A Word About Commentaries
4/20/2012 | Author: RCW

People trying to grow in their Christian faith are sometimes astonished to find out about books they never knew existed.  Commentaries.  Some are even surprised to find out about study Bibles.

So here's a little bit of info on both.

For new believers or even non-believers, a great study Bible is the Quest Study Bible.  I believe it uses the NIV 1984 translation and is a great recommendation even if it is expensive.  [Speaking of translations, that is another blog entry altogether...much too lengthy for this post.]

Back to the subject, a great study Bible is often the first discovery to delight that of the Christian trying to grow and understand the Bible.

Some of the best study Bibles include the ESV Study Bible, the HCSB Study Bible, the Reformation Study Bible, the John MacArthur Study Bible, the NIV Starting Point Study Bible, the Quest Study Bible, and especially unique is the Life Application Study Bible.

But it may surprise some people to learn that there are some even more technical books available that pastors will consult.  Granted, these resources are just one of the many tools in the toolbelt of a skilled Bible teacher, but virtually any pastor worth listening to will have consulted a commentary or three before or after studying a particular passage of scripture. 

Now before you rush out to google "commentaries" (that might not be the most helpful thing to do) you ought to know a few things.

  1. First, be aware that there are different types of commentaries.  The basic types are: devotional commentaries, homiletical commentaries, and critical commentaries.  I favor the critical ones, but sometimes more practical pastors of the less geeky bent will favor a homiletical commentary of some type.  (Homiletics is the fancy word for preaching and preparing sermons.)  Even more practical and therefore perhaps more "average-Joe-friendly" are the devotional commentaries which in some ways are only one step away from a study Bible.  P.S. - "Critical" commentaries aren't necessarily commentaries that are "critical" of the Bible.  It simply means that they are more technical and apply rigorous study, reason, and explanation in their treatment of a text.  They can sometimes be heavily footnoted and can leave Greek & Hebrew words completely un-transliterated for the English reader.   Looking for an example of each? 

         I've given you the basic types, but know that there are also other kinds of commentaries
         such as the Bible Backgrounds commentaries done by IVP and Zondervan.  (Both of
         which relied on one of my favorite professors during my time at Wheaton...John Walton.) 
         I expect that many different types of commentaries will continue to come into existence.


     2.  Next, it's vital to know that not all commentaries are created equal.  In fact, I'd go so far 
          as to ask your pastor or education pastor at your local church what kind of commentaries
          are worth consulting and which ones aren't.  Sometimes people write commentaries
          who are actually coming to the text with a foundational worldview that is entirely different
          than what one might consider Christian.  You could very easily find commentaries on the
          Bible written by those that seek to undermine the Bible's authority or credibility in their
          research.  There are great resources and reviews to consult as well such as those by DA
          Carson (NT) and Tremper Longman III (OT).  This relatively new website seems fairly
          interesting too.


      3. Third, it is generally best to consult commentaries only AFTER studying the passage
             a great deal for yourself. I can't stress this enough.  Use the commentaries to check your
          work, not to do all your work.


      4. Fourth, resist the urge to buy a set...especially if you are not training for the ministry. 
          If you teach a Sunday school class, chances are there's probably no need to invest
          that much money into a complete critical commentary series.  Besides, it is much wiser
          to buy individual commentaries on each book than purchasing an entire set.  If you are a
          layman, a quality one-volume Bible commentary should suffice, but if you simply must
          have a complete set, perhaps the Tyndale Series is best.

      5. Finally, remember that you might be able to acquire 2 or 3 commentary sets just by
          purchasing Bible software.  They may not be that great, but they might be all you need.


I could certainly write a lot more on this subject.  And I may.  For now, this ought to be enough to chew on and read without getting bored.  :)


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