IVP - Behind the Books - Picture This: The Reformation Commentary on Scripture

May 4, 2012

Picture This: The Reformation Commentary on Scripture

Thanks to Brannon Ellis, project editor for the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, for writing this post.


What’s it like to read the Reformation Commentary on Scripture? How does it feel? I think one way to get a good handle on the character of the series is the metaphor of a conference or seminar.

In my own mind, I picture a room full of leading lights from the Reformation era (along with influential peripheral figures). The Volume Editor is the moderator or chair of the conference, and the reader has been invited to eavesdrop on the proceedings. So, in the case of Galatians, Ephesians, we might picture that Gerald Bray (volume editor) begins the current meeting by projecting a Powerpoint slide of, say, Galatians 2:15-21:

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ …

After shushing the attendees — this is a fairly rowdy bunch, after all — Bray offers a few opening comments setting the scene, before opening the discussion to all.

Martin Luther stands up first, as usual, and points out that it’s crucial to recognize that for Paul both Jews and Gentiles are equally worthy of judgment in God’s sight, because they’ve both rebelled against him—one side against his explicit commands, and the other side against what they implicitly know to be right and good. Both must realize they are sinners, in order that both may realize their need of Christ. Just about everyone in the room claps or says “Amen!”

Johannes Brenz waits for Brother Martin to finish, before offering quite a lengthy explanation of why it’s so important to continually emphasize the doctrine of justification by faith, since we naturally kick against it, either in self-righteous legalism, or in distrust or despair of the wholly free mercy of God. Again, most in the room express their hearty agreement (although a few grumble quietly about reminding people of the importance of good works, too).

And so it goes, under the careful direction of the moderator, the participants usually on the same page (though not always), leading the listener deeper into a theological engagement with and understanding of the meaning of the biblical text, the rich history of its interpretation, and its myriad pastoral implications and applications.

rcs.jpgI’d love to sit in on a conference like this, wouldn’t you? What’s remarkable is that, in reality, nothing quite like this ever happened. The RCS, I believe, is the closest we’ve ever gotten to being in such a room, experiencing the excitement of Luther battling it out with Zwingli, or the surprise when the Reformed and Reform-minded Catholics draw similar exegetical conclusions, or the epiphany that the Anabaptists may have had something worthwhile to say about the Bible after all. Gathering together so many fruitful Reformation-era thinkers, wrestling with scripture in one place with a unified purpose would have been just a thought experiment—until now.

Join our RCS program to save over 40% on each volume and receive the 1st volume for just $9.99 and Reading Scripture with the Reformers free: LEARN MORE. And don’t forget, the newest volume on Genesis 1-11 will release in August 2012!

Posted by Leah Kiple at May 4, 2012 12:10 PM Bookmark and Share


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