It seems every month or so someone is announcing a new study Bible. While study Bibles have a lot of useful features, they can also contain vast commentaries written by scholarly theologians.
I am going to ask you a question that will surely raise the hackles of many fellow bloggers.
Is it profitable to read commentaries, especially in a study Bible? Do the words of a man, no matter how scholarly and theologically sound, belong on the same pages with the inspired Word of God?
Let me explain. I used to read from a New Testament that had pages of explanatory footnotes and commentary on numerous applicable passages. However, I began to notice that whenever the text was not completely clear to me, my eyes would automatically go to the commentary to see what the editor had written. I was looking for the answer in the footnote. This is not necessarily bad in and of itself, but I found myself quickly reading the verses and then jumping down to see what the commentator thought that scripture portion actually meant.
I was robbing myself of the blessing God gives by granting revelation. Further, I was stunting my faith by relying on the wisdom of man rather than the strength of God's Word. In essence, I was being just plain lazy. Rather than getting out the concordance and seeking the greater context or more exact meaning of words and phrases I simply looked to the "answer sheet".
To make matters worse, I now adopted the theological view of my commentator (whether good or bad) without arriving at this conclusion from my own study of God's word. I was becoming a parrot.
You may not think you are being ruled by a commentary but let me ask you a few questions.
- When you are unclear as to the meaning of a text, do you automatically skim to the notes for an interpretation?
- Must you check each doctrinal point you believe with what your favorite commentator has written. If there are differences, do you give up what you believe simply because you are inferior in education?
- Do you tend to quote a preacher, commentator, etc, often when either discussing theology, or preaching from the pulpit. Do you let commentators have the final say over the "sticky" texts?
- Can you from scripture alone, make a convincing argument for the doctrines you believe and hold to be true?
- Do you find your faith and convictions shaken when you read that some famous preacher believes otherwise than you on certain passages of scripture?
Am I saying that commentaries are bad? No, but they must be used wisely and appropriately, always realizing that the men writing them are coming from a certain theological persuasion. Hence their emphasis will be to highlight those aspect they believe to be most pertinent.
Is this not the reason we have so many English translations of the Bible today? Every camp of theology has to have a Bible of their own interpretation.
As always, your thoughts are most welcome.