Of commentary, commentaries, and commentators

  1. Offering commentary on something one can be very helpful and informative.  Or not.
  2. Published Bible commentaries can be very helpful and informative.  Or not.
  3. Sports commentators are pretty much never very helpful or informative.

So I’ll comment a little on the first two.  🙂

In the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 2, p. 150, I found this commentary:

“In 1 Corinthians 16:2 Paul recommends that each person in Corinth save what he can and put it aside to be collected weekly.”

The first part of that is fairly good, although brief.  The second part, however, is formulated out of thin air or tradition (take your pick).  No responsible exegete or commentator is able to find actual evidence, in this passage, of a weekly collection, whether in practice or in Paul’s instructions.  The notion of a weekly taking up of money from a group and putting it into a collective pot simply doesn’t appear in 1 Corinthians 16:2.  What Paul asks—and he uses two words that connote this—is that people put aside some money somewhere, in accordance with their “prosperity.”

The Anchor Bible series commentary, generally recognized as a fine source, with each volume authored by a different scholar with notable credibility in the respective texts, supports my assertion:

“There is no indication given whether this is meant to be a tithe (no such prescription occurs in the New Testament); but is is implied that it is proportional and substantial.  It seems this is to be done on a family basis and the funds kept at home.”  (emphasis the authors’, not mine)   – Orr and Walther, The Anchor Bible Translation and Commentary, v. 32, 1 Corinthians (1976), p. 356.

collection plate

In my own study life, I’m finding that most commentaries I would have consulted a decade or two ago simply don’t go deep enough into the text, and/or they make assumptions or leaps that are not textually warranted, and/or they spend too much time in dogma instead of scriptural interpretation.  Frankly, I was surprised that a book with the title Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament made such an exegetical leap as the one documented a few paragraphs above (from saving to “the collection”).  But every commentator is human and therefore prone to error, manifesting bias and carelessness on occasion.

The commentaries I’m currently gravitating to—and I doubt this pattern will change much—are those that show clear, deep, sustained attention to both historical and literary contexts.  If the commentary attends to rhetorical devices and textual structure, all the better!

This has been a PSA on the need to be choosy with your commentaries.  I think, for my part, it may be time to throw away a few I have in a box.


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