From the 1922 Lutheran Witness, page 4 Index
How “The Popular Commentary” was Written
On October 15, 1918, the Committee on English Theological and Religious Literature passed the following resolution: “To recommend to the Board to issue without delay a brief popular commentary on the Bible, beginning with one book, or a group of books. The scope of the work should comprise an exposition of the text with such doctrinal, historical, and other notes as will make it detailed and comprehensive enough for Sunday-school teachers and Bible-students.”
In this resolution were crystallized the suggestions which had come to the Committee from many quarters and which, in fact, had been brought to our publishing concern through more than one synodical resolution. The need of a popular commentary on the entire Bible, to which our people might turn without any misgivings as to the soundness of the teachings there set forth, had become so insistent that the Committee on English Theological and Religious Literature from its first appointment by President Pfotenhauer considered the publication of such a commentary one of its major tasks.
Today, a little more than three years after that resolution was passed, the first volume of the commentary lies before us, a beautiful tome of 679 pages, splendidly printed and excellently bound, a book which it is a delight to handle and to read.
Between the first launching of this venture — one of the greatest in American Lutheran book-making — and the delivery by the reader's postman of the first volume, there lies a long and rugged road.
The Committee's first task was the selection of an author. The very first name mentioned in the Committee was that of Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, then professor at Concordia College, St. Paul. And, to tell the truth, there was no other name mentioned. In December, 1918, the faculty of Concordia Seminary endorsed the plan of the work and also the choice of Dr. Kretzmann for the editorship. Upon recommendation of the English Literature Board, the Directors of Concordia Publishing House then issued a call to Dr. Kretzmann, offering him the position as editor of The Popular Commentary. On March 7, 1919, Dr. Kretzmann was in St. Louis for a discussion with the English Literature Board and in April came to St. Louis to take up his residence there, beginning work on the Commentary on April 23.
As outlined by the instructions from the English Literature Board, the Commentary was to give a simple explanation of the text, with literal translation where needed, an explanation of historical and geographical references, all of it in popular style. There was to be no learned apparatus, although the author had in his volume on the Pastoral Letters proved his ability as a learned commentator; the book was to be one distinguished by a brevity and condensation, gained by the omission of all matter possessing only technical interest. There was to be a summary following the major divisions of each book, and, where necessary, questions of special importance or difficulty would be discussed in more connected discourse under special heads.
And such a commentary, exactly, is that of which we now have the first installment. The reader here finds indeed the results of profound Biblical scholarship, Dr. Kretzmann having laid under contribution every work of note or value written on the gospels and on Acts. The explanation throughout is based on the original Greek, and will be based on the original Hebrew in the Old Testament. There are continual references to the expositions of Luther and the Lutheran Confessions, and these often partake of a devotional character. Thus it is an eminently practical book and exactly what the Committee which sponsored the undertaking three years ago had in mind when it passed its resolution to proceed forthwith and have a commentary written on the entire Bible.
All friends of Bible-study should rejoice that this work is so nobly progressing towards its consummation. What a wonderful thing it will be to have a concise commentary on the entire Bible, written by an author steeped in sound theological learning,—a set of books which should be found in every home library, wherever there are Lutherans, throughout the length and breadth of the land!
Signs are multiplying that a new era of Bible-study is at hand for our Church and Synod. The Popular Commentary of the Bible thus comes in time to supply a need which is the more keenly felt, the more eager our people are to acquire a through and living acquaintanceship with the Bible. G.