Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Calvin the Commentator

Nice post here from Mark Strauss on Koinonia about Calvin's legacy as not just a theologian, but a commentator. Here's Strauss's intro:
As the 500th birthday of John Calvin approaches (July 10th), theologians around the world will be reflecting on and celebrating this man's remarkable legacy. Calvin is perhaps best known for his Institutes of the Christian Religion, his magnum opus on Reformed Theology. Yet Calvin also wrote commentaries on almost every book in the Bible. For me, at least, these may be his most lasting legacy. Calvin embodied through his life, ministry and scholarship the spirit of sola scriptura.
I sympathize with Strauss. Not that the Institutes is anything less than amazing, but as a guy who leans toward exegesis, I love his commentaries. They are almost always useful, and for older commentators especially, it is remarkable how he models and anticipates historical-grammatical exegesis with an eye to the whole biblical story and personal application all at the same time. They are consistently great. Heck, they don't call him the "Prince of Commentators" for nothing...

One more thing: should it come as any surprise that Calvin was such a masterful theologian when he spent that much time in the Bible? If we really do believe in sola scriptura, then we need to recognize that there is nothing more important for forming good theological conclusions than spending a lot of time thinking through the text itself. Theologians need to be rigorous in their exegesis before and at the same time as they do theology. Add to that his unwavering commitment to the Church, and it becomes clear that Calvin models truly Christian theology like few (if any!) others.

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