Andy Naselli on his new concise commentary on 1 Corinthians

"I’m sharing this backstory in case you’re interested in what might go into a book like this. Crossway invited me to write this commentary in October 2013. There were three basic phases between then and now..." - Naselli

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josh p's picture

I really like Naselli and have benefited a lot from his writings. That being said, this seems like a strange sentence from the bibliography:

"Hays, a longtime professor at Duke Divinity School, writes as a theologically conservative Methodist who does not share evangelical views on inerrancy (which is evident in his excursus on 14:34–35)."

Maybe he meant to say "otherwise conservative" but I'm not sure if someone who does not hold to evangelical views of inerrancy could be classified as conservative. 

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I have increasingly soured on commentaries. Not that I don't use them; it's just that they so often focus on meaningless things. It didn't used to bother me, but now it does. A lot.

I recently preached Phil 4:10-23. I skimmed untold pages by Silva and Hawthorne that had nothing relevant to say. Was the passage an original part of the letter? Is Paul mad about the money? Does Paul not care about the money? Please, just stop it. Their comments might be interesting for the academy. They're meaningless for a congregation. Silva completely missed the practical thrust of 4:11-13, a seeming aside that's actually the pedagogical heart of 4:10-23. He spent his time doing word studies. What a waste. The congregation doesn't care about αὐτάρκης. It doesn't mean it's unimportant. It just means that, if that's all you talk about, you're missing Paul's point! Yet, that's what Silva did. It's what a lot of guys do.

I understand the difference between exegetical and more practical commentaries. There are no doubt some people reading this who sneer at devotional commentaries. Some people really like languages, and enjoy reading the exegetical discussions. Michael Bird recently caught a lot of flak for criticizing Matthew Henry. I mean A LOT of flak. His academic pals piled on, agreeing that Henry sucks.

Well, let me say this. 100 years from now, these modern commentaries will be in landfills and Matthew Henry will still be in print. So will Albert Barnes. Why? Because they're pastors who know how to bring the text to life for ordinary people. They both knew the languages, and used them, and it informed their commentaries. But, they remained grounded to "normal life."

So, I read Naselli's comments about how he prepared this short commentary. And I get the impression this is more about the academy than helping a pastor and a congregation bring the text to life. Untold numbers of journal articles. I think Naselli mentions he had 2000 references! Is that really necessary to understand what Paul means?

I'm not saying I'm anti-intellectual. Please hear that. I'm just suggesting some commentaries today are pretty much useless. I think they forget that, after you set aside all the language and engagement with the 500 other authors who've published on the same book, you're just trying to explain the text to help Christians better understand their bibles.     

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

My family just started studying Romans together. We study the Bible slowly together on Sunday evening that started with COVID. We may only do half a chapter each Sunday. We finished Acts after all this time and we moved onto Romans. Now, I know Romans pretty well, having preached on the first couple of chapters last year when I had the opportunity. So, after reading the first 5 verses, which are one sustained sentence, teaching the kiddos and fielding questions, I thought I'd look at the several Romans commentaries I have. Other than MacArthur, most went on and on about ridiculous possible translations (like the "spirit of holiness" not being the Holy Spirit but Jesus's Spirit raising Himself from the dead. Several claimed boldly that no other Scripture mentions the Holy Spirit has a role in resurrection so we should not infer that here...). Not one of these commentaries mentioned this as a trinitarian passage.

I understand critical commentaries, but as Tyler said, the entire point of the passage is not even mentioned. Not one commentary alluded to Hebrews 1, which I always think of when I read Romans 1:1-5.

Mark_Smith's picture

TylerR wrote:

 I think Naselli mentions he had 2000 references! Is that really necessary to understand what Paul means?

Tyler, this is for one reason, so the commentary doesn't get pulled for plagiarism. Unfortunately, Christians have fallen into the academy view of the world. If you write a paper in physics and say an electron has a negative charge, you have to cite a 120-year-old experiment to show it... else "you plagiarized." Come on people...

 

josh p's picture

Mark, if you compare what O'Brien wrote to the book he plagiarized, it's quite clear that he was quoting almost directly. The defense is that he was copying a note he had previously written and failed to cite. It's not even questionable that he was copying. There are several lengthy passages. 
 

