Choosing a suitable commentary

Once you begin to take the study of your Bible seriously, there will come a time when you want to dig deeper into a particular book.  One of the best ways of doing this is to beg, borrow or buy a commentary that helps you find out how to understand the text you find in Scripture.  The only problem is that there may be upwards of a hundred choices for any particular book of the Bible.

One of the most helpful resources that will help you choose which commentary is best for you is the “best commentaries” website:

Let’s look at how you might use this tool.  For the sake of illustration, we’ll look at the Gospel of John.  Log onto the site and choose the “NT Books” menu at the top, then move your mouse to the book of John (see below) and left-click.

This will bring up this web page:

This now lists all of the available commentaries and their ratings down the left-hand side.  However, there is a most useful feature on the right – the “Academic Level” panel.  This allows you to filter the results according to how easy-to-understand you want the commentary to be.  I, for example, would normally opt for either or both of the “Pastoral” or the “Devotional” options.  If you understand Greek and have some Theological training, then you might want to choose the “Technical” option.  The “Special Study” option means that the commentaries shown won’t cover the whole book, but concentrate upon some particular facet of the book’s Theology.

In my case, I chose the D.A. Carson commentary AND the NIV Application Commentary by Gary Burge.  I chose the Carson, because he is one of the foremost Evangelical Theologians of our age.  I chose the Burge commentary because I have used this particular series before and like the style.  Other than that, the choice is largely academic (pun intended).

Gordon Smyrell