For an Informed Love of God
There are several good one- or two-volume commentaries on the New Testament or the entire Bible. These will paint the broad stroke of the biblical writer’s teaching; they sometimes do not do as well with the difficult passages and aren’t always concerned with showing you multiple interpretations. Here are my two favorites.
- Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, edited by Elwell (Baker).
- Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, two volumes, edited by Barker and Kohlenberger (Zondervan).
I used the New Testament volume in my seminary New Testament Survey class, and it worked well. It is an abridgment of the twelve volume Expositor’s Bible Commentary (see below).
Commentaries that discuss just one (or sometimes two or three) biblical book are published either as independent books or as part of a series. Independent commentaries are unpredictable; there is no way to know if they will suit your purposes without reading through part of it, unless you know the author is reputable. Commentaries in series are a little more predictable because the series has a philiosophy of what it is trying to accomplish, and the editors should have made sure that each volume conforms to that philosophy. Some series are successful in doing this; others fail, and as a result the various volumes in the series differ significantly. Here are my recommended series, beginning with the easiest to the more scholarly, but none of these should be beyond your reach. Some of the books are published outside the United States; I have given the US publisher.
- Preaching the Word, edited by Kent Hughes (Crossway). Built around Kent Hughes’ preaching (but includes others as well), the series will eventually cover the entire Bible and is primarily expositional (i.e., sermons).
- The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, edited by Frank Gaebelein (Zondervan). An affordable series of generally consistent quality. It is being revised. This is a good series to purchase because it gives you at least one affordable explanation of both the New and Old Testaments. It is also available as a software module for Accordance and Zondervan’s Bible search software.
- The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, edited by Leon Morris (InterVarsity Press), has for many years been the standard commentary series for the evangelical layperson. The series is affordable, written by scholars, and is in the process of being updated.
- New International Biblical Commentary, edited by W. Ward Gasque (Hendrickson). A layman’s commentary.
- IVP New Testament Commentaries.
- The New American Commentary, edited by David Dockery (Broadman & Holman), is a new series done by Baptist scholars that is generally of good quality and is understandable by pastor and layperson alike.
- The NIV Application Commentary, edited by Terry Muck (Zondervan). An excellent series written by competent scholars that goes further into hermeneutics than any other series. I think this is the best series overall for the studious layperson.
Two other series that are approachable and have some worthwhile volumes are Harper’s New Testament Commentaries (Harper & Row) and New Century Bible (Eerdmans).
The following series are written by scholars, most at the seminary level and above. At the “baby Greek” stage I would not recommend buying any of these sets as a whole, but individual volumes may prove themselves invaluable for indepth study. If you want to read word studies, these series are more likely to be helpful than those listed above.
- Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, edited by Moisés Silva (Baker). A new series of excellent works by competent scholars. Not yet completed.
- The Pillar New Testament Commentary, edited by D. A. Carson (Eerdmans). Another new series of excellent works by competent scholars. Not yet completed.
- The New International Commentary on the New Testament, edited by Gordon Fee (Eerdmans). These volmes are marvelous studies as a whole, but you are going to have to read through scholarly discussions that will often be irrelevant for you. The Greek is kept in the footnotes.
- Word Biblical Commentary, edited by David Hubbard, Bruce Metzger, and others (Thomas Nelson). I hesitate to list this series. Some of these volumes are excellent, but others are totally irrelevant for you. The theological and scholarly position of many of the Old Testament volumes is considerably different from most of the New Testament volumes. There is much heavy duty scholarly interaction, and they are often difficult to read because it does not use footnotes for the technical discussions and references. The Greek is throughout the text but with translation. My commentary on the Pastorals is in this series.
There are a few other series that have many excellent volumes, but they assume a working knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, and in some cases Latin. They are:
- The International Critical Commentary (T. & T. Clark); the New International Greek Testament Commentary (Eerdmans);
- Hermeneia (SCM/Fortress Press).
Here is my list of preferred commentaries for the New Testament with their series.