We are pleased to announced the immediate availability of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary for the Accordance Bible Software Library. Introductory discounted pricing is available for a limited time.
From the publisher: Edited by David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida, this new commentary series, projected to be 48 volumes, takes a Christ-centered approach to expositing each book of the Bible. Rather than a verse-by-verse approach, the authors have crafted chapters that explain and apply key passages in their assigned Bible books. Readers will learn to see Christ in all aspects of Scripture, and they will be encouraged by the devotional nature of each exposition.
Years ago, when I took my MDiv-level Old Testament Intro course under John D. W. Watts, I was faced with what I considered at the time to be a difficult task. Dr. Watts required my fellow students and me to write an exegesis paper on an Old Testament passage, and we weren't allowed to make any mention of or connection to the New Testament. That kind of assignment is actually fairly common among Christian seminaries I would later learn, with the goal to understand “original” meaning without the layers of interpretation added over the centuries. But after attending Sunday School classes since before I could read, I’m not certain I ever knew the Old Testament without a connection to the New Testament.
Seeing Jesus Christ in the pages of the Old Testament is as old as the events behind the New Testament itself. We read in Luke 24:27, “Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted for them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures" (CSB). Not only did Jesus do this himself, the Gospel writers, the author of Hebrews, and—for that matter—all the New Testament writers read the Hebrew Scriptures this way. In the second century, Irenaeus wrote that “the treasure hid in the Scriptures is Christ” (Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book 4, 26:1), referring specifically to the Old Testament. And this kind of reading of the Old Testament from a Christian perspective has gone on ever since.
Not all modern Bible commentaries include Christocentric readings of the Old Testament, even though this type of interpretation is still taught in churches through Bible studies and sermons. To this end, the editors and writers of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (CCEC) “affirm that the Bible is a Christ-centered book” with a “Christ-centered trajectory that runs from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22" (Series Introduction).
CCEC has four characteristics: (1) exegetical accuracy with the admonition of James 3:1 in mind; (2) pastors as a target audience with the hope that parents, teachers, small-group leaders, and student ministers will also gain from the series; (3) inclusion of helpful illustrations and theologically-driven applications; and (4) the goal “to exalt Jesus from every book of the Bible.”
Not all volumes are published yet, but the 25 volumes currently available for Accordance cover 39 of 66 books of the Protestant canon, with the remaining volumes in the works. Earlier volumes are based on the Holman Christian Standard Bible, but installments released in 2017 (Proverbs, Isaiah, Daniel, Acts, and Hebrews) shift over to the newly updated Christian Standard Bible (the CCES is the first commentary series I've seen to use the 2017 CSB as its base).
Each volume in the CCES includes an introduction to the book covered with content broken into appropriate sections. Review questions can be found at the end of each section which would be suitable for a reader’s private reflection or to be discussed in a group setting.
The editors state that the CCEC “is not academic in nature. Our aim is to present a readable and pastoral style of commentaries.” From what I read, this is mostly true, but occasionally, some writers give attention to more scholarly interests such as literary or linguistic characteristics. Occasional references to original languages are almost always transliterated. The series, overall, will be accessible to most readers and is appropriate not just to those who are communicating the message of the Bible but also those who simply want to study for themselves.
Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (25 Volumes)
List Price $374.75
Regular Price $199
Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary: Old Testament (13 Volumes)
Regular Price $119
Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary: New Testament (12 Volumes)
Regular Price $109
Individual Volumes Are Also Available
List Price $14.90
Regular Price $9.90
The above introductory specials are good through Monday, January 29, 2018 (11:59 pm EST) and cannot be combined with any other discounts.
If you were only going to purchase one title on Acts…
Well, Craig S. Keener may indeed have written “the last and final word” on the Book of Acts for this generation. In print, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary by Keener comes in four volumes for a total of an incredible 4640 pages. This is not just the most complete commentary on Acts currently available, it is arguably the longest and most thorough commentary on Acts ever written. Available, beginning today, for the Accordance Bible Software Library, Keener's Acts commentary is now much easier to carry with you wherever you go!
