Listed in the Doctrinal Standards of the United Methodist Book of Discipline is John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament. The Discipline says that the Explanatory Notes are currently in print through Schmul Publishing Company’s 1975 edition. I was skeptical of this, because I had been told that it was out of print. However, through searching Schmul’s website, I discovered that it is in print. You can order a copy of it by going here.
I was pleased to discover that the book is at least currently in print, yet there still seems to be a discrepancy between what United Methodists say about Wesley’s Explanatory Notes (that it is part of our doctrinal standards, giving Wesley’s Notes an authoritative status in interpreting the New Testament) and what United Methodists actually do with Wesley’s Explanatory Notes (basically ignore it, Schmul’s website confirms that there was a period of time that the Explanatory Notes were a part of our doctrinal standards and were not in print…).
Because of my research interest in Wesley Studies, and because of my desire to take seriously the process towards becoming an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, a few years ago I decided to try to track down a copy of the Explanatory Notes. I am not sure if Schmul’s edition was in print then, but if it was none of the ways that I searched for it on the internet brought it to my attention. I had trouble finding a copy anywhere, finally finding one on ebay. I was very surprised that it was so difficult for a United Methodist pastor to even find a copy of what is considered to be part of our doctrine.
Since buying the book, I haven’t really done a whole lot with it. I looked up several passages I was preaching on in Lamont and referred to it occasionally in a sermon. Saturday, I decided to start using it as my devotional reading. My plan is to read one chapter a day with Wesley’s notes. I am interested to see what the tenor and quality of the notes are, but my primary purpose is going to be using it as a devotional resource, which is what seems to be Wesley’s goal in writing the Explanatory Notes.
In the meantime, do you have any experience with the Explanatory Notes. I have also been wondering if anyone with a background in New Testament has recently looked at Wesley’s Notes and written anything about it. I think this is a very interesting area of research, please mention any articles or books you might be aware of treating the contemporary relevance of the Explanatory Notes for biblical scholarship, or the usefulness of the Explanatory Notes in studying the New Testament in the comments of this post.
Ultimately, the questions seems to me to be: Should something be a part of our doctrinal standards if (at best) we don’t even use it, and perhaps (at worst) don’t even really know what it says? I still hear people reference Wesley’s sermons, the Articles of Religion, and the General Rules, but the only time I can remember someone else talking about the Explanatory Notes was in my UM polity class in seminary, where it was just being mentioned because it was part of the doctrinal standards.