Thursday, December 06, 2007

A comment on commentaries

Of making many commentaries there is no end
Evangelical publishers seem to be falling over themselves to publish Bible commentaries these days. All kinds of works are available from the scholarly New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament (Eerdmans) to the mid-range Welwyn Commentaries (Evangelical Press). IVP has at least four series on the go, the Tyndale Old and New Testament Commentaries, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, the Pillar Commentary Series and The Bible Speaks Today. The Banner of Truth Trust has reprinted some classic older works under the imprint, The Geneva Series of Commentaries and also has a popular level Let's Study range. When I was a lad, almost the only commentaries readily available were liberal scholar William Barclay's Daily Study Bible. So, in many ways, it is good that we have a variety of evangelical commentaries on the market. Preachers are often spoilt for choice when it comes to buying two or three commentaries for a series of sermons. (Reading more than two or three for sermon prep just gets confusing, for me anyway). The "ordinary Christian" will find a plethora non-technical studies that will help them get to grips with Scripture. No doubt each commentary has something distinctive to contribute to our understanding of the Bible. But there does seem to be a fair bit of duplication going on. Do we really need so many of the things? On the other hand, a blogger complaining about too much stuff being published - pot...kettle...black?

10 comments:

michael jensen said...

Hey - you stealing my rant?!

Exiled Preacher said...

I couldn't hope to match your majestic rant! Mine is more of a moan. You were concerned with too many massive doorstop commentaries. My modest moan was prompted by having to review the little commentary on Jonah featured in the post below for a mag. There seem to be millions of popular commentaries out there. Why?

JD said...

In the silence of what Scripture does to our souls, men find it upon themselves to put to words that which is mostly devoid of utterance.

Unfortunately, some things are better left unsaid.

;)

Exiled Preacher said...

JD,

"Unfortunately, some things are better left unsaid".

Is that a reference to my post or was it directed at the surfeit of commentaries?

JD said...

My apologies. The advent of mass commentaries. Many commentaries are just carbon-copies.

The interest of publishers now are quantities, not quality.

Exiled Preacher said...

No worries, JD, I was just having a little joke. But I agree with your point.

JD said...

Speaking about commentaries, I once heard only in passing reference that there's a set out of collected Puritan writings made to be a commentary set, but I have not seen nor heard since what that may be.

Thoughts?

Exiled Preacher said...

The Puritan commentary set sounds intriguing. But we already have Henry and Poole and there are so many helpful new commentaries in the market. We should read the Puritans, but as a stimulus to fresh thinking rather than simply to regurgitate their views.

JD said...

What are your personal preferences for commentaries?

Exiled Preacher said...

Difficult question JD. A commentator should have something fresh to say about a book - so I like Don Carson on John, but he/she should also be aware of interpretive history like Philip Hughes on Hebrews. For sermon prep, I usually opt for one of the up-to-date scholarly commentaries, like NICOT or NICNT for exegetical insights and Bible Speaks Today for reflection on how the text might be applied. Most of the Tyndale commentaries are also very helpful and concise. Calvin is always worth consulting occasionally I might give Matthew Henry and Matthew Poole a glance too.

Currently I'm enjoying Gene Greene's The Letters to the Thessalonians, IVP/Apollos, 2002, John Stott (BST) and Leon Morris (Tyndale) on 1 Thess.