Studying the scriptures and preparing for teaching and preaching there are many avenues we can take. From dictionaries, to encyclopedias, to reference works and of course Bible commentaries. When it comes to preaching and preparing, there are so many books we can draw from, that our search could never be exhaustive, and if not careful we can spend too much time in places where we will never draw from.
I love books, I love old books and I especially love different types of commentaries. I own a few set of actual commentaries, but the majority of the commentaries I use are on PC Study Bible. The majority of my preparation is done on PC Study Bible on my MacBook, and I don’t find it feasible to buy the actual physical commentaries of the ones I use on PC Study Bible. Maybe one of these days if I can find them super cheap and I have the room to store them, but for now I’ll just go to PC Study Bible.
For this post I’m going to write about a few commentaries that I use almost weekly, from the ones I own on my shelf to the commentaries I use on PC Study Bible. Not all commentaries are created equal, so it’s taken some time to find the commentaries that best suit me. So let’s get started.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible(PC Study Bible)- Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible is probably my most used commentary, and my favorite commentary. It’s probably my first choice in study because it was the first commentary that I ever used, and I’ve been going back to it ever since. Henry’s commentary suits me for my style of preaching. Henry writes almost in sermon form, it’s not your typical type of commentary that explains every verse in a text. What I love about this commentary it’s great for sermon fodder, he drops a few insights that helps build a message. When I go to a text and want to start building a sermon around it, I almost always go to Matthew Henry first. I suggest that you not buy the concise version of Matthew Henry’s commentary, actually I don’t suggest that you buy any concise version of any commentary, it’s just not worth your time or your money. There are many versions of this commentary floating around bookstores, your best bet is to buy the whole commentary. A great thing about this commentary is that you can find it for free on many Bible websites. Blue Letter Bible, Bible Gateway are just a few websites that let you reference this great commentary.
The Pulpit Commentary(PC Study Bible)- Next on my list for most used commentaries is the Pulpit Commentary. This is a very popular commentary among preachers that I know. This is a catch all type of commentary in my opinion. Written in a more expository sermon style, this is great a resource to get a different look at scriptures. With the Pulpit Commentary you can get many diverse views from one text or one scripture. These old writers had a distinct way to look at scriptures, which is very helpful in not sounding like all the “popular” preaching we hear today. The Pulpit commentary has been helpful to me to build a logical thought around a key verse. Much like Matthew Henry’s commentary it’s not a line by line explanation to a text, but more about trying to find the key theme.
John Phillips Exploring Commentary(Own)- Sitting on my shelf in my office is a commentary that I cherish, the John Phillips Exploring Commentary. John Phillips is probably in my top five favorite authors. I own just about everything that he has written, especially his commentary. I had been working over the last couple of years trying to build this commentary piece by piece as I found each title at used books stores and on eBay. Well after about two years or more of effort I finally found the entire set on eBay for $200. I couldn’t resist so I sold mine, and bought the set and I’ve not regretted it. As you can see from the other commentaries that I use most, I enjoy a more expository flow of a commentary. It’s the best of both worlds, you can get a grasp of the text, but then also get a lot of sermon thoughts and analytical views of certain scriptures. John Phillips epitomizes what I look for in a commentary, and that’s finding the structure and the meaning of each text. What’s great about this commentary is that it’s easy to read, I can sit and read through an entire book and not get bored. Most commentaries you can’t do that, at least from what I’ve found. John Phillip’s has a way of seeing the patterns and highlights from each book of the Bible and texts. If you like finding insight to those hidden scriptures that no one preaches from, and no one expounds on, then this is the commentary you need to pick up. The Genesis commentary and the Gospel of John commentary are worth your money. Also in this set I own the Exploring the People of the Old Testament and the New Testament. I love character studies and John Phillips brings the spirit of Alexander Whyte to sermons on characters of the Bible. If you can get your hands on any of John Phillip’s works you will be blessed by it.
N.T. Wright’s For Everyone Commentary; The Gospels(Own) - A pastor friend of mine turned me on to N.T. Wright late last year, and I’ve been buying up everything the author has written since then. I try to buy all of my books used, I hardly ever buy a new book, so I’ve been searching used books stores for Wright’s stuff for months now. With that in mind I finally put together piece by piece N.T. Wright’s For Everyone Commentary; The Gospels. Wright has written the For Everyone commentary for the entire New Testament, I still think he’s working on completing it completely through. But I got my hands on the gospel commentaries. Matthew For Everyone, Mark for Everyone, Luke for Everyone and John For Everyone. A completely different commentary that I’m attracted to, N.T. Wright approaches the scriptures from a very broad historical sense. If you like historical background, and an easy read for a commentary then you will enjoy this set. I’m currently working on reading this commentary all the way through, much like I am with John Phillip’s. It’s written more like a devotional commentary, but it does have great insights and background to the texts. Mr. Wright wrote this commentary with “everyone” in mind. It’s written for those who have little or no Bible knowledge and for the scholar. N.T. Wright is a scholar, though I may not agree completely with all of his theology(as with most commentators), I do like his approach to scripture and the way he writes. His writing is very engaging and yet scholarly. I’m working towards buying the rest of the set as I find it in used books stores and or eBay, I have a feeling I’ll be through with the Gospels set in no time.
These are four of the main Bible commentaries that I use when studying and preparing for messages. I use many others from my PC Study Bible, I enjoy Adam Clarke and Albert Barnes as well, but these four are where I turn to each week. I know these may not pass the “commentary purists” out there, but these work for me and may not exactly work for you. But when studying you need to find those books and authors that you know you can draw from, and not waste your precious time searching through the vast resources that are available.
What Bible commentaries do you like, use and or recommend?