Books are at the heart of the preacher’s craft, every bit as much as the carpenter’s tools or the surgeon’s instruments. Good preachers love books; no matter how much time they have for reading, they always lament the lack of enough time for their books.
Central to any preaching library is the Bible, The Book. Most preachers have more than one translation of scripture; sometimes several shelves are filled with various Bibles. (I’ve got two dozen on the shelf right now.) And whenever it seems that we’ve reached the saturation point, yet another translation hits the marketplace and we are tempted to add just one more to the collection.
In addition to the Bible itself, commentaries and other Bible reference materials form a major share of the preacher’s arsenal of books. And of commentaries there is no end — each year brings a new assortment of sizes, shapes, and theological approaches.
This year is no exception. 1994 has particularly been a year of commentaries, including the launch of a new edition of an old favorite.
One of the major highlights of 1994 is the launch of The New Interpreter’s Bible, published by Abingdon Press, which will eventually (by the year 2000) be a 12-volume set. The first volume — consisting of general and Old Testament articles, plus commentaries on Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus — was released in September; at a back-breaking 1,214 pages, it retails for $65.
TNIB’s predecessor, The Interpreter’s Bible, has been a popular tool for preachers since its release in the 1950’s. The new edition involves the work of nearly one hundred contributors — Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish — from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. The editorial board is chaired by Leander Keck of Yale Divinity School.
Among the contributors known to Preaching readers will be James Earl Massey (a Preaching contributing editor), who serves as Homiletics Editor for TNIB: Thomas Long, Senior Homiletics Editor; Elizabeth Achtemeier (also a Preaching contributing editor), writer of the commentary on Joel; Walter Brueggeman, on Exodus; David Buttrick, an article on “The Use of the Bible in Preaching” in Volume 1; and Fred B. Craddock, on Hebrews. The majority of contributors represent a mainline protestant tradition, although there is representation of evangelicals, along with Catholic and Jewish scholars.
Among the general articles in Volume 1, readers will find sections (each containing multiple articles) on “How We Got Our Bible,” “How the Bible is Read, Interpreted and Used,” and “The Background of the Old Testament Texts.” Within the commentary itself, each section of scripture is treated with an Overview, text from both the New International Version and New Revised Standard Version, a verse-by-verse Commentary, then a section of Reflections for preaching and teaching.
Primary authors for the commentaries in the first volume are: Genesis, Terence E. Fretheim of Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary; Exodus, Walter Brueggeman of Columbia Seminary; Leviticus, Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., of Gordon-Conwell Seminary.
Abingdon is to be congratulated on the quality of design and production on this work, which is likely to have a place in the library of thousands of preachers who will benefit from it in their sermon preparation.
Launching of TNIB alone would make it a memorable year for commentaries, but other authors and publishers have been quite active as well.
Continuing release of volumes of the New American Commentary from Broadman & Holman is welcome news, as this collection shapes up to be an outstanding resource, particularly for evangelical preachers looking for conservative biblical scholarship. New Testament volumes in this series have tended to be stronger than Old Testament, but all are worthy additions to the preacher’s library.
Four volumes were released in 1994: Galatians by Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School; Job by Robert L. Alden of Denver Seminary; Ezekiel by Lamar Eugene Cooper, Sr., of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission; and Daniel by Stephen R. Miller of Mid-America Baptist Seminary.
The Communicator’s Commentary from Word has been an excellent series for preachers. Unlike most commentaries, which are written by scholars in the academy, this series also includes many writers who minister in local church settings and are known as strong preachers. The latest volume in this series is Isaiah 40-66 by David L. McKenna, recently retired as president of Asbury Seminary and a well-known speaker and author. Like others in the series, McKenna focuses on thematic issues and preaching insights from the text.
Another outstanding contribution from Word is the Word Biblical Commentary, which will ultimately reach fifty-three volumes. Volume 2 in the set, Genesis 16-50 by Gordon Wenham, was released this year. It offers comment and explanation of the text, along with textual notes and suggested bibliography. Wenham is professor of Old Testament at the Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education in England.
It does seem to have been a big year for Old Testament commentaries, including two additions to The Old Testament Library series from Westminster/John Knox Press: I & II Chronicles by Sara Japhet and Jonah by James Limburg. Japhet’s commentary differs from many others in that she sees the books of the Chronicles as essentially a single work by one author, as opposed to a compilation of varied material. Japhet is professor of Bible at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Limburg is professor of Old Testament at Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary in St. Paul.
The latest volume in the Hermeneia series — published by Augsburg Fortress — is Daniel by John J. Collins of Notre Dame. This is a critical and historical commentary series; there is no focus on homiletical issues. By contrast, an excellent series for preachers and teachers is the Interpretation commentary from Westminster/John Knox Press. The most recent release in this series is Psalms by James L. Mays, professor emeritus of Hebrew and Old Testament Interpretation at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond. Like others in the series, Mays offers excellent homiletical insights for those who are preaching in the Psalms.
The Storyteller’s Companion to the Bible is not quite a commentary, but a delightful resource for preaching as it assists readers in more effectively reading and retelling biblical stories. Volume 5 in the series, which is edited by Michael Williams and published by Abingdon, is Old Testament Wisdom.