 

Mark_Smith's picture

josh p wrote:

Mark, if you compare what O'Brien wrote to the book he plagiarized, it's quite clear that he was quoting almost directly. The defense is that he was copying a note he had previously written and failed to cite. It's not even questionable that he was copying. There are several lengthy passages. 
 

 

Oh boy... I don't want to get dragged down in the O'Brien "debate". Let me delete that part of the comment. If you think all that makes his great commentaries unusable, so be it.

THE POINT IS (right Tyler) that the main idea of a book gets lost in 2000 citations to "prevent plagiarism."

Mark_Smith's picture

we have all kinds of arm chair "plagiarism hunters" who scan everything they can find to make sure someone didn't copy!

josh p's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

josh p wrote:

 

Mark, if you compare what O'Brien wrote to the book he plagiarized, it's quite clear that he was quoting almost directly. The defense is that he was copying a note he had previously written and failed to cite. It's not even questionable that he was copying. There are several lengthy passages. 
 

 

 

 

Oh boy... I don't want to get dragged down in the O'Brien "debate". Let me delete that part of the comment. If you think all that makes his great commentaries unusable, so be it.

THE POINT IS (right Tyler) that the main idea of a book gets lost in 2000 citations to "prevent plagiarism."

 

Please point out where I said his commentaries are unusable. I have and use them. I even gave his defense. 

T Howard's picture

For what it's worth, if you're doing a family devotional in Romans, you should not be reading from Cranfield, Kruse, Longenecker, Moo (NICNT), Morris, Mounce, or Schreiner. Rather, read from Stott, Osborne, or Moo (NIVAC).

That being said, the technical minutia is important for a variety of reasons. However, the average pastor will likely never wade into the technical issues discussed in the minutia. Certainly, most congregants won't. Therefore, it's best to be aware that these issues exist, but skim over the details to get to what is most needful to your exegesis of the passage.

What I find to be most unhelpful in exegetical commentaries is when the author spends most of his time regurgitating the thoughts and opinions of other commentary writers. Just state your position and defend it, and don't use exegetical fallacies to support it!

RE: O'Brien... I have, value, and continue to use his commentaries for my preaching. However, I cannot use them for academic papers.

TylerR's picture

Editor

THoward wrote:

What I find to be most unhelpful in exegetical commentaries is when the author spends most of his time regurgitating the thoughts and opinions of other commentary writers. Just state your position and defend it,

I agree! I would appreciate some corrective, if it's necessary. I've just become increasingly impatient with unnecessarily LONG books. The other pastor told me he recently purchased a 900 page book by Fee about spiritual gifts (I don't know which one). He bought it because we'll be having a theology class soon where we discuss sign gifts (see my front page article on the same from a weeks or so ago). He said he bought the book so he could get a good perspective on the issue. I replied, probably too flippantly, "If you need 900 pages to make a case on this issue, you either need an editor or you need to get a life, or both."

I truly feel that way. Yet, I'm not anti-intellectual. Just get to the point! Schreiner's recent little book on spiritual gifts is 120 pages. Excellent. Why can't people be brief? Do you really need 900 pages to discuss this? Can you really not interact with opposing views with less than 900 pages? Or, are you spending most of your time interacting with all the secondary literature? How much PRIMARY literature is in your argument? 

I'm not sure what's happening to me. The other pastor also recently mentioned chiastic structure on an OT passage and I said (privately), "that's stuff people geek out about in books, but no real person actually cares and it doesn't help anyone get through the week on a Wednesday evening." This was in the context of a Wed night sermon. He was a bit taken aback. I wonder if I'm becoming a curmudgeon. But, I just don't get it.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Andrew K's picture

I keep coming back to Calvin. And find him so useful I usually regret not starting with him, and saving the time.

Jonathan Charles's picture

I appreciate that sound scholars have taken the opportunity to live in a book for a couple of years and I can read the fruit of their labors, standing on their shoulders, so to speak.  The commentary on Ephesians by Hoehner is a huge, academic commentary.  After I read his portion on a text in Ephesians, I found it made reading other commentaries faster and easier.  I find one such commentary, while preaching through a book of the Bible, necessary for me.  I then supplement it with more devotional reading and a book of sermons on the Bible book (e.g. Boice, Ryken, Hughes, etc.).  

