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Galatians, Ephesians (Reformation Commentary on Scripture: New Testament) Hardcover – October 9, 2011
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"Like the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, the Reformation Commentary on Scripture does a masterful job of offering excellent selections from well-known and not-so-well-known exegetes. The editor's introductory survey is, by itself, worth the price of the book. It is easy to forget that there were more hands, hearts and minds involved in the Reformation than Luther and Calvin. Furthermore, encounters even with these figures are often limited to familiar quotes on familiar topics. However, the Reformation Commentary helps us to recognize the breadth and depth of exegetical interests and skill that fueled and continue to fuel faithful meditation on God's Word. I heartily recommend this series as a tremendous resource not only for ministry but for personal edification." (Michael S. Horton, J. G. Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary, California)
"Why was this not done before? The publication of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture should be greeted with enthusiasm by every believing Christian--but especially by those who will preach and teach the Word of God. This commentary series brings the very best of the Reformation heritage to the task of exegesis and exposition, and each volume in this series represents a veritable feast that takes us back to the sixteenth century to enrich the preaching and teaching of God's Word in our own time." (R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
"The Reformers discerned rightly what the church desperately needed in the sixteenth century--the bold proclamation of the Word based on careful study of the sacred Scriptures. We need not only to hear that same call again for our own day, but also to learn from the Reformation how to do it. This commentary series is a godsend!" (Richard J. Mouw, president, Fuller Theological Seminary)
"Protestant reformers were fundamentally exegetes as much as theologians, yet (except for figures like Luther and Calvin) their commentaries and sermons have been neglected because these writings are not available in modern editions or languages. That makes this new series of Reformation Commentary on Scripture most welcome as a way to provide access to some of the wealth of biblical exposition of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The editors introduction explains the nature of the sources and the selection process; the intended audience of modern pastors and students of the Bible has led to a focus on theological and practical comments. Although it will be of use to students of the Reformation, this series is far from being an esoteric study of largely forgotten voices; this collection of reforming comments, comprehending every verse and provided with topical headings, will serve contemporary pastors and preachers very well." (Elsie Anne McKee, Archibald Alexander Professor of Reformation Studies and the History of Worship, Princeton Theological Seminary)
"Discerning the true significance of movements in theology requires acquaintance with their biblical exegesis. This is supremely so with the Reformation, which was essentially a biblical revival. The Reformation Commentary on Scripture will fill a yawning gap, just as the Ancient Christian Commentary did before it, and the first volume gets the series off to a fine start, whetting the appetite for more. Most heartily do I welcome and commend this long overdue project." (J. I. Packer, Board of Governors Professor of Theology, Regent College)
"The format of this volume makes it eminently usable either for extended reading or for single reference for devotional or scholarly purpose." (James L. Boyce, Lutheran Quarterly, Volume XXVII (2013))
"The Reformation Commentary on Scripture is a major publishing event--for those with historical interest in the founding convictions of Protestantism, but even more for those who care about understanding the Bible. As with IVP Academic's earlier Ancient Christian Commentary, this effort brings flesh and blood to 'the communion of saints' by letting believers of our day look over the shoulders of giants from the past. By connecting the past with the present, and by doing so with the Bible at the center, the editors of this series perform a great service for the church. The series deserves the widest possible support." (Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame)
"I strongly endorse the Reformation Commentary on Scripture. Introducing how the Bible was interpreted during the age of the Reformation, these volumes will not only renew contemporary preaching but they will also help us understand more fully how reading and meditating on Scripture can, in fact, change our lives!" (Lois Malcolm, associate professor of systematic theology, Luther Seminary)
"The Reformation Commentary on Scripture series promises to be an 'open sesame' to the biblical exegesis, exposition and application of the Bible that was the hallmark of the Reformation. While comparisons can be odious, the difference between Reformation commentary and exposition and much that both preceded and followed it is laid bare in these pages: whereas others write about the Bible from the outside, Reformation exposition carries with it the atmosphere of men who spoke and wrote from inside the Bible, experiencing the power of biblical teaching even as they expounded it. . . . This grand project sets before scholars, pastors, teachers, students and growing Christians an experience that can only be likened to stumbling into a group Bible study only to discover that your fellow participants include some of the most significant Christians of the Reformation and post-Reformation (for that matter, of any) era. Here the Word of God is explained in a variety of accents: German, Swiss, French, Dutch, English, Scottish and more. Each one vibrates with a thrilling sense of the living nature of God's Word and its power to transform individuals, churches and even whole communities. Here is a series to anticipate, enjoy and treasure." (Sinclair Ferguson, senior minister, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina)
"Today more than ever, the Christian past is the church's future. InterVarsity Press has already brought the voice of the ancients to our ears. Now, in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, we hear a timely word from the first Protestants as well." (Bryan Litfin, Associate Professor of Theology, Moody Bible Institute)
About the Author
Gerald L. Bray (Ph.D., La Sorbonne) is a professor at Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and director of research at Latimer Trust. He has written and edited a number of books on different theological subjects. A priest of the Church of England, Bray has also edited the post-Reformation Anglican canons.
