Another Coffee, Anyone?

After a break of many months, I am happy to announce that the Coffee Cup Commentaries podcast is starting again. There will be some changes, to which the new visual logo attests. It will still be found at Ancient Faith (of course) and will still offer every weekday a five to six minute casual exegesis of the Scriptures as we look at the text verse-by-verse and phrase-by-phrase. But the field has been expanded, so that instead of confining ourselves to the New Testament, we will together look at the Old Testament too. That is partly because since the podcast series began in 2008 we have worked over the New Testament material pretty thoroughly, but also because this allows us to examine the Old Testament together in ways not otherwise possible.

For I am credibly told that, weird as it may sound, commentaries on the Old Testament are not that easy to sell, and it has been a while at least since one of them made the Best Sellers List of the New York Times.   I have been often asked by many people to write a commentary on the Book of Isaiah (one person even giving me a good title for it, The Fifth Gospel), and I agree that such material would be good for a Christian to have. There are good commentaries out there already naturally, such as John Oswalt’s massive two-volume work which forms part of the New International Commentary on the Old Testament. The work is massive (volume one runs to 746 pages and volume two to 755 pages), which means that the books come with an appropriately massive price tag. They are wonderful and scholarly, they form part of an ongoing dialogue with other scholars in the field, and should form part of any student’s technical research.

But that is just the problem. The majority of people whom I meet in the Church have neither the time, the money, nor the inclination to plough through such massive volumes, but they still have questions about Isaiah and the rest of the Scriptures. It was for them that I wrote the Orthodox Bible Study Companion Series. I appreciate the thanks they send me for the work, including their repeated calls for an Old Testament encore and an expansion of the project to include the Old Testament as well. But like I said, it is difficult to sell such books to more than a few people, and of course any responsible publisher will have to take such inconvenient truths into account. So, no Orthodox Bible Study Companion Series on the Old Testament any time soon. But we can still deal with the Old Testament texts, even if in a more casual way than could be accomplished in a written commentary. That is why I have agreed to re-launch the Coffee Cup Commentaries, with an emphasis on the Old Testament material, beginning with Isaiah. I hope you will join me. It is coming to an Ancient Faith website near you.


  1. Dear f. Lawrence

    This is good news indeed. There is a great need for sound commentary on OT, as there are simply to many half-baked opinions about it going ’round. You have done a good job already with your books and various articles on this site.

    Allow me to humbly suggest, that you devote some attention first of all to the books, that are being used in the Church’s services – such as Genesis, Job and perhaps the Biblical Odes. Not forgetting the Psalms of course, although there are some good commentaries out there already.

    Besides the books mentioned in your article, are there any other OT-commentaries that you think would be beneficial for Orthodox Christians to read – even if written by non-orthodox scholars and such? Apart, of course, from the sermons by various Church Fathers.

    Kind regards
    Robert Johannes Ulrich

    1. Excellent suggestion! Thank you; I shall do so.
      Regarding commentaries I am partial to the New International Commentary on the OT series, and the Word Biblical Commentary series is very fine also. The Tyndale series is good, though not as detailed as these others. These are by non-Orthodox authors, of course, but true scholarship should make such distinctions less important. I think the real divide is not between Orthodox and non-Orthodox, but between those who respect the text as divinely authoritative and those who do not. Six years of post-secondary study in theology makes one keen to the distinction; those in the latter category are fairly easy to detect. I find the easiest way to access the Fathers’ commentaries (and the cheapest, for those on a budget and not having immediate access to a university library) is the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, ed. by Thomas Oden. Obviously, when there is a principle of selection involved, some might accuse the series of a Protestant bias. I am not enough of a scholar to speak to this. Anyway, it is easy to criticize–especially in the comments section of a blog or on Facebook. I am grateful for all the resources available.

  2. F Lawrence,
    I have always found listening to your CCC’s very helpful. But I have had problems finding them on AF to download. Do you have links to the various books available for download?

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