In April, Rick Phillips made this insightful observation about commentaries:
I also find that if you want doctrinal insights and applications, you need to look at older commentaries. More current commentaries are far more likely to note literary connections, and often to real profit . . . . Yet, while the technical exegesis is in some respects improved of late, the sense of the message of the text has regressed. If our commentaries reveal anything, we are becoming more technically acute but also less receptive of the prophetic message of the text for us. Does this indicate a professionalization of the exegetical calling, so that we are more skilled in working over the Word and less attuned to sitting under the Word? Yes, I think it does.
Rick Phillips, “Working Over or Sitting Under the Word,” Reformation21.
The roots to this shift go back to Benedict Spinzoa. Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise in 1670 marked a decisive turning point in biblical studies. In that work he de-privileged the Bible from its canonical status and laid the basis for the historical critical method. As a result, the Bible was no longer a canonical text that supplied theological meaning but one religious text among others to be dissected historically.
Christians (using the term in Machen’s sense) have for centuries rejected historical criticism of the kind proposed by Spinoza, but they have also been profoundly affected by it. In their defense of orthodoxy conservatives have often been shaped by the emphases of their opponents, if in the inverse. Craig Bartholomew comments, “There has been an (understandable) tendency for orthodox scholars to fight the battle for Scripture where opponents have attacked. Thus a huge amount of Christian energy has been devoted to historical issues during the twentieth century. Far less, alas, to interpretation of the Bible as God’s address” (“Calvin, Barth, and Theological Interpretation,” in Calvin, Barth, and Reformed Theology, ed. Neil B. MacDonald and Carl R. Trueman [Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2008], 164).