When beginning to (self) study a new book I find myself spending quite a bit of time searching around my library sampling commentaries in my library as well as searching for reviews to try and get a sense of any given commentary. When searching for guides to commentaries I first bumped into bestcommentaries.com which has been helpful, particularly as a listing of what's out there, but rather uneven in its treatment due to its aggregate method. I have found one good resource but is unfortunately short on each.

There are quite a number of 'recommended commentary' pages that are aimed more towards pastors or those engaging in devotional study, these are not what I'm looking for. I have also seen a few forum discussions on broad sweeping judgments on commentary series while acknowledging that all the series vary in quality by book.

I recognize that different commentaries have their strengths and readers will always differ on preferences. I am looking for a description of what the strongest commentaries are on a given book and what their strengths are specifically. Said differently, I'm looking for someone's take on what commentaries they found most helpful and why (why being the salient feature.) I'm interested in critical rather than homiletical commentaries.

  • What, exactly, is it that you're asking here? Are you looking for recommendations? Guidance on how to pick a commentary? Is searching for just the right commentary providing an obstacle to actually studying the book? I understand it's difficult to find the right commentary, but I don't understand the question. Jun 15 at 1:12
  • The best commentary is one that you read. Read several. Most have their good points, none is perfect. Just get into it. Commentaries fall into three categories: historical, exegetical, homoletical. Most are a mixture but usually more one that the others.
    – Dottard
    Jun 15 at 2:08
  • This may be helpful: bestcommentaries.com/topcommentaries
    – Robert
    Jun 15 at 4:26

Good scholarly commentaries should be transparent on each step of the hermeneutical and exegetical process of interpreting a Bible verse, giving us a clear exposition of:

  • How she comes up with a book outline that is sometimes critical to determine the context of a verse
  • How she determines the authorship, dating, and purpose of the book, which can change meaning
  • The composition and editing history of the book, which may involve multiple sources or editing by several scribes over a period of time
  • Grammatical analysis to narrow meanings of a word based on tense, morphology, gender, syntax, etc.
  • How some key words in the original language may not cleanly map into English
  • Historical / cultural background, including the use of non-Biblical ancient texts
  • How the meaning of a word may be influenced by the use in other passages or other books
  • Typologies between OT and NT that are commonly used
  • Theological options based on how different denominations have historically interpreted a verse, or even form doctrines out of several key verses
  • Etc.

Some tips for selection:

  • Choose book by book commentary ranking from bestcommentaries.com. Go for either Technical (designated as T in bestcommentaries.com) and/or Exegetical commentary and avoid Pastoral (P) or Devotional (D).
  • Choose newer ones
  • Be aware of the commentary series doctrinal commitment (evident by the publisher imprint), although quality ones will be transparent about it. For example, NICOT and NICNT are evangelical, (but still very responsible exegetically) while Anchor Yale tends to be liberal (although very good technically).
  • 7 safe recommendations
  • More tips here

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