It started with John Stott's Only One Way, his exposition of Galatians. It was 1972, in Crieff, while on Summer Mission, leading a three week party in the park for a couple of hundred children. The Summer Mission Team met after breakfast for bible study - we used Stott's book. A month later it was Frances Foulkes on Ephesians, then John Stott again this time on the Epistles of John, the best Tyndale NT Commentary of them all, I think.
So I was started on reading commentaries. Derek Kidner on the Psalms, JL Mays on Amos, Derek Nineham on Mark - oops, my first encounter with liberal critical biblical scholarship - but that Pelican Commentary woke me up to the diversity of opinion and approaches to New Testament interpretation. By the time I was in College, Barrett on John, Cranfield on Romans, Childs on Exodus and so my own 40 year wanderings began, but not in the wilderness, in the orchards and vine groves of biblical exegesis, the fruit fields of text and context, and the wide harvest fields of Bible study where living bread is to be found, shared and enjoyed as food for the soul.
I am in the process of rationalising my library, reducing it to fit into our house, more or less. There isn't much surplus in a library I've culled most years, not much that is no longer needed, or unlikely to be read again, or outdated and superceded. But yes, there will be some boxes of discarded, withdrawn, - to be sold, given away, or consigned to the charity shops. Commentaries are, more than many books, likely to date as scholarly fashions change, or more importantly new knowledge and fresh insights compel revision of thought. So yes, commentaries I once valued hugely have been superceded by new and more informed scholarship; reliable guides for one generation may be just as useful and dependable to the next generation. But in fact I've always kept the biblical section as current as I could afford, with the progressions of biblical studies
Amongst the interesting items in second hand bookshops are old ordinance survey maps; the one for the Cairngorms from the 1950's will still serve as a reliable map of the mountains; but the one for East Kilbride takes no account of the new town, the expanding connurbation of Glasgow, the motorway network and the many other changes to topography that must always be reflected in good cartography. Likewise with commentaries. Think of the commentary writer as a cartographer of the text, someone whose task is to convey as clearly and accurately as possible, the lie of the land, the notable features, the network of connections. Which brings me to the reason for this long preamble in a post where, if you're not into commentaries you may have already clicked to go elsewhere!
Which would be a pity, because, this post already being long enough, you will have missed the promise to finish this story tomorrow :) That post will be about exegetical integrity, or to put it in biblical language, 'rightly handling the word of truth', that Word which brings us into living relationship with the God made known to us in Jesus Christ, living and present in the church and the world by the Holy Spirit.
For now here's Ched Meyers in his commentary on Mark, a book that is both more than a commentary, or maybe less than a commentary and more like a serious talking to by a coach who calls us to account for lack of commitment, under-performing and messing about when we should be focused on what our life is about.
"In the continuous ideological struggle within the church over christology, Mark stands as the first attempt to assert a definitive "history" of Jesus. This story calls the reader back to the messianic practice that Jesus embodied, and which he enjoins on his followers in every age. Above all, the Gospel asserts the primacy of practice over speculative, cognitive faith. In the symbolic discourse of Mark, Jesus refuses to give a heavenly sign to his critics (8:12). The "sign" will appear only in the world and in history; the concrete practice of discipleship and the way of the cross.
(Meyers, Binding the Strong Man, 2008, page 109)
The tapestry is of the beautiful Hebrew word Hesed, variously lovingkindness, faithfulness, longsuffering, mercy. Myers would want these lovely abstract words concretised, because that's what following Jesus means - acting in a Hesed way.