Pulpit Review: The Reformation, Barnes, and the Bible

Maas, Korey D. The Reformation and Robert Barnes: History, Theology and Polemic in Early Modern England (Studies in Modern British History, Volume 23). Rochester, NY and Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Boydell and Brewer, 2010. 250 Pages. Cloth. $99.00 www.boydellandbrewer.com  http://www.boydellandbrewer.com/store/viewItem.asp?idProduct=13114 (LHP)

Bray, Gerald L., Editor. General Editor Timothy George. Associate General Editor Scott M. Manetsch. Galatians, Ephesians (Reformation Commentary on Scripture, New Testament X). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011. 446 Pages. Cloth. $50.00. academic.ivpress.com (P)

There is much about the Reformation that is unavailable to the average English-speaking person five hundred years after the fact. IVP and Boydell and Brewer are working to change that.

First up, an extensive treatment of the English Lutheran, Robert Barnes:

By the time of his death at the stake in 1540, Robert Barnes was recognized as one of the most influential evangelical reformers in Henrician England. Friend and foe alike judged him the most popular and persuasive preacher of the 'new learning'. He enjoyed the patronage of King, Archbishop, and Vicegerent at home, and the praise of evangelical princes and theologians abroad. He wrote what would be the closest the Henrician reformers came to a systematic theology, as well as the first Protestant history of the papacy. Then his dramatic, and not entirely explicable, execution quickly ensured his lasting place in the century's popular propaganda.

In this first extensive examination of Robert Barnes and his reformation significance the author provides a comprehensive survey of the reformer's stormy career, a clear and convincing analysis of his often misconstrued theology, and a persuasive argument that the influence of Barnes and his novel polemical programme extended not only into the century following his death, but was as prominent on the continent as it was in his native England.

KOREY MAAS is Associate Professor of Church History, Concordia University, Irvine, California

  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  The Life of Robert Barnes
  • 3  The Theology of Robert Barnes
  • 4  History in Theology: Sentenciae and Supplications
  • 5  Theology in History: Vitae Romanorum Pontificum (1536)
  • 6  The Historical-Theological Programme of Robert Barnes
  • 7  The Evangelical Evaluation of Barnes's Programme
  • 8  Robert Barnes: His Successors and His Legacy

(Publisher's website)
We are used to calling Circuit Pastoral Conferences "Winkels," using the German word for "corner." Lutheran pastors of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England, a sister church to the LCMS, have "Barnes Conferences," named in honor of this English Lutheran martyr.

There have been short treatments of the life and work of Robert Barnes, but they often don't sell well and go out-of-print. Korey Maas provides us the most complete work on Barnes I have seen to date, including biography, theology, and a treatment of the works of Robert Barnes.

English history has always been fascinating to me as an American. I also love to play the "what if?" historical game. What if Barnes had succeeded?

Wittenberg and Luther had a positive impact on Barnes (43). Because of his different gifts, contexts, and English controversies, Barnes had more opportunity to dig into the historical development of the Mass (118) than did Luther, who was more concerned with evangelically, Biblically, and pastorally reforming the rites the people knew and had received.

At this point, Barnes's works are difficult to find. I pray this volume will generate interest in furthering Barnes's "Programme" in this generation, if not the next.

An ebook edition is also available...for the same price. While I appreciate the limited print runs of a volume like this, I would encourage the publisher to kindly consider an option for purchase closer to the $40 range.

We have reviewed volumes of IVP's Ancient Commentary on Scripture for years. Our second book debuts a new IVP commentary series.
The Reformation Commentary on Scripture follows the ancient practice of biblical commentary in catena, in which the scriptural texts are elucidated by chains of passages collected from the authoritative insights of the church’s great exegetes. Each volume will consist of the collected comments and wisdom of the reformers collated around the text of the Bible. Thus, this series will be a unique tool for the spiritual and theological reading of scripture and a vital help for teaching and preaching.
This series, as Timothy George notes, “is committed to the renewal of the church today through careful study and meditative reflection on the Old and New Testaments, the charter documents of Christianity, read in the context of the worshipping, believing community of faith across the centuries.”

