Tag Archive for 'Commentaries'

Dead Men’s Brains

In order to be able to expound the Scriptures, and as an aid to your pulpit studies, you will need to be familiar with the commentators: a glorious army, let me tell you, whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit. Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have laboured before you in the field of exposition. If you are of that opinion, pray remain so, for you are not worth the trouble of conversion, and like a little coterie who think with you, would resent the attempt as an insult to your infallibility.

–Charles Spurgeon

Many feel that it’s ‘just the Holy Spirit and me’. Spurgeon would obviously disagree.

That’s just a quote from the document I mention below. What I really want to say is that, along with many of you, the main reason I keep using e-Sword Bible software even though I have the much more robust Bibleworks (v.8 reviewed here), is because of the commentaries freely available and easy to use within the program. There are Calvin, Henry, Clark, and Gill among others available.

Why use old commentaries?

  1. Free
  2. As part of a program like e-Sword, it’s easy to look up what many different commentators say, linked to each verse or section
  3. If you can’t afford commentaries, or at least not as many as you’d like, these gifted men along with a couple of study Bibles can go a long way
  4. As Charles Spurgeon says, “The temptations of our times lie rather in empty pretensions to novelty of sentiment, than in a slavish following of accepted guides. A respectable acquaintance with the opinions of the giants of the past, might have saved many an erratic thinker from wild interpretations and outrageous inferences.”

I found this nice document called Commenting and Commentaries by Spurgeon. He writes short biographies on many of the commentators that you can find available for e-Sword (some of which are found outside the e-Sword site–like Calvin–but they are legal). He then writes about how to use study aides, especially commentaries. I would think that budding preachers and all Bible studiers would benefit.

By the way, the subject line of this post was found in the document by Spurgeon.

Spurgeon Portriat

Finished Three Year Plan

I finally finished my three year plan. It took me 5 1/2 years. That’s because I took two years out to spend on the Old Testament, which was only going to be one year, but there was surgery in the middle and too many books to read.

This post sounds a little arrogant to me. If it does to you, I apologize. This is what God has been doing in me. I didn’t start this on my own initiative. I hope you can be thankful with me.

I’ve written about this before, but nobody would remember with all of the blogs out there, so I will again. If you get bored, please move on to the Three Year Plan below or to something more important. Don’t worry that I start with my testimony (the world’s shortest).

I became a Christian by reading the book of John. Over two weeks, the Holy Spirit came in and opened my eyes and I believed. (That was it–if you blinked, go back.) I was part of the Navigators on campus and got a great start with spiritual disciplines. I memorized Scripture like crazy and was absolutely “on fire”, whatever that means. Everything came, and still does come easy.

But I languished for quite a few years and did my “verse a day (devotional) to keep the devil away” or however that saying goes, along with praying, and reviewing memorized Scripture. I had spurts of book and more extensive Bible reading, was almost always part of a group study, cared very much about my relationship with God, but didn’t really get very far.

Group study with evangelicals sometimes has a lot of cliches and ‘teachings’ that may or may not be Biblical, of which I was as much a part of as any, which partly started to lead me to want to check these things out.

As I spent more time on the Internet, I decided I should be spending some of this time on Christian stuff. At the same time, my mental and physical health started going downhill very fast. I got interested in reading more. I read widely, partly because I didn’t know who to read. Contrary to what it looks like on this blog–because I became a Calvinist soon after I started it–I’m always writing about Calvinists. But beforehand, I read people like N.T. Wright, Philip Yancey, Watchman Nee, Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard (cuckoo), Catholic scholars (very good) and many others–mostly library books, and later on, commentaries by Pentecostals like Fee and Keener. I read a lot about the (real) historical Jesus, one of my favorite subjects, and the Gospels.

Now it was time to get serious. By now I desperately wanted and needed to get to know God better. I started a small book budget. As suffering increased and motivation for other things I usually enjoyed decreased, wanting to know God and live a godly life increased an amazing amount. I wish it didn’t work exactly this way, but God works through suffering.

The Three Year Plan

I decided I wanted to comb through the New Testament along with reading through a whole commentary for each book and see both what “teachings” are biblical and if there are any passages where I have gross, obvious misinterpretations. I also became like a Berean and looked up everything I heard and read about, outside of trusted people backing up what they teach. If people would just quote the Bible appropriately, there wouldn’t be so much of a problem, but nowadays most Christians are Biblically illiterate and don’t have the ability except for the cliches and sayings.

