Why is it that I can google the anatomy of a seagull and find 1700 diagrams in .00002 seconds but cannot get a single quality article about some biblical passage I’d like to study deeper? I mean, when a few taps on the computer can pull up twelve videos on how to break into my neighbor’s house, why on earth is decent commentary of the Bible lacking?
The other day I came to a particularly mischievous verse in Revelation and tried to look up background information for more insight. To my amazement all that came up were fluffy, cotton candy articles about how God is good (which, while true, doesn’t justify skirting around the topic) or doomsday posts in red ink and dozens of exclamation points to emphasize how the world, if not by this evening, would most certainly be ending by the election.
Where are the theologians? Where are the scholars who know a thing or two about author, date of writing, background into the culture of the Ancient Near East, language, interpretations throughout church history? Why aren’t they so benevolently sharing these insights that enrich our study of Scripture via the world wide web?
Alas, I suppose until that time comes, I’ll just have to rely on the printed page: the commentary.
And, just in case you either haven’t found a good commentary or are wondering about the real value of one, here are a few suggestions.
First, you might want one of these little treasures if you ever find yourself reading the Bible—like 1 Timothy 2:15—and your thoughts fall down this similar trail:
“Um, it just said women are saved through childbearing… Are women just mules? Does God think that of women? Or maybe Paul was a little bit off here? A bit persuaded by the culture of the day? … If he was though, does that mean the whole Bible is susceptible to error? And there is no God? And this was all made up?! Okay, calm down, just turn the page and pretend you didn’t see it.”
The three commentaries below are neither written by scholars who believe Jesus was a myth, existing only in our minds to encourage naughty little humanity to behave, nor by those who want to spend thirty pages talking about the meaning of the word “the” in verse one. They are quality commentaries written by educated Christians dedicating their lives to sharing the profound.
*These are examples for Romans, though each commentary has other books of the Bible available*
1. The New International Commentary on the New Testament
Is this book big? Yes. Could you use it to hold up the wheel of a car? Possibly. But it is one of my personal favorites, particularly given the insights of Dr. Moo. If you are looking for something more academic, more ambitious (after all, why is the word “the” there in verse one?), but also with heart, this is a great choice.
2. The New Testament for Everyone
NT Wright people… former Bishop of Durham and one of the world’s leading Bible scholars. A man with a pastoral tongue and incredibly intelligent mind. This is a great series in everyday language. Note that this series does not include the Old Testament.
3. The NIV Application Commentary
This commentary focuses less on technical language and more on application to our Christian life. It’s good for Bible studies and wading in to deeper studies without diving all the way and fearing you’ll get drowned in all the academic talk.
So, here’s to learning and living out the walk each day!