Commentaries I Use: The Epistles of John

The three epistles of the apostle John are among the most crucial to study in the New Testament especially in light of the very definition of Christian life is laid out for all to see. Many individuals who plant churches often forget the importance of these epistles especially in light of the main ingredient for planting a church which is love for one another.  There are also many theological themes throughout these epistles that make their importance undeniable.

I have unfortunately not collected as many commentaries on these epistles as I would like and to be quite honest I’m certain that there are other fine commentaries available on these letters. My recommendations on a commentary expounding the three epistles are twofold.

080283728XThe first recommendation is once again from the Pillar New Testament Commentaries edited by D.A. Carson and published by Eerdmans. This volume exegeting the letters of John was written by Colin G. Kruse. This 255 page commentary is a more scholarly volume and filled with exegetical gems that I have found tremendously useful in light of getting through some more difficult portions of the text.  Kruse does a good job in laying out the authenticity of the letters, their authorship and a fantastic overview of the purpose of the letters. I also truly appreciated how Kruse spends time giving decently thorough explanation of key themes throughout the letter. For instance when speaking on antichrist, Kruse gives a good overview of that theme throughout the scriptures prior to developing what is said in the letters.  This commentary would be a great addition to your library!

721227My second recommendation is a much more readable commentary. The commentary is not however of all three letters but focusing on 1 John. The title is Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John written by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It is a collage of a previous five volume set put all into one which runs at about 734 in lenght. The commentary is a compilation of Lloyd-Jones’ sermons on the epistle and has some fantastic practical gems throughout. The writer gives us a very good explanation of the theology he is about to present in each chapter prior to delving into the text.  Lloyd-Jones doesn’t hold back in bringing out the sometimes difficult message of each chapter and exhorts the reader to examine themselves in light of the message of the epistles. I feel that this is a fantastic companion to Kruse’s commentary and with both these volumes you are sure to understand the central messages of John’s epistle from a more conservative approach.

Commentaries I use: The Book of Isaiah

The book written by the prophet Isaiah is a tremendously rich book filled with not only many prophecies concerning Israel and the Messianic figure that would one day redeem them but the book is filled with historical data concerning the restoration from exile. There are many historical and prophetic texts in the book that can be tremendously difficult to understand especially taking into consideration that we are living in a completely different culture and setting.

I must admit that it took me quite some time to find a couple of good commentaries on the book of Isaiah that come to us from a balanced view. Both commentaries that I am about to recommend are, in my mind, two of the best available on the market. What I appreciate from both is that they approach the texts both historically but keep the prophecies in their context as still future when they are intended in this light.

Motyer%20-%20Prophecy%20of%20IsaiahMy first recommendation is one that I just acquired recently and it has been a tremendous blessing as it has opened up much of the book of Isaiah to me especially historically and culturally. The title of the commentary is “The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary” written by OT Scholar J. Alec Motyer. It is a one volume commentary that numbers at close to 550 pages. Motyer offers a very good introduction to the book especially dealing with the controversial authorship of the prophecy. What I found very profound and helpful is the way that Motyer divided up the book of Isaiah. He defined Isaiah 1-37  as the book of the king, chapters 38-55 as the book of the servant and finally Isaiah 56-66 as the book of the Anointed Conqueror. He also points out three themes that are reoccurring throughout the prophecy mainly the Hope of the coming Messiah, the city and an outline of the Holy One of Israel. I appreciated that Motyer used his pages well and didn’t get into long winded theological babble that some commentators have been guilty of doing while commenting on this book. I appreciated Motyer’s ability to deal with other ideas and he was able to defend his position well on many counts. There is no question that this is a must have for anyone who is willing to examine the book of the prophecy of Isaiah.

exposition_of_isaiahMy second recommendation on the book of Isaiah is an older volume which used to be a 2 volume set  that was condensed into one volume. The title is simply An Exposition of Isaiah by H.C. Leupold. I must make my readers aware that this is not an easy volume to get your hands on since it has been out of print for quite some time.  The book is a wonderful companion to Motyer and whatever he is lacking, Leupold fills the gap. The commentary is approximately 375 pages in length with large lettering hence Leupold doesn’t always find the depth that Motyer produces. There are instances that Leupold does give a much needed simplistic argument of a text which Motyer helps to build upon in his commentary. Both these volumes together and a good match.

While I enjoy both these commentaries tremendously, I am always open to new recommendations in regards to this particular book. If you have any recommendations to share, please feel free to do so.

Commentaries I use: The Book of Revelation

I understand that to many the book of Revelation can be a very difficult and frustrating study. The student may get a little bogged down and confused by all the symbolism and 1st century terminology that sometimes doesn’t make much sense to them. I was in that boat and to be quite honest there are still many portions of the letter that baffle me to this day. There are many commentaries that have been written over the years on the book of Revelation from different perspectives. There are four main methods of interpretation in regards to the book mainly the Preterist, historicist, futurist and idealist.

