Barnes’ Commentary on the Bible
by Albert Barnes
This is an excellent Bible commentary by the Presbyterian minister Albert Barnes.
About the Author
Albert Barnes was a Presbyterian minister who produced a number of valuable commentaries on the Bible. He wrote Old Testament commentaries on Job, Psalms, Isaiah, and Daniel, and a complete set on the New Testament. These works have been extremely popular in both Europe and the U.S., selling into the millions of copies, though his Old Testament productions are generally considered to be superior to the New Testament works — which were written mostly for Sunday school teachers.
Educated at Princeton seminary, Barnes was a dedicated student. He arose early in the morning and studied by lamplight — which sustained practice almost cost him his eyesight. For forty years he maintained an association with the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia.
Barnes had a strong sense of morality and was much opposed to the practice of slavery. In 1846, he wrote a book, An Inquiry into the Scriptural Views of Slavery.He also preached against the use of alcoholic beverages, urging total abstinence.
In 1868, Barnes was invited to deliver a series of ten lectures on “Christian Evidences” in New York. These were subsequently incorporated into a book and constitute a masterful defense of the Christian religion.
Though a Presbyterian, Barnes argued that man possesses freewill; he urged his auditors exercise their power of choice, and to respond to God’s offer of salvation. These views brought him into serious conflict with strict Calvinists. After the publication of his commentary on Romans, Barnes was charged with doctrinal heresy, and put on trial (1835) by his presbytery. Ultimately, the church’s general assembly acquitted him, though with some censure. His teaching on “unlimited atonement” (contra Calvin) helped generate a split in the Presbyterian Church in 1837. Unfortunately, the celebrated commentator was unable to divest himself of all his Calvinistic baggage.
Albert Barnes nurtured some unusual ideas. It is reported that he would not fish with a baited hook inasmuch as he considered that practice to be a form of deception (yet see Mt. 17:27).
Moreover, in his commentary on Job, when discussing the ostrich (39:13ff), he speculated that this curious creature was “the connecting link between quadrupeds and fowls.” Not even this generally conservative scholar was immune to the influence of evolutionism — though his work on Job was published a dozen years before Darwin’s The Origin of Species came from the press. Too, under the influence of Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), a Scottish church leader, he subscribed to the “Gap Theory,” which, he conceded, was “designed to solve some of the growing difficulties from the new science of geology.” He was intimidated by the assertions of the “scientism” of his day, hence, in weakness, compromised the biblical view of creation.
In December of 1868, at the age of 70, he delivered an address in Philadelphia titled, “Life at Threescore and Ten,” which contained his reflections on things he had learned, and had come to appreciate over the years. At the conclusion of his presentation, he cited these lines:
May some disease, not tardy to perform
Its destined office, yet with gentle stroke,
Dismiss me weary to safe retreat
Beneath the turf that I have often trod.
He hoped to die a quick death, rather than one of lingering agony. Coincidentally, two years later to the month, he died instantly while making a call of condolence at the home of a friend.
It is a sad footnote to history that Barnes has largely been ignored in the biographical sketches of influential theological writers. In the New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, he merits only a half-dozen sentences, while the infamous Karl Barth is granted an entire page. In the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church he is mentioned not at all.
Article taken from Christian Courier
More works by the Same Author
Links to this work in other formats