Bible commentaries

finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
I would like some recommendations for Bible commentaries. I like to do Bible studies where I read a book of the Bible in detail, and I want to be able to know more about things like the historical context, the meanings and nuances of words in the original languages, the different ways scholars have interpreted the text, etc. Do such commentaries exist? I found a commentary online, but it seemed more about the individual commentator's theology and views, which they sometimes impose onto the text.


  • Hi, Fineline. I’m not much of a fan of Bible commentaries either. They usually seem to be aimed at pastors preparing their homily, and skew toward apologetics at the slightest whiff of controversy in the text. So I don’t tend to read them. I use study Bibles, as indicated in my post on that thread, for most background material on specific passages. Beyond that, I opt for different materials to aid in understanding: the culture and context of Bible passages; the textual issues of a particular passage; and the linguistic nuances of a given Bible passage.

    For the culture and context, I am addicted to the Biblical Archaeology Review. This is a popular journal of Biblical archaeology. It reads well and attracts first-rate Biblical scholars from a cross section of disciplines. Its web site has a wealth of information in reasonably easily-searched format. You can get a year of unlimited access to the web site plus a year’s worth of the bimonthly publication for $12.

    For textual issues, I don’t really have anything on the Old Testament. For the New Testament, the two classic sources are The Text Of The New Testament by Kurt and Barbara Aland and A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament by Bruce Metzger (I think the current edition has Bart Ehrman as a co-author, but don’t worry. He revised this before he became an enfant terrible.) The first book is the apparatus for the Nestle-Aland text and the latter for the UBS text. I am personally more fond of Metzger’s work, but both are excellent.

    For Biblical Hebrew, the classic work is The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), by Koehler and Baumgartner. While I have the two-volume version of this, I seldom actually use it. Instead, I find A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, by William Holladay, to be adequate for most of my needs. It is based on the work of Koehler & Baumgartner, but is more compact and includes the things that I actually bother reading in HALOT. If Holladay isn’t enough, I slog through the 15-volume Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (TDOT), edited by Botterweck, Ringgren, and Fabry. Not every word in the OT is covered in this work, but the majority of the important words are exhaustively examined.

    For Biblical Greek, I use Bauer and Danker’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG). This is a terrific work that really unpacks some of the more esoteric passages of the NT. FWIW
  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Thanks, tclune, for taking the time to give all those detailed recommendations. I will look into all of them and see which seems most helpful.

    Maybe I need to get a study Bible. When I was on retreat, I found a huge study Bible in their library, that had the kind of detailed, more impartial commentary I'm thinking of. I'm not so much looking to learn Hebrew and Greek - more just to have an understanding of the nuances of some of the key words.
  • The NET Bible sure seems to be something you'd want to take a look at. The link is for the on-line version, which is the complete text. You can get a printed version if you decide it suits you. The notes are: "tc" is textual criticism, and presents differences where significant among the main text types; "tn" indicates translation notes, and provides information on nuances of language, typically from the sources that I indicated in my first post; and "sn" are study notes. This is where the translators, who are from the Dallas Theological Seminary, often unload their dispensationalism. Sometimes the study notes are worth reading, but they are often a bit OTT to my way of thinking. Nonetheless, the other notes are very possibly just what you are looking for, and they are in about as accessible a form as you are likely to find. FWIW
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    edited December 2018
    Most online Biblical Commentaries are either written by Fundies or are so dated (because of copyright issues) they are lacking. Best to invest some money and get hard copy commentaries. Myself, I like the Fortress Commentary series, but that comes from a Lutheran perspective. There are many other good ones out there too.

  • finelinefineline Kerygmania Host
    Thanks, guys. That NET Bible looks just like the kind of thing I'm wanting. The issues with the online commentaries I'd found were exactly as Gramps49 said.
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