International Critical Commentaries (ICC) | Reviews, Theology

The International Critical Commentary (ICC) series in one of the oldest still-printed biblical resources in publication. Commentary volumes in the ICC series are noted for their high-quality exegesis, their technical nature, and their exegetical and theological interpretations, which reflect liberal and critical conclusions. Authors who contributed volumes to the ICC series at the turn of the 20th century were among the most well-respected scholars of their day. Authors who have contributed to the revised volumes at the turn of the 21st century are some of the most well-respected scholars today.

international critical commentary
Hardback, unabridged volumes have green covers

In each commentary, former and current authors interact with the original languages of Scripture and relevant biblical scholarship to such a degree that readers who do not read Greek, Hebrews, and Latin — whose words are printed without translation — may not find the series helpful. Authors also provide archaeological, historical, and literary insights.

The authors come from a variety of ecclesiastical backgrounds and were not chosen for their theological convictions: “No attempt has been made to secure a uniform theological or critical approach to the biblical text: contributors have been invited for their scholarly distinction, not for their adherence to any one school of thought.” [1]

The editors of the ICC series have diverse backgrounds. The first editors were Hebrews scholar Samuel Rolles Driver (d. 1914), Anglican clergyman, Alfred A. Plummer (d. 1926), and American Presbyterian Charles Augustus Briggs (d. 1913). The current editors of the series are Graham I. Davies, Emeritus Professor of Old Testament Studies at Cambridge University, and Christopher M. Tuckett, Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Oxford.

Note: See the Bible Commentaries Comparison Chart to see how the ICC series compares to dozens of other commentary series.

International Critical Commentaries (ICC): History

international critical bible commentary
Paperback, abridged volumes have red/pink covers

The first volume of the series, James G, Murphy’s commentary on Exodus, was published in 1863. Volumes regularly appeared in the series through the 1940’s. Some older volumes are available in full online. [2] Yet it was not until the 1970’s that additional commentaries appeared, including some of the best-reviewed volumes in the series so far.

C.E.B Cranfield’s Romans commentaries (two volumes) were published in the mid to late 1970’s and have received raved reviews for technical commentaries. [3] Dale C. Allison’s and W.D. Davies’ Matthew commentaries (three volumes) were published from 1991 to 2004 and have been praised by biblical scholars. [4] I. Howard Marshall’s 1-2 Timothy commentary appeared in 1999 to excellent [5] and C.K. Barrett’s Acts commentaries (two volumes) were welcomed by scholars and pastors in the mid to late 1990’s. [6] John Goldingay’s Isaiah commentaries (two out of four volumes for Isaiah) appeared in 2006, and two of the best-reviewed Old Testament volumes in the series.

Volumes in the International Critical Commentary Series

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New Testament Volumes

St. Matthew – W. C. Allen | Published 1907

Matthew 1-7 – Dale C. Allison, W. D. Davies | Published 2004

Matthew 8–18 – Dale C. Allison, W. D. Davies | Published 1991

Matthew 19–28 – Dale C. Allison, W. D. Davies | Published 1991

Jon Weatherly, professor of New Testament, Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary:

“The most thorough commentary on the Greek text of Matthew…”

St. Mark – E. P. Gould | Published 1992

The Lutheran Quarterly:

“The whole make-up is that of a thoroughly helpful, instructive critical study of the Word, surpassing anything of the kind ever attempted in the English language, and to students and clergymen knowing the proper use of a commentary it will prove an invaluable aid.”

The Biblical World:

“Dr. Gould’s commentary on Mark is a large success . . . and a credit to American scholarship. . . . He has undoubtedly given us a commentary on Mark which surpasses all others, a thing we have reason to expect will be true in the case of every volume of the series to which it belongs.”

St. Luke – A. A. Plummer | Published 1896

D. D. Salmond, Critical Review:

“It is distinguished throughout by learning, sobriety of judgment, and sound exegesis. It is a weighty contribution to the interpretation of the third Gospel, and will take an honorable place in the series of which it forms a part.”

