Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This week's sermon
  • Step Two: Check commentaries
  • Yesterday, it was just me and the text, mano a mano.

    Today, it's time to see what the rest of Christ's body has done with Matthew 6:1-18.

    Thanks a number of used bookstores (and a very tolerant wife), I have roughly a dozen translations of Scripture; I also own nine single-volume commentaries . . . and since I plan to do a lot of sermons on Matthew, I've used CEU money to buy another five commentaries that deal only with this gospel.

    And so it begins: first I read the text in the NIV, then I see what the evangelical New Bible Commentary has to say about it. Next comes the NRSV, which is followed with the mainline Harper's Bible Commentary. The TNIV goes with The IVP Women's Bible Commentary, the Jerusalem Bible with the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, The Message with Stanley Hauerwas' volume in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series . . . and so it goes for a couple of hours.

    Obviously, not every commentary is always helpful -- but I can never tell in advance just which commentary will unlock this particular text. That's why I try to read as many as I can . . . just in case!

    And yes, sometimes I run across something that needs to be followed up. (What does Tobit say about almsgiving, for instance, or how did the Jews pray in Christ's day?) Those questions go into the notebook too -- in red ink, so I won't forget them. Later on, I'll try looking for answers in my Bible dictionaries.

    So . . . by the end of the day, I have a text, some questions, several pages of notes -- and a sneaking suspicion that Jesus doesn't much care for those magnetic "fish" symbols that people put on the back of their cars.

    Now I need to figure out what it means.

    Tomorrow: Finding a thesis

    No comments: