Friday, June 1, 2012

Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament XII Ezekiel, Daniel




A starry sky of reformation lights illuminates the meaning of some of the most challenging material in the Bible.

Reformation Commentary on Scripture
Old Testament XII
Ezekiel, Daniel
Editors: Beckwith, Carl L; George, Timothy (General Editor);
Manetsch, Scott M. (Associate General Editor)
Publisher: IVP Academic (www.ivpress.com)
Pages: 452

My reason for requesting Ezekiel, Daniel was the opportunity to read commentary from reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Owen, John Bunyan, Richard Baxter and many other ancient expositors. This volume provides the opportunity to see how they interpreted these challenging Old Testament books. What I read convinces me that the existing and forthcoming volumes in this series will be a valuable addition to any theological library. Collect them all if you value commentaries.

These commentators stand outside our era and culture offering varied and different interpretations than their modern counterparts. They may not always be right, and they don’t always agree, but echoing the thought of G. K. Chesterton, they should have a voice at the table. It is not just contemporaries that need to be heard.

One instance where the reformers agree, but may be wrong, is their reading of the description of the temple in Ezekiel 40-48. They see it as figurative of the Church and heaven but not literal. This stands in sharp contrast to the many today looking for a literal rebuilding of the temple.

When Christ took hold of my life in the late 1970s, it wasn’t long before I encountered teaching on Ezekiel 36-38. Many see a reference to Russia invading Israel in the last days. While that may be the case, the reformers do not have the same emphasis. I value their perspective because it can keep us from having a narrow view. The second part of Proverbs 11:14 states that “in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” A consensus of opinion is worth considering and may help one to avoid error.

This volume effectively brings together the reformers’ most concise thoughts, which are drawn from a multitude of writings. Though this is a strength, it is also a slight shortcoming. Instead of getting detailed exposition on every single verse, you get commentary on select verses and overviews of passages, which may leave a reader wanting to know more and reaching for other resources. This might work best alongside a modern commentary using it in a way that one might compare old and modern translations of the Bible.

One feature I appreciate is the editor’s summary of the reformers’ thoughts on a passage, which follows the text of Scripture. Immediately readers have a general sense of the reformers’ understanding. This is a valuable feature.

The reformers comments come next, grouped under the appropriate text reference. This is further broken down by content specific headings for each commentator, whose writings normally stretch from one to three paragraphs. This layout is excellent, making it easy to navigate. The entire text of Ezekiel and Daniel is given in the English Standard Version except where noted.

This changed the way I see Ezekiel’s visions. I saw Christ more clearly than I ever have before. The reformers’ reverence and godliness shines through the material.

Overall, the exposition is sound, though it occasionally has a Calvinist and anti-Papist slant. The latter is no surprise; these our protestant reformers! But like the Calvinist leanings, this material is just in passing. The editor limits the discussion to what is pertinent.

Reading the many passages by Calvin, one quickly realizes that he is a fine expositor. I enjoyed his thoughts, even though I might disagree with some Calvinist doctrine.

These expositors do an admirable job on some of the most challenging material in the Bible. Where else can you find such a starry sky of reformation lights illuminating the revelations in these two books?

Finally, the color scheme and artwork in this series is my favorite among the Ancient Christian sets of books. The main color is a pleasing shade of green with off-white lettering. “The Paradise,” the Protestant Church in Lyon is part of the jacket artwork.
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