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One by One, a Commentary Series Grows

Paul Zehr
Paul Zehr, retired bishop and instructor, at work in his office at EMS at Lancaster. Paul chairs the Editorial Council of the Believers Church Bible Commentary series.

Eastern Mennonite Seminary at Lancaster, Pa. has a vital link to the Believers Church Bible Commentary series project.

Paul M. Zehr, retired bishop and seminary instructor, has chaired the Editorial Council of the series since 1987. He is also busy at work researching and writing a volume on the Pastoral Epistles. A first draft of 1 Timothy is complete. Now it is on to Titus and 2 Timothy.

The Believers Church Bible Commentary series is a cooperative effort of six denominations: Mennonite Church USA; Mennonite Church Canada; Brethren-in-Christ, Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Brethren, and Brethren Church.

It is a huge undertaking with many writers, several editors and numerous peer reviews. The pace of production has been about one volume each year. The first volume – Jeremiah – was released in 1986. Since then, nineteen have been published. The commentary on the Psalms is due out in 2006.

“I enjoy the study,” reports Paul, “but it’s not the easiest task to do the actual writing. You need to dedicate concentrated time. And when there are multiple points of view about a text, it’s tougher. There is a certain humility that goes with those choices.”

The Editorial Council intends for the commentaries to be of use in congregations. The academic level is targeted at pastors and adult Sunday School teachers.

Paul does most of his writing at home but comes into the Lancaster seminary location on a regular basis for reading and interaction. He has reserved a major portion of the next 2-3 years for this writing.

Is a joint commentary series like this worth it? Paul notes that the Believers Church series is being produced with a believers church approach – together – even though it can be frustrating for the writers. And the significance of the series is its long-term value over the next fifty years.

-article by Mark Wenger, director of pastoral studies at EMU at Lancaster

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