Click/tap image above for a larger view of Acts: An Exegetical Commentary by Craig S. Keener in Accordance 12.
Craig S. Keener, Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, is known to Accordance users through his numerous works available for the Accordance Library, especially the IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, which is available in a number of our Collections. If you’ve ever consulted Keener’s Background Commentary (I have it near the top of my Commentaries folder in Accordance so it always shows up in the InfoPane), you know the meticulous attention he gives to the cultural, historical, and literary context of the ancient world as it bears upon the New Testament. Imagine that kind of detail, magnified many times over, applied to one book of the Bible. That is what Keener’s Acts commentary is and much more.
Consider the extent to which Keener has researched the Book of Acts. His introduction alone is 638 pages long (yes, page numbers are included in the Accordance edition). The “Works Cited” section at the end of the fourth volume is over 300 pages and divided into primary and secondary sources. Sorry, I did not bother to count the total number of sources used; however, I am very impressed to see the sheer range of sources consulted. In an age that often values the new over the old, Keener’s commentary on Acts overflows with ancient sources on nearly every single page. Besides the immense number of ties to the ancient world found in the Book of Acts to which Keener refers, he also covers every significant (and some that might be considered insignificant) treatment of Acts over the last two millennia. No historical debate or interpretational school of thought is ignored. His coverage of each chapter in Acts, subdivided into smaller, more accessible sections, is the most detailed I’ve ever seen. For instance, over 250 pages are dedicated to Acts 2 alone.
Acts: An Exegetical Commentary is the recipient of the 2016 Christianity Today Book Award in Biblical Studies. Writing for CT, Gary Burge said this of Keener’s commentary on Acts:
Keener is a scholar with gifts that come along once every century, and here we see them employed in full force. Words like encyclopedic, magisterial, and epic come to mind when you examine 4,000 carefully argued pages on every aspect of the Book of Acts. Nothing like this has ever been done—and it’s doubtful that anything like it will be done for a long time. Keener has a grasp of the ancient world like few scholars anywhere, but he also has a heart for the church and its mission.
Keener’s four volume commentary on Acts has been described by David deSilva as “a one-stop resource on the book of Acts and the hundreds of issues/questions that have been raised in its interpretation.” If you were only going to purchase one title on Acts, I can’t imagine not pointing to Keener’s work. It represents a lifetime of research, and with its breadth of coverage, it may just take a lifetime to read and study—and that’s a good thing.
Acts: An Exegetical Commentary
Regular Price $269
Biblical Studies vs. Theology. This was the conflict I was introduced to in seminary. I’m not certain how my professors got along in the faculty lounge, but there was always a subtle rivalry between the departments. My Old and New Testament professors suggested—albeit subtly—that theology, as a discipline (if there even was such a thing), was bogged down by centuries of dogma and disputes that obscured the "true" meaning of the Scriptures. All one really needed was the simple biblical text and nothing else. On the other hand, my theology professors insinuated that spending all one’s time in the Greek and Hebrew with concentration on syntax, textual criticism, and the like was woefully inadequate for understanding the biblical message. Honestly, I can't remember any attempt to bridge this gap in approaches to understanding the Bible.
In those formative years, my biblical profs held sway over me, and I developed a distrust for theology in comparison with biblical studies. I admit that I am sometimes still skeptical of systematic theology in particular, but I have grown to appreciate theology in general, especially when presented from a historical perspective.
This division in the disciplines was part of the prompting for the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, which we are releasing today for the Accordance Bible Software Library. This recent series, still in process, seeks to recapture the role of dogma in understanding the Bible. In the series preface the writers draw upon the writings of the Early Church in their defense: “Irenaeus assumes that there is a body of apostolic doctrine sustained by a tradition of teaching in the church. This doctrine provides the clarifying principles that guide exegetical judgment toward a coherent overall reading of Scripture as a unified witness.” Further, writes series editor, R. R. Reno, “This series of biblical commentaries was born out of the conviction that dogma clarifies rather than obscures.”
