Comments on Commentaries

Here are four resources I use to pick commentaries, I have found them very reliable.

  1. Ligonier Ministries – In their recommend reading there is a great section on commentaries that helpfully give the difficulty level of each. Also Keith Mathison has been doing some great blogging concerning his favorite five commentaries for various books.
  2. New Testament Commentary Survey by D.A. Carson
  3. Old Testament Commentary Survey by Tremper Longman III – I like the format of this survey better, it rates the commentaries with a star system.
  4. Monergism has started a new website reformedbooks.net and it has a section on recommended commentaries.

3 thoughts on “Comments on Commentaries”

  1. I’ve found the Anchor Bible Commentaries published by Yale University Press to be of the most consistently high quality. They are written by very well respected Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and secular scholars, so they provide a well-balanced textual and historical analysis reflecting much of the latest scholarship without merely being a mouthpiece for some established theology. Highly recommended.

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  2. I don’t own many Bible commentaries or related materials so my exposure is limited and my experience too narrow to make a judgement on any ‘good’ or ‘bad’ commentaries. I do plan to invest in a commentary set soon, and I will definitely read and research all of my options before I select one. Austin, I have thought about your comment quite a bit and I plan to look into the Anchor Commentary. I think it’s an admirable objective to achieve a truly exegetic commentary, but I don’t think that’s it is really possible when it comes to the Bible. For that matter, exegesis, or unbiased accounting of even historical events is nearly impossible –it’s easy to find essays and books on the same historical subjects that differ significantly on the facts or meanings behind them. The truth is, the words people write and the ideas behind those words are shaped by the individual’s paradigms and biases. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s inevitable. That being said, I think it’s very important on who writes a Bible commentary, and what theological viewpoint they come from. A catholic commentator is going to have a very different viewpoint on the priesthood of believers than a protestant. Jewish commentators are going to have a different explanation of the Messianic prophecies than a Christian. For that matter, all commentaries are but the words of sinful and woefully depraved men. But I digress — we need to be very careful as Christians about what we read and what shapes our views. It must be Bible first – always. Commentaries are great, and I love to read scripture and then go and see what other learned and wise men have written about those scriptures. I’m not saying that we should only read viewpoints that we agree with. To the contrary, I think it’s healthy for mature, grounded Christians to read differing views to challenge and solidify their own beliefs. But we must always exercise good, spiritual discernment, an attribute which must be honed and cultivated. We must always remember that all commentary, on all things, whether religious, political, historical, etc., is but a ‘mouthpiece’ for someone’s theology. Sorry for prattling on so long Josh.

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  3. David, your comments are excellent and much appreciated. You raise some very interesting interpretive questions about the difficulty (maybe impossibility) of approaching the Bible “objectively” since we and everyone else reading the Bible already have our own opinions about how the text should be read because of personal and cultural prejudices. Often, these opinions are derived from the Bible itself, either directly from reading it or indirectly through a preacher, commentary, etc., so the interpretive process is circular. None of this is to say that finding the actual meaning of a text is impossible, but rather I think these kinds of reflections serve as a caution to us when we read the Bible to always ask ourselves, “Is this what the words actually imply, or am I making some connections that aren’t there because I want the text to mean something specific?” The bias problem still exists, but I do think an interpretation can be blatantly false, especially if there is a contradiction with the words themselves. At least we can guard against that. Historical analysis is something I know very little about, so although it plays a huge role in the divide between liberal and conservative theology, I cannot speak to it. Thank you very much for the food for thought.

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