Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Use and Value of Commentaries

Last night, I led my church's Monday night Bible study. We did what I called an "example of personal Bible study." What I was trying to convey was, when someone comes to you and says, "The Bible says X," how do we go about verifying if what that person says is true? So, we used Matthew 7:1 as an example of a text that gets ripped out of context and horribly misinterpreted and misapplied. We went over the important steps of: context, cross-reference, and concordance. The fourth 'C' that I didn't have time to cover was "commentary." This is what I meant to say about using commentaries to help you determine the interpretation of a given passage:

1. Commentaries are man-made documents. They are prone to error as much as any person.
2. Commentaries come in different flavors: Good, bad, technical, devotional, etc.
3. Find a trustworthy commentary (Matthew Henry, for example).
4. Commentaries are often used as the first tool of Bible study: this is lazy! Use a commentary last, only to see if what you have found from your own Bible study agrees with the commentator.
5. If the results of your study differ from the commentator (and remember that you should be using a trustworthy commentary!) weigh this carefully. You should not automatically defer to the commentator, but you should consider the fact it is possible that you have gotten something wrong.
6. A good commentary is a gift a godly preacher leaves to future generations. They are fallible, but they can also reveal great treasures of Scripture that we may have missed.

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