Scholars, pastors, professors, and other Christians have written Bible commentaries since the century after Jesus Christ to help people understand Scripture. Emerging from the thousands of commentaries in Protestant history are a few famous ones that people love to use:
- Matthew Henry’s whole bible commentary
- Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on Psalms
- Keil and Delitszch’s commentary on the Old Testament
- J. Vernon McGee’s book-by-book commentary series
- John Calvin’s book-by-book commentary series
- William Barclay’s book-by-book commentary series
- John MacArthur’s New Testament commentaries
These Bible commentaries are classics in Protestant circles, and their contents reflect the beliefs and convictions of millions of Christians. However, there are differences between them and the average reader doesn’t necessarily agree with all the teachings found in them.
Keep reading to learn why each of these commentaries is famous, the difference between them, and which one may be right for you.
This website helps readers identify which commentaries are best for their purposes. See The Top 50 Bible Commentaries Series to learn more.
Well-Known Bible commentaries
These commentaries are mainly famous because they have consistently helped people understand Scripture. If they didn’t, people would have abandoned them long ago because the purpose of a commentary is to explain the biblical text.
Pastors use these commentaries to help them prepare for teaching and preaching. Other Christians use them for Bible study and as devotional aides.
The commentaries listed below are in no particular order.
Matthew Henry’s Whole-Bible Commentary
Henry (1662-1714) was a British Protestant minister. He wrote a six-volume commentary on the entire Bible. Henry intended that his work complement the work of another British Protestant commentator, Matthew Poole. However, some would argue that Henry’s commentary has left a greater mark on western Protestantism than Poole’s.
Henry’s six-volume commentary is available for free online. Pastors in the 21st century still consult this set, which is a testament to its legacy. Many Christians choose to start with the one-volume abridged version of Henry’s commentary (link goes to Amazon), which is also found for free online.
Also see: Is Matthew Henry a Good Commentary? to learn more.
Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on Psalms
Spurgeon (1834-1892) was an English Calvinist Baptist pastor well-known for his preaching. His sermons were published in newspapers in his day. Christians in the 21st century still read them. Many of Spurgeon’s sermons can be found for free online.
Spurgeon’s most famous commentary is called The Treasury of David (link goes to Amazon), which covers the book of Psalms. His commentary offers readers a basic explanation of the text along with devotional reflections, making them ideal for pastors and lay Christians alike. Spurgeon was Baptist and Reformed.
Keil and Delitszch’s commentary on the Old Testament
C.F. Keil and F. Delitszch were Lutheran scholars in Germany in the 19th century. There were theologically conservative. Their commentaries (link goes to Amazon), which can be found in full online, primarily focus on the exegesis of Old Testament verses and passages, but they offer theological insights as well.
Modern readers will have to get used to their dated writing style, and scholars need to be aware that some of their exegetical insights into the language are dated. Nevertheless, many pastors will benefit from their explanations, and some lay Christians will as well.
Also see: Keil-Delitszch Old Testament commentaries for more.
J. Vernon McGee’s commentary series
McGee (1904-1988) wrote commentaries that are well-known for being easy to understand. They provide readers with basic explanations of the texts. McGee comments on key verses of each passage, but his comments are mostly overviews. He uses the King James Version translation in the volumes.
McGee pastored Presbyterian and non-denominational churches in the United States during the middle 20th century. His wildly popular Thru the Bible radio ministry, which McGee’s commentaries (link goes to Amazon) of the same are based on, is still broadcast worldwide even though McGee died in 1988.
McGee’s commentaries are very affordable, with most paperback volumes selling new for under $10.
Also see: J. Vernon McGee’s Thru the Bible commentaries
John Calvin’s commentaries
Calvin, the French Protestant reformer, who served the Church as a pastor and theologian, and Bible teacher, is widely known as being one of the most profound commentators of the last 500 years. He occasionally refers to the original languages of the Bible in his explanations.
Calvin wrote commentaries on every book of the New Testament except 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation. He also wrote commentaries on many books of the Old Testament, but his omissions included Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.
Calvin is well-known for his theology — known as “Calvinism” — upon which Reformed theology and the Presbyterian denomination is based. Calvin is considered the founder of the Presbyterian denomination.
Also see: Why Didn’t John Calvin Write a Commentary on Revelation?
William Barclay’s commentary series
Barclay was a pastor and professor who was affiliated with the Church of Scotland. He desired to help regular Christians — not just pastors and academics — understand Scripture better, and to that end, he wrote The Daily Study Bible series (link goes to Amazon).
There are 24 volumes in the series, which cover New Testament books and related topics.
Barclay’s theology can be described as liberal when compared to conventional evangelical beliefs and doctrine.  Examples include:
- he doubted the inspiration of Scripture
- he criticized the substitutionary atonement of Christ
- he doubted the virgin birth of Christ
- he questioned the miracles of Christ
- he disbelieved that Christ is the only way to heaven
Also see: William Barclay’s The Daily Study Bible series
John MacArthur’s New Testament commentaries
MacArthur is the long-time pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. His is known for his straightforward, “tell it like it is” preaching style and for his criticism of Pentecostal theology.
MacArthur has written a one-volume whole Bible commentary (link goes to Amazon) that covers the Old and New Testaments. He has also written a 24-volume commentary set (link goes to Amazon) that covers all 27 books of the New Testament. MacArthur’s commentaries are easy to understand, and anyone can read them.
Also see: John MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary series