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Sunday, January 27, 2008

The TFT Commentary

Last Friday, I received a three-set, six-volume commentary on the Bible as a gift from Eddie Cloer, general editor for the Truth for Today (TFT) Commentary and director of the Searcy, Arkansas-based TFT World Mission School (WMS). With all six hardcover books averaging 574 pages, each book costs $26.00.

The three sets are on "The Life of Christ" (© 2003)" "Acts" (© 2001), and "Revelation" (© 2002) all authored by David L. Roper, and all using the New American Standard Bible (NASB) as Scriptural text. Having been familiar with thtft.gife writings of Roper mainly through the TFT's monthly periodical I have been receiving for some years now, it was no surprise for me to note the scholarlship and readability of the author's style as I thumbed through each book.

I especially liked Cloer's humble spirit expressed in his Preface to "Acts 1-14":

The author of a commentary does not intend for his comments on the sacred Word to be regarded as infallible; he knows that he is subject to mistakes as is everyone else. Consequently, we must admit at the start that perfection is beyond our reach. This commentary is not perfect, and no commentary ever will be.

Along this thought, I venture to say that like any other commentary on the Bible, the TFT series is not without bias for or against a particular theological discourse or religious tradition -- which determines both its strengths and weaknesses.

The TFTWMS belongs to a long line of religious tradition known in church history as "Restorationism," particularly that which has been advocated by the Churches of Christ, the conservative wing of the American-born and bred "Stone-Campbell Movement" (SCM). This is evident from some sections of the Commentaries where some doctrinal distinctives of the group are emphasized -- a capella music in Christian worship (see commentary on Rev. 5.8), the salvific nature of baptism (see discussion on Acts 2.38), and the weekly Communion (see notes on Acts 20.7). The "non-charismatic" (i.e. non-existence of the miraculous gifts today) bent of the mainstream Churches of Christ can also be easily detected throughout the commentary on Acts.

Avoiding the frustratingly literalistic and highly speculative hermeneutic of those who interpret the Book of Revelation with the Futurist and Historical approaches, David Roper helps the reader unveil some mysteries in this apocalyptic New Testament book using what he styles as "Select-Wisely" (i.e., eclectic) approach, which marries the Preterist and Symbolic views.

Taken altogether, the commentaries are a good read, especially for the heirs of the Stone-Campbell Movement.

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