Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Dumbest Thing I've Ever Read in a Commentary

Maybe.
"Adultery. This is sexual unfaithfulness on the part of two persons, when either of them is married to a third person. It seems difficult to believe that a Christian would be guilty of such a violation, yet the writer knows of just such a case at this time . . ."

-- Lehman Strauss, Devotional Studies in Galatians and Ephesians
This was written in 1957, of course, but was a Christian guilty of adultery so rare then? Or is my exasperation a result of anachronism? The statement comes across like he's recounting an incident of spontaneous combustion or something.

Adultery is all over the Scriptures. I gotta figure it was all over the 1950's too.

Or maybe it was invented by Don Draper the next decade.

9 comments:

Jason Wert said...

I think that guy just wanted to spread some juicy gossip that he knew someone who was cheating. :)

JMJ said...

Lehman Strauss is a well known name in my circles (the plymouth brethren world). in this tiny community, yes, it would be unheard of back in the 50s, especially to the target audience of his book.

Ray Ortlund said...

My earliest memories come from the 50s. We just didn't sin much back then, Jared. Sorry you missed it. Well, come to think of it, glad you weren't there to spoil it. Pure heaven, those 50s. Sigh.

Chris Hubbs said...

The whole definition leaves me confused. By this definition, if I'm married to my wife, and no one else, but then I'm sexually unfaithful to her, it would not be considered adultery, because neither of us are married to "a third person"...

Truly bizarre.

Jared said...

Ray, you're hilarious.

---

JMJ, actually, one of my first considerations is that Strauss was more a scholar, perhaps, and out of the muck and mire of ministry and so did not have much opportunity to meet people who may confess adultery.

I think, though, that even as a pastor in a "good" denomination/tradition, even if confessions or experiences of outed adultery were rare, his knowledge of the Scriptures' word on sin should have tipped him off to know that a Christian guilty of adultery is not like a four-leaf clover.

---

I should also mention that I don't think Strauss is dumb. And this commentary is actually pretty decent. I have used it throughout my study of Galatians and while it's not the best resource I consult -- Luther's commentary is far and above better than anything -- it has helped me. I just found this particular section off-putting.

Jared said...

It gets "better", by the way. In the next section on fornication, he writes that as shocking as it sounds, he knows of a pastor who's performed two marriages involving couples who had sex before marriage.

I really don't mean to make light of these sins. We shouldn't be immune or numb to the bare shock of any sin, sexual or otherwise.
But I'm just finding the way he talks about these things quaint and oblivious, particularly given what ministers ought to be exposed to on a regular basis just from getting to bring the gospel of grace to people's darkest corners.

nhe said...

I guess I'm looking at this wondering what some of Strauss's contemporaries would say......I could see CS Lewis being a little miffed by it.....but I could see Tozer giving a resounding "amen"....it just seems like this is more indicative of the (comparatively) more religious-moralist culture back then than it is just being naive.

Jen said...

"it just seems like this is more indicative of the (comparatively) more religious-moralist culture back then than it is just being naive."

That's how I read it, too. However, did the guy actually read any of the Old Testament? Because there's a lot of fornicating and adultery there and for a Biblical scholar to then think that man advanced so far as to be immune from sexual sin is a head scratcher.

Philip said...

I think he's just thinking about his audience.