Click/tap the image above for a larger view of Robert W. Jensen's Ezekiel volume of the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. NIV text available separately.
Unlike many commentary series, the Brazos Theological Commentary is written by theologians rather than biblical scholars in the traditional sense. The guiding theological framework for the perspective of the series is the Nicene Creed, which is arguably the most important doctrinal statement in the history of the church. Individual writers are not held to any particular translation to use as the base for the commentary, and they are not even restricted to format. Some commentators may write verse by verse, while others focus more on a passage at a time. The outlook of the series is purposefully ecumenical in scope. Thus, the Brazos series results in a very eclectic, but extremely readable exposition of the Scriptures.
Click/tap the image above for a larger view of Jaroslav Pelikan's introduction to Acts in the Brazos Theological Commentary.
Consider this excerpt on Matthew 4 from well-known theologian Stanley Hauerwas. Note his use of biblical content, theology, and historical insight—all intertwined into a cohesive explorationof the temptation of Jesus:
The devil, therefore, thinking that Jesus’s fast might have weakened him, approaches Jesus just as he had approached Eve. Eating may be the devil’s first line of attack because eating gets to the heart of our dependency—a dependency we try to deny. He initiates a conversation with Jesus, as he had Eve, with what seems to be an innocent remark, but a remark designed to create doubt: “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Gen. 3:1). “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matt. 4:3). The trick, of course, that Eve did not recognize is to try to answer the devil on the devil’s own terms. Bonhoeffer observes that Eve’s disobedience began as soon as she assumed that she could answer the serpent’s question on God’s behalf, for the question was designed to suggest that she and Adam could go behind the word of God and establish for themselves what the word entailed. In short, the devil’s question invited them to assume that they were equal with God. Bonhoeffer notes, therefore, that the serpent is a representative of religion because his question is “religious,” assuming that the questioner knows more about God than can be known by a creature (1962, 66–69).
The devil exists as rage, but his rage does not cloud his cleverness. He is crafty. He therefore suggests to Jesus that, if he is the savior of Israel, he should then do what God had done for Israel in the wilderness, that is, provide food. Jesus, who will feed thousands with a few loaves of bread and a small number of fish, could turn the stones into bread. But Jesus refuses, quoting Deut. 8:3, which tells the story of how God had humbled Israel by letting her go hungry before sending manna. God says, I fed “you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by the very word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” God is indeed in the business of providing food, but Jesus rejects Satan’s proposal because Satan would have us believe that food and the word of God can be separated.
Christians believe that Jesus is the word that we now eat in his very body and blood in the Eucharist. But that gift, like the gift of manna to Israel, makes us vulnerable to the same temptations that the devil used to encourage Israel to abandon God’s law, to tempt Jesus, and to make the church unfaithful. The very people whom God has gifted with his body to be his witness for all people are constantly tempted to betray that which has been given them. We become, like the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees, leaders who assume that our task is to protect “the people” from the demands of the gospel. We simply do not believe that God’s word, God’s love, can sustain us.
Slowly over the years, I’ve been able to conclude that biblical studies should not and cannot be divorced from theology. The Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible should not be seen as a replacement to more traditional biblical commentaries, but I would recommend this series as a necessary addition to them.
Brazos Theological Commentary (22 Volumes)
Regular Price $715
No Accordance Library can be truly complete without the Anchor Yale Bible Commentary! Widely recognized as the flagship of American biblical scholarship, with a tradition of excellence and commitment to advancing biblical understanding in the 21st century, the Anchor Yale Bible Commentary, under the direction of General Editor John J. Collins, vigorously pursues the goal of bringing to a wide audience the most important new ideas, the latest research findings, and the clearest possible analysis of the Bible.
