Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Notice: The Church's Bible: Romans

One of the recent, helpful trends in scholarship are the recent spate of commentaries that mine patristic commentators insights. In this vein, Eerdmans has produced The Church's Bible: Interpreted by Early and Medieval Commentators. Thus far, four editions have appeared, and the most recent, Romans, is available now. I was pleasantly surprised to find a copy in my mailbox yesterday! So here are some initial impressions.

1) I love the layout! Series Editor, Robert Louis Wilken is to be commended for this commentary's ease of use.  Each section resembles the general layout of commentaries. First, the unit of scripture is demarcated, e.g. Romans 1:1-7, followed by the comments of some of the first and most important commentators in the history of interpretation, i.e., Augustine, John Chrysotom, etc.)

2) I believe the translator and editor of this volume, J. Patout Burns Jr. has wisely chosen his conversation partners. It would be impossible to include every comment made by every ancient commentator, but Burns Jr. has managed to choose his well. The reader will quickly find that figures such as, Origen , Augustine, Chrysotom, Ambrosiaster, Theodoret, Pelagius, are the  ancient conversation partners on the text of Romans.

3) A corollary to the above point is that only the best of translations was used in the making of this volume.  Critical editions of Origen and Cyril of Alexandria were included, along with many other translations provided by other translators, experts in their fields, who contributed to this project (xi).

4) I can definitely see this project being a boon to preachers and students alike. It demonstrates that our interpretations do not occur in a vacuum, and values the ancient voices and minds that have interpreted the text well before any of us came along!

5) I'll leave you with one example, here is what Augustine states about Romans 1:2 (...which he promised through his prophets in the holy scriptures...): "He says through his holy prophets, but then immediately adds, in the holy scriptures, lest false prophets seduce anyone into impiety by accidentally announcing the truth. He intended to indicate clearly that the literature of the nations, filled as it is with superstitious idolatry, should not be considered holy just because a few references to Christ can be found in it" (17, bold face original).

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