A Recommended Commentary Library

Question

I'm attempting to gather together some commentaries for a Bible Library. Which commentaries would you suggest?

Answer

A General Introduction

Thanks for your question. There are many excellent commentaries. However, selecting one is a very personal choice. Why? Because various ones serve different purposes. While all deal with the text to some extent, some emphasize theology, others stress the original languages and criticism, and yet others history, etc. Some just briefly inform you what the text is saying while others go into incredible depth. And since Christians are not all at different levels on the learning curve, this makes selecting a commentary a very personal choice. For instance, since my church and seminary ground me well in theology, I might select a commentary that emphasizes the Greek of the text accurately, but the author is of a different theological persuasion than me. However, I may not recommend that commentary to someone else because they may not understand the original languages or may not be as well grounded in theology as I am. So, we should always study the commentary and its author before we even consider using it.

Below, I have made only a few suggestions on each book of the Bible. This is subject to change, but at this point I’ve limited the book recommendations to only three. This said, there are many good commentaries to consider other than just the ones in the list below. So, if a particular commentary that you like didn’t make the list, it doesn't mean you should necessarily discount it. For instance, if I haven’t read it, it wouldn’t be listed. Moreover, this is my own list and does not mean Thirdmill is in total agreement with every single detail of each recommended commentary. And just because a commentary may be based upon a particular English translation of the Bible, it doesn't necessarily mean that I, or those at Thirdmill, enjoy or recommend that Bible version over another.

These recommendations are meant to be taken only as a general guide. If you have a specific question concerning any commentary, you are always free to write us for our thoughts on that particular commentary or any section in it.

Well-Meaning Commentators Aren't Infallible

The Bible is comprised of two testaments (Old & New), sixty-six inspired books, 1189 chapters, 31,173 verses, and 773,692 words. The sixty-six books of the Bible were written by approximately 40 different men over a period of about 1500 years.

God's word is true (Prov. 30:5). Since there is no higher authority, God is his own (Psa. 12:6; cf. Heb. 6:13; 2 Pet. 3:16). Jesus prayed to God the Father, "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17). God has promised to preserve the truth for his people (cf. Isa. 59:21; Matt. 5:17-18; John 10:35) and declares that belief in it is absolutely necessary (cf. John 5:46-47; 1 Cor. 14:36-38).

God’s word is clear. (Deut. 6:6-9). In other words, the basic message of the Bible is clear enough for anyone to understand it — even a child. While there are some passages of Scripture that are difficult to understand (2 Pet. 3:15-16), the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture means that anyone who studies to show himself approved unto God (2 Tim. 2:15) can understand the essential message of salvation and what it means to please the Lord (Psa. 73:24-26; John 17:22, 24; 1 Cor. 10:31; cf. WSC .1.1).

The Bible is inspired (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 2:21; cf. Exod. 20:1; 2 Sam. 23:2; Isa. 8:20; Mal. 4:4; Matt. 1:22; Luke 24:44; John 1:23; 5:39; 10:34-35; 16:13; 19:36-37; 20:9; Acts 1:16; 7:38; 13:34; Rom. 1:2; 3:2; 4:23). The original documents (i.e. autographs) are God-breathed and a divine product. In other words, though God used human instrumentality, the original texts were breathed-out, or inspired, by the Lord himself. The Bible is the word of God.

The Bible is inerrant. Inerrancy means the Scriptures do not err; nor do they affirm any errors. There is no error mixed with truth (cf. Psa. 12:6), and what it teaches is wholly truth. The Bible does not endorse anything that is untrue; it is entirely truthful and has no errors in the autographs. So, the Scripture contains no affirmations of anything that is contrary to fact.

The Bible is also infallible. This is thought of as a stronger term than inerrancy. Infallibility deals with possibilities and so it means the Scriptures cannot err; it is incapable or impossible of teaching any error. The autographs are absolutely trustworthy (Psa. 19:7; 111:7), sure (2 Pet. 1:19), and worthy of full acceptance (1 Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Tit. 3:8).

