Friday, May 16, 2014

Luke - Brazos Theological Commentary (Brazos Press)

When it comes to picking which commentaries you follow along with when reading your Bible, you can never be too careful. I have a couple of multi-volume Bible commentaries that I trust:
Even with these four, I am always on the lookout for more commentaries. Recently I have been introduced to Brazos Theological Commentary. Unlike the commentaries above, Brazos commentaries are not written strictly by Catholics or strictly by Orthodox or strictly by Protestants. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but I am willing to give the series a shot on a book-by-book basis. Today, I will be reviewing their commentary on Luke.

The Brazos commentary on Luke by David Lyle Jeffrey is one of the more recent volumes in this series, but the first one I have had the chance to study and read. I must admit that I have never heard of Dr. Jeffrey, and it was the endorsements of Scott Hahn and Matthew Levering that sold me on this being a worthwhile volume in a series, with which I am unfamiliar. It turns out that Dr. Jeffrey "is known as a medievalist and as a scholar of biblical tradition in Western Literature and art." He is also a professor or literature and humanities at Baylor. This shows in the way he approaches his commentary on Luke.

The first thing I noticed about this commentary is the format. Almost every commentary I own, has the Scriptural text at the top of the page or in a block quote before the commentary. This one does not, so you will need a Bible to reference specific passages when studying with this book.. Dr. Jeffrey opts for three versions of the Bible - King James (KJV), New King James (NKJV), and Revised Standard (RSV). I'm not a fan of the first two, but that's a personal preference. The second thing I noticed was that unlike other commentaries, this isn't a verse-by-verse commentary. I have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, I'm used to the verse-by-verse format. On the other hand, sometimes you can get lost in the minutia of interpreting each word or each verse that you miss the forest for the trees.

It's hard to fully analyze and review a commentary, so instead of attempting this monumental task, I am just going to talk about one passage in Luke that I always enjoy reading and how Dr. Jeffrey discusses. When it comes to the scene of Gabriel appearing to Zacharias, Dr. Jeffrey points out that Gabriel's name means, "power of God" or "emissary of God." He also points out that he only is mentioned four times in the Bible, but each time it contains a messianic message. He also references places Gabriel appears outside of Scripture like 1st and 2nd Enoch and the Qumran scrolls. He then goes on to compare and contrast Zacharias' doubt with Abraham's doubt and how Abraham was humble and doubting, but Zacharias was more brazen and bold in his unbelief. Dr. Jeffrey calls on many sources in this one passage of Luke, such as St. John Chrysostom and Venerable Bede. He also dissects the language and shows how beautiful in symbolism and wordplay the original Greek is. This plethora of opinions (including Aquinas, Calvin, etc.) and examination of language pervades the entire book and adds a richness to it that other commentaries on Luke do not have.

Despite the unique approach (not form-critical, nor philological, nor verse-by-verse), this was still a solid commentary on the Gospel of Luke. It is clear from reading this commentary that Dr. Jeffrey cares very deeply about this book of the Bible and the message within it. For those unfamiliar with Luke, that message is found in Luke 1:1-2 - "to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us." I cannot say that this will be the primary commentary I reference when reading Luke, it has earned a place on my bookshelf with other commentaries I reference. And I will definitely reference this again and again, especially when the Church's calendar rolls back around to reading primarily from Luke. I look forward to investigating other volumes in this series as well to see if they are just as good or better.

This book was provided to me for free by Brazos Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!