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Clarke, Adam – Commentary

Adam Clarke Commentary(1762-1832)

A good commentary by a Methodist minister.

Adam Clarke was the most famous commentator the Methodist Church ever produced. As a child he was judged to be rather dull; however, from about eight onward he began to excel in learning. Though his father was of the Church of England, and his mother a Presbyterian, he became a Methodist when he was about sixteen. As his studies progressed he became a master of both Hebrew and Greek, as well as several other languages. He was proficient in the Greek classics, patristic literature, and various disciplines of history and science.

Clarke labored for forty years to bring to completion his erudite eight-volume work (now available in three volumes), A Commentary on the Bible. His studies were so rigorous that he eventually wore himself out in these pursuits. Though his commentaries are not held in high regard today by modern “stuffy” scholars, and while they are obsolete in certain areas, nonetheless, they still contain a wealth of information and should be in every preacher’s library.

In spite of his vast knowledge, Clarke held some very “quirky” ideas. For example, he wrote: “There is scarcely any doubt now remaining in the philosophical world that the moon is a habitable globe.” He described this “lesser light” as a place of mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes and seas, and he believed that the moon is inhabited by intelligent beings.

Additionally, Clarke speculated that the “serpent,” used by Satan as an instrument by which to approach Eve (Gen. 3), was a creature of the “ape” family. The New Testament, of course, indicates that the “serpent” was a snake (ophis), a limbless reptile (cf. Mk. 16:18; cf. 2 Cor. 11:3; Rev. 12:9; 20:2).

Clarke also entertained the bizarre notion that Judas Iscariot did not commit suicide, as our common translations indicate in Matthew 27:5. Rather, the learned gentleman ventured the opinion that Judas was stricken with remorse over having betrayed the Lord. His mental anguish became so acute that he was seized with “violent dysentery.” He got choked, fell off of a seat upon which he was sitting, and his bowels gushed out.

Clarke further attempted to argue that Judas sincerely repented of his betrayal of Christ, and that the Bible student may entertain every hope that the traitor will enjoy eternity in heaven. Of course the evidence is clear that Judas hanged himself. The verbapagcho, in the middle voice, means precisely that, “to hang oneself.” The same term is used to describe the death of Ahithophel in the Greek version of the Old Testament (2 Sam. 17:23). Moreover, Judas was described by Christ as the “son of perdition” (i.e., worthy of perdition; cf. 2 Thes. 2:3) who “perished” (Jn. 17:12). And Peter noted that the wayward apostle “fell away” and went to his “own place” (Acts 1:25), i.e., the place of which he was deserving.

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