Wednesday, September 7, 2011

C.E.B Cranfield on the writing of commentaries, the history of interpretation, and long sentences

Take a deep breath, and then read the following sentence aloud:
"But to gain something more than an altogether superficial knowledge of the course of the tradition is to learn a deep respect and affection for, and gratitude to, those who have laboured in the field before one, irrespective of the barriers between different confessions, theological and critical viewpoints, nations and epochs; to learn to admire the engagement with Paul's thought of some of the greatest minds from the third to the twentieth century, but also to be humbled by the discover that even the weakest and least perceptive have from time to time something worth while to contribute; to learn that it is naïve to imagine that old commentaries are simply superseded by new ones, since, even the good commentator, while he will have some new insights of his own and will be able to correct some errors and make good some deficiencies of the past, will also have his own particular blind spots and will see less clearly, or even miss altogether, some things which some one before him has seen clearly; and, above all, to learn that all commentators (including those who in the next few pages will be most highly praised and also--and this is perhaps the most difficult lesson for any commentator to grasp--oneself) have feet of clay, and that therefore both slavish deference to any of them and also presumptuous self-confidence must alike be eschewed." - C.E.B. Cranfield, Romans 1.31-32.

(Brilliant stuff, really.)

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