Herman Nicolaas Ridderbos

Herman Nicolas RidderbosThe 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.

Key Quotes

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.


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


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18 Responses to Herman Nicolaas Ridderbos

  1. Rick B. March 16, 2007 at 6:07 pm #

    Thank you for putting this together.

    I like the “Key Quotes”

  2. Phil Gons March 16, 2007 at 7:23 pm #

    You’re welcome, Rick. Glad you enjoyed it.


  3. J. B. Hood March 16, 2007 at 11:18 pm #

    Thanks so much for this—very useful! I have to say though that I disagree with DML-J on the “readability” of the translation of Paul. We used to say around seminary that Dr. X translated Ridderbos’s words . . . but not his syntax. You might add this quote from Reggie Kidd: “It [the Paul book] is dry as dust; but some of it’s gold dust.”

  4. Phil Gons March 17, 2007 at 8:20 pm #

    J. B.,

    Glad you found it helpful.

    Hmm. I didn’t read Paul cover to cover, but I didn’t think the portions that I did read were difficult or dry. Maybe I was just so enthralled with the new ideas that Ridderbos was exposing me to that I overlooked the dryness and difficultly of the translation.

    I’d be interested to hear what others think.


  5. Blake White March 17, 2007 at 10:38 pm #

    Thanks a lot for this. I have his work on Paul and the Kingdom, but have yet to read them. I am looking forward to getting to know this man.

  6. Chad March 18, 2007 at 9:03 pm #

    Hi Phil,

    Thanks for the summary. Can I link this to my blog? And can I add you to my blogroll, it appears we share similar perspectives or at least enjoy the same things (e.g., Ridderbos, Westerholm, etc)?

    The Road To Emmaus

    Also, where are you a student at?


  7. Phil Gons March 19, 2007 at 5:52 pm #

    Hey, Chad,

    No need to ask permission to link to anything you find helpful here or to add this blog to your blogroll.

    I am working on my dissertation for the Ph.D. in Theology at Bob Jones University.

    I checked out your blog and subscribed to it. Looks very helpful.



  8. John Mahaffy March 24, 2007 at 4:25 pm #

    Phil, could I get an e-mail address—to contact you off the blog?

    I appreciate your material on Ridderbos. I have found him very helpful. Both The Coming of the Kingdom and Paul have excellent Scripture indices. I frequently check those when preparing to preach on either the Gospels or a letter of Paul’s.



  9. Phil Gons March 24, 2007 at 6:18 pm #

    Hi, John,

    Thanks for your comments, John. I’ll send an email to the address you provided. I also created a contact form that others may find useful in the future.



  10. David Schrock February 27, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Great stuff here, Phil!

    I am prepping for my doctoral comps right now and this is most helpful resource to review the works and theology of Ridderbos.



  1. Fernando’s Desk - March 18, 2007

    […] The A-Team Blog has drawn my attention to the passing of the great Biblical Theologian, Herman Ridderbos. Their link tracks back to Between Two Worlds reflection on Ridderbos’ contribution to scholarship. Frm those comments, we can find Phil Gons’ extensive introduction and portal into Ridderbos ideas and links. […]

  2. The Road To Emmaus - March 19, 2007

    […] Mar 20th, 2007 by Chad Phil Gons has written a wonderful summary on Herman Ridderbos who recently past away. Many of you can probably attest to the enormous contribution he made to your learning biblical theology and eschatology. Check out Phil’s blog here. […]

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  8. Fernando Gros // Herman Ridderbos - May 1, 2015

    […] The A-Team Blog has drawn my attention to the passing of the great Biblical Theologian, Herman Ridderbos. Their link tracks back to Between Two Worlds’ reflection on Ridderbos’ contribution to scholarship. From those comments, we can find Phil Gons’ extensive introduction and portal into Ridderbos ideas and links. […]