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Each volume in the RCS series begins with a general introduction that provides an overview of the context and process of biblical interpretation of the Protestant Reformation era (including the historical context and the various schools of exegesis). Next, each volume contains a guide to using the commentary. Subsequently, the volume introduction places "that portion of the canon within the historical context of the Protestant Reformation and presents a summary of the theological themes, interpretive issues and reception of the particular book(s)" (xvii). The commentary itself proceeds by pericope, with a pericope heading, biblical text in the English Standard Version, an overview of the reformers' comments that follow, and then excerpts from Reformation writers. In addition to typical backmatter, each volume of the RCS contains a map of the Reformation, a timeline of the Reformation, and biographical sketches of Reformation-era figures.
In the volume introduction to Galatians, Ephesians volume editor Gerald Bray provides a brief overview of the Pauline Epistles in the Reformation era, noting the central role of Pauline theology as well as the influence of Paul on the reformers as a model for pastor, for suffering persecution for gospel ministry, and for what God can do with the worst sinners. Bray also notes that whereas most modern scholars believe Paul wrote Galatians before Romans, the reformers accepted ancient tradition that Paul abridged what he had written to the Romans in his letter to the Galatians. As a result, often Reformation exposition of texts in Galatians is often shorter than it would otherwise be because commentators refer their readers to their comments on relevant sections of Romans. Another significant difference in scholarship that Bray notes is that sixteenth-century interpreters didn't know anything about the life of Paul beyond the NT and patristic writings. However, this did not bother them because in their minds it made little difference in Paul's theological message.
Bray then provides an overview of the influence of the church fathers on Reformation writers, followed by overviews of Reformation era commentary on Galatians and then Ephesians. In relation to Galatians, of course quite a few pages are dedicated to Luther. But later interpreters such as Bullinger, Erasmus, Johannes Brenz, John Calvin, Georg Major, Wolfgang Musculus, Kaspar Olevianus, Rudolf Gwalther, Johannes Wigand, Daniel Toussain, John Prime, William Perkins, Robert Rollock, Jean Diodati, and David Dickson are all introduced. Concerning Ephesians, Bray contends that the most important thing to note is that Luther did not write on it. This left the field wide open, and others quickly took advantage. Bray briefly notes some of the early commentaries that did not amount to much (e.g. those by Bucer, Bullinger, Erasmus, etc.) before devoting a bit more attention to the substantial works by Lancelot Ridley, John Calvin, Wolfgang Musculus,
Despite the substance and importance of the writings of Luther and Calvin on Ephesians and Galatians, they are not treated very extensively in this commentary because of their wide availability and accessibility in modern English translations. Instead, more attention is given to lesser-known commentators and many selections appear for the first time in English in this volume from commentators such as Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger, Jiovannni Diodati, Georg Maior, and Johannes Wigand. This is what makes this particular commentary as well as the whole Reformation Commentary on Scripture series so valuable - it makes available works previously untranslated and works by (relatively) unknown Reformers, broadening both our understanding of the Reformation as well as the Scriptures themselves. And perhaps there is no better place to start in this series than with the volume on Galatians and Ephesians, for the pivotal influence of Galatians on the Reformation is undeniable; furthermore, many of the Reformers saw Ephesians as just as clear of an exposition of the gospel as Galatians and Romans.