There is a relationship between the Word and one's heart. It examines the soul and spirit and the intentions of it (cf. Heb. 4:12). It is our judge and we don’t judge it. Creation should not judge the Creator, who is the Word (cf. John 1:1; cf. Rom. 9:20). If something seems off, then it is our Bible version, interpretation, misunderstanding, commentary, or hermeneutical approach as the Bible is a surer word of prophecy (Psa. 119:89; 2 Pet. 1:19).

So, commentaries may contain errors. Well-meaning commentators are not infallible. Absolutely no Bible commentary should ever be used as a substitute for God’s true, clear, inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word. It is very important to keep these elementary truths in mind when reading any commentary.

The Apocrypha

There are sixty-six books in the Bible. The Apocrypha is not part of the Bible. The books that comprise it contain errors (pl.) and they are not inspired or infallible, etc. While as with other ancient writings it may provide some valuable insights at times, you won't find any recommended commentaries for any of those books. For more on the Apocrypha please see “Apocrypha Accounts?” and “The Catholic Bible?” below.

Recommended Bible Commentaries

(Note that some commentaries cover multiple books. However, I didn’t repeat the same commentary multiple times for different books. I hope this list is helpful.)

Book
Commentary
Commentary
Commentary
Genesis
Genesis 1-15 and Genesis 16-50 (Word Biblical Commentary) by Gordon J. Wenham Genesis 1-11:26 and Genesis 11:27-50:26 (The New American Commentary) by Kenneth A. Mathews The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17 and The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50 (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by Victor P. Hamilton
Exodus
Exodus (The New American Commentary) by Douglas K. Stuart Exodus (A Mentor Commentary) by John L. Mackay Exodus (Preaching the Word) by Philip Graham Ryken
Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by Gordon J. Wenham Leviticus (Word Biblical Commentary) by John E. Hartley Leviticus (Continental Commentary) by Jacob Milgrom
Numbers
Numbers (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by Gordon Wenham The Book of Numbers (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by Timothy R. Ashley Numbers (Preaching the Word) by Iain M. Duguid
Deuteronomy
The Book of Deuteronomy (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by Peter C. Craigie Deuteronomy (Apollos Old Testament Commentary) by J.G. McConville Deuteronomy (EP Study Commentary) by John D. Currid
Joshua
Joshua (Focus on the Bible) by Dale Ralph Davis Joshua (New American Commentary) by David M. Howard Joshua (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by Richard S. Hess
Judges
Judges (Focus on the Bible) by Dale Ralph Davis Judges, Ruth (New American Commentary) by Daniel I. Block Judges, Ruth (NIV Application Commentary) by K. Lawson Younger, Jr.
Ruth
Esther & Ruth (Reformed Expository Commentary) by Iain M. Duguid The Book of Ruth (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Ruth, Esther (Word Biblical Commentary) by Frederic W. Bush
1 Samuel
1 Samuel, 2 Samuel (Focus on the Bible) by Dale Ralph Davis The First Book of Samuel (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by David T. Tsumura 1 & 2 Samuel (Expositor’s Bible Commentary) by Ronald F. Youngblood
2 Samuel
1 & 2 Samuel (NIV Application Commentary) by Bill T. Arnold 1 & 2 Samuel (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by Joyce Baldwin 1, 2 Samuel: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary) by Robert D. Bergen
1 Kings
1 Kings, 2 Kings (Focus on the Bible) by Dale Ralph Davis 1, 2 Kings (New American Commentary) by Paul R. House 1 & 2 Kings (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by Donald J. Wiseman
2 Kings
1 and 2 Kings (New International Biblical Commentary) Iain W. Provan 1 Kings, 2 Kings (Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries) by Mordechai Cogan & Hayim Tadmor Apostasy, Destruction and Hope: 2 Kings Simply Explained (Welwyn Commentary Series) by Roger Ellsworth
1 Chronicles
1 & 2 Chronicles (Mentor Commentary) by Richard L. Pratt 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles (Word Biblical Commentary) by Roddy L. Braun & Raymond B. Dillard 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by Martin Selman
2 Chronicles
1 & 2 Chronicles (NIV Application Commentary) by Andrew E. Hill 1 & 2 Chronicles (Old Testament Library) by Sara Japhet I and II Chronicles (OT Daily Study Bible Series) by J. G. McConville
