How To Buy A Commentary for Bible Study

I’ve been posting about using digital tools and we started talking about commentaries. Here’s the rub: there are a whole mess of Bible commentaries.

It’s not enough that we have the printing press and modern theologians writing a whole mess of them; we also have 2,000 years of church history filled with commentaries.

But not only that, we have the commentaries by unbelievers, agnostic believers, people who are closer to deists than anything, heretics, heterodox, and people who just have a pet agenda to push forward.

For the person who is studying their Bible, who has put in some sweat and tears on exegesis, I think it’s smart to invest good money on solid commentaries while simultaneously avoiding all the garbage that’s out there.

At this point, some folk might be quick to recommend a digital version of William MacDonald’s two volume commentary on the Bible. Yeah, it’s good for what it is—a quick hitting devotional through the Bible. But a main source for commentary it is not (sorry—neither is Matthew Henry’s.).

And frankly, no single volume commentary will be. Not even a single publisher of commentaries. If you want some real commentary tools for studying your Bible, you’re going to have to approach it like a stock portfolio: diversify.

So here are some links to resources that let you broaden your horizon on what commentaries to look for when shopping:

Free: Check out Best Commentaries for reviews on, well, commentaries. The site compiler picks up his information from some books that you should definitely buy but also touches on some writers that are on the web (like Keith Mathison over on Ligonier Ministries or Jeremy Pierce, a Chrisitan philosopher who blogs over at Parableman). For those strapped for cash, this is a great place to start but definitely think about investing in the Not-Free section.

Not Free but Must Own: pick up D.A Carson’s New Testament Commentary Survey. He’s a solid evangelical and reformed professor, pastor , and exegetical expert and this book will save you loads of money. He reviews commentaries, rates them based on skill level, but unfortunately only stays within the realm of the New Testament. The Kindle edition is roughly seven bucks which you can spend just by skipping Starbucks tomorrow.  But don’t let your heart be troubled, Tremper Longman III has an Old Testament Commentary Survey which does essentially the same thing as Carson but for the OT. For 8 bucks Kindle version, you can’t go wrong with this two stepper. And lastly, you should consider also picking up John Glynn’s Commentary and Reference survey. It’s the most expensive of the two since it’s not only commentaries, but it helps the commentary purchasing endeavor.

Note: you might not want to purchase commentaries in only digital versions. Digital versions are great, in that you can take them anywhere in your computer (especially if you purchased the Perfect Electronic Bible) but you’ll more often never get the discount you might find on a print version. I’ve bought print versions that are marked up with highlighters for under three bucks; I could never buy a digital version for that low.

So consider if you need to buy a digital version of any commentary before buying one. In fact, you might even want to use inter-library loans to get your hands on commentaries without buying them—it’s a great way to try before you buy.

Next post, how to actually use a commentary.

Crossposted at Digital Sojourner

UPDATE from Jeremy Pierce over on Facebook: I’m finding the guide by John F. Evans to be excellent. Carson, Longman, and Glynn are five years old already. Evans’ latest edition is only two. He has more detail on his most-recommended volumes, but his list is pretty comprehensive, and I find myself agreeing with him more often than not. He even cites a number of reviews in academic journals for many volumes, for those who want to pursue more depth in their evaluations before buying. It’s worth looking at, at the very least for stuff that came out between 2007 and 2010 (of which there’s plenty of good stuff).

Technorati Tags:

~ Originally posted at The Bible Archive

Leave a Reply