Quote of the Day: Ajith Fernando

I am reading an electronic copy of Ajith Fernando’s recently published preaching commentary on the book of Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy: Loving Obedience to a Loving God (Crossway, 2012) (review forth coming).  In the preface he writes something I have never seen before in a commentary and I just loved it and now expect this work to be GOOD!  He writes:

My basic approach to the passages was to first do an inductive study of them using only the Biblical text with a very wide margin and my lead pencil and color pencils. Only after this did I check the commentaries for clarification, correction, and enrichment. I am so grateful to Drs. Robert Traina and Daniel Fuller who introduced me to the thrill of discovering riches from the Word through inductive study.

Awesome!  I know some people who read this may be thinking, “man what is with Brian and his pushing inductive study all the time?  didn’t he already go to seminary?!”   Well, they don’t teach inductive Bible study at seminary, well, not most.  You may learn it at Asbury where the Late Robert Traina was professor, but I haven’t heard of it being explicitly taught anywhere else, and I think it is a shame.

But anyways, I thought it was pretty cool to see Fernando talk about how he approached each passage in Deuteronomy over the 8 years it took him to write the commentary!

For those interested he also noted Christopher Wright’s Deuteronomy (Hendrickson, 1996) as the most helpful for preaching.

I wonder, have you heard much preaching out of the book of Deuteronomy besides the famous Shema passage?

Also, just to be clear, this is not an academic commentary, but rather really, a series of “expository sermons” on all the passages of the book, in this case, Deuteronomy.


on commentary writing

Stanley Porter has written a scathing post on the quality of commentaries written on the book of Romans in the last 30+ years.  It not a pretty picture.

Here it is in part:

I recently reviewed about fifty commentaries on the book of Romans as part of a major writing project. I included commentaries from John Bengel’s of 1742 to the latest that I could get my hands on. I wanted to examine the state of play in commentary writing on Romans over most of the modern period. I eliminated the popular and “application-oriented” commentaries, and concentrated on those that present themselves as treatments of the text of Romans. If any book of the New Testament should bring out the best in commentary writing, Romans should be the one—and was I sadly disappointed.

No, I did not read through every commentary, but I concentrated on their introductions and especially Romans 5:1-11, a passage that I have written on many times and hence know something about. I wanted to see how up-to-date each commentary was for the time in which it was written (note this!), in the following areas: Greek language and linguistics, textual criticism, theology, literary and epistolary and rhetorical issues, audience concerns, and history of interpretation.

whew!!  Read more here.   Dave Black has a few words himself where he states:

7:16 AMGood for Stan Porter. He’s had the courage to say a few things about modern commentaries that others would never dare to mention. It’s time we stopped making excuses for repetition and mediocrity. If you’re going to say something, say something new and important. People don’t read commentaries critically nowadays it seems. No matter how shallow or mundane, we extol every new commentary that comes off the press. After all, how dare we criticize Dr. So-and-So’s latest work? We almost worship commentators, like we do war heroes. Just try criticizing U. S. Grant for messing up his early assignment in the Western Theater. Someone is likely to fire back, “How can you blame him? He was drunk at the time.” Porter is right. America has produced few really great commentaries in the past three decades. It’s a little presumptuous of publishers to fawn all over their latest works. Most of us who have reached middle age have discovered that there’s not much new under the sun. Today’s sensational new commentary is very much like the sensation of 30 years ago.

Like many I too must feel ashamed for my addiction to commentaries, or kool-aid or whatever.   I took years of biblical language studies in seminary, I should know better!  🙂  I mean, if you know how to study the Bible and can access the Greek and or the Hebrew, you could, in a sense, write your own commentary!   The problem is we are too busy to do all that ourselves and think we must have nothing less than an earned PhD in order to engage the Bible ourselves.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Okay, so I might not put out as smart a commentary on Romans as say, Dogulas Moo did, but hey, I bet with some careful reading of the text and honest exegsis, with some background reading and thinking, you could do a half decent job yourself.

There is one key book many should consider though, if you feel too dependent on commentaries and that is one put out by none other than the late great Fredrick W. Danker known as Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2003). This book is simply a must have!


3 part interview with J. Ramsey Michaels on John

Matthew Montonini who blogs at New Testament Perspectives did a three part interview with J. Ramsey Michaels on his new NICNT commentary on John.  Here is Part I. Part II. Part III.  There is lots of good stuff.

Here is one part that stood out to me in part one:

3) You have written commentaries on 1 Peter, Revelation, Hebrews, and a more popular level commentary on John’s Gospel. Could you give a glimpse on your process in writing a commentary, particularly with regards to your latest?

I work with the text and only the text at first, trying to discern the narrative flow, and forming my own impressions of what is going on. Only when I have formed these impressions and spotted the areas in which I still have significant questions do I turn to the commentaries and secondary literature to see to what extent these authors have the same impressions I do. Sometimes one or more of them changes my mind, sometimes not. As I go along, I notice if something I discover compels me to modify what I said earlier. Early on, I develop some sense of how long this thing is supposed to be, and try to tailor my comments accordingly. I have been pleasantly surprised that they usually come out to about the right length or detail – even though I confess, this one is a tad long.

Well, yeah, you could say that!  lol!  I think the good professor provides a good example of how we as pastors and or students of the Bible should be working with the text – work the text first on your own so far as you can, then consult other works.