Ezra
The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by F. Charles Fensham Ezra/Nehemiah (Word Biblical Commentary) by H.G.M. Williamson Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther (Daily Study Bible) by J.G. McConville
Nehemiah
Ezra & Nehemiah (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by Derek Kidner Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (New American Commentary) by Mervin Breneman The Message of Nehemiah (Bible Speaks Today) by Raymond Brown
Esther
Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (New American Commentary) by Mervin Breneman The New Century Bible Commentary: Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther by David J. A. Clines Esther (NIV Application Commentary) by Karen Jobes
Job
Job 1-20; Job 21-37 (Word Biblical Commentary) by David J.A. Clines Job (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by Francis I. Andersen The Book of Job (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by John Hartley
Psalms
Psalms, Vol. 1-3 (Expositional Commentary) by James Montgomery Boice Psalms 1-50; Psalms 51-100; Psalms 101-150 (Word Biblical Commentary) by Peter Craigie, Marvin Tate, Leslie Allen Psalms 1-72; Psalms 73-150 (The Preacher’s Commentary) by Donald Williams
Proverbs
Proverbs (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms) by Tremper Longman III Proverbs (The Preacher’s Commentary) by David A. Hubbard Proverbs in The New Interpreter’s Bible by Raymond C. Van Leeuwen
Ecclesiastes
The Message of Ecclesiastes (The Bible Speaks Today) by Derek Kidner Ecclesiastes (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by Michael A. Eaton Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (NIV Application Commentary) by Iain Provan
Song of Solomon
The Message of the Song of Songs (The Bible Speaks Today) by Tom Gledhill Song of Songs (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by Tremper Longman The Song of Solomon (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by Lloyd Carr
Isaiah
The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary by J. Alec Motyer The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1-39, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by John Oswalt The Book of Isaiah (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by Edward J. Young
Jeremiah
The Book of Jeremiah (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by J.A. Thompson Jeremiah 1-20, Jeremiah 21-52 (Mentor Commentary) by John L. Mackay Jeremiah 1-20, Jeremiah 21-36, Jeremiah 37-52 (The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries) by Jack R. Lundbom
Lamentations
Jeremiah and Lamentations (Preaching the Word) by Philip Graham Ryken Song of Songs / Lamentations (Word Biblical Commentary) by Duane Garrett and Paul House Lamentations (Mentor Commentary) by John Mackay
Ezekiel
God Strengthens: Ezekiel Simply Explained (Welwyn Commentary Series) by Derek Thomas The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24; The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25-48 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by Daniel I. Block Ezekiel (NIV Application Commentary) by Iain M. Duguid
Daniel
Daniel (Reformed Expository Commentary) by Iain M. Duguid Daniel (The Preacher’s Commentary) by Sinclair Ferguson Daniel (Geneva Series of Commentaries) by E.J. Young
Hosea
Hosea-Jonah (Word Biblical Commentary) by Douglas Stuart The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary by Thomas E. McComiskey The Message of Hosea (The Bible Speaks Today) by Derek Kidner
Joel
Prophet of the Coming Day of the Lord: The Message of Joel (Welwyn Commentary Series) by O. Palmer Robertson Joel & Amos (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by David Allan Hubbard The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by Leslie C. Allen
Amos
Amos (Hermeneia) by Shalom M. Paul Amos (Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries) by Francis I. Andersen and David Noel Freedman The Minor Prophets: Hosea-Jonah, Vol. 1 (Expositional Commentary) by James Montgomery Boice
Obadiah
Joel, Obadiah, Malachi (NIV Application Commentary) by David W. Baker Joel and Obadiah (Mentor Commentaries) by Irvin Busenitz Hosea and Obadiah: Turning Back to God (Welwyn Commentary) by Michael Bentley
Jonah
Salvation Through Judgment And Mercy: The Gospel According to Jonah (P&R) by Bryan D. Estelle Man Overboard!: The Story of Jonah (Banner of Truth) by Sinclair Ferguson Jonah (Banner of Truth) by O. Palmer Robertson
