Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Commenting and commentaries

"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." - Charles H. Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries

In the context of making this statement, Spurgeon was speaking of commentaries. He said that it was "the fashion of late years to speak against the use of commentaries." He further agreed, "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..."

Long ago, I heard that someone had said, "Commentaries are like sheep. They follow one another and they all go astray." I think there is truth in that statement. Many commentaries are merely rehashes of what someone else has already said (and said better). And often the very verses on which we need help are the very ones on which they failed to comment!

I fear the unteachable spirit of which Spurgeon speaks is a much worse blight on the churches than all the bad commentaries that have ever been written. If we truly believe that the apostles committed to faithful men all things whatsoever Christ taught them, who in turn taught those things to others who were able to teach others also, and so forth, then it behooves us to humbly sit at the feet of commentators, past and present -- whether that commentary is from behind the pulpit or on the printed page. Yea, and then search the scriptures daily, whether those things are so.

"What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?" - I Corinthians 14:36


Anonymous said...

I treat my commentaries and books as my friends with whom I enjoy conversations. We don't always agree, but that is no reason to disrupt our friendship.



R. L. Vaughn said...

Yes, Jim, I agree. And I suppose that, like friends, we should be careful how we choose them.

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Stan NJ said...

Nehemiah 8 has a great passage about the ministry of commentary, i.e., explaining the Bible. Needed, especially as Peter said of Paul's writings that they could be difficult to understand.

7. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. 8 So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. (NKJV)