The Confession of Faith: A Critical Text and Introduction by John Bower
RHB.-2020. d.w. 440pp.
The Confession of Faith stands as one of the three major doctrinal standards produced by the Westminster Assembly. It has become one of the most recognizable and influential confessions of the Reformed tradition. In his historical introduction, John Bower provides an extensive survey of the Confession’s creation, a formative process spanning the Assembly’s most active years of 1643–1648. The heart of the volume is Bower’s critical text of the Confession.
Painstakingly restored, the critical text is supported by a parallel comparison of the document’s four authoritative sources and a detailed list of textual emendations. Moreover, the book’s historical and textual sections are accompanied by a glossary, bibliography, catalog of proof texts, and a critical edition of the Assembly’s often overlooked revision of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Bower’s text is sure to be the benchmark for future study, modern editions, and foreign translations for years to come.
Table of Contents:
Introduction: The Making of the Confession of Faith
- Revising the Articles
- Hastening the Confession
- The Plan of Redemption
- The Application of Redemption
- Parameters of Service
- Serving the Church
- From Manuscript to Press
- Bibliographical Details
- Methods and Conventions
A Critical Edition of the Confession of Faith
Comparison of the Four Authoritative Texts
The Order of the Confession of Faith Compared with That of the Irish Articles
The Revised Thirty-Nine Articles: A Critical Text
Principal Documents of the Westminster Assembly. This series presents the six chief works authored by the Westminster Assembly for establishing covenanted uniformity of religion in England: the Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism, the Shorter Catechism, the Directory for Public Worship, the Directory for Church Government, and the Psalter. Each volume will contain a historical introduction, the critical text, and parallel columns comparing original manuscripts and authoritative editions.
John R. Bower, M.D., Th.M., is adjunct professor of church history at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh and associate professor of pediatrics and microbiology/immunology/biochemistry at Northeast Ohio Medical College. His special interest is the history and bibliography of the Westminster Assembly and its members. Dr. Bower is coeditor of the Westminster Assembly Project’s series of Assembly-related works and documents.
“John Bower is known for his careful analysis of texts, as his previous book on the Westminster Larger Catechism has shown. Now he has done it again. By surveying the history of the making of the Confession of Faith at Westminster and carefully comparing previous confessions and earlier versions of the Westminster document with its final text, Bower has provided us with insightful understandings of the challenges involved in doctrinal formulation as well as provided us with a reliable text of the Confession. For those interested in the history of Puritan theology, this is a reading you won’t regret!” — Heber Campos Jr., Andrew Jumper Graduate Center, São Paulo, Brazil
“John Bower’s most recent contribution to the Principal Documents of the Westminster Assembly series is a work of exceptional historical and theological scholarship. Not only does it provide a critical text of the Westminster Confession of Faith but it also offers a learned introduction to the sources, processes, and deliberations that led to the Confession’s publication. Students of early modern theology are in Bower’s debt, as are those who continue to receive and confess the Westminster Confession of Faith as a faithful summary of Christian teaching.” — Scott R. Swain, James Woodrow Hassell Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando
“In telling the story of the birth of the Westminster Confession of Faith, this work advances with care, precision, and not a little academic detective work. The presentation of the ‘scholarly historical text’ allows modern readers to engage in a fresh way with one of the great symbols of the Reformed catholic church—a great ‘guiding banner of religious uniformity.’ The account of the development of the original text demonstrates the theological, historical, and pastoral context of every chapter, modeling for the church in all subsequent ages the importance of the confessional identity of the people of God. This scholarship will be of great value to the church of Jesus Christ.” — Michael McClenahan, professor of systematic theology, Union Theological College, Belfast, Northern Ireland