May 13, 2012

On the Writing of Commentaries

I was recently looking through Thomas Manton’s classic commentary on James and came upon the following statement concerning the canonical status of James (which students of James know has been disputed by some). 

“Concerning the divine authority of this epistle, I desire to discuss it with reverence and trembling. It is dangerous to loosen foundation stones. I should wholly have omitted this part of my work, but that the difference is so famous; and to conceal known adversaries is an argument of fear and distrust. The Lord grant that the cure be not turned into a snare, and that vain men may not unsettle themselves by what is intended for an establishment!” (James Manton, A Practical Commentary or an Exposition with Notes on the Epistle of James [London: John Gladding, 1840], iii).

I find Manton’s words refreshing for three reasons. First, he recognizes that there are consequences (intended and unintended to what we write) and therefore care should be exercised. Second, even with the possibility of “loosing foundation stones,” Manton realizes that he has a responsibility to address controversial issues rather than operating out of “fear and distrust.” Third, Manton is prayerful that his discussion would ultimately be edifying. I know that Manton’s sentiments might sound rather quaint, but should not a similar attitude characterize Christian interpreters today?

By the way, you can download a free e-book copy of Manton’s commentary here.

No comments: