Tuesday, 27 November 2007

On the obscene length of commentaries

Michael has posted a delightfully obnoxious rant on the length of biblical commentaries. He issues “a plea to biblical studies boffins: stop and delete all those major commentaries you were working on. They aren’t helping! We don’t want them!”

I must admit, I’ve never been one to complain about the length of books: after all, my favourite poem is the 12-book Paradise Lost, and my favourite novel is the whale-sized Moby-Dick (worse still, my favourite film is the 9-hour-long Godfather trilogy...).

Still, I can sympathise with Michael’s frustration. In fact, I recently felt a little cheated when I bought a copy of Robert Jewett’s new commentary on Romans, only to discover that I couldn’t even lift it off the floor.

Then again, some people have made exactly the same complaint about dogmatic theology. I think it was E. L. Mascall who once observed that Barth’s “theology of the Word” is so voluminous that one no longer has any time left to read “the Word” itself! But as a disciple of Thomas Aquinas, Mascall might have been forgetting about the (Summa-sized) log in his own eye….

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