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Discussion in 'NT Epistles' started by Timotheos, Dec 19, 2018.
In a word, yep.
I also have at times tried to wade through an impressive amount of study material that was placed in a very good commentary, and yet the end result to me was getting bogged down into more of the various discussions on why such and such did not did not actually author this Book, the historical context of the times, the various views that have been held over the years, current controversy about the subject matter of the Book. Yet, not really that much of what was the intended meaning of the Book, and how to understand and then apply it.
When do you consult a commentary, in the beginning stages, or after have done own work up on the book and its doctrines yourself? or just for trouble passages in particular?
This would be a good topic for a stand alone thread.
Answering the question for myself I'd have to say it varies. More or less all of the above for one book of the Bible at one time or another.
The school that trained me in in how to read and understand and apply the doctrines of the bible was really big on us going through the Book ourselves first, and then use the Commentary as a consulting work in order to help clarify disputed or not well understand scriptures.
I was taught, as a general rule, to avoid consulting commentaries until you yourself have done your own textual/lexical/grammatical, contextual, historical, and theological analysis of the passage. There are several reasons for this:
1) Consulting commentaries before doing your own exegetical work can foster laziness—not necessarily so, but if it becomes a practice.
2) Similarly, when the preacher/teacher digs deep into the text for himself before all else, there is a much better chance it will be "in his bones," which makes the preaching/teaching occasion much more authentic, which makes it only more powerful for the listeners.
3) Consulting commentaries is much more fruitful when you have done your homework first. Consulting a commentary without doing your own exegetical work first would be similar to attending a doctoral seminar without having done the reading first. You would be unable to engage in discussion or debate, or to contribute to the thought in any way, and thus learn much less in much more time.
Do you find that under your point 2, that when the Holy Spirit makes the passage make sense to you in the sense that you now really understand and start to apply it, is something that the Commentary cannot do, as that would be someone else understanding of that passage?
As it turns out, I listened to Fred's sermon on Romans 7:13-25 a bit earlier today, which was very good.
I appreciate the encouragement. That is a very difficult passage and much controverted.
Have you had a chance to review Thielman's new one?
Timotheos, I have it, and I have looked very briefly at it. I am not super impressed. Not much discussion of imputation. He does seem to reject the NPP, but not as strongly as I would like.
I have heard that as well, but I don't agree. That would be like telling a conductor to refrain from listening to Solti/Vienna perform Wagner before conducting it himself.
For me it would depend on the nature of the commentary and where I am in my studies. A good exegetical commentary is worth ten devotional ones in terms of what the text actually says.
Ideally, a good monograph or journal is even better but those are hard to come buy.
I didn’t mean to write what I wrote as a strict rule, of course. I think we were taught that particular way simply to encourage us to not be lazy regarding our own study by merely copying what others have said without engaging in our own critical thought. It obviously wouldn’t be a sin to read a commentary before doing one’s own exegetical work. Besides, in my opinion, everyone has their own method of exegesis. As long as it leads them to a faithful understanding and exposition of Scripture, then that’s the point. If their method or process looks totally different than mine or anyone else’s, that’s fine!
(Solti is fantastic with Wagner, by the way. You’ve given me the itch to go listen again. Haha.)
The main concern would be that a Pastor or teacher would be totally relying upon what others see the passage as stating, and not discerning that first for themselves.
My Senior pastor has 2 earned PhD's in the scriptures, and that is the way that he was taught to approach the learning of the scriptures themselves for teaching and preaching purposes.
Thinking about the question of text before commentaries, in preparing sermons, it occurred to me that in his sermons my pastor will sometimes mention how one or another commentator interprets a passage of Scripture. He has been pastor at our OPC congregation for 18 years. He graduated from WTS more than 20 years ago.
Say that to say, he has undoubtedly been through the text, the commentaries, many, many times. With years of experience would it make a great deal of difference in sermon preparation for a pastor to reference various commentaries on particular passages first, or start at the text first? I'm thinking that with years of preaching under his belt, the average pastor must have a firm grasp, and is more or less refreshing his memory ?
I'm not saying that a pastor shouldn't continue to search the Scriptures, and the commentaries, in a continuing effort to better understand and exegete it. Just that it seems to me the veteran pastor would have a great deal of knowledge stored in the grey matter.
I can see where a 'new' pastor, without the years of preparing and preaching sermons, would possibly be better off going directly to the text first, but I'd bet those with years of experience don't need to use that approach.
I have been listening to John MacArthur recently, and he will be celebrating his 50th anniversary at his church as senior pastor this march, and remarkable to me how he still spends so much time in the scriptures, and states that he still finds something new and fresh every time to teach on and about.
He has written many books and commentaries over the years, but have been encouraged to see him sticking into the scriptures. themselves.
John MacArthur, in his 'How To Study The Bible', recommends always using the same copy of the Bible, whichever translation, so that you'll be able to memorize Scripture verses, and find them not by the chapter and verse number, but by the location, because you'll know your copy of your Bible like the palm of your hand. I read too many versions to take advantage of that advice, but this is how he says he does it. He also repeats all that in a radio series he did on studying the Bible.
He also would have each person really write into the margins whatever God is teaching you each time you open the Bible, as you develop over time your own commentary on the books of the Bible.
I think he got that idea from WA Criswell, who said you should write bibliographic notes in the margins, which you would then cross-reference to your personal library. You would then use that to prep for sermons.