Heinrich Meyer: Exegete Extraordinaire

Status
Not open for further replies.

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
While I had a somewhat passing familiarity with Meyer as a New Testament commentator for some time, I initially had no reason to really pay much attention to him. But then about fifteen years ago I encountered this attention-getting remark by the eminent Presbyterian theologian Dr. B. B. Warfield (1851–1921):

For ourselves, we should be willing to hang the credit of this century's work in exegesis on the single commentary of Meyer on the New Testament. (The Homiletic Review, [New York: 1900], 39:201)​

This certainly piqued my interest, so I looked into him a bit further and found out these basic facts:

Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer (1800–73) was an evangelical German Lutheran who earned a Th.D. from the University of Jena, and served in several Lutheran pastorates. He later taught New Testament at the University of Giessen, and received an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Göttingen. He never seems to have sought, and in fact appears to have rather shied away from the limelight. Nevertheless, once his exegetical endeavors became known they were soon published and translated into several languages, including two English editions (one Scottish the other American, which do slightly vary).

Nor was Warfield alone in his praise of Meyer’s exegetical abilities, as over the convening years I’ve come across quite a few other high compliments from among his 19th century peers, and from across the denominational spectrum:

Dr. William L. Kingsley; 1796–1882; Congregationalist; Yale Divinity School​
Meyer is to be regarded as the leading commentator of the world. ...[He possessed] a knowledge of the Greek language unsurpassed by any of his contemporaries. (The New Englander and Yale Review, [1873], 32:738)​

Dr. Talbot W. Chambers;1819–96; American Dutch-Reformed; editor-in-chief of The Presbyterian and Reformed Review
Meyer is the prince of exegetes. (Meditations on the Bible Heaven; [New York: 1886], 408.)​

Dr. Charles Hodge; 1797–1878; Presbyterian; Principle of the Dept. of New Testament Studies at Princeton Seminary​
Meyer is perhaps the ablest commentator on the New Testament of modern times. (A Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, [New York: 1860], 20.)​

Charles Spurgeon; 1834–92; English Baptist​
A very learned Commentary...Meyer must be placed in the first class of scholars... (Commenting and Commentaries, [New York: 1876], 207.)​

Dr. Charles Ellicott; 1819–1905; evangelical Anglican Archbishop​
Meyer’s work is highly accurate, perspicuous, and learned. (A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on Ephesians, [Boston: 1867], vi.)​

Dr. Philip Schaff (1819–93; Presbyterian scholar and church historian​
Meyer is the ablest grammatical exegete of the age. (History of the Christian Church, [Edinburgh: 1888], 1:332.)​

Editorial board of The Presbyterian Quarterly and Princeton Review
No exegetical work is on the whole more valuable or stands in higher public esteem. As a critic Meyer is candid and cautious; exact to minuteness in philology; a master of the grammatical and historical method of interpretation. (Lyman Atwater, Henry Smith, eds., [New York: 1874], 3:185.)​

Of course none of this is to suggest Meyer was infallible, or should be considered as a standalone… But I always find him useful and more often than not quite compelling. Overall, I think Meyer’s greatest strength is his remarkable blend of knowledge (inclusive of comparing many other commentators), candor, and objectivity.

Meyer’s work is incorporated in BibleHub’s online commentaries, as well as being available on Google Books.

Anyway, I just thought it was worth sharing a valuable, free resource.

(It should be noted that some of the later volumes in the overall series that came to bear Meyer's name were written by other scholars, namely, Thessalonians through Revelation.)
 

Ethan

Puritan Board Freshman
While I had a somewhat passing familiarity with Meyer as a New Testament commentator for some time, I initially had no reason to really pay much attention to him. But then about fifteen years ago I encountered this attention-getting remark by the eminent Presbyterian theologian Dr. B. B. Warfield (1851–1921):

For ourselves, we should be willing to hang the credit of this century's work in exegesis on the single commentary of Meyer on the New Testament. (The Homiletic Review, [New York: 1900], 39:201)​

This certainly piqued my interest, so I looked into him a bit further and found out these basic facts:

Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer (1800–73) was an evangelical German Lutheran who earned a Th.D. from the University of Jena, and served in several Lutheran pastorates. He later taught New Testament at the University of Giessen, and received an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Göttingen. He never seems to have sought, and in fact appears to have rather shied away from the limelight. Nevertheless, once his exegetical endeavors became known they were soon published and translated into several languages, including two English editions (one Scottish the other American, which do slightly vary).

