“Don’t let commentaries rob you of the joy of discovery!”
This little bit of advice from my New Testament professor has really stuck with me, and shaped the way I study the Bible. Rather than simply reaching for one of hundreds of great commentaries out there, I now look for another way. It’s not that my professor was against commentaries and forbade us from using them. Far from it. He simply recognized that studying the Bible should be a thrilling adventure full of twists, turns, detours, and discovery. For the student of Scripture, jumping to a commentary was akin to skipping to the final chapter of a novel: you get the gist of what happened, but you miss out in the process. Instead, the commentary should be a conversation partner that helps balance your own discoveries with someone more experienced than you.
This didn’t mean you could simply open a Bible, read a passage once, and expect to understand it completely. There are occasional obscurities and difficulties that need assistance to resolve before we can reach that place of discovery. To aid us in our discovery, he recommended a whole host of tools to put in our box: lexicons, grammars, apparatuses, and my favorite of the bunch—dictionaries.