Published on January 7th, 2011 | by Dustin Schledewitz
Choosing a Bible Commentary
We all have limits. Whether you’re a pastor preparing for a sermon or someone doing a personal Bible study, our time and money are precious. Fortunately, there many resources available that help ease the tension between having a limited amount of resources and our desire to know God through a deeper understanding of His Word. I praise God for raising up men and women who devote their lives to developing these types of resources for the sake of His church and its resources.
As a seminary student looking ahead at being a pastor, Lord willing, I am blown away by the amount of resources available to us here in America. One of the types of resources that I am most thankful for are commentaries. The amount of time and knowledge that goes into producing a commentary is incredible. From a distance I have seen some of my professors going through this process. It is an incredible opportunity and responsibility. There is so much that could be said, but again, limits have to be established, and choices have to be made. One of the difficulties that I’ve seen from this distance is the difficulty of whittling down what they want to say into the space that is available. It really isn’t a decision all that different from our own as we study the Bible. There is so much that has been said, that is written in hundreds of books…where do we even begin to look for answers to our questions, for help in understanding God’s Word? How do we choose which resources to invest our time and money into?
Choosing The Best Commentary
As I’ve mentioned above, commentaries are a great tool, but still, there are so many. How do I choose? There is an online resource that I was introduced to a couple of years that I fell in love with (oh boy, you know you’ve been in seminary too long when you talk about commentaries in a way that could be confused with your relationship with your wife *wink* ). It is bestcommentaries.com. This website is a great tool in helping to make resource decisions that most of us wouldn’t know where to begin. It is a website that you should take some time to explore, but there are two features that are my favorite on this website.
The first feature I find most helpful is the Best feature. If you click on the tab labeled “Best” at the top of the page, you are provided with a list of the top two commentaries for every book in the Bible. Along with each book you are provided a score and links to on-line sites from which they can be purchased.
New Testament and Old Testament Books
The second feature that I find most helpful (and a little more detailed than the first) is the “OT Books” and “NT Books” tabs at the top of the page. Under these tabs you are provided with a rated list of a large portion of the commentaries written on each book. For example, under the “NT Books” tab, if you click on “Matthew,” there is a list of about 80 commentaries on Matthew, listed in order according to their score (in order to understand how the commentaries are scored, just click on the “About” tab on the top of the page). What I really appreciate about this list is that each book is also tagged with some kind of combination of the letters – “T”, “P”, “D”, and “S”. These taggings are a nice way to let one know the direction that the writer of the commentary took in writing the commentary. For example, the “T” label indicates that it is can be considered a “Technical” commentary, diving into the technical details of the text and language. The “P” indicates that it was written with a “Pastoral” focus, the “D” with a “Devotional” focus, and the “S” indicates that it is considered a “Special Study.” Obviously, commentaries don’t always fit into such neat boxes, so commentaries can be listed with different combinations of these emphases.
This resource has helped me a lot in my sermon preparation. When I walk into the Moody library or begin to look online for a commentary to purchase, this website has helped me make decisions that save me time and money. Instead of buying full sets of commentaries, I have committed to making sure I get individual commentaries that are the best for each book. I hope that this will be a helpful tool for you as well as you aim to be a good steward of your resources and get to know God better through great study tools.