Decades in the making and now in a massive 90-volume collection, the Anchor Yale Bible Commentary is near completion in its coverage of the Old Testament, Intertestamental Books, and New Testament. Contributors come from Jewish, Catholic and Protestant backgrounds, but the project itself is not sponsored by any ecclesiastical organization and does not reflect the theological perspective of any particular faith tradition.
Click/tap image above for a larger view of
the new Anchor commentary on Revelation by Craig R. Koester.
The Anchor Yale Bible is committed to producing commentaries in the tradition established half a century ago by the founders of the series, William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman. It aims to present the best contemporary scholarship in a way that is accessible not only to scholars but also to the educated nonspecialist. Its approach is grounded in exact translation of the ancient languages and an appreciation of the historical and cultural context in which the biblical books were written supplemented by insights from modern methods, such as sociological and literary criticism.
With this release we are adding the following important volumes:
- Joshua 1-12 by Thomas B. Dozeman (2015)
- Judges 1-12 by Jack M. Sasson (2014) (currently in preparation; will be added to these modules in a free future update)
- Ruth by Jeremy Schipper (2016)
- Revelation by Craig R. Koester (2015)
Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries:
Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries:
Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries:
With so many volumes available in this series, for the first time we are allowing Accordance users to purchase the Old Testament volumes in sections. This will allow gradual acquisition of the entire series in stages for those with limited budgets.
Already own Anchor Commentaries? Save Now on Upgrades!
The Pillar New Testament Commentary from Eerdmans, edited by D. A. Carson, has continued to be invaluable reference work for scores of Accordance users. Today we are announcing a significant update to our Pillar volumes in the Accordance Library with the following volumes:
- The Gospel According to Luke by James R. Edwards
- Romans by Colin G. Kruse
- The Second Letter to the Corinthians by Mark Seifrid
Those who had purchased the original Romans volume by the late Leon Morris will still be able to access the older work as well as use it side by side with Kruse’s edition on Romans.
Click/tap on the image above for a larger view of Edwards' commentary on Luke in Accordance Mobile on an iPhone 6s Plus.
The Pillar New Testament Commentary has long had a reputation for serious Evangelical scholarship that is also accessible to the widest audience possible. Scholars, students, pastors and serious laypersons continue to benefit from the research and insights in the Pillar series. Greek and Hebrew words are generally transliterated into English in the main body of the text, and the commentary itself interacts with modern translations as well as the author’s own.
Click/tap on the image above for a larger view of Seifrid's' commentary on 2 Corinthians in Accordance 11 on a Mac.
Most volumes of the Pillar New Testament Commentary use the New International Version as a base text. Regarding the release of these newest three volumes, Edwards continues to use the 1978 NIV, and Kruse bases his commentary on the more recent 2011 edition. Seifrid takes a departure from the norm by opting to base his commentary primarily on the English Standard Version.
Click/tap on the image above for a larger view of Kruse's commentary on Romans in Accordance Mobile on an iPad Pro.
All specialized indexes are included in these volumes, too. For instance, Seifrid’s work on 2 Corinthians includes indexes on the following: Authors, Hebrew Old Testament, Greek Old Testament, New Testament, and Extrabiblical Literature.
Readers can now include all 16 of the current Pillar Commentary volumes in their personal Accordance Library. For those who prefer to have the entire set, upgrades are available from previous purchases. Alternatively, individual volumes are also available.
Pillar New Testament Commentary
List Price $808
Upgrade from Release 3
For years, both Jewish and Christian Accordance users have benefitted from the JPS Torah Commentary (5 volumes). Last month, in time for Passover, we released the JPS Commentary on the Haggadah. Now we are pleased to announce three more volumes in the JPS Bible Commentary Series for the Accordance Library. Anyone who studies the Old Testament or is engaged in Jewish studies will want to add these titles to their digital shelves.