However, if a pastor is preaching/teaching three times a week, the above might be too much, then, something like Stott on Romans, is a BIG help.

And, there will still be questions one has about a text that he will not find addressed in any commentary, and which can only be answered, if they can be answered, by meditation, conferring with other texts, a good systematic theology, etc. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I saw just now, on Twitter, Jonathan Leeman remark that Carson's first edition of Matthew (EBC) is available digitally for quite cheap. Naselli dropped in and recommended the second edition in a winsome way, and remarked that he spent hundreds of hours updating the 2nd ed. with Carson. Yet, I find Naselli wrote an article stating the 2nd. ed. really says nothing different, but includes 50 more pages interacting with newer secondary literature.

I will not be updating! It's why I'm also quite happy with my 1st ed of Fee's 1 Corinthains (NICNT) and Romans (also NICNT). No need to update. NO NEED. I don't own Schreiner's Romans (BECNT), so when I preach that book I'll grab his new ed. If there ever is a third, I likely won't get it (unless Schreiner changes his mind again!!).

I've come to the realization I'm more of a systematic theology guy, because I was perfectly happy to grab Erickson's 3rd of Christian Theology and buy all of Bloesch's 7-vol set.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

Logos free Book of the Month is the Matthew, Mark, Luke volume from the EBC commentary. That means, basically, Carson's Matthew. Logos breathlessly says it's a commentary that should be in every church library.

NO. NO. NO.

As I cast my mind over the people in the congregation where I serve, I would never give Carson to any of them. Way too technical. I'd give them Wiersbe.

Does anybody here really think a church member would be edified by Carson's Matthew commentary? I can't tell if Logos is trying to sell books, or if they really believe this.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

I'm not the world's biggest fan of commentaries, but it does strike me as I read Matthew Henry (and sometimes Calvin) that there always seems to be an angle in any given passage that is omitted by previous generations.  So in that light, there seems to be a lot of room for new commantaries which explore these angles.

It's no substitute for a good understanding of the basics of exegesis, hermeneutics, and the like, but it can be a nice gauge of whether the angle one is exploring is more or less orthodox, or whether it's way out there.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

In general, I'm not a fan of layman commentaries. I grew up with J Vernon McGee's Thru the Bible commentaries. After reading them, I thought I had a good grasp of Scripture. I didn't realize how deficient I was in my understanding of the Bible even after studying "Thru the Bible."

On the other hand, I would recommend someone in my congregation use Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Tom Constable's Expository Notes on the Bible, or the Bible Knowledge Commentary. Matthew Henry and Albert Barnes are okay, but they wouldn't be my first choice. They just happen to be free and easily available online.

TylerR's picture

Editor

We have some tattered copies of TNTC at church. They're about as technical as I'd feel comfortable giving church members. I like Moody's Everyman commentaries. Those are all old, though. I haven't check out the *** For You series, which is supposed to be substantive but for "normal" people. McGee is always good. Wiersbe is my go-to recommendation for normal people. Henry's language can be too old. I like Barnes more than Henry. NOTE: Henry didn't write anything in his commentary post-Acts. It was completed by multiple authors from his notes, after his death.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Don Johnson's picture

Well, Tyler, I think you are perhaps selling average church people too short. While I know there are some technical details that don't have much edifying value, if any, I think the average church person is far more capable of grasping advanced concepts than you think. One of the duties of the pastor, I think, is to learn how to put advanced concepts into terms that 1) are understandable and 2) are interesting.

Fresh out of seminary, I had people who were patient with my enthusiasm for the obscure, but over time I think I've learned something about communicating that builds up our people. And I've taught them about chiasms - one, as a device for understanding some OT passages, especially certain poetical sections, but two, as a check on the enthusiasm of commenataries. Many commentaries see chiasms where none exist. Anyway, it is a legitimate device that the Hebrews sometimes used in order to emphasize points in a certain way. Understanding that emphasis gets at the real meaning of the passage, and from there to the present application.

