Know Your Bible

VOL. 8                           October 18, 2009                           NO. 41


    Commentaries are the products of men. No commentary, ever produced, is without flaw. It is a mistake to believe everything you may find in a commentary.

    When I began preaching, it was not uncommon for someone in a Bible class to speak up and say, "Johnson says" or “Adam Clarke says" and then proceed to quote that commentary. In some cases the one quoted might be Barnes, Hinds, Lard, Lipscomb, McGarvey, Macknight, Whiteside or whomever. That showed at least two things: those who quoted commentaries had enough interest in knowing what the Bible teaches to spend their money for materials which they thought would help them gain that knowledge and they studied to prepare for the Bible class.

    Along with the good there were problems of 1. Substituting the reading of a commentary for a real study of the biblical text, and 2. The over developing of one's appreciation for the commentator to the point of automatically rejecting any other view.

    After having been engaged in "full-time" preaching for several years, having worked with six local churches and having recently started work with the seventh, a brother spoke up and said, "Johnson says" and either quoted or read the comment. As chance would have it, the comment was not in line with my view. At that time some years had passed since anyone had cited Johnson in a Bible class which I was teaching. My immediate response was to quip, "Am I going to have to put up with Johnson here too?" I said it with a smile and intended it as a joke, but apparently I sounded serious because it hurt my dear brother. However, his hurt was soon relieved and we became close as brothers in Christ.

    Before someone draws the conclusion that I am against consulting commentaries, let it be noted that in my library there are five commentaries each covering the whole Bible; two others, each covering all the New Testament, another which covers all the Old Testament and about sixty other volumes each of which covers one or more books of the Bible. Certainly I am not opposed to consulting commentaries. I often consult them. However, it must be remembered that commentaries are uninspired works written by mortal men.

    Some commentators have attained a high level of formal education and others have acquired very little of that commodity. However, one's knowledge of God's word is more valuable to the work of writing a commentary on the Bible than formal education.

    Another important thing to remember about commentaries is that not all of them are written as the fruit of a diligent and honest effort to search out and express the original intent and meaning of the book or books treated. Some commentaries are written to promote a system of doctrine, some to promote a particular doctrine and some to refute a doctrine or doctrines. Knowing a commentator's purpose for writing his commentary may contribute a great deal of insight to one who is trying to decide whether or not it would be a valuable addition to his library.

    Commentaries are written in different styles. Some present a number of different views on almost every point and leave it for the reader to take his pick or reject them all. Others, after presenting a variety of views, try to persuade the reader to accept the commentator's differing view. Another style is to present one's own view with occasional refutations of other views. some commentaries contain many phrases in the Hebrew or Greek, without giving their English translation, and therefore are difficult for persons unacquainted with those languages to understand. Some commentators employ a scholarly jargon which is unfamiliar to most folk. Other commentaries are written in language simple enough to make very complicated ideas plain enough to be understood. This is not an approval nor disapproval of a particular style. They all serve different purposes.

    When consulting a commentary do not be afraid to disagree with what you read. Be prepared to sift out the facts from the conjectures. A set of facts may lead to an inescapable conclusion, but commentators often draw a conclusion from a set of facts which is not necessarily required. the facts actually may support a very different conclusion.

    If you can separate the evidence from an interpretation of evidence, commentaries may be useful aids to your Bible study. However, do not forget, the Bible is our source book. Any commentary which will not harmonize with the text of the Bible is wrong.


---Fred Shewmaker


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Tired Of Tradition

Everywhere I go worship is just the same.
Meeting AM and PM, wearing the same old name.
Two songs, a prayer, another song,
For years I’ve just gone along.
All this time following the old tradition,
I’m making a change in the churches’ condition.
At first I’ll mention just a few,
To get their pulse and see what they do.
I’ll tell the young my tho’ts and not the old.
Can’t go too fast, or get too bold.
I know there’ll be problems I can tell,
But eventually I’ll make the sale.
Every service will be different, I can see it now.
With my great wisdom I’ll make a change, and how.
After the order of worship is changed,
I’ll show other things that need rearranged.
Why, we could have a chorus and clapping of hands.
We’ve too many dead members sitting in the pews.
We could make our services come alive.
Just think of all the things we can contrive.
Changing of the name will take a little longer.
“Old Timer’s” defense will be loud and stronger.
We’ll just wait till they die or move away,
Then another Victory! And we’ll shout “Hooray!”
I can see it now, and no one will recognize.
With increase in attendance and our new building’s size.
Surely by the Lord we will have been blessed,
As we entertain ourselves into our heavenly rest.
And so it has been throughout the years.
Such attitudes cost Paul his many tears.
The number of souls lost no one can tell.
We must be watchmen too and save them from hell.
Why make a change for just change’s sake?
And to bid it makes our hearts to ache.
I must be careful not to push my opinion,
And end up in the devil’s dominion.
The Lord commanded “decent and in order”,
We’ve not been accused of being on sin’s border.
So why all the hassle? We’d like to know!
Confusion and trouble are the seeds you sow.
Why change the name of the church of the Lord?
Are we afraid of people or have we just gotten bored
With the name of the One who saves us from hell?
What started all this it is hard for me to tell.
Old Timers have used expedients our Lord to praise
So that on the Resurrection our souls He will raise.
Then we can raise our voices and sing.
Where there will never be a desire to change a thing.
---Morris Hafley

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