The Herald and Presbyter:

“We are pleased with the thoroughness and scientific accuracy of the interpretations. . . . It seems to us that the prevailing characteristic of the book is common sense, fortified by learning and piety.”

John 1–4 – John McHugh | Published 2009

Theological Book Review:

“McHugh is very attentive to grammatical issues, as to be expected of the ICC. His discussion of text-critical matters is also impressive. In terms of the history of interpretation, he surveys broadly on any interpretive crux, and includes precritical perspectives. Perhaps most impressive is his theological engagement with the text, no doubt influenced by the ministerial work he undertook in his retirement . . . will serve as a handy resource for research on John’s Gospel.”

St. John 1–7, vol. 1 – J. H. Bernard | Published 1928

St. John 8–21, vol. 2 – J. H. Bernard | Published 1928

Acts: Volume 1 – C. K. Barrett | Published 1994

Acts: Volume 2 – C. K. Barrett | Published 1998

Peter Doble, Theological Book Review:

“The commentary proper, which is on the Greek text, engages with a wide range of scholarship; readers will find much to argue with and—hesitantly—dissent from, but they will certainly find themselves indebted to its richness and clarity. This is essentially a work for the scholar’s library, and institutions serious about New Testament study will ensure that they have it on their shelves.”

Romans – A. C. Headlam, W. W. Sanday | Published 1901

The Church Standard:

“We do not hesitate to commend this as the best commentary on Romans yet written in English. It will do much to popularize this admirable and much needed series, by showing that it is possible to be critical and scholarly and at the same time devout and spiritual, and intelligible to plain Bible readers.”

Romans: Volume 1 – C. E. B. Cranfield | Published 1975

Romans: Volume 2 – C. E. B. Cranfield | Published 1979

1 Corinthians – Alfred A. Plummer, Archibald Robertson | Published 1911

2 Corinthians – A. A. Plummer | Published 1915

The Second Epistle to the Corinthians 1–7 – Margaret E. Thrall | Published 1994

The Second Epistle to the Corinthians 8–13 – Margaret E. Thrall | Published 1994

Journal of Theological Studies:

“The high standard of meticulously detailed exegesis displayed in the first volume of Dr. Thrall’s magisterial commentary is continued in its sequel . . . In all respects, this volume and its predecessor surely deserve to be regarded as one of the most impressive contributions to this fine series . . . Historians and theologians alike will find this commentary an indispensable resource for the interpretation both of key passages and of others that might at first sight look innocent of historical or doctrinal significance.”

Galatians – E. de Witt Burton | Published 1920

Ephesians – Ernest Best | Published 1998

Andrew T. Lincoln, Journal of Theological Studies:

“Professor Best’s commentary with its wealth of detailed exegetical discussion is one of the most useful for those concerned with serious study of Ephesians and all who wish to discuss the value of Ephesians’ contribution to thinking about the nature and role of the church.”

I. Howard Marshall, Epworth Review:

“While the commentary is very much a tool for scholars, it is accessible to preachers [who] will find that there are few problems raised by the text which have not been perceived by Best and on which he offers helpful comment.”

Ephesians and Colossians –T. K. Abbott | Published 1909

Northwestern Christian Advocate:

“An exceedingly careful and painstaking piece of work. The introductory discussions of questions bearing on the authenticity and integrity (of the epistles) are clear and candid, and the exposition of the text displays a fine scholarship and insight.”

Colossians and Philemon – Robert McL. Wilson | Published 2005

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society:

“This volume takes its place as a worthy replacement in the venerable International Critical Commentary series. Here is critical but reverent scholarship at its best, distilling many years of research and reflection. In a day when the length of critical commentaries is expanding exponentially, Wilson serves up a concise, erudite treatment, a model of lucid scholarship. For pastors who can work with their Greek New Testament and for teachers in colleges, universities and seminaries, this commentary will prove to be a goldmine of information. The proofreading for this highly technical volume is first rate.”

Michael F. Bird, lecturer in theology, Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia:

“A technical but readable analysis of Colossians and Philemon with due attention given to the text, background, and arguments of these letters. The author gives good overviews of scholarship and excavates the text with learned precision. Wilson is well-qualified to write a commentary on Colossians given his 40 years of expertise . . . in sum a technical but eminently readable commentary.”

