From the 1922 Lutheran Witness, page 4
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
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
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
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.