Purchasing Some Commentaries

Discussion in 'Commentaries' started by InSlaveryToChrist, Dec 6, 2011.

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  1. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    So, I've decided to get the following commentaries:

    Luke: Philip G. Ryken

    John: D.A. Carson

    Acts: David G. Peterson

    Romans: John Murray

    I already have D.A. Carson's commentary on both Matthew and Mark.

    My desire is to have solid, Reformed commentaries on the Bible with no partiality in the Baptist-Paedobaptist debate. I've done some study on commentaries that would best suit these purposes, and I've ended up with the above list.

    Before I take the next step and actually purchase these items, I'd like to hear some opinions on the suitability of these commentaries to the aforementioned purposes.

    Your help is greatly appreciated.
  2. Fly Caster

    Fly Caster Puritan Board Sophomore

    Murray on Romans is wonderful.
  3. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Are you specifically looking for contemporary commentaries?
  4. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    Ryken's commentary is an expository commentary, not an exegetical commentary.

    It might be too much to ask that a commentary not have partiality on the baptism debate; no matter what the issue, I think it's always best to seek out more than one view and judge for yourself than to seek out one view that you hope will be impartial.
  5. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    Preferably, because they are most of the time easier in grammar. But that is a minor issue for me.

    ---------- Post added at 01:26 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:13 PM ----------

    If it is not too much to ask, I'd like to know the differences between the terms, "pastoral," "expository," "exegetical," "devotional," and "technical." Do any of those overlap with one another?

    Well, I'm convinced of the Biblicality of Paedobaptistic Ecclesiology and Covenant theology, so I'm greatly against Baptistically biased interpretation of Scripture.
  6. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    Yes, there is some overlap, but seldom (I would say never) does a commentary do an exemplary job on all aspects, and the differences between them are huge. Bock and Ryken's commentaries on Luke are very different and not comparable at all.

    An "expository commentary" is a collection of expository sermons through a book of the Bible. Examples include the Reformed Expository Commentary series, from which Ryken's Luke commentary is from, and James Montgomery Boice's commentaries. Good expository commentaries have a good balance of careful and relevant exegesis and application within a church preaching context.

    "Devotional" and "Pastoral" tend to focus more on personal application than exegesis.

    "Exegetical" and "Technical" focuses more on the meaning and less on application. They will include very lengthy analyses of single verses. The more technical ones will be more difficult to profit from if you don't know the original languages (New International Greek Testament Commentary, Word Biblical Commentary, Baker Exegetical Commentary), while others are written to be technical, but more accessible to those who don't know the original languages (New International Commentary, Pillar New Testament Commentary, Expository Bible Commentary).

    The theological bias of a commentary is less important for the technical commentaries than for the applicational/expository commentaries. For the technical commentaries, you care more about their scholarly knowledge and ability to exegete.
  7. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    Okay, I'm pretty lost as to which I should pursue more in my study of Scripture: personal application of the Bible to my life, or exegetical understanding of the Bible. Actually, what I'm equally confused about is how one can apply a text of Scripture to his own life, unless he understands the text exegetically in both its immediate and the whole context of the Bible. I mean, how can you trust any interpretation of a particular text (in order to apply it to your own life), unless you understand how it fits both the immediate and the whole context of the Bible? So, shouldn't all commentaries be both devotional/pastoral and exegetical/technical (at least, to some degree)? I don't get it. Please, help me out.
  8. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Samuel, have you the Romans commentary by Charles Hodge? I think that's a good place to see the different things a commentary may do, because he separates the different ways of commenting on Scripture. He has a summary (content), outline and flow (analysis), explanation (commentary), conclusions (doctrines), and applications or observations (remarks). You can see that many commentaries could either skip one or more of these, or at least seriously compress them.

    Or if you have the commentary on the Minor Prophets edited by McComiskey, at the top of the page you'll find exegesis, and on the lower half of the page you'll find exposition. Looking at one or the other of those might give you a better feel than just explanations.
  9. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    What commentary you want really depends on where you are at in your Biblical education background. They are geared for different audiences.

    A lay-person generally wants to understand the general teaching of the passage and how to apply it. The pastor wants to know enough about the passage so that they can be able to their congregation, so the pastor is going to want more information. The scholar is doing in-depth research on particular verses in the Scripture. A devotional commentary is not going to be detailed enough for the scholar. A technical commentary is going to spend pages and pages of in-depth analysis on a particular verse that a lay-person won't be able to wade through.

    I would recommend starting with the devotional and expository commentaries -- Welwyn Commentaries, Reformed Expository Commentaries, James M. Boice, NIVAC, John Stott (The Bible Speaks Today), etc. These are geared towards an educated congregation, are meant to be read all the way through, perhaps as part of daily devotions, and generally have a good balance of exegesis and application.

    If you want to dig deeper, for example, to teach a Sunday School or Bible Study, some of the more technical ones, like Expositor's Bible Commentary, New International Commentary or Pillar NT, are solid, and some are good on application as well.

    Don't go for the big ones like NIGTC, WBC, and to a certain extent BEC, unless you want to read pages and pages of analysis and have a good handle on the original languages. These are not usually meant to be read all the way through.
  10. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    I only have one commentary (D.A. Carson on Matthew and Mark) as far as a verse-by-verse exposition of a particular book of the Bible is concerned. It seeems I can read Charles Hodge's commentary on Romans online for free here.

