In a previous post I mentioned that I am reading through John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on the New Testament. Today, in re-reading Richard Heitzenrater’s Wesley and the People Called Methodists, I came across this passage:
The notes were largely a collation of material from John Heylyn’s Theological Lectures, John Guyse’s Practical Expositor, Philip Doddridge’s Family Expositor, and Johannes Bengel’s Gnomen Novi Testamenti. The latter was one of the first works of modern critical biblical scholarship, and Wesley adopted many of Bengel’s principles of textual criticism. Although the predominance of the material in the notes comes from these sources, Wesley wove them together in such an editorial way that he could own the combined whole. Having acknowledged his debt to these authors in the preface, Wesley chose not to document particular borrowings, as as not to ‘divert the mind of the reader from keeping close to the point in view’ (JWW, 14:235-39). (Heiztenrater, 188)
In a sense then, it would seem that one could argue that our doctrinal understanding of the New Testament comes from John Heylyn, John Guyse, Philip Doddridge, and Johannes Bengel as filtered and collated by Wesley. It is likely that I will not have time in the near future to learn more about these four men, but I would be very interested to explore this further at another time, as I do not know much about any of them, and only recognize Doddridge’s name.
The more I think about the Explanatory Notes and read them, the more surprised I am that they carry the weight of Doctrine for United Methodists. One could ask whether it is necessary to have a Doctrine for the interpretation of the New Testament, but perhaps more to the point, one could ask whether the Explanatory Notes continue to make a relevant contribution to the life of the United Methodist Church.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this.