John W. Tweeddale reappraises John Owen’s work as a biblical exegete, offering the first analysis of his essays, or “exercitations,” on Hebrews. Owen is frequently acknowledged as a leading figure of the puritan and nonconformist movements of the seventeenth century. However, while his reputation as a statesman, educator, pastor, polemicist, and theologian is widely recognized, he is not remembered as an exegete of Scripture. Yet throughout his life, Owen engaged in the task of biblical interpretation. His massive commentary on Hebrews in particular represents the apex of his career and exemplifies many of the exegetical methods of Protestants in early modern England. Although often overlooked, Owen’s writings on Hebrews are an important resource for understanding his life and thought.
Beginning with an evaluation of the state of research on Owen’s commentary, as well as suggesting reasons for its neglect in current scholarship, Tweeddale then places Owen’s work on Hebrews within the context of his life. What follows is a consideration of the function of federal theology in Owen’s essays, and how his hermeneutic fits within the broader scope of reformed discussions on the doctrine of covenant. Tweeddale further examines Owen’s attempts to resolve the challenge posed by a Christological reading of the Old Testament to a literal interpretation of Scripture. He then explores how Owen’s essays represent a refining of the exegetical tradition of the Abrahamic passages in Hebrews, and how his exegesis distinguishes himself from the majority of reformed opinion on the Mosaic covenant. By focusing on the relationship of Christology, covenant theology, and hermeneutics in his commentary, this book argues that neither Owen’s biography nor theology can be fully understood apart from his work on Hebrews and efforts in biblical interpretation.
This book is a welcome addition to a growing body of scholarly literature on John Owen. Those who wish to have a comprehensive grasp of Owen, especially with respect to his biblical exegesis, will need to consult this book. This book also has value for those outside the Owen guild, as it gives an in-depth analysis of an instance of early modern biblical exegesis. * Reviews in Religion & Theology * Tweeddale's work does a great service to early modern religious studies by providing fresh and stimulating insight into one of the seventeenth century's most ambitious intellectual achievements. * The Journal of Ecclesiastical History * This is a superb piece of historical theology that contributes greatly to Owen studies in particular as well as to the intersection of Reformed theology and exegesis more broadly. . . . this book marks a step forward in studies of the relation between exegesis and theology in classic Reformed thought and it will hopefully promote more steps in the same direction. * Journal of Reformed Theology * John Owen regarded his commentary on Hebrews-the longest commentary ever published on a New Testament book-as the most significant of his very many achievements. But the extraordinary scale of his endeavour has not been given the scholarly attention it deserves. In this important new study, John Tweeddale offers a comprehensive and challenging analysis of the principal themes in Owen's work. * Crawford Gribben, Queen's University Belfast, UK * John Owen's monumental work on Hebrews has long deserved a careful and full scholarly engagement. Thankfully, John W. Tweeddale has provided us a much needed work that helps us better understand what animates this Puritan divine, from his view of the Old Testament and the Law to his conception of the Church. Church historians, New Testament scholars, and theologians will all find this work worthy of their attention. * Kelly M. Kapic, Covenant College, USA *