My inclination when interpreting the New Testament is just to do my own work on the Greek text – here are my current notes on a passage I’m working on:
But I don’t think my inclination to just focus on the Bible alone is necessarily a good one – at worst it’s egotistical and ignorant. It’s a good thing to see how others understand the passage, and to learn from insights or mistakes that have occurred across the last couple of millennia.
But what type of other resources are worthwhile? While some people would be happy to focus on technical commentaries and syntactical handbooks, they look down on devotional expositions, such as those by Matthew Henry or Charles Spurgeon. But because communication has active impacts, an understanding of grammar and syntax is only part of the interpretative task. Indeed, the interpreter of the Bible may often find that technical commentaries are unsatisfying precisely because of their narrow focus on contextual and syntactical issues. It is often more ‘devotional’ expositions that are more intuitively attentive to the formational impacts of a biblical text – they get what a text is doing, not just what it is saying.
Attention to these works is not necessarily, then, a sign of interpretative naïveté. In fact, it might be the person who looks down on them who is being naïve.