Explorations in Stone-Campbell Bibliography: Commentaries

I have in mind a series of reflections on commentaries in the Restoration Movement.  This genre is only beginning to be explored, so I think a short series is in order.  As I continue to look into it, consider three broad time frames:

–19th century: this list will be rather short

–20th century to 1950 or DSS (Dead Sea Scrolls, discovery of the scrolls brought new light to bear on biblical studies).  Dividing the 20th century right down the middle at 1950 doesn’t necessarily entail that the post-1950 commentaries take into account the impact of the scrolls, but it is a handy dividing point.

–20th century 1950-to present

If you have comments or suggestions, please chime in.

2 thoughts on “Explorations in Stone-Campbell Bibliography: Commentaries

  1. It is useful to consider, in beginning such a study, how much the genre “commentary” has changed over time, not only in format, but also in audience, and surely in the vocabulary, presuppositions, range, scope, direction, and method of its content.

    The “short list” in the nineteenth century would need to include, after John William McGarvey and Robert Graham, Moses Easterly Lard (on Romans), James Sanford Lamar (on Luke), David Lipscomb (on Acts), and Barton Warren Johnson (on John, as well as on the New Testament!). It should be useful to compare McGarvey and Lipscomb on Acts, and also to compare McGarvey with himself, to see how much his understanding and method changed between 1863 and 1892.

    A “long list” of commentators in the nineteenth century would include a goodly (if not godly) number of more obscure authors who often publish serially in the periodicals or issue handbooks for study.

    In the first half of the twentieth century we should see a much wider divergence among the commentators, some of whom will demonstrate their “progress” in “critical”study, while others will remain resolutely precritical if not entirely uncritical. Nearly all of them will manifest great confidence in what they know of what can be known, but they will “know” different things.

    In the latter twentieth century we should look not only for the influence of the discoveries at Qumran but also for the impact of the 1945 discovery of the Coptic papyrus codices at Nag Hammadi, which profoundly revised studies of the New Testament and the history of early Christianity, especially in the Gospels. (The first “scholarly” work i purchased, as a freshperson in the Hardlyacollege a little more than 50 years ago, was the Coptic text and English translation of the Gospel of Thomas from Nag Hammadi. It was most assuredly not a text assigned, but it was sold in the bookstore, and i forwent many necessities in order to own it.) We should see this interest most clearly in the work of our brother Robert Walter Funk (1926-2005), especially in his commentaries on “the five gospels” and John. Here again the divergence in presuppositions, methods, and conclusions will widen.

    God’s Peace to you.


  2. One thing to consider including to some extent, especially in the late 19th century, would be the various commentaries on the International Sunday School Lessons. You have mentioned the 1895 and 1896 volumes Lipscomb published on your blog, and I think I have read that these Sunday school materials were the basis for Lipscomb’s commentary on Acts. I believe these were also a major source of the GA Commentaries published in the 20th century.

    There were other Sunday school commentaries, however–Standard Publishing was doing one (and still is), and B.W. Johnson was doing the “Christian International Lesson Commentary” in the 1880s and 1890s, too. I don’t know whether these comments are related to his People’s New Testament, but I would suspect so.

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