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January 1983 · Vol. 12 No. 1 · pp. 36–37 

Book Review

Testaments of Love: A Study of Love in the Bible

Leon Morris. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981. 298 pages.

Reviewed by David Ewert

Books from the pen of the Australian scholar, Leon Morris, have enriched the lives of English-speaking students of the Bible all over the world in the last three decades. Beginning with his Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (1955), this evangelical Anglican from “down under” has endeared himself to a great many American readers through his commentaries, both in the Tyndale series (Thessalonians, Revelation and Luke—in that order) and the New International Commentary on the NT (Thessalonians and John—the latter a massive volume of close to a thousand pages).

Having recently retired as principal of Ridley College, Melbourne, Morris has now produced a major work on the concept of “love” in the Bible. The author was convinced that there was a place for such a study, in part by observing the almost total neglect of this theme in the current Old and New Testament Theologies. Moreover, he was disturbed by the confused and muddled thinking of many Christians (as reflected in popular literature) on the meaning of the Biblical teaching on love.

The first few chapters of the book treat the OT terms for “love” (chiefly ahab and chesed). Not only God’s love for man, but also man’s love for God and for fellow human beings (both male and female) is traced through the books of the OT. Chapter 5 brings the OT section to a conclusion with a review of the Septuagint’s use of the Hebrew terms for love.

With chapter 6 we are introduced to the world of the NT and its vocabulary for love (storage, philia, epithumia, eros, agape). This is followed by a chapter on the boundless, self-giving love of God for undeserving man.

In several chapters Morris treats the NT texts which describe the {37} response of the believer to the love of God in his life. In chapter 9 he attacks the popular Christian slogan “love yourself.” “If love is the denial of self,” writes Morris, “the readiness to give all for others, then it is not easy to see how there is room for the love of the self. A proper self-respect is one thing; anything that can properly be called ‘love’ is another” (p. 201). He scores those writers who support their advocacy of self-love by Jesus’s command: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The “as” does not mean that we are to love ourselves. Self-love makes us selfish and self-centered, says Morris.

Chapter 10, among other items, includes a very good exposition of 1 Corinthians 13. Chapter 12 treats the love of friendship.

In his concluding chapter Morris points out that in spite of a mass of Christian literature on love, it is not the Biblical understanding of love that is always advocated. At the heart of the NT concept of agape is a cross, and Morris’s book is a protest, as he puts it, “against the ignoring of the authentic Christian experience of love that is expressed in Galatians 2:20: ‘The Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me’ ” (p. 273).

Morris’s book is a warning to Christians not to allow modern novelists or modern western society (with its rage for self-fulfillment) to define love for them. It is a plea to let the love which was manifested on Calvary pervade the lives of believers in such a way that the world might say once again, as it did in the early days of the church, “How they love one another.” There is much in this volume worth pondering.

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