The Importance of Commentaries

Posted: September 2, 2011 in bible, exegesis, quotes

…Scripture has been read, prayed over, wrestled with, talked about and taught for two millennia before any of us were born.  Those millennia have produced settled convictions about the Bible’s most significant teachings, as well as reliable practices of interpretation.  Our primary attitude towards these things ought humbly to be that of a learner, not a critic.

One small illustration of this point might help.  I have sometimes been encouraged by others, both as a preacher and as a Christian who reads Scripture for myself, only to turn to Bible commentaries as a very last resort, when, after much wrestling and searching for myself, I still could not make out the sense of a passage – or perhaps just to check that what I thought was its meaning was not entirely off-beam.  There is certainly merit in not simply turning to learned books to find ‘the answers’ as a lazy short-cut to avoid wrestling with Scripture for myself.  Yet increasingly, when reading Scripture, I find myself wanting to turn to a good Bible commentary sooner rather than later.  My reason is this: a good commentary will give me an insight into the consensus view on the meaning of each passage held by the generations of believers who have come before me.  Working within that framework seems to be a sensible, humble and faithful place to start.

– Timothy Ward, Words of Life: Scripture as the Living and Active Word of God (Downers Grove: IVP, 2009), p. 173



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