September 27, 2011
Scripture and the Reformers: Retrieved for the Sake of Renewal
by Mike Gibson, series editor for the Reformation Commentary on Scripture
Martin Luther once remarked that the Reformation took place while he and Philipp Melancthon “drank Wittenberg beer. The Word did it all.” What Luther was suggesting, in his characteristically wry sense of humor, was that the incredible revolutionary movement of the Reformation was not the product of a human being, a personality, charisma, or the result of strategic planning, calculations or effort.
Rather, the Reformation unfolded through the cities, villages and hamlets of early modern Europe as an act of the Spirit—an act centered concretely in Scripture. Luther was not alone in this evaluation. The course of the Reformation occurred as men and women read, contemplated, proclaimed and acted upon Scripture. Above all else, the Reformers and their parishioners were immersed in Scripture. The Reformation was an event grounded in reading and exegesis of the Bible, in preaching the word of Scripture and living out its message in the world.
The Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS), a new series from InterVarsity Press, attempts to capture this dynamic. A twenty-eight-volume series, edited by leading Reformation historians Timothy George (Beeson Divinity School) and Scott Manetsch (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), the RCS places in the hands of readers the writings of a wide array of Reformers on Scripture, collecting their comments across the whole canon of the Bible. Many of the quotations contained in the RCS are here made available in English for the first time. With these volumes readers enter the world of the Reformers gathered together around the Scripture, such that contemporary audiences are invited to read, think, discuss, debate and interpret Scripture in concert with the host of men and women who changed the course of history.
The unique nature of this series is not merely the historical interest of Reformation-era commentary, though readers will be introduced to a constellation of figures virtually unknown to most in the English speaking world, and they will also see the diversity of thought represented within the Reformation traditions (even disagreements over the proper rendering of passages!). Rather, above all else, the RCS is about renewal—renewal constituted by contemplation of Scripture within the folds of tradition. Pastors, preachers and teachers will find in these volumes resources drawn from the deep wells of the Reformation that can produce living springs within the church today.
The voices of the Reformation call to us to look at Scripture anew with different eyes, providing fresh insight and tools for hearing Scripture in bold and startling ways. As the Reformers themselves sought to renew the church through the reading and preaching of Scripture—which they did in conscious alliance with the ancient traditions of the church—so the RCS provides an opportunity to read and preach the Scripture with the Reformers, retrieved here for the renewal of the church and the world.