Setting the Stage for Biblical Understanding: An Interview with Matthew Emerson and Heath Thomas

We recently had the chance to talk with two authors from the Transformative Word series to get their take on what makes this series valuable. Matthew Emerson wrote the volume on Revelation and Heath Thomas wrote the volume on Habakkuk.

What makes the Transformative Word series unique?

Matthew Emerson
Matthew Emerson

Matthew Emerson: In my experience writing my Revelation volume and perusing the others published so far, Transformative Word is unique in a few ways. First, the series is unique in its aim. Each volume is an overview of a particular biblical book. While some commentaries provide overviews in their introductions, these titles seek to do so in a way that is directly applicable to the reader. Second, Transformative Word is unique in its audience. Many publishers go for the “scholarly but for lay people” market, but I think Lexham has actually pulled it off with this series. These volumes are written by those with scholarly ability who nevertheless are deeply connected to and involved in the church, perhaps even vocationally. The authors thus bring both academic ability and pastoral sensitivity to their writing.


Heath Thomas
Heath Thomas

Heath Thomas: The Transformative Word Series’ major contribution is that it provides concise commentaries that go to the heart of each biblical book, written by the best of global scholarship. No other commentary does that in the same way. Moreover, the Transformative Word series aims at transformation of the reader – so that as we hear God’s address in Scripture, we are changed into more faithful disciples.

What advantage does the Transformative Word series have over similar series?

Emerson: I suppose one other thing to add to my first answer is that it’s designed for churches and ministries to use in small group contexts. It is ideal for a group, whether staff or discipleship or some other kind, to use to familiarize themselves with a particular biblical book and begin to see how it applies to their lives. Not every commentary series can say this.

Thomas: The series is truly global in its authorship. That means that its authors span the world, each commenting on the biblical texts from his or her particular context. This translates as a rich, multifaceted series that speaks beyond western boundaries. This is a unique advantage over other series. Moreover, it is written by world experts in biblical studies, theology, missiology. It is written by pastors and ministers. Because of this, we see the best scholarship bent in service for Christ and his Church.

How is the series enriched by having authors from around the globe contribute?

Thomas: When we look at world Christianity, we must recognize that its greatest expansion today occurs in the global south. If this is true, then ignoring or marginalizing those places and voices where God is expanding his Kingdom is exceptionally short-sighted and unwise. We must learn from the global church to read the Scriptures. The Transformative Word series helps us do just that.

Did you have any “aha” moments when writing for this series?

Thomas: Because the volumes are concise and focused, I remember worrying about how I could communicate the riches of the prophet Habakkuk in the space. The breakthrough occurred when I began preaching through Habakkuk. Preaching has a way of sharpening the communication of God’s word without reducing it to a bare minimum. So that was my “aha” moment: if I want to write about Habakkuk well, I must learn to preach it well.

Who should read the Transformative Word series? Why?

Emerson: To me, the series is ideal for both pastors and lay persons. With respect to pastors, I think the Transformative Word series is unique in how it “sets the stage” for reading, teaching, or preaching through a particular book, and so these volumes can be invaluable aids in helping pastors orient themselves for a sermon series or the like. For lay persons, the series works as a group book study or individual devotional aid.

Thomas: Based on the comments I have received from believers all over, Transformative Word is for ministers and laypeople alike in the church. Laypeople especially appreciate the guiding questions at the conclusion of each chapter and the recommended reading. They also appreciate the size of each volume, which enables them to dig in but not experience the stress of being overwhelmed by a commentary written for experts. Nonetheless, the series is written by world-class scholars, so scholars will gain insight and find value in the series to be sure.

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Four new volumes in the Transformative Word series are now available in the Transformative Word Series Intro Collection. This bundle gives you volumes spanning the Old and New Testaments and covers all the major genres of biblical literature. Dig deeper into the themes of the Bible with the Transformative Word series—order the Intro Collection today!

Written by
Jake Mailhot

Jake Mailhot is the product manager for Lexham Press. He also writes about baseball and lives in Bellingham, WA.

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Written by Jake Mailhot
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