What I don't like about some commentaries is their ability to demonstrate that they know what every other commentator in history has said, but rarely coming to any kind of Scripturally reasoned conclusion themselves. (Douglas Moo, I'm looking at you! And others...) Another thing I don't like about evangelical commentaries in particular is their constant concessions to liberalism in one way or another. For example, in Schreiner's Romans commentary, he has a footnote questioning the Davidic authorship of Psalm 51. That annoys me no end.

When the Lord enables us to gain advanced degrees, it is for the good of the people to whom we minister. We don't just get all that education for our own egos, do we?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

You wrote:

When the Lord enables us to gain advanced degrees, it is for the good of the people to whom we minister. We don't just get all that education for our own egos, do we?

I agree. That's why I wonder if I'm putting the cookies on a shelf too low. Perhaps I've swung the opposite way; from being too obscure to being too simple? We have a bi-monthly theology class where we delve into deep things. We spent two sessions on Christology. We spent four sessions on the Trinity. We're on the Holy Spirit, now. Next week, we'll discuss the Spirit's role in salvation and I'll present a Reformed view (regeneration is before faith). So, I do go deep. I just grow exasperated at details that people don't need, sometimes. I grow impatient when people focus on minutiae and miss the bigger point. Silva and Phil 4:10-23 is just the most recent example.

What I don't like about some commentaries is their ability to demonstrate that they know what every other commentator in history has said, but rarely coming to any kind of Scripturally reasoned conclusion themselves. (Douglas Moo, I'm looking at you! And others...)

Yes and yes!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Don Johnson wrote:

While I know there are some technical details that don't have much edifying value, if any, I think the average church person is far more capable of grasping advanced concepts than you think. One of the duties of the pastor, I think, is to learn how to put advanced concepts into terms that 1) are understandable and 2) are interesting.

Amen and Amen.  As an educated layperson (and there are many such people today), I don't need to hear every single one of the theological nuances of a passage or minute details of Greek/Hebrew grammar that are mostly interesting in seminary.  On the other side, if the preacher wants to base some of what he is preaching on such technical information, but tries to gloss over some necessary details "for simplicity's sake," and then jump to a conclusion based on what has not been explained, my nonsense-detector goes off pretty strongly at that point.  Rightly or wrongly (since the conclusion might be correct) I tend to discount such conclusions, as well as any applications that come out of them.

Not too many men would actually say out loud "just trust me, that's what the passage means," but if a speaker neglects the necessary logical steps to the conclusion in the name of "making it simple for the listener," that's exactly what he is saying.

Dave Barnhart

T Howard's picture

dcbii wrote:
Not too many men would actually say out loud "just trust me, that's what the passage means," but if a speaker neglects the necessary logical steps to the conclusion in the name of "making it simple for the listener," that's exactly what he is saying.

Not to go off on a tangent, but if a pastor hasn't studied the original languages, he does have to take a "just trust me, that's what the passage means" approach when he reads through the commentaries (especially the older ones). He doesn't have the tools to discern whether the linguistic or grammatical "golden nuggets" found by the author are only fool's gold.

Back to your point, Dave, when I preach a passage that involves a significant linguistic or grammatical point, I just say something like, "Based on the grammar Paul uses here ..." I don't quote Greek or Hebrew words, I don't refer to verbal tense / aspect, and I don't get into grammatical details (e.g. "this is a participle of means" or "this is an objective genitive."). I've only had a couple of people question me afterwards about the specific grammatical point, and I do get into more detail with those individuals.

Bert Perry's picture

Even if the pastor goes through step by step into the grammatical forms and such, one needs to have trust at some level, no?  That said, I do always appreciate it when a pastor in effect says "don't trust me, here's how you check my logic out, the word is X and the grammatical form/ending is Y, and you can get started with Biblehub and then go to B-D-B and your Hebrew grammar...."

Still some room for debate--language is always somewhat an approximation--but it would do wonderful things for a congregation's exegetical skills.

One other thing regarding commentaries; they often do seem to be a "crutch" for those who choose not to even try to approach things like the original languages, as well as bridging the gaps between exegesis to Biblical and systematic theologies.  Not that every pastor (or layman) can be expert in this, but those who give it a "college try" will at least start to see when the wool is being pulled over their eyes.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

T Howard wrote:

Back to your point, Dave, when I preach a passage that involves a significant linguistic or grammatical point, I just say something like, "Based on the grammar Paul uses here ..." I don't quote Greek or Hebrew words, I don't refer to verbal tense / aspect, and I don't get into grammatical details (e.g. "this is a participle of means" or "this is an objective genitive."). I've only had a couple of people question me afterwards about the specific grammatical point, and I do get into more detail with those individuals.

