Hammond was a preterist, one who believes the events of the Apocalypse had already come to pass. During a chapel service in November Driver read from a review written by Charles Spurgeon, who had a mixed assessment of Hammond’s New Testament commentary.
“Though Hammond gives a great deal of dry criticism and is Arminian, churchy, and peculiar, we greatly value his addition to our stores of biblical information. Use the sieve and reject the chaff,” Spurgeon wrote.
Ellis described how he came into possession of the rare volume many years ago in a second-hand bookshop in London.
“I’ve kept it and still use it,” Ellis said. “I have even made use of it in my commentary on First Corinthians. But I am happy to give this to our library here, and hope it will be useful to many in the years to come.”
Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson expressed appreciation on behalf of the seminary.
“I have always loved you and appreciated you, [but] I appreciate you even more today in light of this very wonderful gift to the seminary,” Patterson told Ellis during the chapel service.