Ralph P. Martin, emeritus distinguished scholar in residence, Fuller Theological Seminary:

“To his great credit, Wilson keeps this aim in sight throughout his careful and detailed study. As a result, the commentary proves a valuable source-book of data on a variety of topics: lexical, conceptual, social, theological, and occasionally pastoral . . . It is rich in word studies based on the text and other New Testament sources . . . In all, this is a valuable contribution to the library of scholarly works on the two letters. Building on the work of Lightfoot, Lohse, and Dunn, it takes its place as a welcome addition to the ICC revision.”

Philippians and Philemon – M. R. Vincent | Published 1897

Lutheran World:

“Throughout the work scholarly research is evident. It commends itself by its clear elucidation, its keen exegesis which marks the word study on every page, its compactness of statement and its simplicity of arrangement.”

Thessalonians – J. E. Frame | Published 1912

Pastoral Epistles – W. W. Lock | Published 1924

Pastoral Epistles – I. Howard Marshall | Published 1999

Hebrews – J. J. Moffat | Published 1924

Epistle of St. James – J. H. Ropes | Published 1916

James – Dale C. Allison Jr. | Published 2013

1 and 2 Peter, Jude – C. C. Bigg | Published 1901

American Journal of Theology:

“Canon Bigg’s work is preeminently characterized by judicial open-mindedness and sympathetic insight into historical conditions. His realistic interpretation of the relations of the apostles and the circumstances of the early church renders the volume invaluable to students of these themes. The exegetical work in the volume rests on the broad basis of careful linguistic study, acquaintance with apocalyptic literature and the writings of the Fathers, a sane judgment, and good sense.”

The Johannine Epistles – A. E. Brooke | Published 1912

Revelation: Volume 1 – R. H. Charles | Published 1920

Revelation: Volume 2 – R. H. Charles | Published 1920

Old Testament Volumes

Genesis – John Skinner | Published 1910

Exodus – James G. Murphy | Published 1863

Leviticus – James G. Murphy | Published 1866

Numbers – G. Buchanan Gra | Published 1903

Saturday Review:

“Most Bible readers have the impression that Numbers is a dull book only relieved by the brilliancy of the Balaam chapters and some snatches of old Hebrew songs, but, as Professor Gray shows with admirable skill and insight, its historical and religious value is not that which lies on the surface. Professor Gray’s commentary is distinguished by fine scholarship and sanity of judgment; it is impossible to commend it too warmly.”

Deuteronomy – S. R. Driver | Published 1902

E. L. Curtis, professor, Yale University:

“It is a pleasure to see at last a really critical Old Testament commentary in English upon a portion of the Pentateuch, and especially one of such merit. This I find superior to any other commentary in any language upon Deuteronomy.”

Judges – G. F. Moore| Published 1910

L. W. Batten, P. E. Divinity School, Philadelphia:

“Professor Moore has more than sustained his scholarly reputation in this work, which gives us for the first time in English a commentary on Judges not excelled, if indeed equalled, in any language of the world.”

Samuel I and II – H. P. Smith | Published 1899

The Evangelist:

“The literary quality of the book deserves mention. We do not usually go to commentaries for models of English style. But this book has a distinct, though unobtrusive, literary flavor. It is delightful reading. The translation is always felicitous, and often renders further comment needless.”

Kings I and II – H. S. Gehman and James A. Montgomery | Published 1951

The Baptist Quarterly:

“The commentary . . . is a powerful example of painstaking and erudite scholarship, reflecting the results of life’s work. . . . pays particular attention to the significance of recent archaeological discoveries which have a bearing on the period of history under review.”

Chronicles I and II – E. L. Curtis, Albert Madsen | Published 1910

John D. Davis, The Princeton Theological Review:

“To those whose work calls for a strictly critical commentary on the text and the sources this commentary is commended. It is a report of progress along these lines, a guide to the literature, a display of the material for discussion. For this purpose there is no other one book in English of equal value with this work of Professor Curtis.”

