Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Christian Counselor's New Testament & Proverbs: A Review

 The Christian Counselor’s New Testament and Proverbs, 4th Rev. Ed. Translated by Jay E. Adams. Cordova, TN: Institute of Nouthetic Studies, 2019.

By Michael R. Burgos

Jay Edward Adams (1929-2020) is best known for his work in biblical counseling.[1] Drawing upon his Reformed and presuppositional commitments, Adams wrote the first thoroughgoing polemic against clinical psychology and psychiatry and the integrationist movement. Simultaneously, Adams sought to establish reformation among evangelicals calling them back to a robust biblical psychology and the sufficiency of Scripture for the cure of souls. By any account, the movement and institutions started by Adams are both successful and thriving.

Adams was a prodigious author, writing mainly on issues related to practical theology but also homiletics, eschatology, ecclesiology, and the like. His formal training, however, focused mainly on theology, biblical studies, and homiletics. In 1969, Adams completed his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri in speech having produced a dissertation entitled The Homiletical Innovations of Andrew W. Blackwood. Earlier, he had earned two undergraduate degrees, namely, a Bachelor of Divinity from Reformed Episcopal Seminary and a Bachelor of Arts in biblical Greek from Johns Hopkins University. Training in biblical Greek afforded Adams a love of the language and appreciation for the ancient commonality of New Testament Greek. The latter of which motivated Adams to produce his essentially literal translation of the New Testament into accessible English.

The Christian Counselor’s New Testament and Proverbs (CCNTP) is a unique and worthwhile contribution to an already crowded market. It features an excellent verse by verse format with healthy margins and handsome font with quotations of the Old Testament rendered in caps. Dotting the margins are short notations that identify the general topic of the pericope. These marginal notations are indexed in the back of the volume and serve as a useful topical guide. Adams has also provided his footnoted commentary throughout the translation. While not as extensive as a full-on study Bible, his comments are to the point and generally very helpful to both the biblical counselor and the student of Scripture. They contain both textual information, Scripture commentary, and occasional cross-references.

The translation work in the CCNTP is thoughtful and accurate. For example, Adams intuitively renders דּוֹר in Proverbs 30;11-14 as “one age.” Whereas “generation” or perhaps “period” would render the noun most literally, “age” makes better sense in modern English and communicates the transient nature of those who transgress the commandments of God. When we think of “generations” we tend to think of individuals who were born around the same period and live contemporaneously, whereas “age” goes a step further not merely connoting contemporaneous existence but mutuality in the relevant sin.

The modern translations render μονογενὴς at John 1:18; 3:16; 3:18; and 1 John 4:9 “only” (ESV; NRSV), “one and only” (CSB; NIV), and “only begotten” (NASB; NKJV). The CCNTP stands out, rendering μονογενὴς “unique.”[2]  This is perhaps the best translation of the term in print since it is evident that throughout the canon that God has other sons (e.g., Gen. 6:2; Luke 3:38), albeit quite unlike the Μονογενὴς Θεὸς.

The adage “No translation is perfect” is true of the CCNTP. Whereas Adams translates Jesus’ ἐγὼ εἰμί statement in John 8:58 as “I AM” he neglects to employ that rendering consistently. For example, he supplied the predicate in John 18:6: “He said to them, ‘I am He…’” On rare occasions, Adams’ translation is unnecessarily wordy. One example is found in 1 Corinthians 8:6. Adams renders the phrase ἐξ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτόν as “from Whom all things have come, including us who ourselves have been made for Him.” The introduction of the reflexive pronoun is redundant and when joined with the relative pronoun, it makes for a clumsy clause. A more succinct translation would render ἡμεῖς conventionally: “from whom all things come, including we for him.”

On the whole, the CCNTP is a very good translation that ought to find traction among Bible students of all backgrounds. His commentary, particularly in Proverbs, is worth the price of the volume alone. Adams has brought fresh consideration to both translational and textual issues and his insights are both valuable and faithful.



[1] Originally called “nouthetic counseling” drawing upon the verb νουθετέω (to admonish; exhort; counsel), biblical counseling and nouthetic counseling now refer to the same general theological commitments (e.g., the sufficiency of Scripture; the supremacy of the local church; the utilization of the Scriptures for soul care) and are essentially synonymous. Although, it has been argued that the phrase “nouthetic counseling” refers to those whose sympathies lie with the distinctives of Adams and the first generation of the biblical counseling movement.

[2] Notably, only the NET renders μονογενὴς as a substantive (i.e., “only one”) as in John 1:14.