Tips on Building Your NT Commentary Collection

Tips on Building Your NT Commentary Collection July 12, 2008

When I worked at Christian Book Distributors and Hendrickson Publishers, I got great discounts on academic books of all kinds, but I ended up spending quite a bit on commentaries (which I do not regret). Most (in fact almost all) seminary students cannot afford to buy several commentaries, so I have seen people like Don Carson make a list of the best reference resources if you only have one commentary to buy per NT book. Here I humbly offer my favs.

NB: As for the all-in-one commentary of OT/NT, I am partial to the Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible (ed. Dunn and Rogerson). You get great balanced sane comments from some of the best exegetes. For evangelicals you can hardly do better than the New Bible Commentary (IVP). Both have been helpful to me. On occasion I consult the Oxford Bible Commentary, especially on Paul’s epistles. For the Oxford commentary, Bauckham does Revelation, Judith Lieu on the Johannines, Rainer Riesner on James, Jerome Murphy O’Connor on COlossians, Dunn on Ephesians, G. Stanton on Galatians, John Barclay on 1 Corinthians, Loveday Alexander on Acts, and Lester Grabbe on Leviticus (among many others).

So, here goes…I will try to limit my recommendations to 1-2 commentaries per book of NT.

Matthew – I have found Hagner’s WBC to be top-notch in terms of detailed analysis and theological insight. I have not had time to interact with R.T. France’s new NICNT commentary (2007), but I imagine it rivals Hagner.

Mark – I confess that I have not worked much in Mark, but Morna Hooker’s BNTC work has been very useful to me. Also, Craig Evans has done the latter half of Mark for the WBC (2001) and I trust his work is sound and cogent.

Luke – One need not look further than Bock’s work (Baker), though Joel Green’s NICNT (1997) is really impressive theologically as he has done so much research on the meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus according to the Gospels.

John – I have always been a big fan of Don Carson’s Pillar commentary, but Bauckham is working on the NIGTC which I think will be the one to top them all. For Jewish and Greco-ROman contextual comparison, definitely check out Keener’s two-volume from Hendrickson, but it is probably too expensive to just go out and buy.

Acts – I have long felt that there are no really good works on Acts commentary-wise, partly because we need a good 3-volume commentary that can really dig in and nothing like that has appeared in commentary form. In terms of what is out there, I am quite happy with Witherington (1998) and I like Richard Longenecker’s Expositor’s volume on Acts. I am excitied about Loveday Alexander’s forthcoming commentary, but the Black’s series is not known for length. Nevertheless, I think it will achieve much. [Incidently, I had a chat recently with Steve Walton who is working on the WBC of Acts; he recommended Beverly Gaventa’s short commentary on Acts for the Abingdon series as a must-have]

Romans – Dear me, this is tough. Despite the protest of some, I think Dunn has offered a great lengthy detailed study that is all around sane and worthwhile even for those hesitant about the New Perspective. To balance Dunn out, perhaps Moo is useful. Of course you should make a trip to the library to consult Barth, Kasemann, Wright, Barrett, and Jewett.

1 Corinthians – hands down Gordon Fee (NICNT). To supplement theologically Richard Hays (Interpretation) and Thiselton (NIGTC) who also will give great history of interpretation and hermeneutical issues.

2 Corinthians – here, as with Acts, I think we are still awaiting a magisterial commentary. In terms of what is out there, Murray Harris (NIGTC) and Hafemann (NIVAC) make the greatest contributions all around. I wish someone in the apocalyptic-interpretation-of-Paul family (Lou Martyn, Doug Campbell, John Barclay, Beverly Gaventa, Charles Cousar, etc…) would write a good commentary on 2 Cor. because of how one deals with the language of death in the earlier chapters. Oh well. Make due with Harris and Hafemann… BTW – David deSilva will be working on 2 Corinthians for a new series and that should be quite useful.

Galatians – For detailed exegesis I would probably consult R. Longenecker (WBC), but he does not interact with the New Perspective much. Actually, Richard Hays has a Galatians commentary in the New Interpreter’s Bible Series (Vol. 11) which is not detailed, but really excellent on theological interpretation. I look forward (long down the road) to NT Wright’s Two Horizons commentary.

Ephesians – Here Andrew Lincoln (WBC) and Peter O’Brien (Pillar) are especially good. IF I could only get one, I would go for WBC. We expect an NIGTC volume eventually from Max Turner – that will set a new standard, I think!

Philippians – There are so many good commentaries here. I would say I am repeatedly drawn to Fee (NICNT), but for a briefer guide try Bockmuehl (Black’s). On theological interpretation, definitely interact with Stephen Fowl (Two Horizons).

Colossians – Once again, I like Dunn (NIGTC) for his depth on a variety of issues and his care and caution with authorship issues. Otherwise, O’Brien (WBC) is solid on most exegetical matters.

1-2 Thessalonians – There are a number of excellent things in these books. Certainly look at Charles Wanamaker (NIGTC) who is great on the rhetoric of these letters. On theology and eschatology, Beale’s brief IVPNT contribution is good, and on the same issues so is Beverly Gaventa (Interpretation).

Pastorals – I confess that I have not done a lot of work here, but Gordon Fee’s brief NIBC (Hendrickson) is a solid evangelical (paul = author) take on the texts as well as good on theology. I also like Howard Marshall (ICC) for detailed exegesis though he takes an allonymous view (someone other than Paul wrote them). I would also consult Luke Timothy Johnson’s Anchor volume.

Hebrews – without a doubt I endorse David deSilva’s socio-rhetorical work (Eerdmans) for overall consistent interpretation of the letter; in terms of a more detailed analysis, Craig Koester (Anchor).

James – honestly I have done little to nothing in James, but I would trust Doug Moo’s (Pillar) work and also Luke Timothy Johnson (Anchor).

1 Peter – Again, lots to work with here. I definitely recommend Paul Achtemeier’s (Hermeneia) commentary, though it is in a format that is less than ideal and quite expensive. Also, Karen Jobes’ relatively recent BEC commentary is superb all around (and a must-have for pastors). The new work by Joel Green (Two Horizons) is a must-have as well; especially the appended items on theology and identity.

2 Peter – I know very little on this, but Peter Davids seems quite capable (Pillar, I think). Same for Jude.

1-2-3 John – This is tough because I think there is much more to find in the johannine than has been explored in the existing commentaries. I would say Howard Marshall (NICNT) offers trustworthy exegesis.

Revelation – hands down the award goes to Beale (NIGTC). Aune (WBC) has some great stuff as well. The new Black’s commentary by Ian Boxall would be great for preachers who want a distillation.

I’m sure others will disagree with me here or there, but this is my take, whatever it is worth.


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