Monday, July 7, 2014

Pulpit Review: Concordia Commentary


Schuchard, Bruce G. 1-3 John (Concordia Commentary). St. Louis: Concordia, 2012. 756 Pages. Cloth. $49.99. (LHP)

Middendorf, Michael P. Romans 1-8 (Concordia Commentary). St. Louis: Concordia, 2013. 802 Pages. Cloth. $49.99. (P)

Bollhagen, James. Ecclesiastes (Concordia Commentary). St. Louis, Concordia, 2011. 475 Pages. Cloth. $49.99. (P)

Voelz, James. W. Mark 1:1-8:26 (Concordia Commentary). St. Louis, Concordia, 2013. 737 Pages. Cloth. $49.99. (P)

With great joy, we present to you four volumes of Concordia Commentary.

These epistles represent the singular voice of an extraordinary theologian. John, the last living apostle,writes to his "children." For decades he has served as the elder father of the house churches of Asia Minor, but during his exile, false teaching has persuaded some to abandon the faith and the life of the community of the beloved. At least one church's leader has presumed to advance his own teaching at the expense of the apostle's instruction. Knowing that his days are numbered, John sends a general epistle, 1 John, together with its introductory cover letter, 2 John. In order to address the errant leader's conduct, he also sends a situation-specific, personal and pastoral addendum, 3 John. Rallying the faithful so that none would be lost to the ongoing threat of deception, John urges his children to confess by the Spirit in this last hour the man Jesus as the Son of the Father, come in the flesh in truth and love. The fulfillment of God's historic dealings with his people of old is Jesus' atoning sacrifice of himself. Through his shed blood, a cleansing flood, God confers the life of the age to come.

Dr. Schuchard is a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan (B.S., 1979), and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana (M.Div., 1984), where he also earned the S.T.M. degree in 1985. His Ph.D. in biblical studies is from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, Richmond, Virginia (1991).

(Publisher's Website)

Dr. Schuchard was one of my advisors while I was at seminary. Since graduation, I've contacted him on occasion (but not too often) with a difficult Bible Class question from my congregations. This is a volume you need to find those answers in your own bookcase.

Schuchard helps you comfort others with the forgiveness of sins, cleansing "from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9, 140ff), deal with the separatists of 1 John 2:19 (14ff, et al) and Antichrist (264ff, etc), and better explain "He first loved us" (1 John 4:11-21, 491ff), "the Elect Lady and Her Children" (2 John, 591ff), and the identity of "Gaius" (3 John, 669ff). 

Think of it as a bargain. One volume. Three Bible books... 

The Concordia Commentary Series: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture is written to enable pastors and teachers of the Word to proclaim the Gospel with greater insight, clarity, and faithfulness to the divine intent of the biblical text.

This landmark work will cover all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, interpreting Scripture as a harmonious unity centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Every passage bears witness to the Good News that God has reconciled the world to Himself through our Lord's life, death, and resurrection.

The commentary fully affirms the divine inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture as it emphasizes "that which promotes Christ" in each pericope.

Authors are sensitive to the rich treasury of language, imagery, and themes found throughout Scripture, including such dialectics as Law and Gospel, sin and grace, death and new life, folly and wisdom, demon possession and the arrival of the kingdom of God in Christ. Careful attention is given to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. Further light is shed on the text from archaeology, history, and extra-biblical literature. Finally, Scripture's message is applied to the ongoing life of the church in terms of ministry, worship, proclamation of the Word, Baptism, the Lord's Supper, confession of the faith--all in joyful anticipation of the life of the world to come.


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(Publisher's Website)

Next up, Romans:


This commentary articulates the meaning of the Greek text of Romans in its original context for the benefit of the church and world today. Those without any knowledge of Greek will also profit from utilizing the volume. It provides insights that will enhance the understanding and effectiveness of scholars, pastors, and teachers who have the privilege of proclaiming Paul's most famous letter. This commentary seeks to be theologically thorough in as few words as possible. Romans is the Spirit-breathed, living, and powerful Word of God. Its purpose is to bestow the righteous of God, which comes through faith alone, and to inculcate the life of faith in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Michael P. Middendorf was born and raised in St. Paul, Minn. He received all of his education at Lutheran schools, including a B.A. in pre-seminary studies from Concordia University-St. Paul (1981). He worked there for three years as an admissions counselor and guest instructor of Greek before enrolling at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO., where he earned his M.Div. (1987), S.T.M. (1989), and Th.D. (1990) degrees. Dr. Middendorf served as a parish pastor in Jamestown, N.D., from 1990 to 1992 and as a professor of religion and biblical languages at Concordia University Texas (in Austin) from 1992 to 2001. Since then he has been professor of theology in Christ College, at Concordia University Irvine, in California. Hi is also a pastoral assistant at Trinity Cristo Rey Lutheran Church, a bilingual congregation in Santa Ana, Calif. 

(Publisher's Website)

The availability of this commentary for the first eight chapters of St. Paul's letter to the Church at Rome gave me the opportunity to revisit Romans with my midweek adult Bible Class. It seems that Lutherans study Romans and Galatians often (or should), yet it can be a struggle for a parish pastor to keep things fresh, as well as faithful. Dr. Middendorf is your guide to the latest in scholarship that is faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.

The good professor and pastor will help his brothers in the Office of the Holy Ministry defend against "Perspectives on Paul and the 'New Perspective'" (40ff), homosexual conduct (145ff), and confess anew the core of Romans, 3:21-26 (277ff). Middendorf gives the reader an overview of Baptism in Paul (475ff), helps us better understand how to resolve the dilemma of the Law and I of Romans 7:14-24, (580ff), the necessary contrasts and tensions of Romans 8:5-13, (616ff), and how to prepare for volume two of this commentary (30ff).