An interesting new series by Baker Book House is the Expositor’s Guide to the Historical Books. As part of that series, Dale Ralph Davis wrote Looking on the Heart, a two-volume exposition of the book of Samuel. This will be a helpful (and in paperback, an inexpensive) resource for preachers. Davis is pastor of Aisquith Presbyterian Church in Baltimore and associate professor of Old Testament at Reformed Seminary.
The past year hasn’t been restricted to the Old Testament, however. Several New Testament commentaries have appeared, including Peter Stuhlmacher’s Paul’s Letter to the Romans, translated into English by Scott Hafemann and published by Westminster/John Knox Press. This is a worthy addition to any preacher’s study of Romans.
Another new resource is Opening the Gospel of John by Philip W. Comfort and Wendell C. Hawley, published by Tyndale House Publishers. Each section includes exegetical comments and notes and a preaching focus. Preachers will find an abundance of useful insights. Comfort is professor of New Testament at Wheaton College; Hawley is a former chaplain and now senior vice president at Tyndale House.
For those who prefer to use the King James Version — a dwindling but determined number — the 21st Century King James Version will be of real interest. The KJ21 does not modify the literary style of the KJV, but it does update spelling, punctuation and paragraphing, and replaces antiquated words with modern equivalents. For example, “her hap was” (Ruth 2:3) becomes “she happened”; “reins” (Prov. 23:16) becomes “inmost being”; “carriages” (Acts 21:15) is now “baggage.” Despite such updating, the KJ21 does seem to preserve more of the KJV’s original language than the New King James Version.
Preachers who use the New Common Lectionary will be interested to note that each text in the cycle is clearly identified. KJ21 is published by 21st Century Bible Publishers of Gary, South Dakota.
Speaking of the NKJV, a new setting for that rendering is found in the Experiencing God Bible from Broadman & Holman. This Bible, primarily aimed at personal study and devotion, includes extensive study notes from the Experiencing God book and seminars by Henry Blackaby and Claude V. King; the volume is edited by Trent Butler. This Bible is characterized by regular sections posing questions aimed at the text’s meaning and its application to the reader’s life. The wide margins encourage the reader to make his or her own study notes.
Another recent release which merges the NKJV with commentary is the Matthew Henry Study Bible from World Bibles. It incorporates notes from Matthew Henry’s popular (if 300-years-old) commentary.
One of the most unique publications of the past year is the Orthodox Study Bible (Thomas Nelson Publishers), combining the NKJV (New Testament and Psalms) with study notes, prayer guides and other features written from an Orthodox perspective. This will be of interest to ministers and others who would like to better understand the perspective of this major faith family within Christianity. I particularly enjoyed the colorful art by Orthodox artists included in this handsome volume.
Users of the Ryrie Study Bible will be interested in Moody Press’ publication of the Ryrie Study Bible Expanded Edition, featuring extensive study notes, additional graphics, comprehensive book outlines and other resources. The NIV version is already available, with the KJV edition due to bookstores this fall.
What commentary do you find most helpful in sermon preparation — and why? Write and let us know, and we’ll pass along your recommendations in a future issue. Send your comments to: Bible Commentary Survey, Preaching, PO Box 7728, Louisville, KY 40257-0728.
Book Notes
Tex Sample, Ministry in an Oral Culture: Living with Will Rogers, Uncle Remus & Minnie Pearl (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1994), paper, 100 pp., $11.99.
Speaking of story, here’s a brief volume (the title is almost as long as the book) that seeks to introduce ministers to the world of oral culture. Sample offers a bridge to help pastors trained in a literary culture communicate with congregations living in an oral culture. Sample is the Rogers Professor of Church and Society at Saint Paul School of Theology, Kansas City, Missouri.
Ronald W. Johnson, How Will They Hear If We Don’t Listen? (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), paper, 194 pp.
Ron Johnson has an important word for pastors: be quiet and listen! Johnson suggests that listening plays a vital role in both preaching and personal evangelism, and he offers suggestions to enable us to become better ministry listeners. Though most of the book focuses on evangelism, Johnson’s insights will be helpful to preachers seeking to communicate effectively in a noisy age. The author is evangelism director for the Georgia Baptist Convention.
Alan Redpath, Law and Liberty: The Ten Commandments for Today (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1993), paper 128 pp.
Revell (a division of Baker Book House) is to be congratulated for reissuing the works of one of the century’s premier biblical expositors, Alan Redpath. An English preacher who served as pastor of Chicago’s Moody Church, Redpath’s homiletical insights are enough to “prime the pump” of almost any preacher.
Joyce Good Reis, Children of the Kingdom (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994), hardcover, 152 pp., $12.99.
Pastors who present a weekly children’s sermon are always on the lookout for quality resources and ideas. Such pastors will welcome Children of the Kingdom, a collection of quality children’s sermons arranged by the church year. Reis is a Sunday School teacher and children’s choir director at Wesley United Methodist Church, Melbourne, Florida.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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