Intro Thoughts on Dods
Rev. Steve Schlissel - March 27, 2013
The men who have deeply influenced my thinking have been several, and I’d gladly list them if asked, telling particular ways each has contributed to my understanding of Scripture and life. Those who influenced my preaching, however, are fewer (which may partly account for its deficiencies). Few or many, the influence of Marcus Dods upon this minister and his ministry (34 years in May, D.V.) have been disproportionate.
At the risk of sounding like I’ve drunk too deeply at the well of charismania, I would put it this way: many have taught me much about the history, inspiration, contents, organization and place of the Bible in the life of the Church and its members, enabling me to apprehend that which, had it been promised before the lessons, would have seemed an exaggerated claim. In short, I was taught to look and see. But Dods (I’m not drunk, as you suppose) showed me how to listen and feel.
In preparing for my sermons through the Gospel of John, I’d typically consult many volumes of commentaries and studies, but I’d save Dods for last. Why? Because after reading his casting of the events, I’d be so deeply touched by the overwhelming humanity, universality, personalness, pathos—by the people God was moving, drawing, changing—I’d end up sobbing uncontrollably, drenching the pages, leaving me with splattered notes and one exhausted Jewish body. I had known before picking up a commentary that the Bible was the Word of God. It was by means of the eye and words of Marcus Dods that I came to see for whom the Word was given.
Now, I realize what I’ve just said is posted at the head of a transcribed sermon which will doubtless be read as, if not dry, then at least unsaturated, even by a favorable reviewer. But I am here only trying to explain how I’ve come upon this piece and a bit about why we are featuring it here.
Marcus Dods was born in Northumberland on April 11, 1834, the youngest son of Rev. Marcus Dods, minister of the Scottish Kirk there. Marcus would eventually have a son named…but you guessed. Our hero was licensed in 1858, ordained in ’64, and served as minister in the Free Church of Scotland kirk in Renfield for a quarter-century, i.e., until he was appointed, in 1889, Professor of New Testament Exegesis at Edinburgh’s New College. In 1907 he was made Principal of the school. This last position he occupied briefly for in April of 1909 he was permanently transferred to the number of Those Who Truly Know.
If my experience speaking to others about Dods holds true, you probably never heard of him. Those who (vaguely) recall his name generally associate it with heresy. It is a sad propensity of our race to look for the worst in others, and an even sadder one which allows an instance of actual evil to become the only handle which can retrieve a name from their memory. In Dods’ case it is more the pity since the accusation of heresy serves the memory as if a verdict. If this is common to human nature, it ought to be rare among those with natures made new. The 1878 charge was dropped by a large majority of the General Assembly delegates to whom he gave account. A dozen years afterward he was made an honorary Doctor of Divinity by Edinburgh University, not the sort of gesture made to heretics at that time. Yet, from where I sit, whether the initial charge had much merit or none, it is altogether beside the point at which his life touched mine.
Of his significant writings, the most important were done for editor W. Robertson Nicoll. His expositions of Genesis, John and 1 Corinthians can be found in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, published in the last years of the nineteenth century (an identical American edition, hard to get, was published in Connecticut, 1911). Dods’ notes on John, however, can usually be found on good used book sites. Although I dug up a one-volume edition, it is easier to find in a two volume format. If you feel a need to feel some of the emotional power packed into the holy Word, I don’t know a better bet.
A favorite Dods saying: It isn’t that God needs our sin to accomplish His purposes –but we offer Him so little else.
As to the piece here virtually reproduced, it’s a killer in its own right. Read it. I had seen it referenced in another book—I think by MacGregor—about 30 years ago and eagerly desired to read it. But it had to wait years and years, until a friend from Waco—a Mr. Davenport, now Dr. D. Davenport—had mercy and gumption and managed to get and send a reprint to me. I kvelled. I remain grateful. The original of what you find here was taken from another source, however. I’ll tell you more about it if you read this, then contact us. And send money, wouldja?
sms(The entire piece is in-line below, but if you’d prefer to read it via pdf-viewer, just click this link: Presbyterianism Older than Christianity)