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Calvin’s Commentary on The Psalms* – A Review by Ben Ramsbottom

Category Book Reviews
Date December 4, 2009

Yet another work by Calvin to commemorate the 500th anniversary of his birth – but we must confess we really liked it, and in many ways were pleasantly surprised.

This is an abridgement of Calvin’s massive, five-volume commentary on the Psalms, and is about a quarter of the original size. The author, in a very humble introduction, gives his reasons for this. He really loves Calvin on the Psalms, and thinks his commentary is exceedingly profitable. He feels this treasure is being hidden from many because of its size. He desires to make it known to those who would not otherwise read it. He ends: ‘My constant prayer has been that something of the unsurpassed excellence of Calvin’s instruction will have been preserved and made available to a wider public than would ever make use of the original massive and magisterial work.’

The full commentary was originally published in 1557 and first translated into English in 1571.

Calvin is really led into the spirit of the psalmist. He writes, as ever, most reverently and graciously, and yet exceedingly simply. Christ is very prominent in his exposition (for instance, the beautiful 45th Psalm).

We are not certain how far Dr. Searle keeps to Calvin’s own words or uses his own, especially when summarising a longish passage. We are sure that he does convey exactly what Calvin says. We found the book very helpful in reading and meditating on particular Psalms.

We realise that Calvin translates Scripture directly from the Hebrew. Dr. Searle does not entirely follow him here (he is himself a linguist and translator) and we do not like the way God is addressed as ‘you.’ Apart from this blemish, we felt this to be one of the best Calvin publications of 2009.

Notes

Taken with permission from The Gospel Standard, December 2009.

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