September 22, 2011
Gimme an R! Gimme a C! Gimme an S! What's It All About?
I have before me the handsome first volume of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, brought to us under the general editorship of Timothy George. This volume is on Galatians and Ephesians and is edited by Gerald Bray. It is numbered 10 in the New Testament series. All told, with the thirteen volumes on the Old Testament and fifteen on the New Testament, there will be twenty-eight volumes. Galatians and Ephesians is a great pair of books to start off this series!
When we first proposed this series as a worthy successor to the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, some met the idea with understandable caution: “Don’t we have Calvin’s and Luther’s commentaries?”
And that was all the opening we needed to respond, “Oh, there were many more commentators in that era, and a good deal of their material does not appear in English or is difficult for the average person to access!” But of course, we needed to make that case. And there were many Reformation scholars who were willing to come to our assistance in making it.
And we can now make the point by turning to the commentary on the phrase from Ephesians 1:5, “He predestined us for adoption.” Here we find excerpts from the following: Johannes Bugenhagen, Erasmus Sarcerius, John Calvin, Martin Bucer, Georg Maior, Robert Rollock, David Dickson. Except for Calvin and Bucer, many readers will never have heard of these commentators. But we can look them up in the “Biographical Sketches of Reformation-Era Figures.” And by the way, that is preceded by a helpful “Timeline of the Reformation,” which extends from 1337 to 1688 and includes events and figures located geographically. Throughout the commentary we have representatives of a variety of streams of the Protestant Reformation, including Arminius.
There is great value in the RCS—for exegetes, theologians and historians, for preachers, teachers, and anyone who wishes to study Scripture in the company of these doctors of the church as they converse over the text. Currently there is renewed interest in the history of biblical interpretation and the reception history of the Bible. And along side this is the growing circle of those focusing on the theological interpretation of Scripture. Like the ACCS before it, the RCS plants itself squarely in this arena of study, debate and practice.
Also just released is Timothy George’s companion book, Reading Scripture with the Reformers. I look forward to reading it.
I must add that the cover art, which appears on both George’s book and the RCS volumes, is a fascinating painting of the Protestant church in Lyon called “The Paradise.” The church was only in use from 1564 to 1567, when it was destroyed by fire. The detail in this painting, which shows a congregation listening to a preacher, is fascinating. The children look like miniature adults. And the congregation is a mixed lot—some in colorful clothes and others in black. Some are listening closely while others are walking about or conversing. But I particularly like the fact that a big white dog, sitting facing the pulpit, appears to be the most attentive of all! Creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. And, I’m sure (with a wag of the tail), for the RCS to be completed!
Look for the volume on Ezekiel and Daniel next spring.