Frederic William Farrar (1831–1903) is recognized as a major figure in modern biblical interpretation and exegesis. However, like many of his age, he is sometimes under-valued—or under-represented perhaps—in academia today. Born in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), he had an extensive formal education and quickly rose to prominence in England and elsewhere as a preacher, author, and educator; and he eventually became Dean of Canterbury. Today we remember him primarily as an author and exegete, whose brilliance is on display in his more well-known works such as the Life of Christ, History of Interpretation, and Life and Works of St. Paul.
The Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
In 1893 Farrar published his commentary on Hebrews as part of the Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges. This prestigious and scholarly set was widely used in its day. It was even praised in Spurgeon’s The Sword and Trowel publication:
Of great value. The whole series of comments for schools is highly esteemed by students capable of forming a judgment. The books are scholarly without being pretentious: and information is so given as to be easily understood.
One of the appealing and useful distinctives of the Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges set is the inclusion of the Greek text in each print volume. In Logos, this becomes even more useful. When you download any of the volumes from this set, you get an additional free resource: the entire New Testament Greek text from Cambridge. With the text as its own resource rather than at the top of the commentary, you can open the Greek text in one pane of your software and the commentary in another, scrolling side-by-side.
The Greek translation employed by Cambridge in this commentary series is based on the critical editions of Tischendorf and Tregelles, and is arranged in paragraphs corresponding to English translations. When it comes to dealing with MSS variance, J. J. Stewart Perowne writes in a note, “In the Acts, the Epistles, and the Revelation, wherever the texts of Tischendorf and Tregelles agree, their joint readings are followed without any deviation. Where they differ from each other, but neither of them agrees with the text of Stephens as printed in Dr Scrivener’s edition, the consensus of Lachmann with either is taken in preference to the text of Stephens. In all other cases the text of Stephens as represented in Dr Scrivener’s edition has been followed.”
To learn more about the translation principles applied in the Cambridge Greek Text, see Perowne’s note “On the Greek Text” at the beginning of Farrar’s volume on Hebrews.
Distinctives of Farrar’s commentary on Hebrews
First, despite the title of the volume (The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews) it should be noted that, unlike many scholars of the nineteenth century, Farrar believed that the Apostle Paul was not the author of the letter. This matter he clears up immediately in the first chapter, where he also states that he believes this to be an epistle rather than a treatise.
This old commentary remains remains surprisingly relevant to modern conversation. Farrar might as well have been discussing Covenant Theology or New Perspectives on Paul when he writes that the “writer is so exclusively occupied by the relations of the Levitic ritual to Christianity, that he does not even glance aside to examine any other point of difference between the New Covenant and the Old. What he sees in Christianity is simply a perfected Judaism. Mankind is to him the יָשָׁר, the ideal Hebrew. Even when he speaks of the Incarnation he speaks of it as ‘a taking hold’ not ‘of humanity’ but ‘of the seed of Abraham.’”
As many still argue today, Farrar dates the Epistle to the Hebrews as sometime before the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. His reasoning rests primarily on the fact that, he believes, the writer could not have neglected such a momentous occasion on this letter, as the destruction of the Temple would in fact be deeply relevant to the topic at hand. Farrar states that “the destruction of Jerusalem came as a Divine comment on all the truths which are here set forth. While it in no way derogates from the permanent value of the Epistle as a possession for all time, it would have rendered superfluous its immediate aim and object.”
Regarding the style and method of Farrar’s commentary, he not only shows great understanding of the milieu of the letter, but he also critically engages with the original text, including the textual criticism issues, drawing forth rich truth out of what is arguably one of the most beautiful books of the New Testament.
Free this month
Logos is giving away Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges: Hebrews by F. W. Farrar for the entire month of January. Visit the Free Book of the Month page to add it to your library. And don’t forget, when you download Farrar’s volume you’ll also receive the Cambridge Greek Text in your Logos library, including the Greek text of the entire New Testament.
As you grab this great offer you can enter to win the 21-volume set of the Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges. Enter now, and spread the word!
See Farrar’s commentary and the Greek text in Logos: