The Daily Study Bible commentaries, written by Scottish author William Barclay (1907-1978), have been published and read for almost 50 years. They are Bible commentaries that most readers find easy to understand. Though he worked as a college professor, Barclay decided to dedicate his life to “making the best biblical scholarship available to the average reader.”
The eventual result was the Daily Study Bible, a set of 17 commentaries on the New Testament, published by Saint Andrew Press, the Church of Scotland’s publishing house.
William Barclay Bible commentaries
Barclay’s commentaries provide passage-by-passage explanations of Scripture using his own translation of the New Testament, listing and examining every possible interpretation known to Barclay and providing all the background information he considered possibly relevant, all in layman’s terms.
The commentaries have been updated with the help of William Barclay’s son, Ronnie Barclay, in recent years and they are now known as the New Daily Study Bible series. A companion set, giving a similar treatment to the Old Testament, was endorsed, but not written by Barclay.
Barclay’s expressed his personal views in his A Spiritual Autobiography (1977), and Clive L. Rawlins elaborates in William Barclay: prophet of goodwill: the authorized biography (1998). They included:
- skepticism concerning the Trinity: “Nowhere does the New Testament identify Jesus with God” (p. 50)
- belief in universal salvation: “I am a convinced universalist. I believe that in the end all men will be gathered into the love of God” (p. 65-67)
- pacifism: “war is mass murder” (p. 83)
- evolution: “We believe in evolution, the slow climb upwards of man from the level of the beasts. Jesus is the end and climax of the evolutionary process because in Him men met God. The danger of the Christian faith is that we set up Jesus as a kind of secondary God. The Bible never, as it were, makes a second God of Jesus. Rather, it stresses the utter dependence of Jesus on God.” (Luke commentary, p.140)
A Barclay had some controversial beliefs. See Was William Barclay a Universalist? What You Need to Know to learn more.
Barclay’s life and ministry
William Barclay was a Scottish author, radio and television presenter, Church of Scotland minister, and Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow.
Barclay’s father was a bank manager. He attended Dalziel High School in Motherwell and then studied classics at the University of Glasgow 1925–1929, before studying divinity.
After being ordained in the Church of Scotland in 1933, he was minister at Trinity Church Renfrew from 1933 to 1946, afterwards returning to the University of Glasgow as lecturer in New Testament from 1947, and as professor from 1963.
After browsing the commentaries below, see Best Bible Commentaries: Top 50. Based on aggregate reviews.
Barclay’s commentary volumes
The links provided go to Amazon using each book’s exact ISBN.
In this first of two volumes on the book of Genesis, John Gibson–Old Testament General Editor of the Daily Study Bible–offers a probing investigation of the first eleven chapters of Genesis.
He provides a perceptive verse-by-verse and even word-by-word examination of the well-known Genesis stories of creation, the garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, Noah and the flood, and the Tower of Babel.
In this second of two volumes on the book of Genesis, John Gibson examines epics of faith as portrayed primarily by Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph. He considers the dramatic stories of Genesis in their historical context, relates them to the New Testament, and shows their applicability to today’s church.
Illustrated by maps, with suggestions for further reading, this companion to Genesis, Volume 1, also by Gibson, makes the happenings in Genesis as relevant to today’s men and women as they were to the people of ancient times.
“Exodus,” writes H. L. Ellison, “is in many ways one of the most important and spiritually interesting books in the Old Testament. It tells the story of how God freed his people from Egypt and bound them to himself by a covenant.
We are given insight into how this link with God modified the people’s traditional law, how God’s grace reacted to a broken covenant, and how we should approach God in worship.”
The three books considered in this volume constitute the principal biblical witness to Israel’s early history. According to A. Graeme Auld, “they tell the story of how under Joshua the land was first taken by Israel and then apportioned to her various tribes.
They tell how after Joshua there was a long period of ups and downs; of religious apostasy within the community and repeated harassment from abroad answered by a series of divinely impelled ‘Judges’ or ‘Deliverers.’
They offer some samples of life in Israel, ‘in the days when the Judges ruled’ or ‘when there was not yet a king in Israel.'”
The books of Samuel present a drama in which the principal players are the God of Israel, the prophet Samuel, and the first kings of Israel, Saul and David.
In his masterful commentary David F. Payne shows that this Old Testament book combines history and theology as it narrates Samuel’s virtues, Saul’s defeats, and David’s successes in relation to God’s activities during an important phase in the life of Israel.