The recommendations I will be making are based upon my hermeneutical understanding which is a progressive idealism. With that said and to be fair, I will begin by briefly suggesting a few commentaries that are not on my list for those who would like to take a look at other positions to compare with the volumes that I am going to suggest. I think there is information in all these commentaries that may benefit the student of this letter.

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Commentaries I use: Genesis

I have spent a great deal of time giving out information on commentaries that I use and find helpful in my study of scripture mainly from the New Testament. I honestly believe that, while a significant amount of time needs to be spent on the New Testament, it cannot be at the expense of spending some time in the Old Testament texts also. A fundamental understanding of the New Testament requires us to have a good understanding of the Old.

The first recommendations I will make will be from the book of the first things, mainly my favourite book of the Old Testament, Genesis. While I have a few commentaries on this glorious book, I will stick to three main commentaries that I have found extremely useful in supporting my study. I am a bit torn as to which one to mention first since my two first recommendations are essentially similar and just as valuable as one another. I will begin with a two volume commentary that is part of the World Bible Commentary series and written by Professor Gordon Wenham. This is probably the most popular commentary on Genesis by conservative scholars. Wenham gives us a clear and concise volume with references to linguistics, historical data and a sound theology throughout. I appreciate this commentary especially for the fact that Wenham doesn’t go overboard with long rabbit trails as some others do but sticks to the relevant information. With this said, he also refuses to give his reader a mere surface level approach. The format is what really drew me to the commentary in that it begins with the technical material then moves on to the more scholarly textual evaluation then finishes with the commentary.

Continue reading “Commentaries I use: Genesis”

Commentaries I Use: The Epistle to the Philippians

I have done a substantial amount of studying in the epistle to the Philippians especially examining what is called the Carmen Christi (Philippians 2:5-11). It is a passage in scripture that truly makes me reflect on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is much more to the letter than this one passage and a good commentary on this epistle is appropriate for anyone desiring to acquire some insight into the riches of Paul’s writing.

I have numerous commentaries on the epistle but I will name three that I use that I feel are worth recommending. The first I would recommend is by one of my favorite expositors, Peter T. O’Brien. The commentary is from the New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC) series and titled “The Epistle to the Philippians”. O’Brien is the Vice Principle of Moore Theological College in Sydney Australia. This commentary series is intended for more scholarly minds however this particular volume I found to be much more readable than the rest. With that said; if someone doesn’t know how to even read Koine Greek then this commentary might be a little difficult for them to understand. There are many instances where Greek is not required but to really get the full appreciation for what O’Brien has produced, reading Greek is certainly beneficial. O’Brien spends time dealing with textual variants and often explains his reasons for certain readings. The commentary is approximately 600 pages long and filled with numerous footnotes to help further the understanding of his arguments as well as comments on other individual’s writings concerning his arguments. O’Brien writes one of the best expositions on the Carmen Christi that I have encountered to date. He spends approximately 50 pages on the text and really thinks through the text while examining various different interpretations of the text. For those of you who are looking to delve deeper into the text in a more scholarly way, this is the commentary for you!

Another commentary I’ve used when studying this epistle is from F.F. Bruce. F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) was a tremendous scholar especially for his writings on the New Testament Documents and the New Testament Canon. The commentary is from the New International Biblical Commentary series based upon the translation called the New International Version. This is a short commentary at only 182 pages and it is the paperback edition that I have available to me. What I enjoy about this commentary by Bruce is that it is a far more “readable” commentary than O’Brien’s and knowledge of Greek and the manuscript traditions is not necessary to really appreciate this volume. I feel it is the perfect companion to O’Brien’s commentary as it spends more time explaining the text itself and less time probing other individual’s argumentation. This commentary would be appreciated by people who just want to get to the meaning without examining the text too meticulously.

The final commentary I would like to suggest is, once again, from the Pillar New Testament Commentary series called “The Letter to the Philippians” written by G.Walter Hansen. I must admit that if I would have purchased this commentary prior to O’Brien’s and Bruce’s volumes that I might not have purchased them. The reason for this is that Hansen’s commentary is a nice balance of the two previously mentioned volumes. The commentary is approximately 355 pages long with a large amount of footnotes. The commentary is understandable to the average student and no knowledge of Greek is necessary. One thing that I truly appreciate about this commentary is that Hansen spends the time proving his arguments by quoting other scriptural references to substantiate the biblical testimony. O’Brien does this as well however Hansen seems to spend much more time doing this. His commentary on the Carmen Christi was superb as well. I feel that in that section, Hansen compliments O’Brien very well and both commentaries together provide an enormous insight into the text.

Again, please feel free to make your recommendations. I’m always looking to find good commentaries.

Commentaries I Use: Epistle to the Romans

One of my favorite books of the New Testament is the epistle to the Romans. It is a tremendously rich letter written to all the beloved in Rome (1:7) around the year 57 A.D. with Justification by Faith as it’s preeminent theme. I have studied through this epistle many times and it is essential to building a good understanding of the purposes of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

There are entire tomes written on the epistle to the Romans including multi-volumes (Martin Lloyd-Jones) that are significant and recommended by many. My aim however with posting these recommendations is to give a few suggestions for commentaries that I currently use. It would be a pleasure to someday work through Lloyd-Jones’ commentary however for now I will continue with the original format.