One last note on this particular volume is that despite the diversity of voices presented, they are almost exclusively from the magisterial Reformation. Bray notes that Roman Catholics writings on Galatians and Ephesians were not included because "almost all of them avoided theological controversy and concentrated on philological points of grammar, literary style, and so on. There is therefore little to distinguish them from Protestant commentaries of a similar nature" (lvi). Radical reformers were not included because they too sola scriptura "to such an extent that they avoided commentary writing for the most part" (lvii). This is a caveat lector for those who would charge this commentary for not accurately representing the variegated nature of Reformation thought.
Galatians, Ephesians in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series is a must-own for those with an appreciation for Reformation theology, and especially for laypeople and pastors. Obviously the comments in this volume cannot compare with modern commentaries in terms of scholarship and technical, academic matters; but the pastoral and practical insight herein are unparalleled today and provide an invaluable resource for personal devotional study of these Scriptures as well as for those preparing to teach and preach on these texts.
*I received free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
Now, Intervarsity Press has begun the project of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, which is a Bible commentary that highlights the best of the Reformation scholarship on Scriptural interpretation. Going through the whole Bible, each volume will highlight what the Reformers said about a particular passage or text on Scripture.
This is very exciting, because the Reformation brought about a revolution in Scriptural interpretation and insight. Much of the most significant theological work ever done was done during the Reformation era, especially if one is a Protestant Christian. And since the Reformation happened soon after the development of the printing press, writing of theology during the Reformation era was more plenteous that at any point before.
I just received a review copy of the first volume in the set from Intervarsity Press. It is a commentary on the Biblical books of Galatians and Ephesians. I could not be more impressed.
First of all, both the series introduction and the introduction to this specific volume are wonderful to read. Each could stand alone as both enjoyable reading and impressive scholarship apart from the commentary. I particularly enjoyed George bringing attention to the fact that good scholarship and pastoral ministry were not separate ventures in the Reformation Era. Most of the great Reformers were also leaders of local congregations, and both their theology and the way they communicated those beliefs were refined through that experience (p. xiv). Relatedly, "the post-Enlightenment split between the study of the Bible as an academic discipline and the reading of the Bible as spiritual nurture was foreign to the reformers. For them the study of the Bible was transformative at the most basic level of the human person: coram deo" (p. xv).
Also, it is fun to read the Reformers side by side with one another. For me, it was especially fun to see the contrast in tone and style between Calvin and Luther in regard to the book of Galatians. This contrast was exacerbated by kind of source material chosen, as Calvin's commentaries were selected as his primary source material for this text, and Luther's lessons to his classes were the primary texts from Luther quoted in this commentary. The result is the best of each person's work. For Luther, that means that he reads as both thoughtful and earthy. In the case of Calvin, his work reads as methodical, logical, and academic, which is his strong suit.
I also like reading what I will call the "scoundrels" of the Reformation in this volume. By this term "scoundrels" I mean people like Tyndale and Erasmus who were influential in the Reformation for their own reasons, but were not highly regarded or well treated by the church as a whole.
It was also interesting how contemporary some of the Reformers sound even today. I think this is because in many ways the Reformation was about getting the gospel to the people, instead of doing theology and writing books for the benefit of the church and other clergy. For example, I appreciated Bugenhagen's simple explanation of Ephesians 5:21 (and what follows), "Paul adds that each one should submit to the other in the fear of God, so that everyone will fear of God, so that everyone will fear God and believe his brother...and not claim to know more than he ought to" (p.381).
Although I loved this book, I was disappointed in the lack of diversity in the sources that were chosen. Most were either Lutheran or Reformed. There were very few from the Anabaptist tradition represented, for example. I hope this weakness is remedied in further volumes of this fine set of commentaries.
I would recommend, if you can afford it, to find a way to get this excellent inaugural volume in this fine new commentary series. I have loved it. I know you will too.
(I was given this book to read in exchange for an honest review by the publisher)