C. E. B. Cranfield’s Commentary on the Gospel of Mark

C. E. B. Cranfield ([Cambridge University Press], 1959) is now very dated, but it says something for the quality of his work and the reverent and understated nature of his prose that this relatively short commentary on the Greek text is still in print.

From: New Testament Commentary Survey by D. A. Carson; 7th edition (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), p. 52.

Charles Cranfield turns 99 this month.

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Cranfield Likes Chrysostom

But, from the end of the century, we have the splendid contribution of John Chrysostom (c. 347-407).  Pioneer and accomplished master of the practice of preaching through biblical books, he has left us expositions of all Paul’s epistles, that of Galatians being in the form of a commentary, the others being sequences of sermons.  His custom was to give, in the earlier part of a sermon, a careful exegesis of the passage with which he was concerned, discussing matters of grammar, exact meanings of words, and different possible interpretations of clauses and sentences, and then to follow up his exegesis with a forceful and pointed application of the passage, or of some part or aspect of it, to himself and his Antiochene congregation (of leaving the biblical message in the air, lost in safe generalities, the fault of so many preachers, he certainly cannot fairly be  accused).  As an Antiochene theologian, he eschewed allegorizing, and his sermons are free from the sort of fancies to which Origen was prone.  With his moral earnestness and deep compassion for the poor and the weak, Chrysostom is especially strong in exposition of the explicitly ethical sections and especially alert to the ethical implications of what is not primarily ethical.  He is less strong in plumbing the depths of the great theological questions which engage Paul’s mind or in following Paul in his theological mountaineering, and it must be admitted that he can, at times, be distinctly pedestrian.  But, when full account is taken of their obvious weak points, his Homilies on Romans, characterized, as they are, by accomplished scholarship as well as by a shrewd and sympathetic knowledge of human nature, must be recognized as a distinguished and permanently valuable contribution to the exegesis of the epistle – a contribution which no commentator on Romans worth his salt is ever likely to ignore.

From: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans by C. E. B. Cranfield; 2 volumes; “The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments” series (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1975 [Volume 1] and 1979 [Volume 2]), 1:33.

The Book of Romans a Theological Whole

Having tried, again and again over many years, to follow Paul’s course in Romans with some application, we can only confess to an overwhelming and ever-increasing sense of the unity of the epistle – and especially of 1.16b-15.13.  We are impressed again, every time we re-read it, by the unity of structure of that great central mass of Romans, by its orderliness in detail, and by its sheer intelligibility (by “its intelligibility” we mean not, of course, that it is easy reading – there is much in it we do not expect to have grasped properly this side of death! – but that it makes more and more sense the longer and harder and the more rigorously one concentrates on what it is saying, and that the teasing difficulties it contains in abundance are not the sort of difficulties which a careless author creates by impreciseness of thought and slovenliness of expression but the sort which are inherent in any serious human discussion of the realities it deals with – God, man, sin, death, forgiveness, sanctification, resurrection – to mention only some).  We are more and more convinced that 1.16b-15.13 is a theological whole from which nothing at all substantial can be taken away without some measure of disfigurement or distortion.

From: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans by C. E. B. Cranfield; 2 volumes; The International Critical Commentary series (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, Limited, 1979), p. 819.  (Volume 1 was published in 1975.)

Professor Cranfield, who was born on September 13, 1915, is 98 years old today.  Happy birthday!

On the Structure of the Book of Romans

Having tried, again and again over many years, to follow Paul’s course in Romans with some application, we can only confess to an overwhelming and ever-increasing sense of the unity of the epistle, and, especially, of 1.16b-15.13.  We are impressed again, every time we re-read it, by the unity of structure of that great central mass of Romans, by its orderliness in detail, and by its sheer intelligibility (by “its intelligibility,” we mean not, of course, that it is easy reading – there is much in it we do not expect to have grasped properly this side of death! – but that it makes more and more sense the longer and harder and the more rigorously one concentrates on what it is saying, and that the teasing difficulties it contains in abundance are not the sort of difficulties which a careless author creates by impreciseness of thought and slovenliness of expression, but the sort which are inherent in any serious human discussion of the realities it deals with: God, man, sin, death, forgiveness, sanctification, resurrection – to mention only some).  We are more and more convinced that 1.16b-15.13 is a theological whole from which nothing at all substantial can be taken away without some measure of disfigurement or distortion.

We realize, of course, that where we think we see unity, articulation, coherence, some think they see so much confusion and such gross inconsistencies that they feel constrained to regard much of the epistle as the workmanship of would-be interpreters who have, more or less, seriously misunderstood Paul’s own thought.  To all such, we can only say, with respect, that they do not seem, to us, to have read Paul very attentively or patiently…

From: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans by C. E. B. Cranfield; The International Critical Commentary series; 2 volumes (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, Limited, 1975-1979), 2:819.

C. E. B. Cranfield is 96 years old today.

On “the Flesh”

For the meaning of “sarx,” which has not been used before in these two chapters, 7.18, 25; 8.3-9, 12-13 should be compared.  It signifies the whole of our human nature in its fallenness, organized, as it is, in rebellion against God.  The list of “the works of the flesh” in Galatians 5.19ff makes it quite clear that it is a much wider term than “flesh” as it tends to be used in much Christian piety.  Paul’s readers are exhorted not to make provision for, to care for, the flesh with a view to the satisfaction of its desires.  That those who now walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (8.4) should make provision for the satisfaction of the flesh’s desires would, plainly, be ridiculous.  The interpretation which sees, here, a qualified approval of care for the natural life of the body cannot be defended as an interpretation of the Greek text.  Here, “flesh” is clearly used in its bad sense and not in a neutral sense, and the negative governs…the whole sentence.  That Paul approved of a proper care of the body is, no doubt, true, but he is not thinking about this, here.

