We live in unprecedented times. Let us first admit it: we are blessed with literally thousands of commentaries that are available to help us better study, understand, teach, and preach every aspect of the Word of God. However, while some scholars and students in Biblical Studies can never be satisfied with enough commentaries, for others the number of available Bible commentaries can be pretty overwhelming. How do you find your way in this labyrinth of resources? How do we decide which commentaries we want to have? Can we get those commentaries at affordable prices? And how can Logos Bible Software help us with this all?
In this blog, I share four strategies to help you decide which commentaries would be a good addition to your personal Logos library. But why do we need to choose in the first place?!
Are you looking for Part 2 of 2 in this series? Read it Here
Different Bible Commentaries For Different Purposes
Commentaries exist for different purposes, which means that not every commentary will be a good one for everybody. Some commentaries are written with an academic audience in mind, other commentaries are written for everyone. Some commentaries focus on explaining the original meaning of the text, while others are of a more devotional nature seeking to apply the text to the reader. Some commentaries cover the whole Bible, while others are devoted to one specific book of the Bible. Some commentaries are non-denominational, others are clearly written from a particular denominational perspective. Some commentary writers give priority to the exegesis of the text, while others are more interested in the theological implications of the text.
These are just a few examples to illustrate the need for carefully selecting your commentaries. Because, if you buy a commentary, it should fit your personal context and meet your personal needs. If your goal is to understand the Hebrew text of Isaiah 7, you will need a different commentary than if your goal is to lead a men’s Bible study group on the same chapter. If you need to consult a commentary for an exegesis class on the Gospel of John, you may need a different commentary than if you prepare a sermon on a chapter in John.
In other words, see the total of collection of Bible commentaries as a mega toolbox, from which you have to choose your preferred tools to help you study God’s Word in your own context.
Strategy #1: Ask For Opinions in our Facebook Group
Honestly, this is not necessarily the best way to find the best commentaries for your study. Still, it is likely the most commonly used strategy that is freely available to anybody. For example, in our fast-growing Logos Bible Tips and Tricks Facebook group, members regularly ask for people’s opinions on the best commentary for this or that book.
While you may get really valuable and thoughtful responses from a wide range of perspectives, the nature of most responses is simply a random person’s opinion about or preference for a particular commentary. That’s why it is helpful to be specific in your question as to what kind of commentary you need. Next week we will share another part of this blog to explain how you can ask for specific recommendations for commentaries.
Strategy #2: Commentary Surveys
Examples of the most extensive surveys are:
One of the best ways to inform yourself about specific commentaries is to consult a Commentary Survey. A commentary survey is a kind of annotated bibliography of a wide range of commentaries written by experts in the Old and New Testament field. They describe for each book of the Bible, which commentaries are available, and their strengths and weaknesses. And they try to rank all commentaries according to their own purposes.
- for the OT: Tremper Longman III, Old Testament Commentary Survey, 5th edition.
- for the NT: D.A. Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey, 7th edition.
These Commentary Surveys are essential for anyone who moves in the area of biblical studies and use commentaries for professional purposes.
Strategy #3: Overview of Best Ranking Commentaries
If you plan to expand your digital library with a few top commentaries, this is likely the best time to do so. Faithlife offers no less than a 50% discount on the best top-ranking commentaries per Bible book during the month of July. That is to say: for each of the 66 books of the Bible, they curated a list of the top-10 of highest ranking commentaries and priced them with a 50% discount! Amazon does not make you a better deal. Just make sure you benefit from this deal before it expires.
Strategy #4: Lexham Research Commentary
The Lexham Research Commentary series (LRC – 33 volumes) is an absolute timesaver for those who want to engage with exegetical scholarly debates. The Lexham Research Commentary says on its blurb that it ‘surveys all the relevant literature on a passage and brings the summary back to you.’ Passage by passage it describes what the debatable issues are and then summarizes the viewpoints as found in a wide range of commentaries. A link to the individual commentaries makes your joy complete, so you can quickly navigate to exactly the right place in those commentaries if you own them in your library. And if you don’t own a commentary, you can quickly purchase them and start reading in just a few seconds.
In a nutshell, the Lexham Research Commentary series is designed to save you a lot of time by presenting the most significant interpretative issues in a robust overview of commentaries, with a links to the actual passages in those resources. See the screenshot below for an example from the LRC on 1 Corinthians 11:3.
As you can see, the Lexham Research Commentary gives you at one glance a neat overview of the differences of opinion found in a wide variety of commentaries. It provides a summary of each point of view and a link to the actual commentary. If you want to learn more about one of the perspectives, you can either open that resource in Logos if you already own it or directly purchase the book and have immediate access to its content. Or, the summary leads you to the decision to ignore certain commentaries. Even when you don’t own the resource and don’t want to purchase it, you will still have an idea of what the argument looks like from the summary in the LRC.
The commentaries are pricey, but if you realize how much time these commentaries will save you while trying to track a discussion through several commentaries, you know that you get the bang for your bucks.
If you are interested, it might be worth trying one individual volume.
Bonus: Organize Your Bible Commentaries By Type
Did you know that Logos 9 has a new feature that helps you organize your commentaries by type? Here is how you find the tool:
- In the Guides Menu, select Passage Guide or Exegetical Guide.
- Enter the Bible passage you are studying, e.g. John 14 and press Enter.
- The Guide that is generated should have a section titled Commentaries.
- If not, you can add the section by clicking “Add” in the top right corner of the Guide.
- Expand the section Commentaries and click “Type” to sort your commentaries by type.
Yes, we hear you! There are way too many Bible commentaries. Yes, they are a blessing, but their number can be overwhelming. But hey, you are not without help! In this blog, we described four strategies that can help you decide whether it is worth purchasing one commentary or the other. In our next blog we will give you three more time and money saving tips about selecting the right commentaries. So, stay tuned!
Michel Pauw is a Dutch Wycliffe Bible Translators missionary who works with SIL in Papua New Guinea. He holds an MA in Classics and Teaching from Leiden University in the Netherlands. Michel is an international Logos Bible Software trainer and one of the coaches for Logos Daily. He is also an affiliate of Faithlife, and any revenue through his affiliate links in this blog helps support his volunteer ministry in Papua New Guinea.
If you want to support Bible Translation in Papua New Guinea through your Logos purchases – at no additional cost – you can sign up for his monthly newsletter.