Need Commentary Help

Discussion in 'Commentaries' started by Sola Gratia, May 12, 2013.

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  1. Sola Gratia

    Sola Gratia Puritan Board Freshman

    Hi PB,
    I have a question concerning commentaries. Before I became reformed I got really really burned out on study bibles of all kinds. I have an ESV SB and Sproul's Reformation one and that is it. I use them only sparingly because I now prefer just to have the text of the Bible itself with interchangeable commentaries depending on the book that I am studying. So I have a Schuyler ESV Reference Bible (the one with the confessions in the back which you can find here if you're interested Schuyler ESV :

    The commentaries that I do have however are not very good and many are quite liberal and certainly not reformed in any sense. So what would be a good series for a beginner, or if not a whole series what are good selections? I just don't want to be misled, but I'm looking for more... depth than what is typically found in a SB. Thanks in advance.

    Grace and Peace,
  2. Somerset

    Somerset Puritan Board Junior

    Might be worth using the search facility on the top right of the home page. Alternatively, you can check the threads listed in the commentaries sub forum of the literary forum.

    Generally speaking most people seem to prefer individual volumes, for academic or sermon preparation work, rather than sets as sets are patchy in terms of quality. Calvin and Matthew Henry are both very highly regarded.
  3. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Hello Hyatt,

    This is probably the best: New Testament Commentary Set, 12 Volumes: William Hendriksen, Simon J. Kistemaker: 9780801026065:

    Hendriksen is thoroughly Reformed (he is the primary author; Kistemaker, who finished the set when WH died, is also very good). It looks like it's out of print again . . . I'd go with a good used set. I have a lot of commentaries, and if I could have only one set, this'd be my unhesitating choice.

    Hendriksen also wrote a separate commentary on Revelation, which is also excellent: More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation (9780801057922)
  4. Sola Gratia

    Sola Gratia Puritan Board Freshman

    Along these same lines, as someone who has never studied the Bible except as a purely academic thing, what book should I start in? I've been just reading here lately since I put the study bibles away and I'd like to start studying.

    Grace and Peace,
  5. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    I'd start like this, in the NT John first, then Matthew Mark Luke Acts and all the way to the end. One chapter a day.
    In the OT Genesis first, and all the way through (the really detailed and technical Levitical stuff you can skim and get back to another time). One chapter a day.
    And I'd start reading the Psalms, one a day. And also Proverbs, one chapter a day. I keep repeating Psalms and Proverbs – through the years.

    So four chapters a day (more if you want, and have time) isn't too strenuous. It's God's letter of love and wisdom to you. It shows who He is, and how He deals with men. In it He speaks to you personally, His Spirit working in your heart. You have a great adventure ahead of you!

    Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word. I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.​ (Psalm 119:161-162)​
  6. Sola Gratia

    Sola Gratia Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you for your help Mr. Rafalsky, I appreciate it very much. I will take your advice, I only hope that I can learn to quit reading the Bible the way I was taught at school. Documentary hypothesis, Paul didn't write a lot of his letters, etc. I have a lot of trouble not being very critical as I read because I was taught to be for four years lol. It's hard to break that mentality in me I suppose, but I trust that the Holy Spirit will help me and it just may take time. I'll just have to stop being an impatient 24 year old because I want to get it now.

    Grace and Peace,
  7. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I think you are right, Steve, because I looked on Amazon and they are selling new sets for $900. They do have a few used sets starting at $175, but that is still a bit high. I bought mine new for $125 when it was still in print. Maybe we need to start a petition to demand that Baker put it back in print.
  8. Berean

    Berean Puritan Board Doctor

  9. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Hello again, Hyatt –

    I don’t know if you’ve come to terms with the liberal stuff you’ve been taught (i.e., been able to refute it), but such stuff as you mentioned is easily refutable.

    For example, here is a book review of a JEPD writer by Gleason Archer.

    And something I got off the internet:

    Jesus attributed the 5 books to Moses

    Whether or not a biblical critic wants to take Jesus' word for anything is up to the individual. But no less a person than Jesus authenticated the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Jesus divided the Old Testament into three sections in Luke 24:44: Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms. Also, he attributed all the individual JEDP defined sections of the Pentateuch to Moses.

    In Mark 10:4-8, Jesus quoted Gen. 2:24, which would be J, as coming from Moses. Mark 7:10, Jesus quoted the Ten Commandments, which fall into the E category, as coming from Moses. In Mark 10:3, Jesus refers to Deut. 24:1f, which would be D, as being from Moses. In Matt. 8:4, Jesus quoted Lev. 14, which would be equivalent to P, as coming from Moses.

    As for the Pauline epistles, Hendriksen (and Kistemaker) give attention to their authorship (and all other NT books they comment on). The only NT book conservative scholars differ on is Hebrews. I think the best case can be made for Paul writing it (such as John Owen’s defense, or A.W. Pink’s, to name only two), and the Reformed Church’s Belgic Confession, in Article 4, confesses it as Paul’s.