From: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans by C. E. B. Cranfield; 2 volumes; International Critical Commentary series (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark Limited, 1975-1979), 2:689-690.  Comment on Romans 13.13-14.

C. E. B. Cranfield (born in 1915) is Emeritus Professor of Theology at the University of Durham, England.

“Reiterations” begins its fourth year today!  Woo-hoo!!

Romans 12 and 13

In the following pages, I have expounded these two chapters of Romans at considerably greater length and with more attention to the work of previous commentators, from patristic times up to the present day, than will be possible in the commentary on the whole epistle I have undertaken to write for the new series of The International Critical Commentary.  At a time of widespread uncertainty and confusion with regard to ethical questions, and when the Church, at any rate in Britain, seems, often, only to reflect the uncertainty and confusion of the world instead of being able to speak a clear guiding word, the choice of these particular chapters for such fuller treatment seemed especially appropriate.  Of this, at least, I am quite certain, that there are few things which could make a more valuable contribution toward the clarification of Christian thinking in the sphere of ethics than would a really serious and patient study of these two chapters of St. Paul.  If the present work helps to stimulate such a study, I shall be well content.

I decided to stop at the end of chapter 13 because 14.1 – 15.13, while part, of course, of the same main division of the epistle, is of a somewhat different character from chapters 12 and 13.  I have, naturally, been conscious all the time of the fact that no part of Romans can be properly understood except in relation to all the rest of it.

From: A Commentary on Romans 12-13 by C. E. B. Cranfield; Scottish Journal of Theology Occasional Papers No. 12 (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1965), p. ix.

Charles Ernest Burland Cranfield (born in 1915) was Professor of Theology at the University of Durham in Durham, England (1950-1980).  His A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, alluded to in the quotation, was published in two volumes (1975, 1979).  Professor Cranfield will be 93 this September 13th.

The Heart of the Book of Romans

This short section is, as has already been indicated, the centre and heart of the main division to which it belongs.  We may go farther and say that it is the center and heart of the whole of Rom. 1.16b-15.13.  It stands out by reason of the distinctiveness of its style: it reads like a solemn proclamation.  Notable, in particular, are the emphatic “But now” followed by the perfect tense, the fewness of the verbs, especially in the latter part of the section, the impressive repetition of key-phrases, the striking use of prepositional phrases placed one after the other without connexion.  It stands out much more, of course, by virtue of its content; for it proclaims the fact that the one, decisive, once for all, redemptive act of God, the revelation both of the righteousness which is from God and also of the wrath of God against human sin, the once for all revelation which is the basis of the continuing revelation of the righteousness (1.17) and of the wrath [chapter one, verse eighteen] of God in the preaching of the gospel, has now taken place.  It shows that the heart of the gospel preached by Paul is a series of events in the past (not just the crucifixion of Christ – for the Cross, by itself, would have been no saving act of God – but the crucifixion together with the resurrection and exaltation of the Crucified), a series of events which is the Event of history, an act which, as the decisive act of God, is altogether effective and irreversible.  It attests the fact that what we have to do with, in the gift of righteousness, with which Romans is concerned, is nothing less than God’s costly forgiveness which, whereas forgiveness on cheaper terms would have meant God’s abandonment of His faithful love for man and the annihilation of man’s real dignity as His morally accountable creature, is altogether worthy of the righteous, loving, faithful God, who does not insult or mock His creature, man, by pretending that his sin does not matter but, rather, Himself bears the full cost of forgiving it righteously – lovingly.

From: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans by C. E. B. Cranfield; The International Critical Commentary; J. A. Emerton and C. E. B. Cranfield, general editors; 2 volumes (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, Limited, 1975-1979), 1:199-200 (on Romans 3:21-26).

Charles Ernest Burland Cranfield (born on September 13, 1915) was Professor of Theology at the University of Durham in Durham, England (1950-1980).

The Authorship of Romans – Settled

The denial of Paul’s authorship of Romans, by such critics as E. Evanson, B. Bauer, A. D. Loman, and R. Steck, is now rightly relegated to a place among the curiosities of New Testament scholarship.  Today, no responsible criticism disputes its Pauline origin.  The evidence of its use in the Apostolic Fathers is clear and, before the end of the second century, it is listed and cited as Paul’s.  Every extant early list of New Testament books includes it among his letters.  The external evidence of authenticity could, indeed, hardly be stronger; and it is altogether borne out by the internal evidence, linguistic, stylistic, literary, historical, and theological.  Since Paul’s authorship is not now questioned, it is unnecessary to set out the evidence here.

From: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans by C. E. B. Cranfield; the International Critical Commentary series, J. A. Emerton and C. E. B. Cranfield, general editors; 2 volumes (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark Limited, 1975-1979), 1:1-2.

Charles Ernest Burland Cranfield (born on Monday, September 13, 1915) was Professor of Theology at the University of Durham (England) from 1950 to 1980.  His commentary, although more than 30 years old now, is still considered a must-have among commentaries on Romans.