2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Selected conservative spin on the Fathers,
By A Customer
This review is from: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: 6 (Hardcover)
Hmmmm.... J.I. Packer, Thomas Oden, and Timothy George giving "advance praise." My first question, after seeing that Intervarsity Press was the publisher of this series, was, "What are conservative evangelicals doing reading the Fathers?" After perusing the Romans commentary, I can see that they haven't, at least in any diverse way. The idea that the "Fathers" were a monolithic entity who were in agreement on "exegesis" runs throughout this book, as well as the Romans volume. Any trained exgete will know that this is madness--there has only been one period in the church when views and scholarship were more multifarious than the present age: the Patristic period!
The particular sort of scholarship as well as the conservative (read: unrepresentative of biblical scholarship as a whole) intent of the series is indicated in a cover blurb from Richard John Neuhaus (NOT a conservative evangelical). Can you detect the ideological underpinnings of the ACCS from this perjorative sentence?: "In the desert of biblical scholarship that tries to deconstruct or get behind the texts, the patristic commentators let the pure, clear waters of Christian faith flow from its scriptural source." Goodness, is that really what is going on in the ACCS? Which Fathers, may I ask--Origen? Universally ignored or maligned in conservative seminaries (the largest of which in the world I am a product), Origen is one of the few really interesting voices in the ACCS, but only his least "dangerous" commentary is allowed in the series, it seems. Same for the Cappadocians, and many others. In any event, it is no "commentary" at all--which manuscripts were being commented on? Were these all from exegetical works, or were the exerpts from the Fathers taken from letters, sermons (polemics) and such? Why these comments, and not others? Is this ALL the Fathers had to say on the issues? Certainly, only a selection could be presented, but again, why these comments arranged in this way? A possible answer: these support the readings of the biblical texts the editors wanted to promulgate.
Sadly, these questions go unanswered, I am afraid. None of the diversity and dissent of the first centuries of the faith shine through in this volume, and that is what is needed in any deeper reading of the Fathers. Early Christian writings can indeed shake up our complacent scholarship and our spiritually devoid lives, but not if they are packaged in such a mundane way. Ideologically-driven scholarship is immediately suspect. I predict that this laborious project will gather dust on the library shelves of mainstream centers of scholarship and seminaries, if they bother to spend budgeted money on it at all after the IPOs hit the bookstores of the world, blaze for a while (nice, slick covers on these volumes), and fade away.
In all, avoid the steep price for these books, unless you want high-dollar Sunday School literature. And it's too bad, too--this is a great idea for a commentary set. Maybe Doubleday ought to take over the idea from IVP; they gave us the Anchor Bible series and dictionaries. Now THAT would be something to be reckoned with.