For some time, off and on, I’ve occasionally complained about the sort of commentaries that are coming off Christian presses these days. They spend their time with technical matters which they rarely resolve, go hunting for novel ways of finding Christ in the OT, etc., etc. They simply don’t help pastors–or other Bible students—obtain much truth from a passage.
But now! I have come across two volumes that I want to recommend and commend in the strongest way possible. They are by Dale Ralph Davis, pastor of the Woodland Presbyterian Church of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He was former professor of Old Testament in Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.
What is different about his work? Almost everything!. I have completed reading the volume on Joshua, and am well into its sequel on Judges (he has written more, but I don’t have them—yet!). There is racy (never objectionable) language throughout, enlivening otherwise material that is difficult to continue to study because it seems dull. One of his achievements is to show how, rightly interpreted, the Scriptures of these books is anything but dull! No one could help enjoy reading difficult to discuss data the way in which he has presented it!
But, of importance—Davis has shown that what seems dull and matter-of-fact actually has vital and interesting purposes. He has brought the text of these books of the Bible to life as few commentators ever have.
But, there’s more. These are commentaries that will delight preachers. Davis is writing primarily for them, and the way in which he comes at portions of Scripture is exactly what preachers need commentators to do. These aren’t line for line commentaries. Largely, they stress how the writer of the Bible book intended to be understood, what he had in mind in writing as he did, how he goes about attempting to change his reader, and the way a preacher today can go about doing the same in his sermons. And he doesn’t spirituralize away the original intention of the text in doing so!
Thankfully, the books are not all tangled up in biblical-theological jargon, in which there is an attempt to locate some new Gospel type or other. Indeed, they are theocentric, in which God’s three-Person Nature is rightly acknowledged. The Father and the Spirit are not neglected, as they are in so much theological writing today.
The deeply-interested Bible student, as well as the pastor, will find these books helpful, but the novice and the casual student probably will discover that the going is too difficult for him.
Christian Focus is to be highly commended for encouraging such theological writing, and Dr. Davis is to be applauded for writing it!