Reformation Commentary on Scripture VII Psalms 1-72 Edited by Herman J. Selderhuis

RCS Psalms 1-72Reformation Commentary on Scripture New Testament III – Luke. Edited by Beth Kreitzer. General Editor, Timothy George, Associate General Editor, Scott M. Manetsch. Downer’s Grove: IVP Academic, 2015. 566 pp. $50.00. Purchase at Westminster for less or on Kindle.

Introduction

I have reviewed a few other commentaries in this series. You can find those reviews here.

Herman J. Selderhuis is professor of church history and church polity at the Theological University Apeldoorn (Netherlands) and director of Refo500, the international platform for knowledge, expertise and ideas related to the sixteenth-century Reformation. He has written John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life and Calvin’s Theology of the Psalms.

Summary

The best way to summarize a commentary (more than simply saying this is a commentary on the first seventy-two Psalms) is to quote the summary on the back:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2, ESV)

The book of Psalms has been the subject of daily and nightly meditation throughout the history of the church, and has been a significant resource for Christian belief and practice, often serving as the church’s prayer book and hymnal. Like generations of Christians before them, the Protestant Reformers turned often to the book of Psalms, but they did so during a time of significant spiritual renewal, theological debate and ecclesiological reform.

In the Psalms the Reformers found comfort, guidance and wisdom from God that applied to their context as much as it did to David’s. As John Calvin explained, the Psalms demonstrate every emotion that people have experienced: “The Holy Spirit has presented in a living image all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the emotions with which human minds are often disturbed.” Moreover, as Martin Luther proclaimed, the Reformers also heard in the Psalms a resounding affirmation of the good news of Jesus Christ: “The Psalter ought to be a precious and beloved book because it promises Christ’s death and resurrection so clearly.”

In this volume, Herman Selderhuis guides readers through the diversity of Reformation commentary on the first half of the Psalter. Here are both familiar voices and lesser-known figures from a variety of theological traditions, including Lutherans, Reformed, Radicals, Anglicans and Roman Catholics, many of whose comments appear here for the first time in English. By drawing on a variety of resources—including commentaries, sermons, treatises and confessions—this volume will enable scholars to better understand the depth and breadth of Reformation commentary, provide resources for contemporary preachers, and aid all those who seek to meditate upon God’s Word day and night.

Review

I was beyond thrilled to receive this particular commentary for review. As a pastor, I am always looking for solid commentaries, especially in the Old Testament. After recently being completely disappointed in the NICOT Commentary on the Book of Psalms, I was a bit hesitant to even open this commentary. I’m glad I did eventually scan through this volume.

To be able to read the thoughts of those men who instigated and fought for the Reformation on what amounts to the greatest prayer book ever written is a gift to the church. I appreciated the pastoral reflections of Martin Bucer as well as the devotional style of Matthew Henry.

Perhaps the one negative is the wide availability of the likes of Calvin and Henry free online might steer the reader to the Internet. I personally own both Calvin and Henry in print and digital format and yet I find this style of the commentary to be extremely helpful. To be able to see their thoughts on various passages and the wide variety of applications one can draw from their perspectives is worth the cost of the book. This helps the one studying to not become so myopic in their study and application. It also opens up their imagination to the infinite applications that an infinite God has given us through His inspired Word.

(Thanks to Ethan, see comment below, for correcting an error on my part. Matthew Henry was not involved in the Reformation.)

Recommendation

If you enjoy Reformation history and theology or you are one who will use a commentary set, I highly recommend this series. It is both accessible and theologically rich. Particularly, this commentary on Psalms is of immense value as the Book of Psalms may be the most wide read book of the entire Bible.

3 thoughts on “Reformation Commentary on Scripture VII Psalms 1-72 Edited by Herman J. Selderhuis”

  1. Thanks for this review, Terry. I feel I should point out, though, that Matthew Henry is not included in the Reformation Commentary of Scripture. Maybe you’re confusing him with someone else?

    1. Ha! You are absolutely correct! I happened to write that review the same day I was elbow-deep in sermon preparation on Psalm 39. My apologies. It will be noted in the review. Thank you for the correction.

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