Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. 2: Mark

by Ted Kyle

Ancient Christian Commentary is projected as a 28-volume series, covering both Testaments and the Apochrypha. The initial offering, Mark, is priced at $10.00, with a guaranteed price of $27.99 on remaining volumes. Included free of charge with the first book is a softcover volume, Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, by Christopher A. Hall, which presents a valuable introduction to help modern readers interact with the best writings of early church leaders.

The format brings a good variety of ancient commentators to bear on Scripture, verse by verse—rendered in lucid English from the original Greek, Latin, Coptic, and Syriac sources. This reviewer feels the series offers an excellent way to touch minds with the Church Fathers—particularly for those with limited resources of both money and research time.

The reader will find some good sermonic thoughts, some good quotes, some writings he will want to argue with, and some he will want to say “amen” to. But first he should read Christopher Hall’s book-length introduction to the two great schools of thought on biblical interpretation in antiquity, and eight of the chief commentators—including Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil the Great, and John Chrysostom of the East; and Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great of the West.

As Hall notes—wisely, we believe—these men could be fallible as we can be—and thus should not be blindly adored as beyond criticism. On the other hand, they were indeed vastly closer to apostolic teaching, and also were involved in the great debates which hammered out the core beliefs of the church today. Hence, if for no other reason, they are worthy of our respect and our study of what they have to say—whether we end by agreeing with them or not.

A brief sample about the death of John the Baptist (6:28b):

• Ambrose: “His head is presented to Herodias. She rejoices, exults as though she had escaped from a crime, because she has slain her judge. What say you, holy women? Do you see what you ought to teach and what also to unteach your daughters?” – from Concerning Virgins 3.6.30-31.

• Chrysostom: “…Do not say, ‘Why was John allowed to die?’ for what occurred was not a death but a crown, not an end but the beginning of a greater life.” From On the Providence of God.

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