• Steve Derenge

[Study Bible] Commentaries: Two Sides of the Coin

“Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’”

Joshua 1:7-9 ESV. c.f. Deuteronomy 17:18-20; Matthew 28:18-20.

Some theologians publish Study Bibles with the intention of helping the readers to understand the passages better. I believe that's a wonderful intention that can benefit the readers and give them helpful insights from those theologians’ years of study and experience with God. The following things I was just wondering about relate to the proverbial “other side of the coin.”

It has been said that the first thing somebody hears about a given matter tends to shape how the person will think about that matter long-term. This is because that first thing they hear will likely become the filter through which all subsequent ideas will pass through. In other words, that first impression or interpretation the person hears will set the foundation upon which all subsequent ideas will be built upon. This doesn't mean that one's perspective can't completely change over time with more research and experience, but that the first teaching one receives on a topic will set the trajectory for the way a person will think on a given matter.

As an example of this scientific principle, if parents insightfully teach their children about sex and its design for marriage, then their children will start to think about the matter from that perspective. If they get their first impression or ideas about sex from popular culture, their friends, and/or from teachers at school, then if their parents bring up the subject in the future, the children will question what their parents say, since a contrary foundation and thinking pattern had already been established: “But my teacher at school said…” Such doesn't mean it's impossible for the child's perspective on the issue to change, but that it will require a long process known as being transformed by the renewing of one's mind. (1)

Back to the Study Bible topic, there is no doubt that the authors of the commentary sections have built a long history with God from which readers could benefit. I myself used a Study Bible when I first started to really grow in my relationship with God, a period during high school of surrender, love, trust, power, and uncompromise that I remember with gratitude. For the past decade or so of my relationship with God, the Bibles I have used don’t have any additional commentary like Study Bibles do. That's not because I was against Study Bibles, but because those are just the kind of Bibles I happened to receive after my Study Bible fell apart at the seams from constant use.

So although I'm not against Study Bibles, I’m grateful that I only have the kind without additional commentary because then I have to first rely on the Holy Spirit to be my Teacher. He will then guide me into all truth as He opens my mind to understand the Scriptures He authored. c.f. John 14:26ff; Luke 24:45; 2 Timothy 3:16f. He will illuminate the passages for me, using the Bible to interpret the Bible. I'm not saying that Study Bible commentators weren't guided by the Holy Spirit when they wrote what God showed them in their long history with God. Rather, I just prefer to eat food that hasn't been pre-digested. But that's just my personal preference.

In no way am I saying to avoid commentaries, sermons, fellowship, Bible teachers, church authority and accountability, etc. That would be a drastic non-sequitur. Those things are very important! c.f. Hebrews 10:24-25; Ephesians 4:11-16; etc. The first priority is close fellowship with God, being taught by God (see John 6:45). Then we do those aforementioned things with confidence and peace, having our minds renewed and fixed on Him throughout the process. c.f. Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:1ff; Isaiah 26:3.

What does it mean to have a personal relationship with God? How do you ever into a relationship with Him? I recommend my articles “Did You Heard the News?” and/or “Would You Like to Kick satan's Butt Personally?” for an overview.

  1. c.f. Romans 12:2. This example I heard from this talk on YouTube. Regularly I listen to sermons on YouTube when I cook meals in Japan.


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