If you’ve ever thought that you just can’t get a fair shake from reviewers, perhaps it’s time to take matters into your own hands and just review your own book.
That’s certainly not what Geerhardus Vos’s motivation was when he reviewed his own book, but it was pretty amusing when I learned from Danny Olinger that Vos did so.
Vos wrote his The Teaching of Jesus concerning the Kingdom of God in 1903 and it does not seem to have made a huge impact. The book was published in a more popular series, rather than an academic monograph, and it reads as a more popular work. The ideas, however, are so useful even today that I was surprised when I read it that I had never seen it cited anywhere.
I suppose if your book doesn’t make a huge splash (and you know it won’t), you might just review your own book. And that’s what Vos did. As Olinger writes in his introduction to the Fontes edition of Vos’s Kingdom of God (p. xviii),
In a turn that had to be amusing to some, and perhaps an indication of Vos’s quiet service at Princeton, Vos himself reviewed The Kingdom of God and the Church in the Presbyterian and Reformed Review. Vos-the-reviewer explained that the aim of Vos-the-author was to produce a popular and yet not too elementary discussion from the biblico-theological point of view on Jesus’s doctrine of the kingdom. Vos proceeded to summarize the headings of the chapters without adding any insights other than the topics covered. He ended the review by stating that the book had an index and large type.
I suppose if you’re going to review your own work, always end it by commenting on the typesetting and indices! It doesn’t get more factual than that.
Thankfully, Vos’s work received some more attention later in the ’50’s when it was reprinted. John Murray reviewed it in a 1951 edition of the Westminster Journal of Theology. He wrote,
It is one of those books which have permanent value, for it is a masterful presentation of the teaching of Jesus as presented in the four Gospels. It exhibits the profound and accurate scholarship which was characteristic of all Dr. Vos’s work and it is also written in a style which is not as heavy as that of some of the other volumes of Dr. Vos’s pen. It is splendid to have this new edition of so notable a work. (WTJ 14:230–31)
In the same edition of WTJ, Ned Stonehouse reviewed Ridderbos’s seminal The Coming of the Kingdom. He noted that Ridderbos and Vos had come to a very similar conception of the kingdom independently of one another, although both of them being within the Reformed tradition. Vos, of course, preceded Ridderbos by quite a bit, and so it is impressive how ahead of his time Vos was on expounding an inaugurated kingdom that was distinct from the classical liberal conception.
In his Christian Theistic Ethics, Reformed icon Cornelius Van Til also relied on Vos’s conception of the kingdom as being “a gift of free grace to man and that therefore the summum bonum is a free gift to man” (p. 78). Vos had rightly understood the essence of the kingdom. Charles Dennison wrote approvingly in an unpublished manuscript that for Vos, “The essence of the kingdom is understood in terms of salvation for another world, righteousness for that world, and blessedness intimately, in it” (cited by Olinger in his introduction to the Fontes edition).
So while Vos may have not received much attention at the publication of his book–except from himself–his book certainly made a slow but steady inroad to scholarship on the kingdom, at least in the Reformed tradition. Hopefully even today his ideas can be recognized more widely.
If you do decide to review your own book, just be sure to write a neutral summary and end with a completely bland and factual comment on the typesetting. Maybe even point out a typo or two, just for fun.