Micah
The Message of Joel, Micah & Habakkuk (The Bible Speaks Today) by David Prior Sermons on the Book of Micah (P&R) by John Calvin Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk & Zephaniah: God's Just Demands (Focus on the Bible) by John McKay
Nahum
The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by O. Palmer Robertson Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries) by David W. Baker Micah Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (New American Commentary) by Kenneth L. Barker and Waylon Bailey
Habakkuk
Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (The NIV Application Commentary) by James Bruckner Micah-Malachi (Word Biblical Commentary) by Ralph Smith The Message of Joel, Micah and Habakkuk (Bible Speaks Today) by David Prior
Zephaniah
The Coming of the Warrior-King: Zephaniah Simply Explained (Welwyn Commentary Series) by Daniel Webber The Minor Prophets (Geneva Series) by John Calvin A Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 2, Psalms- Malachi by Matthew Poole
Haggai
The Books of Haggai and Malachi (New International Commentary on the Old Testament) by Pieter Verhoef Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (Focus on the Bible) by John Mackay Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi (Geneva Series) by T.V. Moore
Zechariah
Zechariah (Reformed Expository Commentary) by Richard D. Phillips Haggai & Zechariah: Building for God’s Glory (Welwyn Commentary) by Michael Bentley Glory In Our Midst: A Biblical-Theological Reading of Zechariah's Night Visions by Meredith G. Kline
Malachi
Haggai, Malachi: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary) by Richard A. Taylor Losing Touch W/The Living God: (Malachi) (Welwyn Commentary Series) by John Benton Micah/Nahum/Habakkuk/Zephaniah/Haggai/Zechariah/Malachi (The Preacher's Commentary, Vol. 23) by Walter C. Jr. Kaiser
Matthew
The Gospel of Matthew (New International Commentary on the New Testament) by R.T. France Matthew in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary by D. A. Carson A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew by Craig S. Keener
Mark
The Gospel of Mark (The New International Greek Testament Commentary) by R.T. France The Gospel According to Mark (The Pillar New Testament Commentary) by James R. Edwards The Gospel According to Mark (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) by William L. Lane
Luke
Luke 1:1-9:50; Luke 9:51-24:53 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Darrell L. Bock Luke (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) by Leon Morris Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke (New Testament Commentary) by William Hendriksen
John
The Gospel of John by Herman Ridderbos The Gospel According to John (Pillar New Testament Commentary) by D.A. Carson The Gospel of John by Craig S. Keener
Acts
Acts (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Darrell L. Bock The Book of the Acts (New International Commentary on the New Testament) by F.F. Bruce Acts: The Church Afire (Preaching the Word) by R. Kent Hughes
Romans
Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, by Charles Hodge The Epistle to the Romans by John Murray Romans 1-8, Romans 9-16 by C.E.B. Cranfield
1 Corinthians
1 & 2 Corinthians (Holman New Testament Commentary) by Richard Pratt The First Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Greek Testament Commentary) by Anthony C. Thiselton 1 & 2 Corinthians (Geneva Commentaries) by Charles Hodge
2 Corinthians
The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Commentary on the New Testament) by Paul Barnett 2 Corinthians: Power in Weakness (Preaching the Word) by R. Kent Hughes The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Greek Testament Commentary) by Murray J. Harris
Galatians
Galatians (Reformed Expository Commentary) by Philip Graham Ryken The Epistle to the Galatians (New International Greek Testament Commentary) by F.F. Bruce Commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther
Ephesians
The Letter to the Ephesians (Pillar New Testament Commentary) by Peter T. O’Brien Ephesians (Word Biblical Commentary) by A.T. Lincoln Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians by Charles Hodge
Philippians
The Epistle to the Philippians (New International Greek Testament Commentary) by Peter T. O’Brie Philippians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Moises Silva Philippians (NIV Application Commentary) by Frank Thielman
