The late Herman Nicolaas Ridderbos (1909–2007), who went to be with the Lord last Thursday, March 8, 2007, at the age of 98, was one of my favorite modern theologians and has had a profound impact on the way I read the New Testament—particularly because of his emphasis on Heilsgeschichte. I became acquainted with Ridderbos a few years ago when I selected him as my theologian to study in Advanced New Testament Theology. See the links below for the PowerPoint presentation I gave, a list of his works, and some audio and video.
The real nature of Paul’s preaching of Christ . . . [is] redemptive-historical, eschatological [in its] content. It is decisively defined by what has taken place in Christ, by the acts of God that he wrought in him for the fulfillment of his redemptive plan and of which the death and resurrection of Christ constitute the all-controlling center. (Paul, 50)
Frequently the old man is taken in an individual sense and the crucifying and putting off of the old man as the personal breaking with and fighting against the power of sin. ‘Old’ and ‘New’ then designate the time before and after conversion or personal regeneration, and the corresponding manner of life. But we shall have to understand ‘old’ and ‘new man,’ not in the first place in the sense of the ordo salutis, but in that of the history of redemption [historia salutis]; that is to say, it is a matter here not of a change that comes about in the way of faith and conversion in the life of the individual Christian, but of that which once took place in Christ and in which his people had part in him in the corporate sense. Undoubtedly there is also mention of the putting off of the old and the putting on of the new man by believers themselves (Eph. 4:22ff.; Col. 3:9ff.). . . . Yet even understood in this way the expression old and new man retains a supra-individual significance. . . . It is the redemptive-historical transition, effected in Christ’s death and resurrection, that is working itself out in this process. And it all rests on their being-in-him, as the second Adam. (Paul, 63–64)
“Flesh” and “Spirit” represent two modes of existence, on the one hand that of the old aeon which is characterized and determined by the flesh, on the other that of the new creation which is of the Spirit of God. It is in this sense that the difference is also to be taken between the first Adam as ‘living soul,’ i.e., flesh, and the second as life-giving Spirit. The contrast is therefore of a redemptive-historical nature: it qualifies the world and the mode of existence before Christ as flesh, that is, as the creaturely in its weakness; on the other hand, the dispensation that has taken effect with Christ as that of the Spirit, i.e., of power, imperishableness and glory. (Paul, 66)
The great change of which Paul’s preaching bears testimony is not in the first place the reversal in his mind with regard to the ordo salutis, but first and foremost with regard to the historia salutis in the objective sense of the word. (WTHFC, 48)
The Pneuma in Paul is not in the first place a matter of mystic experience. It may rightly be asked whether the whole notion of mysticism is at all applicable to Paul’s preaching. In the whole framework of his ministry the Spirit represents first and foremost an objective reality, namely, that of the new dispensation. (WTHFC, 51)
“In Christ,” therefore, is not a mystical formula; it is a redemptive-historical formula, it is an ecclesiological formula. . . . This is no ecstasy and no mysticism, this is no speculative theology, this is the explication of the history of salvation. (WTHFC, 56)
Most Important Works
The best place to start with Ridderbos is with When the Time Had Fully Come: Studies in New Testament Theology. This short work summarizes Ridderbos’s contributions to synoptic studies, especially the kingdom, the authority and canonicity of the Scriptures, and Paul’s theology. His other important works expound more fully on these themes.
- The Coming of the Kingdom
- Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures
- Paul: An Outline of His Theology
- His commentary on John is also a solid work: The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary.
This volume is a monumental study of the preaching of Jesus according to the synoptics. It is a veritable treasure house of informative and stimulating exegesis of large segments of the synoptic texts. Special mention may be made, by way of illustration, of the illuminating and helpful discussion of the parables and of the apocalyptic discourse of Mark 13. When Ridderbos concludes that the kingdom of God involves both a present and a future aspect, nothing especially startling is disclosed. But the author’s treatment of this subject wins unqualified admiration when one takes account of the manner in which, in the context of a thorough and minute examination of the arguments of the representatives of “consistent eschatology” and “realized eschatology,” he surveys the pertinent data and evaluates the issues with exceptional exegetical ability. No one perhaps has approached him in the comprehensiveness of the treatment of this matter. And the discussion in this connection of such subjects as the kingdom in relation to satan’s defeat and present working, the miracles as present power and as signs of the future, the parables, and the integration of Jesus’ ministry with the coming of the kingdom is highly rewarding. —Ned B. Stonehouse, Late Professor of the New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary
A mine of many treasures. . . . Every student of New Testament theology will want to own and study this perceptive, comprehensive outline of Paul’s theology. —Christianity Today
Among recent research on Paul, I consider Herman Ridderbos’s book a standard. It offers extraordinary insights and information and presents an interpretation of Pauline theology that should be carefully considered and thoroughly discussed. —Ernst Käsemann
At last we have a comprehensive, satisfying work on the theology of Paul, written by one who is probably the most outstanding evangelical New Testament scholar on the continent of Europe. —George Eldon Ladd
Ridderbos has devoted many years to studying Paul’s writings in depth; he is also familiar with the main lines of Pauline research from F. C. Baur to our own contemporaries. He gives us his own exposition of Paul’s thought and at the same time interacts with the interpretations of other scholars. . . . A standard work. —F. F. Bruce
In many ways this is the most comprehensive and thorough exposition of the teaching of the apostle Paul that I have ever read. It will stimulate thought and study by its originality at points, and even when it provokes some disagreement. The translation is most readable. —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Paul’s epistles demand intensive attention, and Ridderbos takes us along all the routes of the apostle’s thinking. We are acquainted with his missionary journeys; how much more important his travels through the depths and riches of the gospel! —G. C. Berkouwer
Here we find sound exegesis, perceptive analysis, profound insight, and humble listening to the voice of Paul. This comprehensive study is not only highly recommended; it is a sine qua non for every student of the New Testament and its message. —Bastiaan VanElderen
- PowerPoint presentation (File w. Notes | Show)
- Works of Ridderbos (Word | PDF)
- Ridderbos Media (Audio | Video 1 | Video 2)
- “The New Point of View”—a sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:14–17
For Further Study
- Riemer Roukema, “Biblical Studies: Herman Ridderbos’s Redemptive-Historical Exegesis of the New Testament,” Westminster Theological Journal 66:2 (2004): 259–73.
- William L. Lane, “Herman Ridderbos’ Paul: A Review Article,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 22:4 (December 1979): 363–71.
- Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Paul as Theologian: A Review Article,” Westminster Theological Journal 30:2 (May 1968): 204–32.
- Wikipedia (in Dutch)
Other Blog Responses
- Herman Ridderbos 1909–2007 by Mark Traphagen (thanks to Mark for the picture)
- Ridderbos dies by Sean Michael Lucas
- Herman Ridderbos dies at 98 by Michele
- Herman Ridderbos (1909–2007) by Matthijs den Dulk
- Herman Ridderbos (1909–2007) by Justin Taylor
- Herman Ridderbos is now with the Lord by Richard J. Bierling Jr.
- Dr. Herman Ridderbos (1909–2007) by John R. McCracken
- ‘Herman’-eutics by Richard J. Bierling Jr.