September 12, 2011
The Reformation Commentary on Scripture is Here!
Thanks to Nick Liao, IVP Academic sales and marketing manager, for today’s post.
In 1995, theologian Tom Oden contacted InterVarsity Press about an idea for a unique biblical commentary - one that would present the writings of the church fathers on Scripture to a contemporary audience, with excerpts arranged by the books of the Bible. The result was to be the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS), a 29-volume commentary series which was completed last year.
Looking back on that initial conversation, the conception of the ACCS now seems like a stroke of publishing genius - the kind of runaway success that most publishers spend a great deal of time chasing, and often with little success. More than 500,000 volumes have sold to date. John Wilson of Books and Culture hailed the series as “the most important project in religious publishing at the end of the second millennium.” Ecumenical in scope, the ACCS was acclaimed by scholars, pastors and students of Scripture spanning a diverse range of traditions, including Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox. Perhaps most importantly, the series contributed to a renewal of evangelical interest in the early church, a phenomenon that shows little sign of abating so many years later.
Though it looks like a tough act to follow, our hopes are high for the anticipated Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS). Edited by Timothy George and Scott Manestch, the RCS is projected to be a 28-volume commentary that brings the exegesis of the Protestant Reformation into view for a new audience. The inaugural volume, Galatians, Ephesians, was officially scheduled to release later this month, but has just arrived in our warehouse!
Those familiar with the ACCS will discern obvious continuities between the two series. Like the ACCS did with patristic writings, the RCS will give readers access to biblical commentary from the leading lights of the Reformation era. Many of the selections published in this series will also be appearing in English for the first time. And other similarities abound, including the familiar double-columned format, the attractive typeset and cover design.
So why a series on the Reformation, and why now? As series editor Timothy George writes in Reading Scripture with the Reformers, modern biblical studies with its fixation on historical-critical method to the exclusion of other insights has languished by neglecting the robust theological interpretation that the reformers themselves practiced. The Reformation was a revolution that aimed to recover the transformative power of Scripture for the life of the church. By sending readers back to the insights of the reformers, and therefore back to the Scriptures they so revered, we hope preachers and scholars will encounter the Word of God afresh as the reformers did in their own time, thereby revitalizing the contemporary church’s preaching, worship and witness. In this way, the RCS echoes the Reformation cry of ecclesia semper reformanda est! - the church must always be reforming.
More recently, there’s been a big to-do about the comeback of reformed theology, with the “Young, Restless and Reformed” on one end of the spectrum and seemingly everyone else on the other. We hope that the publication of this series will enrich that conversation by illustrating the breadth of the Protestant Reformation through the diverse cast of figures who were at its forefront. The Reformation was not merely about Calvin and Luther, as important as they were, but it was a time of creative theological ferment as exemplified by figures such as Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger, John Owen, Katharina Schütz Zell and Hans Denck. Exposing the wider public to these writings, we believe, will help shed more light than heat on a contentious topic.
We also believe this series will be of value to the church catholic, not just those who belong to a Reformed tradition. As Timothy George notes, the Reformers did not stand apart in history but read Scripture and theologized in dialogue with the tradition and church fathers that preceded them (even if that meant reading the Bible against them at times). Their writings often evinced a deep familiarity with and high regard for the rule of faith as summarized in the ecumenical creeds. Even those most forearmed against reformed theology will find much to appreciate and be challenged by in these volumes as they compare how the reformers read Scripture with the church fathers. And they’ll likely find themselves surprised by the diverse range of opinions and the humor contained in some of these selections.
A team of first-rate scholars is currently hard at work compiling these volumes, which will be published steadily over the next decade. It will take time to say anything definite about the legacy of the series, even though it’s already being enthusiastically greeted by a number of noteworthy individuals. Nonetheless, the series motto, “Retrieved for Renewal,” expresses our optimism that the RCS will accomplish its goal of recovering the wealth of Reformation-era commentary for the sake of the church’s identity and mission. As with the ACCS, the RCS demonstrates our conviction that history is our lifeblood, and that we stand in the company of those who have gone before us. In more ways than one, we’re building on a great tradition.
See what the RCS has to offer for yourself! View the first chapter of the inaugural volume, Galatians, Ephesians, here.