Search This Blog

Friday, 17 June 2011

Why we need a new generation of commentary writers!

Why I am angry
I am preparing to speak to a wonderful group of ordinary people this Sunday from Luke 5. So I get out my commentaries (only after meditating on the passage myself, of course!). And I trawl through far too many pages of explanation (on just 11 verses) looking for nuggets of insight and revelation. (I am convinced that it is much easier to write a long commentary than a short one, which explains the existence of so many long commentaries and the sparsity of short ones).

And then I get to this "corker" of a comment: 

"We are on more solid ground when we refer to the parabolic interpretation of the miracle drawing on clues from within the pericope. Most transparent is the nexus between catching fish and proclaiming the word: success in fishing, under Jesus' authority, is a prophetic symbol for the mission in which Peter and the others will participate.."

No I didn't understand it either.

My clever word checker has never heard of "pericope" before and thinks I should change it to periscope. Perhaps I should, won't make much difference to the intelligibility, and since we are talking about fishermen and fishing boats....

For the unlearned, pericope is "I know the scholarship lingo" fancy-speak for the humble word paragraph.

Good money was paid for this commentary which has supposedly come from an evangelical stable. And then I  get this kind of incomprehensibility - you can see why I'm mad.

Who are they trying to help (or impress)?
These kinds of comments which are liberally sprinkled through these kinds of commentary make you wonder why the guy (or gal) wrote it. Did he write it to help us ordinary preachers (in which case he plain doesn't understand our needs) or did he write it to impress his friends or peers (who will after all write the blurbs which sell the books which pay the bills, which helps to write more books, which.... )

What the church needs is commentators who have no other desire but the edification of God's people. They do not think when they write "what if Professor Dr Rev Clever Kloggs reads this? He'll turn up his nose and give me a duff review in The Journal of Incomprehensible Scholarship." They don't think "I want to impress that pastor with my deep learning." Instead they write to please Christ (which means to feed his flock).

They do exist
Thankfully such commentaries do exist. And invariably they are written by pastors on the beat not academics with their heads in the clouds. Look out for them and sell your shirt (or ipod) to get them.

1 comment:

  1. Very helpful. And too often preachers adopt the same style and congregations welcome it as a hallmark of 'Godliness' and 'Faithfulness to the Word'. I fear too often when some say they love preaching they mean they love 'the art of preaching'.

    I love what Paul (a master preacher) has to say about this in his letter to the believers at Corinth:

    'And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.'