Turretin, Institutes (vol 2)

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Puritanboard Clerk
Hard to know where to start. Turretin is simply majestic. He was the greatest Reformed theologian of all time. Ideally, this review would give an indepth analysis of all of Turretin's key points. Sadly, such a review would span many pages. Instead, I'll give a brief outline of the loci and focus on his high points.

Turretin on prophecy:

While Turretin’s argument that Jesus is the Messiah may not convince many Jews, he does have an interesting discussion of prophetic day = year theory. As such, he is within the Reformed spectrum and ably presents the foundations for a Reformed eschatology (279ff). The background is Daniel 9.

Ezekiel 4:6 ( I have appointed thee a day for a year, even a day for a year.) notes the conecction between day and year. Some could object that this is pertinent only to Ezekiel’s prophecy, but a better case can be made that this is prophetic calculation (otherwise, the statement is manifestly false, which is impossible). It cannot read literally, since seventy weeks do not quite make a year and a half, and as Turretin notes, it “little suits so illustrious a prophecy.” (see also Rev. 12:6’ 13:5)

He begins with an exposition of the Ten Commandments. Of particular importance are his takes on the 2nd and 7th Commandments. He then moves into the Covenant of Grace. I thought this section could have been fleshed out more. Perhaps that is where Witsius comes in. He then moves to the Person of Christ and this is where he shines. He mightily vindicates the Reformed Christology, presupposing the "finiti non capax infinitum." From here he moves to the Offices of Christ. THis is in particular contrast to the Socinians. There is a very strong section on the Priestly office of Christ.

Excursus on Christology

The effects of the hypostatical union are twofold: some to the human nature and some to the person. To the former are ascribed the grace of eminence and habitual graces (graces that are still human qualities but magnified).

What is communicated? The communication of attributes is an effect of the union whereby the properties of both natures are predicated of the person. It is a real communication with respect properly to the person.

When Turretin speaks of abstract and concrete communications, the terms are to be understood this way: we are not asking whether there is a communication of a concrete human nature to the person of Christ. All sides acknowledge this. The question is whether there is an abstract communication of nature to nature.

If the divine essence is communicated to the human nature, then the following must hold:

  1. A created thing becomes an uncreated thing.

  2. The human nature is thus immense and finite.
Further, what is proper to one cannot be communicated to another; otherwise it would cease to be proper and become common to that which is communicated (324).

Either all of the properties of the divine nature were communicated or none were, since the divine essence is simple. All of the properties of the Logos must be communicated or none are, since the Logos cannot be divided.

Further, if on account of the union the divine properties are communicated to the flesh, then the properties of the flesh ought in turn to be communicated to the Logos (325). The union is reciprocal. However, they are unwilling to admit this.

Further, if the union was made (the natures themselves and their properties remaining unconfounded and entire and distinct, as the Lutherans acknowledge) a communication of properties could not have been made in it. For what is communicated does not remain proper.

From there he moves to Calling and Faith. He gives a rather thorough, if somewhat laborious, justification of effectual calling. I think his later disciple Charles Hodge did a better job of summarizing this. The section on justification was particularly good.

The book is not perfect, but it comes very close. There are about 7 to 10 areas with which I disagree with Turretin, but that's only natural.


Puritan Board Senior
About 1980 I acquired a copy of a portion of Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology translated into English. It was a poor copy, spiral bound, published by the Theological School of the Protestant Reformed Churches.

Professor Herman Hanko told me that prior to his retirement from Princeton Seminary, Professor Charles Hodge had used Turretin in the Latin as the standard text for his Systematics classes. If I remember correctly, Professor Hanko told me that Professor John H. Gerstner had acquired copies of some partial translations of Turretin into English that circulated among the Princeton Seminary students. Dr. Gerstner proof read, collated, and corrected the translation, and typed these up. Some how they made their way to the Protestant Reformed Theological School which printed a limited number of copies in house.
I read this very abbreviated portion of Turretin's work and was intrigued by the clarity of his argumentation.

This translation of Turretin is excellent. As Jacob says Turretin is simply majestic.


Puritanboard Clerk
Legend has it that abridged translations were floating around Princeton by seminarians in Hodge's class because they didn't want to read the Latin.


Puritan Board Junior
During the last few months I have reduced my books, but kept the cream! But Turretin still takes pride of place in the bookcases. He is masterly, and I wish I had him when I was younger.
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