A Crucial Link for the Contemporary Church
With the Reformation Commentary on Scripture you have centralized access to treasure that very few can gather for themselves. The series will introduce you to the great diversity that constituted the Reformation, with commentary from Lutherans, Reformed, Anglican, Anabaptists and even reform-minded Catholics, who all shared a commitment to the faithful exposition of Scripture.
The Reformation Commentary on Scripture provides a crucial link between the contemporary church and the great cloud of witnesses that is the historical church. The biblical insights and rhetorical power of the tradition of the Reformation are here made available as a powerful tool for the church of the twenty-first century. Like never before, believers can feel they are a part of a genuine tradition of renewal as they faithfully approach the Scriptures.
A Vital Resource for Teaching and Preaching
In each volume of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture the reader will find the biblical text in English, from the English Standard Version (ESV), alongside the insights of the leaders of the Reformation, from the landmark figures such as Luther and Calvin to lesser-known commentators, such as Peter Martyr Vermigli, Johannes Oecompampadius, Martin Bucer, Johannes Brenz, Kaspar Cruciger, Jean Diodati and Kaspar Olevianus. Many of these texts are published in English for the first time.
We have been aided in the production of this series by the digitalization of original source material. Through use of the Digital Library of Classic Protestant Texts, a database managed by Alexander Street Press and comprised of digitized copies of original Reformation era texts, the scholars involved in this project have been able to comb through texts in their original sixteenth century format, in their original languages, and perform digital searches of the documents, facilitating the process of translation, abridgement, annotation and compilation.
Each volume is designed to facilitate a rich research experience for preachers and teachers. Each volume contains a unique introduction written by the volume editor, providing a reliable guide to the history of the period, the unique reception of the canon of the scripture and an orientation to the thinkers featured in the volume. Volumes also contain biographies of figures from the Reformation era, adding an essential reference for students of church history.
A Team of Scholars Committed to Biblical Renewal
The editorial team for the Reformation Commentary on Scripture consists of an expert panel of ecumenical and international Reformation scholars. With their specialized expertise, they have judiciously selected biblical commentary from the Latin, German, Dutch, French and English language sources of the Reformation period—being vigilant to include the authoritative comments of many lesser-known figures whose witness has never before been available in English.
While the principal period for the commentary is the sixteenth century, the volume editors have carefully consulted the writings of some later figures, such as the early Puritans of the seventeenth century. They have also selected from appropriate earlier authors in the pre-Reformation era who displayed a careful concern for the text of scripture and chartered an exegetical course that fed into the Reformation (such as Jean Colet, Jacques Lef√®vre d’√Čtaples and Desiderius Erasmus).
This series is guided by twin commitments to church renewal and scholarly integrity. To that end, under the guidance of Timothy George, series general editor, and Scott M. Manetsch, series associate editor, we have assembled an advisory board and team of volume editors who are actively involved in the life of the church and whose work has been recognized by peers as exhibiting diligence and credibility. 
(Series website)
The first volume covers both Galatians and Ephesians and is edited by Gerald L. Bray.

The gospel of justification by faith alone was discovered afresh by the Reformers in the epistolary turrets of the New Testament: the letters to the Galatians and the Ephesians.

At the epicenter of the exegetical revolution that rocked the Reformation era was Paul's letter to the Galatians. There Luther, Calvin, Bullinger and scores of others perceived the true gospel of Paul enlightening a situation parallel to their own times--the encroachment of false teachers and apostates upon the true teaching of salvation by grace through faith.

In Ephesians, the Reformers gravitated to what they understood to be the summit of Paul's vision of salvation in Christ. Finding its source, beyond time, in the electing love of God, the Reformers disseminated the letter’s message of temporal hope for Christians living under the duress of persecution.

For the Reformers, these epistles were living, capsule versions of Paul's letter to the Romans, briefs on the theological vision of the celebrated apostle. Probed and expounded in the commentaries and sermons found in this volume, these letters became the very breath in the lungs of the Reformation movements.
The range of comment on Galatians and Ephesians here spans Latin, German, French, Dutch and English authors from a variety of streams within the Protestant movement. Especially helpful in this volume is Gerald Bray's editorial presentation of the development of tensions among the Reformers.

The epistles of Galatians and Ephesians open up a treasure house of ancient wisdom, allowing these faithful Reformation witnesses to speak with eloquence and intellectual acumen to the church today.
General Introduction
A Guide to Using This Commentary
Introduction to Galatians and Ephesians
Commentary on Galatians
Commentary on Ephesians
Map of the Reformation
Timeline of the Reformation
Biographical Sketches of Reformation Era Figures
Author Index
Scripture Index
(Publisher's website)
This new series will focus on the Protestant reformers. I do like the idea. Although this Lutheran is not eager to read more Calvin or Zwingli, I am eager for English-readers who are inclined to reference this series to learn more about the Lutheran Reformation through our contributing commentators.

Let's let Scripture itself be the judge of who teaches correctly. Over the last year, I've read and reviewed a half dozen study Bibles. They take forever to examine and judge--longer than a trilogy of novels. My pet peeve is when the study Bible notes unapologetically and bold-facedly contradict the clearly and accurately translated Bible text.

So, let's have at it. Read the ESV translation at the head of each section of Galatians and Ephesians. Then, read all of the commentaries. Read even the ones by names you know and names you don't know. Read the comments by those from your tradition and outside your tradition. Third, honestly say who best said what the Bible said. You may surprise yourself (in a good way). Finally, consult the back of each volume to learn about the commentator (who, when, where, and what they believed about Christ).

My goal in this review is to get you interested in this series. I pray you would even pick up this first volume. Those behind the project picked a volume on Galatians and Ephesians to go first for a reason. These are great Epistles! Luther's commentary on Galatians is a classic. Galatians is a great introduction to the Gospel and how to avoid getting it wrong. Ephesians is a great blessing when it comes to correctly teaching about election and predestination, grace, worship and music, marriage, parenting, and spiritual warfare.

Any Lutheran who has read the Small Catechism has encountered the Twenty Questions. I am thankful that Lutheran Service Book places them in the hymnal right before the first hymn so that we may more properly and reverently prepare to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, the very forgiveness of our sins in the Sacrament of the Altar. Well, I think Luther is quite sarcastic in his last question, and his use of humor wakes some out of their unrepentant, unserious (or too serious) slumber. We are given to always take the Lord, His Word, and our sin seriously. I also think we take ourselves far too seriously.

I prefer Luther's antidote to Calvin's:
Ephesians 5:4 Avoid Sinful Talk
Sarcasm Is Ungodly. John Calvin: Paul goes on to add three more things to his list of evils. It is possible to joke in a good way, but it is very difficult to be witty without becoming sarcastic, and as wit itself carries a sort of affectation that is not at all in keeping with godliness, Paul quite rightly warns us against it. None of these things is consistent with being a Christian. Commentary on Ephesians.
We report. You decide. Sin boldly.

As always, we thank the publishers for their generosity in providing complimentary copies of these books for our review. We think they are worth your time and shelf space.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

Popular Posts