Commentaries can be useful for “getting your bearings” on a particular book or passage, but should not be a substitute for your own work (in my opinion).
I usually start by searching commentaries for background, historical and archeological evidence — which they typically do really well. Then do my own work and come back to commentaries when I’ve started to reach some conclusions and want to see what others think. Commentaries can also get you thinking when you hit a dead end and don’t know what step to take next in your study.
You can buy multi-volume commentaries or one-volume commentaries. (I include online sermons and MP3s in the commentary category.)
My commentary rules:
- Always consult more than one commentary.
- Consult both classic and contemporary works.
Before buying, check your bible study software. Many times you can buy great commentaries as electronic add-ons and plug-ins to your software.
- Adventuring Through the Bible: A Comprehensive Guide to the Entire Bible, by Ray C Stedman. (My favorite 1-volume commentary)
- New International Bible Commentary, 1 volume, ed. FF Bruce (Zondervan)
- Tyndale Commentaries, multi-volume (InterVarsity Press)
- New Bible Commentary, 1-Volume commentary. (InverVarsity Press)
Online Commentaries & Study Bibles
- Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible
- Albert Barnes Notes on the Whole Bible
- Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible
- Geneva Study Bible
- Reformation Study Bible Notes
- John MacArthur’s Introductions to each book of the Bible
For modern commentary recommendations, try one of these:
- Top 5 Commentaries on every book of the Bible – Ligonier.org
- Best Commentaries on…. – Tim Challies
- Commentary Reviews