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Recently I was asked to preach at a pastor's conference, which also meant that I had to attend. When asked what my text would be, I said Isaiah 35. I was then told that it was common practice to preach from the gospel lesson-some dreary passage in Luke. I replied that I was indeed preaching from the gospel...according to Isaiah. They balked; I said find someone else; they relented. As to this work, (1) anything with RL Wilken's name associated with it is bound to be excellent (read "In Dominico Eloquio" for example, essays in honor of Wilken); (2) anything patristic also has to be good, despite the "pre-critical" name it is often given by "higher" critics. I use this work in preparation for sermon writing and bible study and I am forever amazed at what the Church Fathers saw in the text. This is not the first work to explore patristic ideas in the Isaiah, Johanna Manley's work "Isaiah Through The Ages" tries to do the same thing, but from a decidedly Eastern point of view. Her work is also valuable-there's a great deal Lutheranism can learn from the East-but it doesn't have the variety that Wilken's work has. Wilken's work is also better organized, and I think, easier to read. I believe it is also less expensive. If you're a student of scripture, or a pastor, I urge and implore you to read the Church Fathers on scripture and this work is a great place to start. You might also consider the four volume set "The Sunday Sermons of the Great Church Fathers." I really do think that if you begin with the text, then head to the Church Fathers, you'll get a great deal more than you will from going immediately to a contemporary commentary. Not that contemporary commentaries are bad, but they are often written by academics who don't live and work in the atmosphere of the church; as opposed to the Fathers, for whom scripture was a matter of life and death.
This excellent volume on Isaiah in the "Church's Bible" series provides selections--on specific passages, going through Isaiah from the first chapter to the last--from eminent Christian commentators, including such figures as Saints Augustine, John Chrysostom, and Ambrose on these passages. It also provides selections on figures such as Eusebius and others, going as late as St. Bede. This volume can be compared to the 2 volume set on the book of Isaiah in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series. The disadvantage of this volume on Isaiah in the Church's Bible volume is that covers only some passages in Isaiah, though it is true that passages covered are more imporatant ones. The 2 volume set in the "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture" aims at covering every line in Isaiah--for that reason, if you had to pick one or the other publication, I would purchase the 2 volume set in the "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture" series rather than this volume. However, there isn't much overlap between the volumes on Isaiah in the two series. This volume, in the Church's Bible series, has some important things to say in its own favor though. I can find the commentary selections quite helpful in understanding the particular passage covered. And since this volume doesn't aim at covering evey line in Isaiah, the selections can be longer, and the length of these passage is justified when it comes to understanding the passage discussed. This volume is sometimes more valuable than commentaries written by modern writers on Isaiah when it comes to understanding passages in Isaiah. Personally, I particularly appreciate the way that these ancient commentators explain how some passages in Isaiah look forward to Christ.
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