Friday, May 22, 2015

Reformation Commentary on Scripture, New Testament III: Luke


Beth Kreitzer provides a female perspective on Luke’s highlight of women.

Reformation Commentary on Scripture, New Testament III: Luke
Editor: Beth Kreitzer
Publisher: IVP Academic (www.ivpress.com)
Pages: 573

I find myself listening for the voice. Not just the voice of the many fine commentators found in Luke, volume III in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture Series, but the voice of the editor, Beth Kreitzer.

Readers have the opportunity to get a feminine perspective on commentary derived from Luke’s gospel, which highlights the role of women. As the general editor, Timothy George, notes, this volume, along with those in the Ancient Christian Commentary Series (a related set), makes a special effort to include the voices of women whenever possible. Part of the challenge lies in the fact that for various reasons few theological and biblical works were published by women in an earlier time period.

So for each passage examined, it’s more than a little interesting to get Kreitzer’s views on the assorted comments that follow. Her thoughts provide background and clarify the reformer’s overarching concerns.

She is also not afraid to gently chide them, “The Savior of the World is now present, and all those who hear the good news are saved by their faith in him—including Mary, who, these preachers are at pains to point out, is saved by her faith in her son, not by being his mother” (22).

Her brief articulation of Luke by way of an introduction is excellent. She explains that the majority of comments come from sermons, as they best fit the purpose of this work. The reformers never wavered in preaching the gospel. She also covers major themes, controversies and sources.

Timothy George’s extensive introduction to this series is equally impressive. It’s a joy to start with these two fine summaries.

One of the pleasant surprises is the occasional appearance of an unexpected voice, William Cowper, the author of the hymn, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” He was a friend of John Newton, the writer of “Amazing Grace.” It’s not just his spirituality that intrigues, but his lifelong struggle with depression and despair. Yet despite the valleys he descended, the words he wrote, some found here, should resonate with those who wrestle with the complexities of the spiritual life.

His inclusion is representative of many lesser known lights included in this book. There is plenty here from the likes of Calvin and Luther, but the other voices are no less profound.

Their perspectives, as well as the others, are sometimes less common than modern ones. In his thoughts on the healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, Johannes Brenz writes, “He (Christ) came to this poor cottage to show that poverty and sickness are not as neglected and condemned by God as they are by human beings. For in this world there is nothing more abject than poor people, and no one less regarded than those who are sick. But Christ comes to these and shows that of everyone he cares the most for them. Therefore, those who are oppressed with poverty and afflicted by sickness should not faint or be discouraged, neither should they think that because of their poverty and sickness they are rejected by God. But let them be sure that the more they are pressed down with afflictions, the more they are beloved and regarded by God” (107).

Devotional thoughts like these remind me of Matthew Henry, a saintly commentator. His godliness shaped his outlook. To read his words and those found in this volume is like breathing a rarefied air. It’s refreshing!   

A pastoral concern is evident. If modern commentaries lean towards the academic, this is closer to shepherding the flock. Both aspects are necessary, and it’s a good reason to have both kinds. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors.

Projected volumes in this series will cover the entire Bible. As of this writing there are seven volumes available. This should not be confused with the related series, Ancient Christian Texts and the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. All three are recommended for the early perspective that they offer. They will be a great addition to any theological library, and it helps support this valuable work.


It gives voice to the reformers, who occupy a particular era of church history. They deserve a place at the table just as much as anyone else. Though they have passed on to their eternal rewards, they still speak in these beautifully done volumes. 

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