Colossians
The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (Pillar New Testament Commentary) by Douglas J. Moo The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (New International Commentary on the New Testament) by F.F. Bruce Colossians/Philemon (NIV Application Commentary) by David E. Garland
1 Thessalonians
1-2 Thessalonians (IVP New Testament Commentary) by G.K. Beale The Letters to the Thessalonians (Pillar New Testament Commentary) by Gene L. Green 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Word Biblical Commentary) by F.F. Bruce
2 Thessalonians
1 and 2 Thessalonians: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) by Leon Morris 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Evangelical Press Study Commentary) by Robert J. Cara 1 & 2 Thessalonians: Triumphs and Trials of a Consecrated Church (Focus on the Bible) by Richard Mayhue
1 Timothy
The Pastoral Epistles (New International Greek Testament Commentary) by George W. Knight, III The Letters to Timothy And Titus (New International Commentary on the New Testament) by Philip H. Towner 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (Crossway Classic Commentaries) by John Calvin
2 Timothy
Pastoral Epistles (Word Biblical Commentary) by William D. Mounce The Pastoral Epistles (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) by Donald Guthrie 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (Geneva Series) by Patrick Fairbairn
Titus
1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus (Focus on the Bible) by Douglas J. W. Milne The Pastoral Epistles (International Critical Commentary) by I. Howard Marshall The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (The New Daily Study Bible) by William Barclay
Philemon
The Message of Colossians and Philemon (Bible Speaks Today) by R.C. Lucas The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles (Eerdman's Socio-rhetorical Series of Commentaries on the New Testament) by Ben Witherington III Colossians and Philemon (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 12) by Murray J. Harris
Hebrews
Hebrews 1-8; Hebrews 9-13 (Word Biblical Commentary by William L. Lane A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews by Philip Edgcumbe Hughes The Epistle to the Hebrews (New International Greek Testament Commentary) by Paul Ellingworth
James
The Letter of James (Pillar New Testament Commentary) by Douglas Moo James (Geneva Series) by Thomas Manton The Epistle of James (New International Greek Testament Commentary) by Peter H. Davids
1 Peter
The Message of 1 Peter (The Bible Speaks Today) by Edmund Clowney 1, 2 Peter, Jude (New American Commentary) by Thomas Schreiner 1 Peter (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) by Wayne Grudem
2 Peter
Jude and 2 Peter (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Gene L. Green The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude (Pillar New Testament Commentary) by Peter H. Davids 1, 2 Peter, Jude (New American Commentary) by Thomas Schreiner
1 John
The Letters of John (Pillar New Testament Commentary) by Colin Kruse 1-3 John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Robert W. Yarbrough Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
2 John
Letters of John (NIV Application Commentary) by Gary M. Burge The Gospel & Epistles of John by F.F. Bruce The Epistles of John (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) by I. Howard Marshall
3 John
1, 2, 3 John (Word Biblical Commentary) by Stephen S. Smaley The Epistles of John (Expositional Commentary) by James Montgomery Boice 1, 2, 3 John (Focus on the Bible) by Michael Eaton
Jude
2 Peter, Jude (NIV Application Commentary) by Douglas J. Moo 2 Peter and Jude (Word Biblical Commentary) by Richard Bauckham Let's Study 2 Peter and Jude (Let's Study Series) by Mark Johnston
Revelation
The Book of Revelation (New International Greek Testament Commentary) by G.K. Beale The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation by Vern Sheridan Poythress Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation by Dennis E. Johnson

Related Topics

Apocrypha Accounts?
The Catholic Bible?
Tolle Lege -Take Up and Read!
Does all Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 mean both testaments?
What is Sola Scriptura vs. Tota Scriptura?a>
Inerrancy and Canonicity
Do Bible contradictions affect doctrine?
Bible Versions
KJV-Only, Error of Errors: The 1611 KJV Preface Disagrees with KJO
Textus Rejectus
Italicized Words?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).