Jay Adams on the Use of Commentaries:

Speaking of exegesis, how do you do it? Do you cobble together bits and pieces from various commentaries into some explanation of the preaching portion? Or do you do the hard work of figuring out for yourself what the passage says, using various commentaries to help you? Between these two approaches to the text, there is a large difference. That for which you have worked will come through in your preaching as authentic. That which has been cribbed from some commentator who did the work, will come through as inauthentic (unless, of course, you are an astute actor). Hard work requires using a goodly number of sources to help you come to valid decisions about a passage. But it doesn’t mean abusing them by mere copying. Are you guilty of this sin, preacher? If so, repent, and begin to do the right thing that you know, down deep, you ought to be doing. Rightly handling the Word of God is not only work, but a great responsibility.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Making a valid decision about a passage? That comes with training from those who have an understanding. That comes when you have had the training into understanding how to arrive with a correct understanding of a passage that is before you.

    Every man who believes he desires to preach or teach the Word of God, should set under those who know how to teach others how to arrive at the meaning of the Word of God.

  2. Posted by Morgan on January 28, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    In teaching young guys like myself to be faithful expositors, my pastor has never failed to encourage us to open the commentaries after we’ve done every bit of work we can. Those who seek to be faithful to the text can rely on the Holy Spirit to speak through the passage and renew our minds before we’ve let someone else’s interpretation shade our vision for better or worse. Adams’ reminder is sobering and humbling to a first-year seminarian. Thanks, Matt.

  3. […] this challenge to do my own work from one28 student, Grant Weinberg. And that post went well with this quote on cobbling together commentaries by […]

  4. […] Exegesis = Hard work, then commentaries. I’m not so sure. “Exegesis” is a fancy word for “reading.” If I were conversant in Greek and Hebrew like the Apostle Paul, there wouldn’t be any “hard work” process of exegesis. On the other hand, the tricksy part of interpretation comes in making the connections between the little piece of text that you’re looking at to the rest of the Bible, to the original audience, through the lens of the cross, to the modern audience, on to implications and applications. That falls under the heading of “knowing what you’re talking about.” Knowing what you’re talking bout comes from being well-read (and of course, well led). In which case, I would really recommend even studying the commentary before studying the specific text of scripture – about two years before. […]

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