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REVIEW: Bible commentary is scholarly yet easy to use

The publication of a commentary series on the entire Bible is a significant event.  
Considering the biblical focus of the Stone-Campbell movement, it almost seems odd that relatively few commentaries have been written by scholars within the movement.
Because of the enormous cost of producing a commentary series and due to the long shelf-life of such literature, we do well to pay close attention to these materials that touch so closely on the Bible study of Christians.
Last year the final volume of “The College Press NIV Commentary” was published.  This multi-volume, multi-author treatment of the entire Bible represents a milestone in commentary publications.

Other multi-author commentaries in print include the ongoing “Truth for Today Commentary” by Resource Publications and “The Trans-forming Word,” a one-volume commentary by ACU Press. “The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement” gives a detailed history of Bible commentaries within the movement.
“The College Press NIV Commentary” covers the entire Bible in 41 volumes, including 22 Old Testament commentaries, 17 on the New Testament, and one introduction volume for each testament. This series was a joint effort by 19 scholars from Churches of Christ and 24 from Christian Churches.
The authors represent nine different Christian schools among Churches of Christ.
These commentaries take an informed but generally conservative view on the oft-debated issues in biblical studies. The volumes are easy to read, but do not ignore scholarly debate.
A case in point is the way Clyde M. Woods and Justin M. Rogers treat Numbers 14:17-19. Many Bible readers puzzle over the passage that the Lord “does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”
The authors explain that sin’s consequences do trickle down in families, but God mercifully limits the lingering effects of sin. Woods and Rogers point out a stark contrast between his restricted punishment and his limitless blessing on the children of those who serve him.
On occasion, the series plows creative new ground. Jon A. Weatherly takes up the debated question of the identity of the “man of lawlessness” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
Most interpreters point to the role of the “man of lawlessness” in some future apostasy or civil unrest. Weatherly makes a convincing argument that Paul refers to “something already at work during his lifetime.” His interpretation allows Paul’s main point to shine through rather than the tangent of speculating on the identity of the “man of lawlessness.”
Terry Briley, professor of Bible and dean of the College of Bible and Ministry at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., edited the Old Testament series with Paul J. Kissling, professor of Old Testament and director of research at the Training Christians for Ministry International Institute of Vienna, Austria.  
Briley notes that his appreciation for the approach of the series and its emphasis on the value of the entire Bible prompted him to take part as a contributor and co-editor.  
“Anything that furthers awareness, understanding and dialogue will serve us well as we strive to come closer to Jesus’ ideal of the unity of the body,” Briley said.
The New Testament editors are Anthony L. Ash, longtime professor of Biblical studies at Abilene Christian University in Texas, and Jack Cottrell, professor of theology at Cincinnati Christian Seminary in Ohio. Ash called the series “a good showpiece of scholarship within the brotherhood.”
Among the other scholars who contributed to the commentaries are Randall C. Bailey, Allen Black, Mark C. Black, Dave L. Bland, Brandon L. Fredenburg, John Mark Hicks, Gary Holloway, Jesse C. Long, Jr., Dale W. Manor, C. Michael Moss, Richard E. Oster, Jr., Justin M. Rogers, Timothy M. Willis, Morris M. Womack and Clyde M. Woods.  
Years ago Alexander Campbell reflected on the Christian’s relationship with the Bible by saying, “He reads the Bible to enjoy the God of the Bible; that the majesty, purity, excellency, and glory of its Author may overshadow him, inspire him, transform him and new-create him in the image of God.”
Campbell appropriately took a high view of Scripture, a perspective that continues in the now complete “College Press NIV Commentary.”
CLYDE H. SLIMP preaches for the Lakehoma Church of Christ in Mustang, Okla.
teaches Old Testament at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City and is the Chronicle’s Reviews Editor.
Reviewing an entire commentary series in limited space is difficult at best. The Christian Chronicle asked ministers, Bible teachers and church members who use the commentaries to share their thoughts.
Following are their responses, edited for length:
The College Press commentaries help me when I need a quick interpretation of a verse. The explanations are not overly extensive and they provide an insightful look at the text.
People who do not have a background in the original languages and who are not interested in the nuances of every verb and participle can greatly benefit from the series. I often recommend them to our Bible class teachers.
David Duncan | Minister, Memorial Church of Christ, Houston
“I have the whole series and have used several — especially in preparing for teaching Bible classes. … I particularly liked the volume on Revelation. It gave some material I did not know before, but took a conservative view of the book.
“Authors vary on how much they use Greek. … Those not familiar with biblical languages might find it a bit difficult. Anyone could benefit from the series, but especially preachers and Bible class teachers.”
Roger Pritchett | Missions Minister,  Pleasant Valley Church of Christ, Little Rock, Ark.
“As a minister, I would gladly share these commentaries with Bible class teachers and members without fear that they would be more confused than before they read the commentary. Because of the writers’ concern for literary context of each biblical book, they can guide the reader to see inter-textual connections they might have missed on their own.
Stanley Helton | Minister, Tammany Oaks Church of Christ, Mandeville, La.
“I’ve found that the commentaries are done well. The writers are conversant with critical arguments and incorporate these somewhat into their comments.
“However, they do not ‘major’ on these matters. The commentaries strike a good balance between being neither overly ‘devotional’ nor overly technical, in my opinion.
I believe these volumes could benefit Bible class teachers … as well as church members who desire a deeper understanding of God’s Word.
Keith Brumley | Preaching/Teaching Minister, Northtown Church of Christ, Milwaukee

  • Feedback
    I was reading and I agree with Russ McCullough
    Throckmorton St. Church of Christ
    mckinney, texas
    March, 14 2012

    I, too, am in agreement with Russ McCullough in the name associated with Stone-Campbell. That should never have been mentioned as so many people have given us the name of Campbellites because of such comments as these. Campbell was dead for years as I understand before the Churches of Christ were established. Why the mention?? It makes room for un-warranted comments and decisions. It is never part to be a part of the equasion as far as I am concerned. Mildred McDaniel
    Mildred McDaniel
    Churches of Christ
    Johnson City, Tennessee
    February, 25 2012

    How do I get the commentaries you advertise? Also is there any on line access to these commentaries.?
    Gary Smith
    North MacArthur Okla City
    Yukon, Oklahoma
    August, 4 2011

    I am puzzled by the introductory paragraph of this review. Just what is the so-called “Stone-Campbell Movement?” “IF” we are referring to the blood bought singular church of Christ, why can’t we just say so? On the other hand, “IF” we are referring to just another “other gospel,” [Galatians 1] why don’t we just publicly join the National Association of Evangelicals and be done with it? I was baptized for the remission of my sins and added to the church of Christ by the Lord without ever hearing of Stone and Campbell. God is true and it remains that way today. The Lord adds us to His church, not to any “movement” of man.
    Russ McCullough
    Archdale church of Christ
    Charlotte, NC
    October, 20 2010

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