Deciphering handwritten passages in Greek and Hebrew is no one’s idea of a walk in the park. When the surrounding text is printed in Old Dutch, that task borders on impossible. But for Richard B. Gaffin Jr., translating Geerhardus Vos’ Dogmatiek was a labor of love. He and his eight-person team painstakingly translated 400,000 words into English, revealing an incredible work that had been lost to history. What we find is a rich and edifying treatment of systematic theology from one of the most important Reformed theologians.
What if we had access to the foundational thoughts of that theologian? What would we find? Would his later works be illuminated further by an understanding of where he began? In 1888, a young Geerhardus Vos began delivering lectures in dogmatics at the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Church (later known as the Calvin Theological School). This early work gives us a glimpse of Vos in his late 20s, unmarried, and tackling something as daunting as systematic theology. He would move on to Princeton, marry, and start developing his biblical theology for which he would become known.
Lifted from Vos’ handwritten lecture notes, the original manuscript of Vos’ Dogmatiek was self-published in 1896. It was transcribed in Old Dutch and never made widely available. Vos would come to be known as “the father of Reformed theology” but his Dogmatiek would fade into history, surpassed by his later works in biblical theology and Pauline eschatology.
Vos’ early insights haven’t diminished with age, and now they’re available in English for the first time. His strong grounding in scholarship and biblical theology makes Reformed Dogmatics unique, bringing a fresh perspective to systematic theology. Vos viewed biblical and systematic theology as complementary, rather than competitive disciplines. It’s further distinguished by its question and answer format, making it both accessible and practical for study and reflection. This foundational work in systematic theology has been brought into the modern era.
Vos’ never-before-published Reformed Dogmatics is more like a lost Shakespeare play recently discovered. With this series we now have a biblical theologian writing a systematic theology. Thanks to Lexham Press for giving us such long-awaited but impressive access to this much-discussed gem.
Vos has the singularly unique acumen and ability to summarize and state concisely some of the deepest truths of Reformed theology. These volumes will now be my first recommendation to anyone who wants to understand the riches of the Bibles’ teaching in a compressed and clear way.
—K. Scot Oliphint