Nor was Warfield alone in his praise of Meyer’s exegetical abilities, as over the convening years I’ve come across quite a few other high compliments from among his 19th century peers, and from across the denominational spectrum:

Dr. William L. Kingsley; 1796–1882; Congregationalist; Yale Divinity School​
Meyer is to be regarded as the leading commentator of the world. ...[He possessed] a knowledge of the Greek language unsurpassed by any of his contemporaries. (The New Englander and Yale Review, [1873], 32:738)​

Dr. Talbot W. Chambers;1819–96; American Dutch-Reformed; editor-in-chief of The Presbyterian and Reformed Review
Meyer is the prince of exegetes. (Meditations on the Bible Heaven; [New York: 1886], 408.)​

Dr. Charles Hodge; 1797–1878; Presbyterian; Principle of the Dept. of New Testament Studies at Princeton Seminary​
Meyer is perhaps the ablest commentator on the New Testament of modern times. (A Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, [New York: 1860], 20.)​

Charles Spurgeon; 1834–92; English Baptist​
A very learned Commentary...Meyer must be placed in the first class of scholars... (Commenting and Commentaries, [New York: 1876], 207.)​

Dr. Charles Ellicott; 1819–1905; evangelical Anglican Archbishop​
Meyer’s work is highly accurate, perspicuous, and learned. (A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on Ephesians, [Boston: 1867], vi.)​

Dr. Philip Schaff (1819–93; Presbyterian scholar and church historian​
Meyer is the ablest grammatical exegete of the age. (History of the Christian Church, [Edinburgh: 1888], 1:332.)​

Editorial board of The Presbyterian Quarterly and Princeton Review
No exegetical work is on the whole more valuable or stands in higher public esteem. As a critic Meyer is candid and cautious; exact to minuteness in philology; a master of the grammatical and historical method of interpretation. (Lyman Atwater, Henry Smith, eds., [New York: 1874], 3:185.)​

Of course none of this is to suggest Meyer was infallible, or should be considered as a standalone… But I always find him useful and more often than not quite compelling. Overall, I think Meyer’s greatest strength is his remarkable blend of knowledge (inclusive of comparing many other commentators), candor, and objectivity.

Meyer’s work is incorporated in BibleHub’s online commentaries, as well as being available on Google Books.

Anyway, I just thought it was worth sharing a valuable, free resource.

(It should be noted that some of the later volumes in the overall series that came to bear Meyer's name were written by other scholars, namely, Thessalonians through Revelation.)
Great post. I noticed in your signature that the church you attend is right down the road from mine (Northland Reformed) so nice to meet you neighbor
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
I noticed in your signature that the church you attend is right down the road from mine (Northland Reformed) so nice to meet you neighbor
:handshake: Less than a mile... I visited your church about 8 years ago, but I gather that may have been before your time there (?)
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
I do not ever recall seeing any of Meyer's commentaries on sale anywhere. Given how highly his work was praised back in the day, I find that rather strange. Is it because his commentaries are seen as too technical for the general reader and perhaps now too dated for wide sales among more academic audiences, who could probably consult them in a library or online if they really needed to read them?
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
I do not ever recall seeing any of Meyer's commentaries on sale anywhere. Given how highly his work was praised back in the day, I find that rather strange. Is it because his commentaries are seen as too technical for the general reader and perhaps now too dated for wide sales among more academic audiences, who could probably consult them in a library or online if they really needed to read them?
I would think that is more or less the case. Meyer wrote towards the beginning of the crest of NT textual criticism, with of course many of his German compatriots being in the vanguard of that movement. As the last endorsement in the OP alludes to, Meyer had some sympathies with the emerging science, but was much more cautious in this area than the typical German scholar of his time (and later). Throughout his work one will frequently see Meyer refuting the more liberal critics of his day. In this regard Meyer was aligned pretty closely with Warfield's views, and if I'm not mistaken the latter was indeed influenced by the former. This would also seem to account for Warfield's express praise.

Maybe our resident PB expert on commentaries can chime in - @greenbaggins
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
I might add, it is noticeable that all of the endorsements of Meyer I've found are from the evangelical camp. Based on other things I've read, Meyer was especially appreciated in that particular realm for being the primary peer bulwark against the onslaught of textual-often-turned-into-higher criticism that was then emanating mainly from Germany. Meyer was very familiar with and willing to candidly engage the critics on their own terms, his substance and style was very scholarly yet readable, and the relatively quick and varied translations of it made it widely accessible during that crucial time. On the flip side, one can also find some of a more fundamentalist bent who complained or even denounced Meyer for having countenanced any aspect of criticism whatsoever.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Meyer is still one of the standards, especially in all matters of Greek grammer and syntax, although certain things have moved on from his time, and more modern practitioners of Greek will find his categories sometimes a bit too fixed. He is very difficult to read, even in translation, because his understanding of Greek was so profound. Do not attempt to wade into him unless you have a very solid understanding of Greek! I always learn something from him.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
I would think that is more or less the case. Meyer wrote towards the beginning of the crest of NT textual criticism, with of course many of his German compatriots being in the vanguard of that movement. As the last endorsement in the OP alludes to, Meyer had some sympathies with the emerging science, but was much more cautious in this area than the typical German scholar of his time (and later). Throughout his work one will frequently see Meyer refuting the more liberal critics of his day. In this regard Meyer was aligned pretty closely with Warfield's views, and if I'm not mistaken the latter was indeed influenced by the former. This would also seem to account for Warfield's express praise.

Maybe our resident PB expert on commentaries can chime in - @greenbaggins

I spoke too soon. I was in a bookshop earlier today and came across his commentary on John's gospel in the second-hand section.
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
He is very difficult to read, even in translation, because his understanding of Greek was so profound.
That's interesting. My Greek is quite limited, but in line with Ellicott's remarks above I find him, or at least the English translations of him, to be fairly "perspicuous". Not that I can speed-read him or anything...
 
Last edited:
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top