Already own the JPS Torah Commenary or the JPS Commentary on the Haggadah? Custom Upgrades to all 12 available are available!
The Five Scrolls or Five Megillot (חמש מגילות) refer to the books of Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. The JPS Commentary on the Megillot contains all but Lamentations, which is not yet published. This final installment will be added to Accordance after its release.
The four volumes that are included were written by an internationally recognized team of scholars, all experts on their individual subjects. The volume on Ruth was initially begun by Tikva Frymer-Kensky, who unfortunately passed away before the commentary could be completed. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi completes the volume attempting to use any of the initial author’s notes that were available so as to give her the primary voice of the writing. Other volumes include Adele Berlin’s commentary on Esther, Michael V. Fox on Ecclesiastes, and Michael Fishbane on Song of Songs.
Click/tap the image above to see an excerpt of Berlin's JPS Commentary on Esther combined with the Hebrew Bible and JPS w/Strong's in Accordance for Windows.
Those already familiar with the JPS Bible Commentary Series through the five volumes on the Torah will instantly notice a familiar format of introductory material--often with brief essays going into greater depth about the book's theme, history of interpretation and intertextual issues--followed by insightful commentary with gleanings from rabbinic wisdom. Introductions provide not only what one would expect from a professional commentary, but also an exploration of rabbinic traditions on each text.
The commentary itself is extremely accessible as the English translation stands as the primary base with Hebrew phrases transliterated into English. Rabbinic wisdom can be found both in the commentary as well as sometimes in greater detail in the footnotes.
The haftarot (הפטרות) are an ancient part of Hebrew liturgy. These supplemental readings are excerpted from the Prophets (Nevi’im) and accompany each weekly Sabbath reading from the Torah as well as readings for special Sabbaths and festivals.
Click/tap the image above to see an excerpt of Fishbane's JPS Commentary on Haftarot combined with Readings & Prayers for Jewish Worship, the Hebrew Bible and JPS w/Strong's in Accordance for Mac.
In the JPS Commentary on the Haftarot, noted Bible scholar Michael Fishbane introduces each haftarah with an outline and discussion of how that passage conveys its meaning, and he follows it with observations on how it relates to the Torah portion or special occasion. Individual comments, citing classical rabbinic as well as modern commentators, highlight ambiguities and difficulties in the Hebrew text, which appears in concert with the JPS translation. The haftarot are also put into biblical context by a separate overview of all prophetic books (except Jonah) that are excerpted in the haftarah cycle.
As with the JPS Commentaries on the Torah and Meggilot, readers will find a familiar format in Uriel Simon’s treatment of Jonah. Simon provides a critical line-by-line commentary of the biblical text, which is presented in its original Hebrew, complete with vocalization and cantillation marks, as well as the JPS English translation. It includes a scholarly introduction, extensive bibliographic and critical notes, and other explanatory material.
Click/tap the image above to see an excerpt of Simon's JPS Commentary on Jonah paired with JPS w/Strong's in Accordance Mobile.
More than just giving comment, The JPS Commentary on Jonah also explores theological aspects of the minor prophet (see the section “The Theme of the Book and the History of Its Exegesis” as well as exploring literary aspects and canonical concerns.
Last month, in time for Passover, we released the JPS Commentary on the Haggadah. The Passover haggadah enjoys an unrivaled place in Jewish culture, both religious and secular. And of all the classic Jewish books, the haggadah is the one most “alive” today. Jews continue to rewrite, revise, and add to its text, recasting it so that it remains relevant to their lives.
The product features an extended introduction by Tabory, the classic Hebrew haggadah text side by side with its English translation, and Tabory’s clear and insightful critical-historical commentary.
12-Volume Commentary Set
The three new additions of the JPS Bible Commentary Series for the Hebrew Bible can be purchased by themselves at introductory pricing or in a new 12-volume commentary set.
