Bible commentaries provide readers with insight and understanding on Old and New Testament books, so it’s not surprising that a lot of Christians use them to study Scripture. When a person search for commentaries online it doesn’t take them long to realize there are a lot of them.
There are literally thousands of Bible commentaries in existence. There are numerous commentaries for every book of the Bible, from a variety of theological and denominational perspectives. Biblical scholars, Christians pastors, and even laypeople have written commentaries in every century since the time of Jesus Christ.
A person new to studying the Bible, or new to using Bible commentaries, may feel a little overwhelmed at first as they look for the right commentary for their unique purposes, and that is understandable. This website exists to help people find the right book for their purposes.
Please keep reading to learn more about the large amount of bible commentaries available today.
This website helps readers identify which commentaries are best for their purposes. See Bible Commentaries Series: The Top 50 to learn more.
Why are there so many Bible commentaries?
At first glance, some people may come to the conclusion that there are too many Bible commentaries. Whether a person agrees or disagrees with that statement doesn’t change the fact that there are reasons why there are so many. Those who agree with the statement may believe the reasons are bad; those who disagree may believe the reasons are good.
Why so many commentaries? There are many theological and denominational differences
There are numerous Christian theologies, denominations, and churches, all of which have at least some unique views on biblical topics, even though most share the same core beliefs like the doctrine of the Trinity, the inspiration of Scripture, and the death and resurrection of Christ.
Scholars and pastors from each different theological or denominational perspective want to express their interpretation of biblical books, not only through preaching and teaching, but also through writing commentaries.
- For example, a Baptist pastor or scholar may want to write a commentary on the book of Acts to articulate their interpretations of the book.
- Likewise, a Pentecostal scholar may also want to write a commentary on Acts to articulate their interpretation of the book.
- The same is true for Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics.
Why so many commentaries? The Church has existed in different era and cultures
While God doesn’t change, and neither does the Bible, Christians have lived in different eras and in different social and cultural settings.
While Scripture itself remains the same, a commentator may defend a particular doctrine that is under attack in his day in a way that a commentator that lived in another era wouldn’t.
For example, James 1:2 reads, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
- A second-century Greek commentator may explain the verse in light of the Roman persecution that Christians were experiencing
- A fourteenth-century Spanish commentator may explain the verse in light of the Black Death, or the Bubonic plague, that was wrecking havoc in Europe at the time
- A twenty-first century Kenyan commentator may explain the verse in light of the economic and political challenges in their country
Additionally, a Baptist may have written a commentary on Romans in the 18th century, but a like-minded theologian may want to write a fresh volume on it in the 19th century, in part, to interact with their issues unique to their day and time. Likewise, in the 20th century and the 21st century.
The book of the Bible that many people want a commentary on is Revelation. See best Revelation commentaries to learn more.
Why so many commentaries? Volumes may have different content emphases
Commentaries may also have different content emphases. For instance, some volumes focus on the historical background of a biblical book.
In this case, an Exodus commentary may include insights into ancient Egyptian culture and a Revelation commentary may include insights regarding the Roman Empire in the first century.
A historical-background commentary written in the early 21st century has updated information regarding archaeology, for example, that a volume covering the same biblical book written in the 18th century.
Another example is expositional commentaries, which have a different content-focus than historical background volumes. Expositional, or homiletical commentaries, are basically printed sermons. Many well-known figures in Christian history printed their sermons for others to read, including:
- Clement of Rome
- Martin Luther
- John Calvin
- John Wesley
- Charles Spurgeon
- Billy Graham
How to avoid being overwhelmed
The best way to not be overwhelmed by the amount of Bible commentaries, and other biblical studies resources available today, is to make your number one priority the study of Scripture itself.
Remember the instruction of Ecclesiastes 12:12, “My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” This verse isn’t a prohibition against using books in general, but prioritizing them to highly in one’s use of their time and study.
When properly used, however, Bible commentaries can help a person understand Scripture, verify that their interpretations are in alignment with the orthodox Christian faith, and get ideas for freshly applying the text to their lives.
- Readers may want to read Are Commentaries Necessary? to better understand the proper way to use Bible commentaries when they study Scripture. The summary of the article is this: Bible commentaries aren’t necessary, but they are helpful when used properly.
- Readers may want to read What are the Different Types of Commentaries? This is a great starting point for narrowing down the kind of commentary that is best for your exact purposes. Commentaries are categorized according to their reading level, the focus of their content, and their theological perspective.
- Readers may want browse the comparison chart on Top 50 Bible Commentary series (link above in the yellow box), or they may be interested in something a more introductory, in which case One-Volume and Whole-Bible Commentaries: The Top 25 may be useful.
- If a reader is ready to browse commentaries on individual biblical books ranked according to aggregate reviews, they want to see navigate to the index on Old Testament commentaries or New Testament Commentaries.
There are many different kinds of Bible commentaries. See What are the different types of Bible commentaries? to learn more.