    What is important is that you have confidence that the word of Scripture you are reading is authentic – it is what it claims to be, God’s inspired and infallible word – and has been faithfully (accurately) transmitted up through the centuries.

    There are demonic teachers very active in our days (and have been throughout the history of the Bible) teaching against what the church holds as true. Bart Ehrman is one such. But he has been and will continue to be shown as a false and unreliable teacher.

    The Bible even attests to itself: Paul says, by the Holy Spirit, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim 3:16-17).

    Jesus said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4), and the Holy Spirit said by Peter, that God by “his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3). It therefore follows that if man must live by every word of God, that God will see to it that we have this that so crucially “pertains unto life and godliness”! Both the inspiration and the preservation of Scripture are doctrines taught by God through His prophets and apostles.

    He has given these to you so that you may have a warm and trusting relationship with Him. The Bible belongs to the believing church, and not to the academy or the “Bible Industry”, which have other agendas than the welfare of the saints in their minds.

    I’m glad to be answering any questions or concerns you may have.

  10. Sola Gratia

    Sola Gratia Puritan Board Freshman

    I feel like I just need to pick your mind for a while lol. I was taught the Ehrman style scholarship and several of his books were textbooks. It's just really hard for me to get their answers out of my mind. For example when you cited that Jesus attributed the Pentateuch to Moses, I know that they would respond that Jesus certainly didn't seem to know everything or else he would not have believed that the end of the world would be in his generation. Based, of course, on their interpretation of what Jesus said. That's why I was asking for commentary help in the first place, I really need help being able to refute what I was taught in school and while I've gotten pretty far in that (i.e. I reject it) I don't always know how to counter it in the details. I understand why it is wrong in principle, but not on a case by case basis.

    Grace and Peace,
  11. moral necessity

    moral necessity Puritan Board Junior

  12. Somerset

    Somerset Puritan Board Junior

    Matthew Henry might help refute liberalism - his 6 volume set is available quite cheaply on line. He doesn't take issue with liberalism - but he is so Christ centred that nothing else seems able to get in the way.
  13. reaganmarsh

    reaganmarsh Puritan Board Senior

    You've been given some good resources here thus far. It bears mentioning also that the PB has a few threads addressing recommended commentaries for each book of the Bible (other than "sets"). Do a quick search and you'll readily find these threads.

    In "sets," however, Matthew Poole is another Puritan commentator whose work is highly regarded and quite helpful. I read somewhere that Matthew Henry wrote his commentary in part as an accompanying work to Poole's. I personally consult each man's work weekly with profit.

    Regarding your questions of a more apologetical nature, have you spent any time at Monergism's apologetics page Monergism :: Apologetics Or CARM - Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry Or Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (reformed apologetics)? These pages may have resources addressing specific questions in a more in-depth than a commentator might attempt.

    Hope these help.
    Last edited: May 13, 2013
  14. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

    Welcome to the CCEL - Christian Classics Ethereal Library has Calvin's Commentaries online FREE as well as Matthew Henry's

    Calvin's is more of an academic read whereas Henry is more devotional/layman's terms!
    I prefer to have the books in my hand so I purchased mine from HERITAGE REFORMED BOOKS.

    As far as Study Bibles go I love the two you have and I use them often. Sometimes it its good to have a little grid at your fingertips and besides I love the approachability of the ESV Study Bible.
  15. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    Jesus in fact did not believe the world would end in His generation (notwithstanding preterism’s false assertions), nor that most of the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (per the partial preterists). A couple of interesting posts on Matthew 24 here and here (though regarding the latter one I am still pondering other approaches).

    Ehrman often goes for the least defensible aspects of the Christian faith (i.e., those which are not sound) as objects of his attacks. He has immersed himself in methodological skepticism and his mission in life – and his meal-ticket – is attacking the Scriptures and belief in God. He gets leverage from the fact that he is indeed a world-class textual scholar, albeit in the camp of the devil.

    If you have specific questions / details arising from your former academic indoctrination, feel free to share them – and I will try to answer. I realize one of Ehrman’s tactics is to zero in on apparent discrepancies in Scripture, or problems in theology – I am comfortable refuting or explaining such. (In his 2008 book, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer, he says, thinking about his early belief in God, “I still wondered, deep down inside: could I have been right after all? What if I was right then but wrong now? Will I burn in hell forever? The fear of death gripped me for years, and there are still moments when I wake up at night in a cold sweat.” [p 127])

    Another approach to counteracting Ehrman is to understand the error of his fortified presuppositions, built upon the “Walter Bauer hypothesis”, which postulates that what is now called “orthodox Christianity” was not the original “Christianity” but bullied and suppressed these earlier versions out of the running. A good book on just this (and aiming directly at Ehrman) is The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity, by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Michael J. Kruger

    Another, which goes after textual issues, is Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, by Richard Bauckham. Bauckham presents evidence that the original eyewitness testimony presented in the gospels is first-class reliable evidence, which counters Ehrman's assertions.

