Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
FM 19:2 (Spring 2002) p. 79
Genesis 1–11 in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, vol. 1, edited by Andrew Louth. Thomas C. Oden, general editor. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001. Pp. 204 + lii.
In 1979 Thomas Oden wrote, “The agenda for theology in the last quarter of the twentieth century, following the steady deterioration of a hundred years and the disaster of the last two decades, is to begin to prepare the postmodern Christian community for its third millennium by returning again to the careful study and respectful following of the central tradition of classical Christianity” (Agenda for Theology, pp. 30-31). Oden went on to make it clear that what he meant by “classical Christianity” was the orthodox expressions and explanations of the faith by the church fathers. Over the last twenty years Oden has made many contributions to the fulfillment of that “agenda.” Perhaps the most significant and lasting contribution is his work in producing the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. This twenty-six-volume commentary, still in production, is an ambitious project. When finished, it will provide a commentary on every book of the Bible using the most representative and helpful writings from the fathers of the church (from Clement of Rome in the late first century to John of Damascus in the early eighth century).
The goals of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture are, first, the “renewal of Christian preaching based on classical Christian exegesis.” This is in contrast with modern critical commentaries, which Oden believes are abundantly available and of limited value in interpreting the canonical text. Another goal of these commentaries is to aid “intensified study of Scripture by lay persons who wish to think with the early church about the canonical text.” With that objective in mind, this series makes the church fathers accessible to nonspecialists by providing a chronological list and biographical sketches of the fathers in the back of each commentary. A third goal of these books is “the stimulation of... scholarship toward further inquiry into the scriptural interpretations of the ancient Christian writers.”
Such inquiry has been neglected, Oden claims, because of a modern prejudice toward innovative or recent criticism. This bias of modernism supposes that precritical exegesis could not possibly clarify texts without the aid of post-Enlightenment “naturalistic-reductionistic criticism.” Such modernist presuppositions have resulted in the neglect of the exegesis of the church fathers. Therefore, to say that the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture fills a gap in scholarship is an understatement. Such a projec...
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