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I acquired a John Stott book entitled Understanding Christ (Zondervan, 1979) and it is out-of-print. This is the third Stott book I’ve read, and I’ve additionally utilized his commentary on Romans, several of his Bible Study Guides (for group or individual study) from IVP, and a book that features excerpts from Stott’s many works. I appreciate Stott, and glad he left so much writing behind.

I’ll offer a brief review of Understanding Christ. The subtitle of the book is: An Inquiry Into the Theology of Prepositions. Haha! Can you imagine a publisher today using that as a book subtitle? They’d no doubt refuse or strongly protest the author’s idea, and suggest something more appealing to the reader. This is not an academic book by the way. It is written for lay people and thoughtfully expounds upon the Scripture.

But the subtitle nails it. It is what the book is about! Through prepositions we can better understand Christ. “Prepositions are insignificant little words, but in the New Testament they are also signposts to profound theological truths….We are said to live our lives through Christ, on him, in him, under him, for him, with him, unto him, and like him. Our relationship to Christ is thus displayed as a multi-faceted diamond of great beauty.”  (pg 15) There are individual chapters on these prepositional phrases and our relationship with Christ. It was a worthwhile read.

But I’ll move on to an article I recently came across about Stott’s book Basic Christianity, originally published in 1958, and selling several million copies. It is definitely a Christian classic. Eerdmans offered a 50th anniversary edition, but felt the need to significantly update and modernize Stott’s writing.

Article here: Stott Bowdlerized by Barton Swaim.

Swaim offers multiple examples of the wording changes and revisions; some innocuous but many alter the original meaning in odd and unhelpful ways.

I agree with Swaims concerns and consternation. Why does a book from only 1958 need to be updated anyways? It is not as though it is from 1858 or 1758. And from what I’ve read of Stott, his thoughts are both timeless and understandable. I also lack sympathy, I suppose, since I’ve read books by the Puritan John Owen in his original wording from the 17th century.

And to go back to the start of this post, and my possession of an out-of-print book by Stott – Here is a potential benefit of owning old books. If they decide to bowdlerize it, at least you have the original in all its glory.

P.S. Did you have to google bowdlerize? I did, I admit. The history of the word is interesting too.