    The other commentaries suggested are good, but as they are available online, I still think Hendriksen's is well worth the money put out for it. He answers many apparent discrepancies – and solving knotty textual / chronological problems is a gift of his.

    Feel free to communicate further.

  16. jogri17

    jogri17 Puritan Board Junior

    I am a believer that the best commentaries are not necessarily Reformed, (though they maybe!) and we ought not to trust a commentary just because they agree to the same Confession of faith as we do. For example, Beale's Commentary was written before he joined the OPC, and DA Carson's commentary on John is highly regarded. John Murray held to the view that we ought not even bother reader the Puritan's commentaries except for maybe application (see vol. 3 of his collected writings). One great collection that I love is edited by John Stott:

    1. The Bible Speaks Today: New Testament (22 vols.)
    2. The Expositor's Bible Commentary (EBC) (12 vols.)
    3. The New Bible Commentary edited by DA Carson : which is my favourite 1 volume commentary of all of scripture.
  17. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Hi Joseph – with regard to Beale's Revelation commentary, true, he was still (I think) at Wheaton, but when he transferred to WTS Philly he told them he was glad to finally be in an institution that was Presbyterian, which I took to mean he was Presbyterian a good while before. And that commentary reflects the best of Reformed understanding. One problem I have with Stott, is his view on annihilation (that's a deal-breaker for me), though I would agree with you about the quality of his little commentaries – I was surprised at how good they are. But are you familiar with Hendriksen's? I have found no better set in the Reformed world.
  18. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Hyatt, I think Mr. Rafalsky's point about presuppositions is really quite critical. It is not just the big presupposition, of anti-supernaturalism, though obviously that is a big problem. There are a lot of other very questionable presuppositions that go into the constantly-changing liberal theories about the Bible. There's a long line of various unbelieving theories about the Bible, with orthodox scholars of the day contending against them; and what is still present today is the believing approach to Scripture, whereas many subsequent liberals have deconstructed previous liberal ideas. Error has changed; truth remains the same.

    And if you think about it, it really has to be so. Not just because when one attack fails another is tried, though that's certainly true. But also think about the whole world of unbelieving Biblical scholarship. In order to make a name for yourself, you have to come up with something new. In order to sell, you often have to come up with something provocative. I'm not so naive as to suppose that all liberal scholars are cynical or irreligious; but the pressures to have academic prestige and financial abundance are not insignificant factors. And once you've committed yourself to a thesis, it's probably easier to go on scouting for additional evidence than it is to revise it.

    Returning to presuppositions, C.S. Lewis made the point that seminary students should try doubting something other than the Bible. Given his time frame, it was natural that he should go after Bultmann, whom I think he convicts of gross incompetence over an absurd remark about an "unassimilated" statement in Mark: all it actually proved, was that Bultmann didn't know how literature worked and was blind to the themes of the passage.

    A great deal of what passes for modern scholarship is grounded on undemonstrable assumptions. Is it possible to prove that Paul did not write 2nd Timothy? The presuppositions of liberal scholarship are not only unbelieving, they are also foolish: e.g., that the Bible is an essentially unreliable guide to its own nature, that editorial layers of a text can be distinguished, that our reconstruction of communities and cultures is a better guide to authorship than an epistle's own claim, etc.

    One fruitful and rather new line of inquiry about the dating of the Gospels has been a comparison of the statistical frequency of names with names occurring in other Greek literature. The statistical analysis locates the NT in a Palestinian context and in the first century. It matches the pattern of that region and time, and does not match the patterns of other regions or other times. That's the sort of thing that it would require a good deal of historical sensitivity and knowledge to fake; and a coincidence seems implausible.

    I don't mean to be dismissive: I understand that doubts on these matters can be very draining and difficult, and once the method of raising them has become internalized, the habit can be very persistent. That's why I've found it helpful to note that not just the individual results, but the whole method and philosophy of liberal scholarship is very much open to question. Assume that texts reveal the neuroses of their authors, and Halperin's absurd approach to Ezekiel makes sense; but then wouldn't Halperin's commentary reveal his neuroses? It's a self-defeating hypothesis.
  19. Sola Gratia

    Sola Gratia Puritan Board Freshman

    I completely understand your point about having to come up with something new, that is actually why I chose not to go forward and get my MA. They wanted me to publish something original (with a professor of course), but I didn't understand WHY I had to publish something that no one else had ever thought of before. For example, my particular areas of interest and "expertise" according to my degree are thought and philosophy. (I also have an interest in church history and took all the classes offered, but there was no degree for it :( ) When I was supposed to be coming up with topics I went to my primary professor in my concentration to get ideas and he offered things like "were the early church fathers the seed of marxism", "who would Jesus kill", "Why God can't know the future perfectly" as places to start. At the time I bought the ideas, but was absolutely frustrated with being required to come up with something new to be considered important in my field. I think I would prefer competency to novelty. Though, the argument you put forth reminds me of the adage that "what's true isn't new and what's new isn't true."
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