I read a book of the Bible, starting with Romans because I had spent so much time on the Gospels with library books, then the commentary, then the book of the Bible again. So I was getting each one three times, usually with the commentator’s unique translation. Then I would read a ‘regular’ book in-between on something basic like suffering, prayer, the cross, intro to Calvinism etc. I planned on this all taking about three years.

This may not be the best way to catechize myself, but it was more valuable than I thought it would be. When I started out, I was Arminian, although I didn’t know the term, and sometime soon after Romans I was Calvinist/Reformed already. I had never really looked into it or known what it was. Most of the people I was with are Arminian/Semi-Pelagian Evangelicals and that’s all I knew. When I first read about Reformed theology in Thomas Schreiner’s commentary on Romans, it was rather shocking. It didn’t seem fair or logical. My sense of logic and fairness isn’t God’s. But then over time I started seeing that extent of God’s sovereignty in all things all over Scripture, not just the usual proof texts. I then looked into Arminianism again just to make sure I got both sides basically correct and understand my Arminian friends better.

I found things like how the Philippians gave generously “out of their need” and how Paul praised them for that. God would then meet their needs (Phil. 4:19). But there is no command in the NT to “tithe” out of our poverty as some pastors would have us think.

One highlight was reading Keener’s explanation of Revelation 3:15-17 in The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation as was the whole commentary. It was perfect for me. Another highlight was Cole’s concise but detailed commentary on Mark, which is fitting for that Gospel.

Just about every commentary was a winner. The two that I can remember that I didn’t like were Longenecker’s commentary on Galatians, which was too technical and tedious for me, and Bock’s on Acts, which was like a commentary on commentaries, with so much quoting. I should have just read one of the ones he quoted a lot, like Bruce’s or even Witherington’s. The last one was the only one where I skimmed parts of it, mainly the narrative parts, where he pretty much narrated the narratives. Otherwise I very carefully read all of them, including the 800-900+ page ones like Matthew, Luke, Romans and both Corinthians. Obviously I was mainly reading, not really studying for the most part, but trying to get a good overview for later. I wish I would have taken more time to blog on a lot of it like I did earlier on, but that would have taken time away from reading. A Catch-22.

Now I will relax a little and read a bunch of ‘regular’ books. I also need to do what I probably should have done before reading the commentaries, which is reading very basic books like D.A. Carson’s The God Who Is There. I realize that I will forget most of what I read in the commentaries, and that’s not how they’re normally used, but I learned a lot in addition to worshiping as I read. Then later on this year or next year I have to read Calvin’s Institutes. Later on after that I want to study Colossians as thoroughly as I know how and have the energy for. If possible, I’d like to write a Bible study for it. I’m also thinking about another reading plan for the whole Bible. I started to make my own but it’s too hard for what I wanted to do.

I’m still plodding along with Greek too. I’m using the more inductive Dodson, which is great, after getting a good base with Black.

This post is too long already. Maybe someday I’ll list all of the commentaries or create an Amazon store (so I can get my Affiliate commission of course), but Goodreads basically shows them along with the OT commentaries. Thanks for reading. Thank God for what he does for us.

John 17:3
This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.

revelation-commentary

Free Commentaries Online

Michael W. Halcomb writes about how College Press has put their entire commentary series online.
Free Commentaries: 25,000+ Pages

Also see:
IVP New Testament Commentary Series Online

Quote of the Day: Biblical Analysis

When I read commentaries I often wonder if the commentator sometimes goes too far in analyzing what the Biblical author was saying and the form and structure they were supposedly using to say it.

I always keep in mind the idea below. It was nice to see it articulated in this way as I read it a few days ago. I like the part at the end about amazing its author.

There is a sense that any analysis of any book of the Bible is an imposition. The biblical writers did not use headings and sub-headings, let alone chapters and verses. They present their material with no modern aids. Presumably, however, they knew what they wanted to say, and, evidently, did not write in a totally random manner. By all means let us seek to illumine the main shape of their argument. but let us constantly beware of the danger of imposing on any book a rigid pattern that would amaze its author.