    ---------- Post added at 01:52 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:40 PM ----------

    Thank you for that clarification, Don! Since I'm pretty unaware of where I am in my Biblical education, and I don't want to take any risks, I think I'll start with the devotional/expository commentaries.

    Now I just need to find the proper commentaries. I'll start looking at the old PB threads, check the bestcommentaries.com, and read some comments from Amazon on each book. If anyone wants to be of help, please recommend your top 2 devotional/expository commentaries on Luke, John, Acts and Romans.

    Edit: Actually, it seems the commentaries I picked up in my OP are all expository, pastoral or devotional. The only one I'm not too sure about is John Murray on Romans -- is his commentary any of those three (expository, pastoral, devotional)?
  11. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

  12. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    Oh I had totally forgot about his lists of recommendations! I used to look them up.

    Edit: Then again, I think those lists should be updated because they are 5 years old, and new commentaries have come in, such as Peterson on Acts. It is true, however, that Moo's is about the only commentary that deals with the New Perspective on Paul.

    I think this list is more recent, but I still wonder if it is up-to-date.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2011
  13. Unoriginalname

    Unoriginalname Puritan Board Junior

    While I am not a good person to point out which commentaries to get, if you only get new ones you are shooting yourself in the foot. I have found that many times, reading an older book has equiped me better to deal with a current controversy than reading a new book.
  14. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    You might want to hold off on buying all the commentaries at once: as you go through one or a few, you might develop some decided preferences.

    I have benefited most when doing a book study on something that is currently pressing for me. For example, I went through chunks of Mr. Murray's Romans when I realized I had misunderstood the latter portion of Romans 11. BTW, the Romans commentary is one I can strongly recommend. I agree with Eric that newer doesn't always mean better.

    Also, commentaries are often used to ensure that an interpretation is correct. In other words, you've gotten a good handle on the context, looked up the cross references, are developing an opinion as to what the text teaches, then consult the commentary. This isn't stressing the importance of developing your opinion, but ensuring that you have strong familiarity with a text. By that point, you likely have a better understanding of the challenges the commentator is addressing.

    As to the terms you've listed, I've learned to be very careful about whether or not I'm trying to learn about God or whether I'm truly learning to know God better. A book, for me, may change categories; and even some authors have books that fall into either category. Someone who used to post regularly on PB uses the term "doxological" regarding books. It is a good guide.
  15. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    Eric and JWithnell,

    I'm not underestimating the older commentaries. Actually, my understanding is that the majority of Christianity is growing more and more Bible-ignorant in each generation, which even has a certain amount of influence to the remnant of Christians who mostly search wisdom from the men of old. So, in general, I have much higher expectations from the older commentaries than the new ones.

    JWithnell, you make an important point there about merely learning about and actually knowing God. A person who has only learned about God and the Bible will not practise his theology in real life. It is my ardent desire to live out and experience the attributes God has revealed of Himself in the Bible, to know Him in all His glory.
  16. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    I do think there has been some excellent scholarship in the last few decades, but sometimes in academic circles good works may be overlooked. In fact, if we only look at the older works, we will miss how God has worked through men of late.
  17. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    Every generation has its great Biblical scholars and men of God, that is undisputed, but the fact remains that the more we move forward in time, the more Christianity grows ignorant of God's Word. And sadly, this will have a negative effect even on the great Biblical scholars and men of God.

    ---------- Post added at 10:44 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:34 AM ----------

    Back to my request now:

    Recommend your top 2 devotional/expository commentaries on Luke, John, Acts and Romans.
  18. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    I'd greatly appreciate quick responses here, because I desire to start reading the commentaries as soon as possible to proceed in my Bible reading.
  19. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Samuel, I think you'll find that the more you insist, the less response you get, at least of a positive variety. I'm sure you can find profit in the ones you already had picked out, though I am not acquainted with them myself.

    J.C. Ryle has a set of commentaries on the Gospels: they are the kind of thing that ordinary people can read straight through. I would suggest supplementing those with Alfred Edersheim's The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.

    I haven't run across any commentaries on Acts that just jumped out at me.

    You can read Murray on Romans straight through: he's not my favorite commentator, though. I like Calvin on Romans better. The most readable commentary I've found is C.H. Dodd - but he is not in sympathy with Paul on numerous points.
  20. InSlaveryToChrist

    InSlaveryToChrist Puritan Board Junior

    I purchased the commentaries listed in the OP.
  21. elnwood

    elnwood Puritan Board Junior

    Two picks for each, first devotional/expository, second more exegetical but still practical.

    John - James M. Boice, D. A. Carson (Pillar)
    Acts - John Stott (BST), Richard Longenecker (EBC)
    Romans - James M. Boice, Douglas Moo (NIVAC or NICNT)
  22. beej6

    beej6 Puritan Board Sophomore

    For John's gospel, I'm partial to Ridderbos which leans to the exegetical but doesn't require original languages at all.
    For Romans (pardon my redundancy, I just posted this in another thread), I'm partial to Romans. Sproul is fine as a non-technical work.
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