If you already own the JPS Torah Commentary and/or the JPS Commentary on the Haggadah, our Custom Upgrade feature makes certain you never pay twice for titles you already own!
- JPS Torah Commentary (5 Volumes)
- JPS Commentary on the Haggadah
- JPS Bible Commentary : The Megillot (4 Volumes)
- JPS Bible Commentary: Haftarot
- JPS Bible Commentary: Jonah
Great news! Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. continues to expand their highly-rated New International Commentary series on the Old and New Testaments. As their website says:
This premier commentary series enjoys a worldwide readership of scholars, pastors, priests, rabbis, and serious Bible students. They eagerly consult its high-quality volumes to inform their preaching, teaching, and academic research, and they warmly welcome each newly published volume as they would an encounter with a stimulating new friend. Through the rigorous yet reverent study contained in these commentary volumes, readers hear afresh the voice of the living God speaking his powerful word.
Please see Darin Allen's earlier blog post on the NICNT and NICOT series in Accordance for a personal view of the value of this series.
Update February 2016
The new NICOT set now comprises 25 volumes and adds:
The Book of Psalms
By Nancy L. deClaissé-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson, Beth LaNeel Tanner
The Book of Judges
By Barry G. Webb
The new NICNT set comprises only 18 volumes since it now includes the latest edition for each book of the New Testament (except 2 Peter and Jude which has not been published yet). The latest set adds:
The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Revised Edition
By Gordon D. Fee
The four older volumes (now out of print) are still available for individual purchase, as are all the other volumes. The older volumes that were included in our original NICNT and NICNT-18 sets (John, 1Cor, Hebrews, James) will be provided free of charge to owners of those sets so that they can continue to use them in parallel with the new editions.
The previous NICNT2 and NICNT2-3 modules are no longer needed, as the newer editions they contained are now included in the new NICNT18 module.
See the article on NICOT/NICNT for a more detailed listing of current volumes and previous sets.
If you own any of the earlier sets you can upgrade to the current sets and pay only for the new volumes.
If you have previously purchased these commentaries on a different software platform, please see this page for details of the crossgrade options.
If you have highlighted your present copy of NICNT or NICOT, you can transfer your highlights from the main old module to the new. However, NICNT highlights can only be transferred for the unchanged volumes. Here is a procedure for ensuring that all your highlights are preserved.
- Search for any highlights in the older volumes of NICNT-18 or NICNT, and manually reproduce them in the individual modules (optional).
- Transfer the highlights from NICNT-18 (or NICNT) to the new NICNT18. You can find instructions in the Help files at: Digging Deeper > Color Highlighting > Transfer Highlights to Updated Modules
- Search for any highlights in the NICNT2-3 (or NICNT-2), and manually reproduce them in the relevant volumes of NICNT18 (optional).
- Remove the old sets from the Library (NICNT-18, NICNT, NICNT2-3, NICNT-2)
These days, any new Bible commentary must find a way to distinguish itself. For those looking at the new Fortress Commentary on the Bible, released today for the Accordance Library, I can happily say that this commentary finds its distinctive place among the many other scholarly treatments of the Bible.
The Fortress Commentary on the Bible, originally published in two volumes in print and comprising around 1750 pages, is written by a broad diversity of scholars from Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and other traditions. Covering the Old Testament, Apocrypha, and New Testament, the Bible is broken up into sense units larger than treatments in traditional multivolume commentaries, and the writers provide information about each passage in answer to the following three questions:
- The Text in Its Ancient Context. What did the text probably mean in its original historical and cultural context?
- The Text in the Interpretive Tradition. How have centuries of reading and interpreting shaped our understanding of the text?
- The Text in Contemporary Discussion. What are the unique challenges and interpretive questions the text addresses for readers and hearers today?