Ezra and Nehemiah – L. W. Batten | Published 1913

Esther – L. B. Paton | Published 1908

Job – S. R. Driver, G. Buchanan Gray | Published 1921

Psalms: Vol. 1 – C. A. Briggs, E. G. Briggs | Published 1921

The Westminster:

“It is scarcely too much to say that we have here in compact form the best available commentary upon the first book of the psalter. It is not simply grammatical and lexical, but it embodies the best results of the author’s study of biblical theology. These serve to bring out doubly the significance and import of these hymns of worship of ancient Israel.”

Psalms: Vol. 2 – C. A. Briggs, E. G. Briggs | Published 1907

The Outlook:

“Christian scholarship seems here to have reached the highest level yet attained in study of the book which in religious importance stands next to the Gospels. His work upon it is not likely to be excelled in learning, both massive and minute, by any volume of the International Series, to which it belongs.”

Proverbs – C. H. Toy | Published 1899

Southern Baptist Journal of Theology:

“This commentary demonstrates Toy’s mastery of ancient languages, and exhibits his convictions about Israelite monotheism.”

Ecclesiastes – G. A. Barton | Published 1908

Isaiah 1–5 – H. G. M. Williamson | Published 2006

Isaiah 1–27 – George Buchanan Gray | Published 1912

Westminster Theological Journal:

“Of great value is the commentary of G. Buchanan Gray on the first 27 chapters of Isaiah. From the point of view of philology the work is excellent, and the discussion of the versions is very valuable. The book will long remain a standard work of reference.”

Isaiah 40–55, Vol. 1 – John Goldingay and David Payne | Published 2006

Interpretation:

“Isaiah 40–55 is unusually challenging on both the macro and micro levels. To combine literary sensibilities with traditional textual and historical methods is challenging as well. These informative, careful, and copiously researched volumes respectably fill a long-felt gap and will surely be sought as important reference works in the study of Isaiah for decades to come.”

Isaiah 40–55, Vol. 2 – John Goldingay and David Payne | Published 2006

Marvin A. Sweeney, professor of Hebrew Bible, Claremont School of Theology:

“The commentary constitutes a detailed exegetical discussion, including interaction with ancient and medieval Jewish and Christian sources as well as modern commentators. Although interpreters will invariably find much to challenge, this highly detailed commentary presents a very useful resource to interpreters of Isaiah 40–55.”

Isaiah 56–66 – John Goldingay | Published 2014

Jeremiah 1–25 – William McKane | Published 1986

Jeremiah 26–52 – William McKane | Published 1986

Lamentations – R. B. Salters | Published 2010

Ezekiel – G. A. Cooke | Published 1936

Daniel – J. A. Montgomery | Published 1927

Hosea – A. A. Macintosh | Published 1997

The Catholic Biblical Quarterly:

“In this commentary, the result of a 15 year effort, Macintosh succeeds admirably in applying traditional linguistic and historical tools of exegesis.”

Amos and Hosea – W. R. Harper | Published 1905

Lewis B. Paton, professor of Hebrew, Hartford Theological Seminary:

“I shall have pleasure in recommending it to all students in our seminary. This book fills, in the most favorable manner, a long-felt want for a good critical commentary on two of the most interesting books in the Old Testament.”

Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Obadiah, and Joel – John Merlin Powis Smith, W. H. Ward, and J. A. Bewer | Published 1911

Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and Jonah – J. A. Bewer, J. M. P. Smith, H. G. Mitchell | Published 1912


Footnotes

  1. https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/series/international-critical-commentary/
  2. http://archive.org/search.php?query=critical%20and%20exegetical%20commentary%20AND%20collection%3Atoronto
  3. https://www.ligonier.org/blog/top-5-commentaries-on-the-book-of-romans/
  4. https://denverseminary.edu/resources/news-and-articles/a-critical-and-exegetical-commentary-on-the-gospel-according-to-saint-matthew-vol-3/
  5. https://danielbwallace.com/2016/11/
  6. https://www.biblicalfoundations.org/favorite-new-testament-commentaries/