–Michael A. Eaton, Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes by Eaton

Book Aquisitions

I’m going through France’s commentary on Matthew. There is a very truncated introduction because the commentary is already 1200 pages long and he wrote a previous book called Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher which he expects you to read. So I checked out An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation by David A. deSilva from the library for the second or third time. Since I had book money I decided to finally just buy it. My little library is sorely lacking in reference materials. This came highly recommended by Mike Aubrey and others and since I was able to take a look at it I knew I would like it. It was “A 2005 Gold Medallion finalist!” One of the things I really like about it is it “integrate[s] instruction in exegetical and interpretive strategies with their customary considerations of authorship, dating, audience and message”. (added emphasis)

deSilva New Testament Introduction

Our group Bible study is going to be studying Ecclesiastes, which was my suggestion so I’m very glad about that. I already had Eaton’s Ecclesiastes and decided to spend another whole $6 and by Kidner’s (used) just to get another look. I may do a brief comparison at some point. I found that I like the NLT Study Bible’s treatment of Ecclesiastes better than the ESVSB mainly because the NLTSB is more thorough with more quantity of helpful information. I love Ecclesiastes and love it even more now.

I’ve been “learning” Greek using Croy’s beginning grammar book. I had been thinking it might be nice to get Black’s and/or Mounce’s just to get a well rounded treatment and possibly help me learn some things better by having them explained differently. I’m a NetGalley reviewer and requested Black’s Learn to Read New Testament Greek. After I requested it I saw that it’s only for teachers. But they sent it to me anyway. And not a galley but the book with the workbook! So I thought in order to do a good review of it, I might as well get Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar to do a good comparison of all three. In reading some of the Amazon reviews of the Mounce I see that it’s good for people who are self teaching. I did not know that as Johnny Carson would say. So I’m looking forward to all of this. I’ll say that the Black book is beautiful. You’ll see a review of that in the future.

Learn To Read New Testament Greek by Black

After Matthew I’ll be going through John with the help of Carson’s The Gospel According to John: An Introduction and Commentary (Pillar New Testament Commentary).

I think that brings my slowly growing library to well over a hunderd (sic) books. I bet you’re jealous. My library is smaller than yours and I’m content (Phil 4:11-13).

IVP New Testament Commentary Series Online

This is news to me:
High-quality, FREE commentaries at Word and Spirit

They’re basic, but might serve as a good resource when another commentary needs to be consulted.

Bible Commentaries

Some people say that the Bible is our owner’s manual. I think it’s much more than that and thinking of it in that way devalues what the Bible is. However I think of commentaries as owners’ manuals for the Bible. Not that they are a necessity. After all, many Christians in the past and in some cultures now don’t even have a Bible in written form. And the Holy Spirit teaches us as we read God’s Word.

But commentaries can give us insight that we normally wouldn’t find and informs us of ancillary information pertaining to history, culture, society, politics, literary style etc. which help us to better understand why something was written the way it was. They can also teach us how to read and interpret the Bible by following their model of using Scripture to interpret Scripture, looking at context etc.

Here is a two part blog post I came across that I want to pass along.

Using commentaries in Bible study
Tips on using commentaries to study the Bible

HT: Using Commentaries in Bible Study

There are a couple of past entries on this blog related to commentaries:
Spurgeon In Defense of Commentaries
Bible commentary reviews

Spurgeon In Defense of Commentaries

In order to be able to expound the Scriptures, and as an aid to your pulpit studies, you will need to be familiar with the commentators: a glorious army, let me tell you, whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit. Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have laboured before you in the field of exposition. If you are of that opinion, pray remain so, for you are not worth the trouble of conversion, and like a little coterie who think with you, would resent the attempt as an insult to your infallibility. It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others. My chat this afternoon is not for these great originals, but for you who are content to learn of holy men, taught of God, and mighty in the Scriptures. It has been the fashion of late years to speak against the use of commentaries. If there were any fear that the expositions of Matthew Henry, Gill, Scott, and others, would be exalted into Christian Targums, we would join the chorus of objectors, but the existence or approach of such a danger we do not suspect. The temptations of our times lie rather in empty pretensions to novelty of sentiment, than in a slavish following of accepted guides. A respectable acquaintance with the opinions of the giants of the past, might have saved many an erratic thinker from wild interpretations and outrageous inferences. Usually, we have found the despisers of commentaries to be men who have no sort of acquaintance with them; in their case, it is the opposite of familiarity which has bred contempt.

http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/c&cl1.htm

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