Read Romans anew with this Romans 1-8 Concordia Commentary.

I am very thankful for the Ecclesiastes volume. Respectfully, I do have one disagreement with the author.


Outside of God in Christ, all is vanity (41ff, passim). With God in Christ, life has meaning.

The key to understanding this difficult book is God's wisdom in Jesus Christ. Solomon realistically appraises many human endeavors and finds them to be futile. The things of this world are temporary, and life is fleeting. Yet the Gospel endows our lives with eternal significance. Divine wisdom instills fear and faith in God. This knowledge enables us to serve meaningfully in our vocations and pass through the coming eschatological judgment into eternal life.

This commentary is perfect for the pastor seeking to study, preach, and teach Ecclesiastes. It provides insightful wisdom and mature theological reflection on this enigmatic book of Holy Scripture. Dr. Bollhagen draws on his lifetime of faithful service as a seminary professor and parish pastor as he writes with practical wisdom for daily living.

Dr. James G. Bollhagen formerly was a professor of exegetical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He currently serves as pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in St. Cloud, Florida. He studied at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (M.Div., S.T.M., Ph.D.).

I love having active men at our congregation as regular participants in Sunday morning Bible Study. "Pastor, let's do Ecclesiastes. I've never been to a Bible Study on Ecclesiastes." Neither had I. I thought a month would be enough to prepare. I was wrong. I ran into a wall at Ecclesiastes 11:1. And I have another blogging pastor to thank for a solution.
What does it mean to cast your bread on the waters? Bollhagen notes the parallels of Genesis 1:2 and 7:8 plus Exodus 32:20 (377). I would argue that there is a difference between the Genesis and the Exodus texts. Gold, even gold dust, sinks. He notes an article by Homan, "Beer Production by Throwing Bread into Water" (383), but too quickly discounts it. There are follow-up articles by Homan that lend more gravity (dare I say "specific gravity"?) to his thesis. Let's say the author of this commentary "disbelieved for joy." Yes, verses 1-4 of this chapter could be called "Seizing Opportunities," but verses one and two belong together. Verse one is about the brewing as Homan asserts, for it makes little sense to let Muslims interpret this verse (as generosity), nor have theological liberals fantasize about shipping bread overseas. Verse two is about generosity, and sipping the mild 2-3% un-hopped brew through straws with seven or eight buddies.
Consider doing your own Bible Class on Ecclesiastes. With help from this former professor and current pastor, Dr. Bollhagen's commentary will give you courage to help others find meaning in life and the book of Ecclesiastes.


Essential to every library, Dr. Voelz' volume on the first part of the Gospel according to St. Mark will be a blessing for preachers of the Three-Year or Historic One-Year lectionaries.

Immediately. Remember that word.

The reign of God has come in Jesus Christ, but in hiddenness, in humility and lowliness. Jesus came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (10:45). Jesus promised a triumphant revelation of himself after the cross (14:28), but within Mark (ending at 16:8) the disciples do not yet see the glorious, risen Christ. They only have his Word (16:6–7).

So also we Christians do not see him and the kingdom fully implemented and manifested now. How difficult it is to be faithful on the basis of the Word alone—the disciples are testimony to that fact! If you had been there, it would not have been any easier for you than it is today. The evidence you have is what the disciples and the women had, also on that Easter morning: the promise of His Word, a Word that is ever sure.

James W. Voelz is professor of exegetical theology (New Testament) at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo., where he has taught since 1989. Previously he taught at Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, Ill./Fort Wayne, Ind. (1975–1989), and served as pastoral assistant at Zion Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne (1984–1988).

Dr. Voelz is a graduate of Concordia College, Milwaukee, Wis. (A.A., 1965), Concordia Senior College, Fort Wayne (B.A. in classics, 1967), and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (M.Div., 1971). He earned his Ph.D. in biblical studies from Cambridge University, England (1978). He has done post-doctoral study with Bo Reicke (1982) and George B. Caird (1983). He is a member of Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (SNTS), the international NT society, in which he has been co-chair of seminars for over twenty years, including "The Greek of the New Testament." He has presented numerous papers at the SNTS and at the Society of Biblical Literature, in which he is also on the steering committee of the Mark Section. His Fundamental Greek Grammar has been published by Concordia Publishing House since 1986, and his hermeneutics textbook, What Does This Mean? Principles of Biblical Interpretation in the Post-Modern World, since 1995. His essay "The Language of the New Testament" in Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt (1984) is a standard in the field. Dr. Voelz has lectured widely throughout The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod at conferences for pastors and laity alike.


Jim and Judy (née Hayes) have been married since April 2, 1977, and have one son, Jonathan.

Given the importance of the Gospel according to Mark, Dr. Voelz provides more depth of scholarship than you may have seen before in similar volumes (e.g. 91ff, passim). He details linguistic features (2ff), "historical present" (15ff), plot (44), two outlines of the Gospel account (geographical, narrative, 48-49), the ending of Mark (55ff, more in future volumes), and traditional major isagogical issues (74ff) before delving into the Greek of each section.

Each pericopal section has an introductory paragraph for overview (91), the text in Greek (92), Voelz' own English translation (92), and a section on Linguistic Essentials (Grammar Basics, Marcan Usage, and Features for Literary Effect, 93) before the traditional CC Textual Notes (93) and Commentary (108). It all seems expanded. What a wealth of new information!

Your parishioners will benefit from Dr. Voelz' excursus on The Baptism of Jesus and Christian Baptism (138ff), an article well worth the cost of buying this volume.

We thank Concordia for its ambitious and consistent publishing schedule for Concordia Commentary. We very much look forward to reading, reviewing, and using forthcoming volumes on Isaiah 56-66 and Galatians.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a permanent member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR

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