The first commentary that I would like to recommend is from Douglas Moo in the New International New Testament Commentaries series. It is undoubtedly the best commentary I’ve ever read on the epistle. It is not only my favorite commentary on Romans but unquestionably one of my favorite commentaries in general. If you are serious about studying through the book of Romans then this is a must have! The commentary is a total of 1012 pages and Dr. Moo spares no word in bringing out the meaning of this divine letter. Moo blends history, a careful analysis of the languages and well thought out argumentation for his interpretation of various parts of the letter. Moo deals with interpretations from other well-known commentaries and thinks through their arguments while giving his reasons for agreement or disagreement. While I didn’t agree with his understanding of Romans 6-7, I still appreciated his argumentation and I can see why he holds to his position of a pre-conversion Paul. His exegesis of Romans 8-11 is absolutely phenomenal and to read his exegesis of Romans 9 along with John Piper’s “The Justification of God” cannot be matched. He has a massive amount of footnotes to help enlighten his readers to further information for his arguments as well as more technical terminology. While the commentary is somewhat technical, there are some wonderful moments of devotion within the commentary that give this volume a wonderful balance. I would recommend purchasing this volume since there is no doubt that you will get much use out of it.

While there are a few more commentaries on the epistle to the Romans that I have in my library, I will limit my recommendations to one more commentary that I feel worthwhile to own. This second commentary that I use to study the epistle is called “The Epistle to the Romans” which is part of the Pillar New Testament Commentaries written by Leon Morris. This volume is written similarly to that of Douglas Moo in many ways and a great companion to Moo’s commentary.  Morris spends approximately 586 pages exegeting the passages of this wonderful letter with a very informative introduction to the letter. He is a very humble writer and you can sense the care he has for the text of scripture as you go through this volume.  The scholarship in this commentary is superb and Morris takes his time to delve into the text with care and precision.  Morris’ commentary will allow you to get a good handle of Romans and to be quite honest, I agreed far more with his interpretation of chapters 6-7 than that of Moo.

Once again, I welcome your recommendations. Please post away!

Commentaries I use: The Gospel of John

There are many commentaries on the gospel of John available and I must admit that I only have in my possession a fragment of the great commentaries out there. While my library is growing, there are quite a few other commentaries on this beautiful gospel that I would love to acquire in time.  While these are not the only commentaries I have on this gospel, I would like to suggest a few that I use when studying the gospel of John.

The gospel of John is a powerful testimony to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and to make Him known (John 20:28) My first choice in regards to a reference on the gospel of John that I feel really brings this out is from the Pillar New Testament Commentaries titled “The Gospel According to John” written and edited by D.A. Carson.  While Carson’s commentary on Matthew is superb, his commentary on this gospel is simply the best out there in my personal opinion. While the commentary is very scholarly dealing with the original languages, the historical setting as well as answering liberal interpretations, Carson’s commentary is very pastoral as well. There are many instances when I was impressed with how well he brings out some of the more difficult texts so effectively. With a 104 page introduction (which is worth the commentary alone), Carson delves into the historical settings and offers one of the best arguments for the authenticity of the fourth gospel. The commentary is approximately 700 pages and in my opinion is a gem. I highly recommend this for all serious students of the bible who are planning to read through the gospel in a thorough way.

I have also been blessed by A.W. Pink’s commentary on the gospel of John. Pink is definitely one of my favorite authors and I have been grateful for his book “The Sovereignty of God” which was instrumental in bringing me to the doctrines of Grace. What I found most useful about this commentary is that where Carson sometimes lacks in the more “devotional” side of the gospel, Pink fills in this gap! The commentary is very large (1140 pages) and while there are some instances where Pink gets off track, his thoughts and appeals to the Old Testament are astounding. His use of types can sometimes be a little much but if one can decipher where to draw the line with this extreme parallelism, there are gems that the reader will certain benefit from. As Martin Lloyd-Jones once said: “Read Pink”!

A third reference that I utilised when studying through the gospel of John was a classic commentary from the great reformer, John Calvin. The commentary is well thought out and I believe it a basis for many other great commentaries available on this gospel. Calvin is considered one of the greatest expositors of scriptures in the history of the Christian Church. The commentary is sound and if you can see past the occasional reference to the pope, it is a fantastic and helpful resource.

There are a few more commentaries on the gospel of John that I could mention that are in my library however I will finish with one last reference. It is the commentary written by F.F. Bruce published by Eerdmans. While it is not my first choice in a commentary on the gospel of John, I still feel that many might find this commentary useful. One thing I enjoy about this commentary is, unlike A.W. Pink, Bruce rarely goes into long winded discussions regarding a particular text and basically gives you the meaning in a straight forward fashion of what the text is saying. Mr. Bruce had a very good understanding of the original languages and it comes out in this commentary. Sometimes where Carson and others fail to deal with a certain term, Bruce is right there to deal with the linguistics.