Like Barclay’s commentaries are still popular today, so are Matthew Henry’s. See Is Matthew Henry a Good Commentary? to learn more.
In this illuminating commentary, A. Graeme Auld helps readers understand the message–historical and theological–contained in the story of the Israelite monarchy.
The message of the books of Kings remains relevant to today’s world. It concerns power and the constant need for remaining faithful to an authority that is superior to earthly rulers.
Taking a look at the setting, form, and content of I and II Chronicles, J. G. McConville describes how these two often neglected books present God’s purpose for his people at a crucial time in their history–the period of restoration after the Exile.
Set in the Persian Empire, one of the greatest kingdoms the world has ever known, the stories contained in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah provide the most comprehensive scriptural account of the restored Judean community after the Babylonian exile.
The book of Esther is also set in the Persian period of Israel’s history, although the concern is for a different community.
For George A. F. Knight, reading Psalms is a ‘glorious and exciting experience.’ Writing in this spirit, he captures the beauty of these timeless hymns of praise and conveys both their original meaning and their application for today.
In presenting the last half of the Psalter, George A. F. Knight discusses the meaning of the Psalms in the Old Testament, their application in the New Testament, and their challenge for today’s readers.
Psalms 73 to 150 belong to the later period of Israel’s experience of God’s steadfast love, recalling the story of how ordinary, sinful people responded in both faith and denial to God’s actions.
Now, reflecting on the Psalms with the help of this exciting commentary, the reader can glimpse the total pattern of God’s redemptive plan as it unfolded and as it has continued throughout history.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” In this perceptive commentary familiar sayings from the book of Proverbs, such as this one, are seen in a new light.
Kenneth T. Aitken deepens our understanding of the collection of popular sayings and folk wisdom of ancient Israel.
Fascinating, surprising, challenging–these are among the words used by Robert Davidson to describe the two books covered in this commentary.
The book of Ecclesiastes concerns the ultimate meaning of life itself and reminds us that we can be happy even amid uncertainty. The Song of Solomon invites us to an exploration of love that reminds us of God’s unending care for the world.
Many people who like Barclay also like J Vernon McGee’s commentaries. See J Vernon McGee Bible Commentaries to learn more.
This prophetic Old Testament book begins by telling the reader that it is the “vision” of Isaiah. The use of the word “vision,” John F. A. Sawyer explains, conveys to the reader that regardless of when the prophet lived, “his ‘words’ go beyond the immediate historical circumstances of his day.” Sawyer argues that we as modern readers also are being addressed.
One of the most important and cherished books in the Old Testament, Isaiah contains a message of vibrant spirituality. It reveals an exalted view of God and speaks in soaring poetry of joy and hope in the kingdom.
Throughout his two-volume commentary, John F. A. Sawyer seeks to present the meaning of the text of the book of Isaiah with compelling clarity and, at the same time, lead the reader to a deeper understanding of familiar passages.
This illuminating study enables the reader to better understand the vocation and message of an extraordinary prophet. The message Ezekiel delivered to the people of Babylon centered on the holiness of God.
Even though he foretold doom and judgement, the prophet held out the promise of hope, based on the continuing mercy and forgiveness of God.
More than any other prophet, Jeremiah struggled to understand God’s will for him and for the people of God.
This volume on the first twenty chapters of Jeremiah recounts the story of this poet-prophet and opens up for the reader one of the most personal books of the Old Testament.
The author of Twelve Prophets, Volume 1 completes his study with a commentary on Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, who foretold the birth of the Messiah; Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, prophets who spoke for God in the last days of the Kingdom of Judah; and Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, whose messages were directed to those reforming the community of God’s people after the Babylonian Exile.
Individuals who proclaimed different messages according to the times in which they lived, these prophets nevertheless have in common the task of speaking the Word of God to the people of God. Through his insightful commentary, Peter C. Craigie shows the persistent meaning of this Word through the ages.
Taken together, the Twelve Prophets offer a panoramic view of Israel’s religion during one of the most critical periods in the Israelites’ history. Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, and Jonah are the figures considered in this first of Peter C. Craigie’s two-volume work.
Although differing in substance as well as style, these prophetic books are united in their common purpose: the declaration of the word of God to the people of God.
Also see John MacArthur Bible Commentaries to learn more.
See the Bible Commentary Comparison Chart to compare this series to dozens of others.