Personally, I appreciate this approach because so many commentaries neglect one or more of these categories. As I’ve stated elsewhere, in recent years those first two questions above have become primary concerns of mine when trying to understand a biblical passage and teach it to others. For my use, I could see turning to the Fortress Commentary first to gain an overview of the above three concerns before moving on to more technical commentaries that may or may not cover the same information.
In addition to covering Ancient Context, Interpretive Tradition, and Contemporary Discussion, the Fortress Commentary offers introduction to sections and books of the Bible as well as a number of articles on understanding and interpreting the Bible in the modern world.
Although originally published in print in two volumes, Accordance users will be glad to know that we have included both in one module. This allows for searching for words and concepts throughout the entire Fortress Commentary at once. Moreover, the Accordance developers have carefully scrutinized the text of the commentary and tagged all content according to one of the following search fields: Reference, Titles, English Content, Scripture, Greek Content, Hebrew Content, Transliteration, Bibliography, Authors, and Page Numbers. This kind of detailed tagging allows the Accordance reader to find the exact information needed quickly and efficiently.
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!
New for the Accordance Library, the 17-volume Life Application Bible Commentary (LABC) is one of the best all-around series for pastors, teachers, and laypersons who are simply interested in understanding or communicating the message of the Bible better. Previous knowledge of the Bible is not required for using the LABC, so it is perfect for the person who simply wants to gain practical understanding of the Scriptures. And pastors and teachers will discover illustrations, quotations, and insightful means for communicating the truths of God’s Word in practical terms to a modern audience.
No knowledge of Hebrew or Greek is required for using the LABC for study, but important original language words are sometimes transliterated in English. The commentary primarily uses modern translations such as the NIV, NRSV, and NLT, but interacts with other translations as well, often explaining why some translations differ from others.
A Commentary for the Layperson
Have you ever read a passage from the Bible only to come away thinking, “I just don’t know what any of that has to do with me!” If you have ever expressed that thought, the Life Application Bible Commentary Series is for you. The LABC bridges the gap of the ancient world to the modern context. Imagine one biblical reference source that provides explanation, background, and application for every verse in the New Testament.
A Commentary for Pastors & Teachers
Teaching a class or preaching a sermon? The Life Application Bible Commentary provides teaching notes and sermon ideas that apply biblical principles to the issues of today. Incorporate charts, diagrams, maps, and quotations from famous figures of history into your presentation slides or handouts. Everything in this series is designed to help you understand the Bible and equip you to communicate it to others.
An Example Passage
Take for example the LABC’s treatment of the uncomfortable subject of God’s discipline in Hebrews 12:1-13. The first section connects this chapter to the previous content of Hebrews by offering a thorough summary of what has come before. Hebrews 12:1 is presented from the NKJV with an explanation of the cultural context that the original hearers would have better understood than a modern audience.
Picking up on the idea of “the race that is set before us,” the writer provides “Three aspects to this ‘race’ […] set before all believers” to make a connection to the modern reader. These aspects are presented in three memorable alliterated points of Preparation, Participation, and Perseverance. Each of these three points includes an explanation that interweaves ancient practice with modern experience.
A callout passage that immediately follows the above is titled “Shedding Weight.” This section contains practical action steps for the modern believer:
To run the race set before us, we must train. Long-distance runners work hard to build endurance and strength. On race day, their clothes are lightweight and their bodies lean.
Since shedding “sin weight” is important to your spiritual run, how can you do it:
- Choose friends who are also committed to the race. Wrong friends will have values and activities that may deter you from the course. Much of your own weight may result from the crowd you run with. Make wise choices.
- Drop certain activities. That is, for you at this time these may be a weight. Try dropping them for a while; then check the results. If TV consumes precious time, try doing without it. If shopping is your stress relaxer, try something else.
- Get help for addictions that disable you. If you have a secret “weight” such as pornography, gambling, or alcohol, admit your need and get help today.
Finally, there’s a quotation from Matthew Henry. And all of this is just for one verse of Hebrews 12!
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