Why You Should Consider Adding the Ancient Christian Commentary Series to Your Accordance Library
Confession: I used to totally ignore the Early Church’s interpretation of the Bible. I felt that it was pre-critical and not worth paying any attention beyond historical curiosity. I was simply a modernist snob. In the last decade or so, my way of thinking has been changed greatly as I've gained new appreciation for ancient faith and wisdom. Regardless of historical-critical insights, which I still value, I’ve come to appreciate the way the Early Church—those closest to at least the New Testament events—viewed the Bible.
In fact, when I am studying or preparing to preach or teach a passage, as part of my overall process, I first look at two kinds of commentaries before any others. First, I look at background commentaries to try to understand the context and cultural issues associated with the text (I’ll save discussion of this for a later blog post). Second, I look to see how the Early Church interpreted the passage. It doesn’t mean that I have to agree with the interpretation, but I want to see traditional understanding of a passage that is often neglected in modern historical-critical expositions.
Years ago, if I wanted to see what the Church Fathers had to say about a biblical text, I had to consult multiple sources, scanning Scripture indexes. That changed with the introduction of editor Thomas C. Oden’s excellent Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS). These 29 volumes save me hours of time that would be spent scouring multiple sources, thanks to a cross-denominational team of scholars who have done the patristic research for me. With every passage of the Bible, I find the wisdom and insights of dozens of Early Church writers gathered in one place with sources appropriately cited in case I want to read the original context.
ACCS features the voices of nearly 200 individuals and anonymous documents from the first eight centuries of Christianity. Every source is hyperlinked to a section of “Biographical Sketches & Short Descriptions of Select Anonymous Works” which is helpful in keeping these ancient sources separate. Following the biographicsl sketches is a “Timeline of Writers of the Patristic Period” which helps in understanding the chronological context of the ancient contributors.
If you don’t already have the Ancient Christian Commentary Series in your Accordance Library, I strongly urge you to consider adding it not only to your selections of commentaries, but also to your steps in preparation as well.
Related to ACCS are two other sources I’ll briefly mention. Ancient Christian Doctrine, which originally published in five volumes, is the most thorough examination of the Nicene Creed I’ve ever seen. To get a look at Ancient Christian Doctrine in Accordance, be certain to read Abram Kielsmeier-Jones’ review, "IVP’s 5-Volume Ancient Christian Doctrine in Accordance" at his website.
Finally, as we are close to the beginning of another new year, we often take the time to renew our commitments to reading the Bible. For 2016, why not do something a little bit different by choosing Ancient Christian Devotional (3 volumes) to incorporate readings from the Bible with ancient wisdom from the Church Fathers. Designed as a weekly devotional rather than one for daily use, Ancient Christian Doctrine uses the readings and cycles of the Revised Common Lectionary with commentary from the Early Church. Meet the New Year with the Church Fathers!