Tuesday, 5 August 2014


 John Trapp, (who has featured on these pages before) was an Anglican minister and faithful Bible commentator in England in the heady days of the 17th century. His commentary was a favourite of CH Spurgeon who gave him a whole paragraph of appreciation in his "Chat about commentaries" behind Calvin, Henry and Poole but ahead of John Gill. Spurgeon wrote: 

"Would it be possible to eulogise too much the incomparably sententious and suggestive folios of JOHN TRAPP? Since Mr. Dickinson has rendered them accessible, I trust most of you have bought them. Trapp will be most valuable to men of discernment, to thoughtful men, to men who only want a start in a line of thought, and are then able to run alone. Trapp excels in witty stories on the one hand, and learned allusions on the other. You will not thoroughly enjoy him unless you can turn to the original, and yet a mere dunce at classics will prize him. His writings remind me of himself: he was a pastor, hence his holy practical remarks; he was the head of a public school, and everywhere we see his profound scholarship; he was for some time amid the guns and drums of a parliamentary garrison, and he gossips and tells queer anecdotes like a man used to a soldier's life; yet withal, he comments as if he had been nothing else but a commentator all his days. Some of his remarks are far fetched, and like the far fetched rarities of Solomon's Tarshish, there is much gold and silver, but there are also apes and peacocks. His criticisms would some of them be the cause of amusement in these days of greater scholarship; but for all that, he who shall excel Trapp had need rise very early in the morning. Trapp is my especial companion and treasure; I can read him when I am too weary for anything else. Trapp is salt, pepper, mustard, vinegar, and all the other condiments. Put him on the table when you study, and when you have your dish ready, use him by way of spicing the whole thing. Yes, gentlemen, read Trapp certainly, and if you catch the infection of his consecrated humour, so much the better for your hearers."
I have only an odd second hand (h/b) volume (Comments on the New Testament) which I picked up a few years ago for £14 in John Gowan's bookshop. I saw a lovely and well presented and  brand new copy during the week new for £37 in Newcastle, so I paid a reasonable price for my second hand copy. 

Up to a few days ago, I had only dipped into Trapp. His pithy quotations are particularly good for introducing sermons. I used his comments recently when preaching on John 10:20-21 "These are not the words of one that hath a devil..." Speaking on the original allegation (v20) that led to this rebuttal, Trapp writes:

"It was a wonder if the heavens did not sweat, the earth melt, and hell gape in the hearing of these horrid blasphemies." 

In my latest sermon preparation (on Matthew 5:10-13) I used Trapp's lovely observation (again by way of introduction) drawn from vs 1-2

"As Moses went up into a mount to receive the law, so did Messias to expound it..."

 His plays on words are pretty neat, but not trite. You don't get the corny "He had no neo lean" type stuff here. This is solid stuff.

I have decided to (or at least try) read through the whole of Trapp in the New Testament in my  devotions. It will obviously take a while. Nearly 800 double spaced pages await my attention, but I do not follow an organised daily reading plan (e.g. McCheynes) and time is not of the essence. Thus far I am up to chapter 5 of Matthew, which runs to quite a number of verses (48) and no less than 43 pages. Thus far it hasn't crossed John Trapp's mind to be concise. His notes on the whole of Matthew's Gospel is 282 pages long, which is somewhere around 30% of the whole commentary! Obviously things get a bit briefer later on. 

Trapp (as Spurgeon noted) is the main supplier of interesting illustrations and histories to make the text live. These are drawn from the vast stores of ancient history and also from Foxes Book of Martyrs. IMO, too much so, because instead of contenting himself with maybe one or two illustrations, you sometimes get about half a dozen or more. Certainly, you will know your Protestant history, if the early chapters of Matthew are anything to go by. Take out the Latin quotations (some with and without the English translation) and pick out the best illustrations and you could have a feasible reprint that would be within the price range of more preachers.

I certainly wouldn't name Trapp as my first commentary, enjoyable though he is. He is not likely to sort out any problems like Matthew Poole or John Gill. Others excel more in that regard, but (for all that) Trapp is worth having. 

He is warmly Calvinistic in his interpretations. (I see I missed him months ago when reviewing the antiCalvinists library) - warm in the sense of strictly orthodox and warm in the sense of evangelistic and appealing to sinners. He doesn't water down Roman 9 as some of our weak stomached Arminian type friends tend to do. His comments on John 3:16 on the word world is that it is "the world, that is, all mankind." (I agree) 

Worth buying if you have the folding stuff to spare. 

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