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Finding the Best Commentary

05 Jul

If you are a commentary connoisseur, as I am, you know that they can be very expensive. I do not have ¼ of the commentaries that I would like because they cost anywhere from $15 to $75 (sometimes more).  This post is not about finding good deals on commentaries (I usually purchase mine from Amazon), it is about saving money by buying the best commentary.

When I began a survey of the Old Testament over two years ago, I decided that I would purchase two commentaries for each book I taught (much of this was an effort to simply establish a usable library). At first, because I did not know what I was doing, I ended up with a couple of duds.

Finally, I heard about a couple of commentary guides. Then I came across a website that is devoted to finding the best commentary for each book of the Bible. And just recently, I found a couple of online journal articles listing high quality commentaries for each Bible book. If you are looking for commentaries to begin a study or to fill out a library, these will help you and keep you from wasting money. I know that budgets run tight and that books are expensive, and as the author of Ecclesiastes says, “There is no end to the writing of books.” So here are some links and titles that can help you weed through the plethora of poor to great commentaries.

http://www.bestcommentaries.com/ – this is a good website that rates various commentaries. The site also contains a number of reviews. The problem with the site is the complexity of its rating system and lack of general comments for the commentaries.

http://www.denverseminary.edu/article/annotated-old-testament-bibliography-2009/#commentaries – this is a good list of Old Testament commentaries from the Denver Seminary. The scholar of note who had a hand in this list is Richard S. Hess.

http://www.denverseminary.edu/article/new-testament-exegesis-bibliography-2009/ – this is the New Testament commentary list from the Denver Seminary. Craig Blomberg is the most notable scholar behind this list. The list contains many other types of books; scroll about 2/5 of the way down to get to the commentaries.

The following two works are commentary surveys. Each is written by a leading scholar. The major commentaries are listed by book with comments.

Old Testament Commentary Survey, Tremper Longman III, Fourth Edition. The edition is important because older ones do not have the more recent commentaries. Longman gives great comments and rates each commentary from one to five stars. He also labels the commentary for the intended user. L – layperson. M – minister. S – scholar. In the back, Longman lists every commentary that received five stars.

New Testament Commentary Survey, D. A. Carson, Sixth Edition. This survey is not as accessible as Longman’s nor are the comments as thorough, but Carson includes more works. For the most part, if the work is listed towards the beginning of the section it is a better commentary. In the back of the book, he has a list of “best buys” – the most bang for your buck.

I do not know how often these surveys are updated. Both were last updated in 2007. These two works are very useful and are a better resource than the websites, but the websites are free.

I hope this is helpful. These sources have saved me serious time and money.

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2 Comments

Posted by on July 5, 2009 in Commentaries

 

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2 responses to “Finding the Best Commentary

  1. Jared Saltz

    July 5, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    I’ve used both of the surveys before — a good start. However, you have to be careful because some of the books that are rated are extremely biased. Extremely so. Specific examples include very high ratings on books the authors had a hand in writing/editing… So you have to be careful for that.

     
    • jonathancaldwell85

      July 5, 2009 at 7:36 pm

      You are exactly right. That is one reason I appreciate Longman’s survery – he does not “grade” his own works. He gives a breakdown and tells of their focus, but he allows the reader to do the grading. However, he has had a hand in about every major series (in the OT) to be put out over the last ten years. I think I have every “major” thing Longman has written. That is how I feel about him.

      Thanks for your comment!

       

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