New In Print: Robert Rollock On Ephesians

Robert Rollock (1555–99) was one of the most significant Reformed theologians in Scotland in the late sixteenth century. He was an important figure in the development of Reformed covenant theology. He received Calvin’s theology and was especially influenced by Caspar Olevianus (1536–87) and Zacharias Ursinus (1534–83). Where covenant theology was an important feature in Calvin’s work (more important than has sometimes been recognized), Rollock described all of Scripture as covenantal. “All of God’s Word pertains to some covenant,” he wrote. That covenant, he taught, has two aspects: the covenant of works before the fall and the covenant of grace after the fall. The condition of the covenant of works was obedience to God’s law and the condition of the covenant of grace is faith in Christ the Mediator, who obeyed the terms of the covenant of works for his elect. As for Olevianus and Ursinus, the covenant of works stands for the law principle (“do this and live”) and the covenant of grace is a gospel covenant: Christ has done for you. All that Christ has done is received by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide). He is most well known for his Treatise of Effectual Calling (1597) but he was also a Bible commentator and among his commentaries was his 1590 commentary on Ephesians.

Rollock was the first principal of the University of Edinburgh. He also served as moderator of the General Assembly in 1597. The next year he was called to the parish church of the Upper Tolbooth, Edinburgh, and thereafter to the Grey Friars (the Magdalen Church). He died in Edinburgh. His commentary was well received. Theodore Beza (1519–1605) was so impressed with Rollock’s commentary that Beza offered to publish any of his works in Geneva. He endorsed the commentary warmly and at length:

For why should I not esteem as a treasure, and that most precious, the Commentaries of my honourable brother, Maister Rollock, upon the Epistle to the Romans and Ephesians, both of them being of special note among the writings apostolical? for so I judge them.And, I pray you, taken it to be spoken without flattery or partiality, that I never read or met with any thing in this kind of interpretation more pithily, more elegantly, and judiciously written: so as I could not contain myself, but must needs give thanks, as I ought, unto God, for this so necessary and so profitable a work, and rejoice that both you and the whole Church enjoy so great a benefit; desiring the Lord to increase with new gifts, and preserve in safety, this excellent instrument, especially in these times, wherein, through the scarcity of skillful workmen, which labour in the Lord’s vineyard, and by the decease of those well exercised and experienced soldiers and worthy Christians, Satan and his companions begin again to triumph over the truth.

This is volume 5 in the Classic Reformed Theology series, which began in 2008. This is the first biblical commentary to appear in the series and is a worthy addition to the series, which features some significant works in the history of Reformed theology. In this volume, translated into English for the first time by Casey Carmichael, one is able to see not only how European and Reformed theology and piety were intertwined in the late sixteenth century but also how Reformed people, in the classical period of Reformed theology, were reading holy Scripture.  As Carmichael notes in his introduction, “[r]eaders of this translation will notice that Rollock sees biblical exegesis and dogmatic formulation as being tightly interwoven.” This is a exegetical commentary but it is also a biblical-theological commentary, a theological commentary, and a practical commentary. Rollock was a theologian but he was also a preacher.


Casey Carmichael is to be commended for his fine translation of Robert Rollock’s commentary on the Ephesians. The translation is clear and easy to read and will provide access to Rollock’s rich Trinitarian, Christological, and covenantal reflections for a new generation of readers. The companion translation of The Eternal Approval and Disapproval of the Divine Mind will further allow readers to engage with Rollock’s theology of predestination, a major theme of the Ephesians commentary, as they plumb with him the depths of human misery and heights of divine grace.

— Simon Burton, John Laing Senior Lecturer in Reformation History, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

Robert Rollock was known for his warm-hearted teaching and preaching in his day. It is cause for real gratitude to receive now Rollock’s comments on the warm-hearted book of Ephesians translated from his Latin into clear, modern English. This is not a long commentary, particularly by modern standards, but it is very solid and well worth consulting by anyone interested in the insights to be gleaned from our forefathers in the faith. It is the work, as noted, by a warm and passionate preacher and teacher, but also of one who makes clear and logical distinctions in his interpretive insights. Casey Carmichael, the translator, and the other folks responsible are to be sincerely commended for bringing Rollock’s Ephesians to us.

— S. M. Baugh, Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Westminster Seminary California

The translation is clear and easy to read and will provide access to Rollock’s rich, Trinitarian, and covenantal reflections for a new generation of readers.

—Simon Burton, John Laing Senior Lecturer in Reformation History, The University of Edinburgh

The volume is 280 pages and available from Reformation Heritage Books in hardcover or as an ebook for $30.00

Other Volumes In The Classic Reformed Theology Series


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