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Key Bible and Theological Reference Tools: Commentaries

This post is part of a series entitled Key Bible and Theological Reference ToolsThis series seeks to provide one with an introduction to some key Biblical and theological reference tools. In this series one will find basic explanations, significant examples, and other information about these reference tools.


Basic Description of Commentaries

A Biblical Commentary is a book that provides an interpretive explanation of a Biblical book or books. Commentaries provide a detailed explanation of specific Biblical passages, an explanation of a Biblical book’s larger structure or argument, and typically engage with introductory matters such as authorship, audience, date of writing, purpose of writing, composition, etc.

Key Commentaries Series

  • Anchor Yale Bible (AYB).
  • Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms (BCOTWP).
  • Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (BECNT).
  • Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC) and Revised Expositor’s Bible Commentary (REBC).
  • Hermeneia (HERM).
  • International Critical Commentary (ICC).
  • IVP New Testament Commentary (IVPNTC).
  • JPS Torah Commentary Series (JPSTBC).
  • New American Commentary (NAC).
  • New Century Bible Commentary (NCB).
  • New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT).
  • New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICNT).
  • New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC).
  • NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC).
  • Old Testament Library (OTL).
  • Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC).
  • Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (TNTC).
  • Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC).
  • Word Biblical Commentary (WBC).
  • Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary (WEC).
  • Zondervan Exegetical Commentary (ZEC).
  • Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (ZIBBC).

Tips for Selecting Commentaries

  • Note the type – Many types of commentaries exist, e.g., expositional, devotional, technical, etc. Therefore, one does well to know what kind of commentary for which he or she is looking. This involves knowing basic information about the various commentary series (below).
  • Note the series – Knowing the series of which a commentary is a part can tell you a lot about what the commentary will be like, e.g., theological persausion, quality, emphases, format, etc.
  • Note the author – When presented with an array of commentaries, knowing something about the available authors provides one with a good place to start.
  • Note the date – By offering some historical perspective, older commentaries possess a unique value. On the other hand, contemporary commentaries often make a practice of engaging with previously proposed interpretations. Thus, the newer commentaries carry a unique value as well.

Resources for Selecting Commentaries

  • Best Commentaries – A site dedicated to providing reviews and rankings for a variety of Biblical resources including commentaries. Offers basic information about each commentary, e.g., author, date, series, and type (technical, pastoral, devotional, Jewish, special).
  • Other seminaries’ recommended commentary lists.
  • Ask professors.

Commentary Sample

Romans by Douglas Moo in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996), pg. 748-749. * Click on photo for larger image.


 

* This post’s information can be found within Rolfing Library’s research guides. See the guide to commentaries here.

 

 

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Help! What Commentary Should I Use? (Pt. 2)

JoshuaCommentaries

We’ve all been there. Staring at a wall of Rolfing’s amazing collection of commentaries (or scrolling through an endless list of commentaries on TrinCat) and feeling bombarded, overwhelmed, and not sure where to start. Choosing commentaries can be tough — but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips on choosing the right commentary.

Note the type

There are many types of commentaries out there, e.g., expositional, devotional, technical, etc. So, first, know what kind of commentary for which you are looking; and, second, find that kind of commentary. Don’t expect Derek Kidner’s Proverbs commentary to be super technical. And don’t expect Michael Fox’s to be filled with pastoral insights and implications. Know what you are trying to find; and restrict your selection accordingly.

Note the series

Knowing the series of which a commentary is a part can tell you a lot about what the commentary will be like. Is the series editor an evangelical (such as D.A. Carson for the Pillar New Testament Commentary series)? Well, you can probably expect the commentaries to have an evangelical bent. Would the series fall within the critical scholarship camp (e.g., Hermeneia)? Then expect that commentary to engage with issues of criticism. Have you found other commentaries from this series helpful? Do you like the format of this series? Well, that may mean this particular commentary will prove helpful. Is this commentary series geared toward the languages (e.g., Word Biblical Commentary)? Then make sure to check out this one when doing your exegesis paper! Nonetheless, be careful not to stereotype by series or limit yourself to your “pet” series! Use your knowledge of the series; but ultimately judge commentaries on an individual basis.

Note the author

People often say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” And that’s true (we have some awesome books here at Rolfing that have pretty ugly covers!). Nonetheless, I often find it helpful to judge a book by its author (before you read it of course!). For example, let’s say I’ve read Doug Moo before, specifically his Romans commentary; and I found him quite helpful. Well, when I go to find a commentary on Galatians, I’ll be sure to check his out. If presented with an array of commentaries, knowing some of the authors provides you with a good place to start.

Note the date

Now, we don’t want to discard a commentary just because it’s old. But, contemporary commentaries often make a practice of engaging with previously proposed interpretations. Therefore, in light of this, the newer the better! But, in another sense, we don’t just want to choose new commentaries because they are new. Church history has provided us with some excellent commentaries! And sometimes contemporary interpretations are just fads. So, it’s good to get some historical perspective.

I hope this assists you as you begin to sift through our commentaries. And remember, if you ever need additional help, just give us a visit at the reference desk!


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Help! What Commentary Should I Use? (Pt. 1)

JoshuaCommentaries

I was in college when I first began using commentaries. I was rather aimless, didn’t have much help or guidance, and just sort of jumped in. Maybe that’s been your experience as well.

The whole process of learning about commentaries is sort of like a circle — There’s no obvious starting point. You just have to enter somewhere, learn from your mistakes, and figure things out as you go. In one sense, the best way to get to know commentaries is to just use them.

But the process doesn’t have to be that aimless. Your entrance into the world of commentaries doesn’t have to be as abrupt as mine was.

Here are some resources to help you get started and guide you along the way.

BestCommentaries.com

Best Commentaries is a site dedicated to providing reviews and rankings for a variety of Biblical resources including — as the name suggests — commentaries. Although it may not be the most reliable source, by and large I have found the rankings fairly accurate and helpful.

Once you select a specific Biblical book, Best Commentaries provides you with a list of commentaries on that book organized according to their “score.” Best commentaries also offers basic information about each commentary, e.g., author, date, series, and type (technical, pastoral, devotional, Jewish, special). Each commentary page even tells you if Rolfing carries that particular book (hover over the particular book and click the link to WorldCat under “Find”)!

You can also perform searches by specific reviewers to see the ratings of a specific reviewer. Or, you can check out lists of recommended commentaries by respectable sources.

Rolfing’s recommended commentary lists

Rolfing staff put together two amazing lists of recommended commentaries, both of which are available on our website (Old Testament; New Testament). Be sure to check out these recommendations when collecting resources for your next paper!

Other seminaries

Just like our library has recommended commentary lists (above), most other seminaries do too. So, check out some other seminaries’ recommended commentary lists when you need another opinion.

Baker Academic’s commentary surveys

Baker Academic publishes two outstanding resources that provide a survey and analysis of top commentaries for each book of the Bible. We have them in our reference section and online as e-books.

Be sure to consult these!

Ask professors

Finally — I know this is crazy — but ask your professors. If they are teaching a class on Hosea, then they probably know a good deal about it, which probably means they know which commentaries you should be using. So, ask them. They’ll be glad to help!