I spent a good chunk of time today reading R.F. Horton’s The Bible A Missionary Book (Second Edition, Edinburgh: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier).

Horton’s take on the mission theme in the Bible is a little different to many of the biblical theologies of mission I’ve been reading of late. Rather than diving into selected texts that provide a ‘biblical basis of mission’ he starts with the premise that the Bible as a whole is a missionary book. The interesting thing is that Horton was writing a century ago, his book being published in 1908.

In some senses, of course, it is a product of its time. There is (to my mind) an overconfidence in the ‘objectivity’ of certain critical methodologies. This relates to his overal methodology but also to details such as the dating of certain texts and how this shapes his view of certain developments in the OT.

He is also rather dismissive of the OT, to the extent that he treats the NT first, with the chapters on the OT as, primarily (but not exclusively), functioning as the precurser to NT mission.

Nevertheless, there is much to chew on. Here are some quotes:

“As the friends of missions have been suspicious of critical scholarship, so scholarship has been too absorbed in its own pursuits to pay express attention to missions. But the two must learn to understand one another, if the missionary cause is to make rapid and solid progress” (p.9)

“of what use is the Bible, if it is not God’s book for man, and of what meaning is the Gospel if it is not God’s message to the world?” (p.10)

“To support the missionary enterprise by the quotation of certain proof-texts is quite inadequate. When we are fumbling among these texts we are in the position of one who cannot see the wood for the trees. The texts appear to be unrelated axioms, and if suspicion is cast upon the correctness or the genuineness of a text, the authority for missions seems to melt away… The first thought, then, is not to enter into a minute examination of certain texts or passages, which may easily be collected from all parts of Scripture, but rather to stand off a little and endeavour to gain a conception of Scripture as a whole, to ask ourselves the question, What is the bearing and the trend of this book?” (pp.23-24, 28)

“There are two ways by which missionary zeal is created and maintained: one, the study of the missionary facts, and the other the study of the Bible as the missionary book. Each method is indispensable. To know the Bible without knowing the efforts which are being made to spread the truth is to miss the most valuable of all commentaries on Scripture; and commentators who ignore the work of missions, as unfortunately many of them do, make of the Bible a hortus siccus, because they lose the sense that it is an organism still living and at work…” (p.187)

“It is in the hope that Bible students may be enabled to intelligently discern the missionary purpose ingrained in the Scriptures, and to feel the enthusiasm which comes from seeing the great purpose of God developed through long ages of history and of religious life, that the foregoing pages have been written.” (p.189)

Having felt very pleased with myself – and not to say proud of Redcliffe’s library 🙂 – that I had stumbled upon what must by now be a very rare book, I Googled it tonight and discovered the whole thing online! According to the website www.archive.org it is out of copyright. It can be read online or downloaded: Read it here

I shall have a closer look at this website in due course and let you know what other Bible and Mission goodies are available.

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