My pastor rarely goes into detail like you quote above like "participle of means" or "objective genitive."  He will mention the Greek or Hebrew word if it's useful, and sometimes he even talks about why the tense is important to the point being made.  And, like you, he's willing to discuss more afterwards.

I get what you are saying about the cake vs. the ingredients, but what type of point is being made makes a difference.  If it's to convince me about something like the timing of the rapture, or whether there are two 2nd comings, etc. it's quite different from something that affects how I live the Christian life.  When "the cake" means a conclusion that is intended to get me to change my mind on something I'm doing, or to make a specific biblical application that I need or am expected to follow, I want to know how to arrive at that conclusion.  I accept that the Bible (i.e. God) can tell me what to do without explanation.  I don't accept that from any man (there are no apostles around today) or an interpretation that isn't intuitively obvious or clear from reading the text and doing some thinking (i.e. Luther's "plain reason").  In other cases I want to see why my lack of understanding of the thinking or environment in biblical days or my lack of understanding the text due to translation of what the original text is trying to say, etc. is influencing my wrong understanding of what the Bible is saying.

I realize that a pastor has to know more than he preaches, and I realize that he has to know his audience and what they can reasonably be expected to understand.  Still, if a preacher dumbs it down too much, anyone who sees he has made some logical leaps will be tempted to discount what was just said, at least if they are at all thinking.  I'm not saying it is easy to do, and I know it goes into just why there shouldn't be "many masters," as the text must be handled well, and it's a skill that most of us don't possess.

Dave Barnhart

josh p's picture

I agree with a lot of what is being said here. As a new believer, I thought good preaching included a lot of "The Greek word here means". Now I know enough Greek (very little) to know that is almost never helpful to the average believer. I much prefer pastors that give the argument of the passage but don't feel the need to explain the predicate nominative. 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

josh p wrote:

I much prefer pastors that give the argument of the passage but don't feel the need to explain the predicate nominative. 

I don't disagree with this.  I may have been unclear above, but if the text and argument are clear without the Greek, then that's great.  No Hebrew or Greek necessary.  However, if the argument depends on understanding, at least to some extent, the original language, it shouldn't be glossed over, even if it requires a little explanation for us laymen.

Dave Barnhart

josh p's picture

I should have been more clear. I wasn't responding to you as much as just expressing something bought a on the issue. I agree that there are many places where a pastor must make an interpretive stance and that he needs to support his position. 

Mark_Smith's picture

I have no problem with expositional commentaries that go into the "preposition of mean" or the genitive type, etc. What I don't like, and I think this is what Tyler meant, is commentaries that are long on obscure thoughts, possibilites, answering 19th century commentaries, etc. and never express the main idea of the passage.

G. N. Barkman's picture

I find help in a variety of commentaries, as long as they are committed to the inerrancy of Scripture.  I need technical and academic commentaries to gain an accurate understanding of the text.  I gain help from devotional commentaries to think through possible applications.  Depending upon the length of the text, I may consult ten or twelve commentaries.  Longer passages limit me to perhaps five or six.  I study commentaries on Monday through Wednesday and spend the rest of the week working on structure and applications.  I need and value good commentaries, but do not follow them slavishly.  They plant seeds of thought which then germinate in my own mind.

G. N. Barkman

Andrew K's picture

My impression when it comes to study of the original languages is that there are two stages in the course of study where it's very useful: 1) to know how to use the various Biblical study tools and not get lost, and 2) after a massive amount of study and/or a particular brilliance or giftedness with languages.

If you've accomplished 1, I suspect there's not much practical benefit in pursuing more, unless you're ready to try for 2 -- or just enjoy the work.

Too many people with some years of study under their belts get up and simply reveal they don't have a deep understanding of how languages actually work.

josh p's picture

I'm definitely in category one. I am reviewing Mounce right now and will proceed to Wallace or something comparable afterwards. I am not at all gifted in languages. Paradigms are hard! 

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