When Explore the Bible began in the Fall of 1978 (was called the Bible Book Series then), the resources for adults were a Personal Study Guide, a Leader Guide, and a Leader Kit. Not long after that first Sunday, churches began calling Lifeway in search of a Bible commentary they could provide their teachers. The only commentaries available were expensive hard-back sets, which were impractical to provide to every teacher. In response, the Explore the Bible Adult Commentary was introduced, giving the church a way to express appreciation to the leader and providing the leader additional commentary if desired.
This intent was for the resource to be written on a more academic level. Seminary and college professors have historically carried the burden of the writing. Many of these writers have written or edited portions of hard-back commentary sets. These writers are selected based on their expertise, giving Sunday School teachers access to scholars on the Bible book or books being examined.
Let’s look at a sample to see the difference. In the Spring of 2022, 1 and 2 Thessalonians are the featured books studied in the Student and Adult Explore the Bible resources. In the Adult Leader Guide, we find the following comments on 1 Thessalonians 1:1:
Paul identified himself as the primary writer but also included Silvanus (Silas) and •Timothy, since they had helped plant the church. Silas had been with Paul in Antioch (Acts 15:32-34) and had replaced Barnabas when Paul initiated his second missionary journey. Timothy was a young man who came to Christ as a result of Paul’s ministry in Lystra and joined the missionaries throughout their work in Greece (Acts 16–17). Paul regularly used the first person plural “we” throughout the book to emphasize the agreement among the three ministers.(Explore the Bible Adult Leader Guide, Spring 2022, Page 15)
These comments give us what we need as teachers to lead the group time, but there are more things that could be said about Silas and Timothy. Here is what we find in the Adult commentary when addressing this same verse:
In Paul’s first Letter to the Thessalonians, he included Silvanus and Timothy as senders. Acts clearly describes Paul as the leader of the missionary team, but Timothy and Silvanus (Silas) were trusted coworkers. Reflecting the unity of the team, the letter constantly uses the first person plural “we” in statements and instructions (2:18; 3:5; 5:28).
As noted, Silvanus is the Latinized form of the Jewish name Silas. Acts identifies Silas as a leader in the Jerusalem church who was sent to Antioch to share the perspective of the Jerusalem-based Jewish Christians following the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1-35). Silas was not sent to correct Gentile believers; instead, he is identified as a prophet who “encouraged the brothers and strengthened them” (15:32). Silas must have impressed Paul because when the apostle and Barnabas parted ways, Paul chose Silas as his new missionary partner (15:36-40). From there, Silas worked alongside Paul throughout what we now call the second missionary journey (15:40–18:5).
On this second journey, Paul and Silas traveled from Antioch of Syria by land through a mountain pass called the Cilician Gates. That brought them to the eastern end of a Roman road that extended from Derbe to Ephesus in the west. The road took travelers through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia, cities Paul and Barnabas had earlier evangelized. In Lystra, they met Timothy, the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek father. Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, are both named as believers, but his father is not (2 Tim. 1:5).
Since Timothy had not been circumcised as a child (Acts 16:3), it appears that his family was not particularly observant, despite his mother’s ethnicity. However, Paul praised the faith of Eunice and Lois for encouraging and inspiring Timothy’s spiritual growth. The young man’s subsequent service with Paul proved the quality and stability of his faith. In addition, Acts and Paul’s Letters mention him frequently as Paul’s consistent coworker and even as his son in the faith. He is listed as sender with Paul in six different epistles: 1, 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Philippians, 2 Corinthians, and Colossians.(Explore the Bible Adult Commentary, Spring 2022, Pages 12-13)
We find more details that could be used to fill in gaps or help us answer a question by one of the more inquisitive participants in our class or group. These excerpts also illustrate the difference in the amount of space a writer has to deal with a passage. The writer of the Leader Guide comments has space for around 3,000 words for each lesson while the writer of the commentary has space for 4,500 words for that same lesson.
While the Adult Commentary is designed for the teacher, some groups choose to use the Adult Commentary instead of the Personal Study Guide or Daily Discipleship Guide. These groups tend to be made up of experienced believers and readers. The leader can use the questions in the Leader Guide or in QuickSource to guide the group experience.
Become familiar with the Explore the Bible resources, comparing the Adult Commentary to the other available resources. Request a free sample.