By Timothy George
November 28, 2016
Five years ago, InterVarsity Press launched the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, a projected twenty-eight-volume series of exegesis covering both the Old and New Testaments, gathered from the writings of sixteenth-century preachers, scholars, and reformers. Now comes the ninth volume published in the series. At 745 pages, it is the largest volume thus far in the RCS. It offers Reformation comment on six of the “historical” books of the Old Testament: 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, and 1-2 Chronicles. The in-house editorial moniker for this volume is Samicles: “Sam(uel, Kings, and Chron)icles.” The volume is the work of Derek Cooper, who teaches world Christian history at Biblical Theological Seminary, and Martin J. Lohrmann, professor of Lutheran confessions and heritage at Wartburg Theological Seminary.
One of the major purposes of the RCS is to cultivate the art of listening to what God has been saying to his people across time. This is a form of contextual theology, except that the “context” here is not this or that group chosen from the panoply of today’s identity politics, but rather the oft-disregarded community of believing Christians through the centuries. When it comes to the Bible’s historical texts in particular, like those chosen for scrutiny in this volume, this means that we must deconstruct reductionist approaches to Scripture in order to listen afresh to how God addresses the church through the inspired remembrances of ancient Israel. Cooper and Lohrmann help us to do exactly this, by giving careful exegetical selections from a wide range of Reformation-era readers and interpreters.
Those who attempt to read the Bible straight through will find lots of show-stopping drama in these historical books of the Old Testament. Here we encounter some of the best-known characters and episodes in the entire Bible: the slaying of Goliath by young David, Elisha’s cursing of boys who made fun of his bald head, Saul’s quest for wisdom from the witch of Endor, the faithful prophet Micaiah. There are also Hannah the praying mother, Jonathan the beloved friend, Solomon the wise king, and Elijah the Tishbite with his villainous foes Ahab and Jezebel. All of these people are characters in what Christopher J. H. Wright has called “the narrative of God’s mission, through God’s people, in God’s world, for God’s purpose—the redemption of all of God’s creation.” Because of this, these writings found a special place within the Tanakh of ancient Israel, but they also resonate in the theology and witness of the New Testament and the early church. Jesus, the apostles, and the early Christian writers all read and quoted from these books. Read the rest at First Things.