Best Philemon Commentaries | Updated for 2021

The best Philemon commentaries are listed below. There are exegetical commentaries, scholarly and technical commentaries, as well as commentaries that are easy to understand. The “Top 10” list is based on aggregate reviews.

This list of commentaries is intended to help the reader understand and apply Paul’s message in the book of Philemon. They are not suggested as a replacement for prayer, the Holy Spirit, and the reader’s own diligent study of Scripture.

It is hoped that these books will aid the Christian pastor, preacher, teacher, student, as well as any Bible reader that wants to understand more about Philemon.

May each reader’s aim be to glorify God in Jesus Christ; to strengthen Christ’s bride, the Church; and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost.

After browsing the commentaries below, see the best one-volume bible commentaries, based on aggregate reviews.

10 Best Philemon Commentaries

Please read: The “Top 10” list below is a starting point for learning about Philemon commentaries. It is not intended to be the “final word” because of its limitations.

Nevertheless, a list based on aggregate reviews is likely to point many people in the right direction to find the right resource for their purposes.

#1

The Letters to the Colossians and Philemon
Pillar New Testament Commentary
by Douglas J. Moo

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Colossians Philemon Douglas Moo

Reviews and Accolades:

• D. A. Carson: a “best buy” on Philemon; “the best all-around commentaries for pastors”

• Craig Blomberg, etal: a “priority” commentary on Colossians and Philemon

• Tom Schreiner: recommended; “an outstanding exposition for pastors”

• Keith Mathison: #2 ranked commentary on Colossians; “a close second place to O’Brien”

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Moo takes an evangelical approach to Scripture. He is Reformed.

This commentary is best for expository preachers, Bible college and seminary students, church elders and teachers, and experienced Bible readers. This volume is not technical. It offer application insights.

Moo is well-known for writing the James commentary in the same series, which is considered one of the best James commentaries.

The publisher notes that the Pillar series combines “rigorous exegesis and exposition, with an eye alert both to biblical theology and the contemporary relevance of the Bible.”

See more about the Pillar New Testament Commentary series.

Please also see Best Commentary Series: The Top 50. Based on aggregate reviews.

#2

Colossians, Philemon
NIV Application Commentary
by David E. Garland

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Colossians Philemon by David Garland

Reviews and Accolades:

• Keith Mathison: #4 ranked commentary on Colossians; “offers great insight into the text and its contemporary application”

• Tom Schreiner: recommended; “an excellent exposition for pastors”

• D.A. Carson: “do not avoid the volume on Colossians [and Philemon] by David E. Garland”

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Garland takes an evangelical approach to Scripture. He is Baptist.

This commentary is best for expository preachers, Bible college and seminary students, church elders and teachers, and experienced Bible readers.

While there is significant help for pastor in this volume, Garland interacts with recent scholarship on Colossians as well.

Garland is well-known for writing the 1 Corinthians commentary in the BECNT series, which is considered one of the best 1 Corinthians commentaries.

The publisher notes that the NIVAC “series not only focuses on application as a finished product but also helps you think through the process of moving from the original meaning of a passage to its contemporary significance.”

See more about the NIV Application Commentary series.

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#3

Colossians and Philemon
Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
by David W. Pao

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Colossian Philemon by David Pao

Reviews and Accolades:

• D. A. Carson: a “best buy” on Philemon; “remarkably accessible… careful, understated, reliable, and nuanced”

• Craig Blomberg, etal: a “priority” commentary on Colossians and Philemon

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Pao takes an evangelical approach to Scripture. He is Chair of the New Testament Department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

This commentary is best for expository preachers, Bible college and seminary students, church elders and teachers, and experienced Bible readers. This volume offers help with applying the text.

Pao revised the Luke commentary in the REBC series, which is considered one of the best Luke commentaries.

The publisher notes that the ZECNT series “was refined over time by an editorial board who listened to pastors and teachers express what they wanted to see in a commentary series based on the Greek text.”

See more about the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series.

#4

Colossians-Philemon
Word Biblical Commentary
by Peter T. O’Brien

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Colossians Philemon by Peter O'Brien

Reviews and Accolades:

• Desiring God: #1 recommended commentary on Colossians

• Keith Mathison: #1 ranked commentary on Colossians; “all students of Colossians and Philemon should consult O’Brien”

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: O’Brien takes an evangelical approach to Scripture. He is Reformed.

This commentary is best for expository preachers, Bible college and seminary students, church elders and teachers, and experienced Bible readers.

O’Brien is well-known for writing the Hebrews commentary in the Pillar series, which is considered one of the best Hebrews commentaries.

The publisher notes that the WBC “series delivers the best in biblical scholarship, from the leading scholars who share a commitment to Scripture as divine revelation.”

See more about the Word Biblical Commentary series.

Also see: Why Aren’t Peter O’Brien’s Commentaries in Publication Anymore?

#5

Colossians and to Philemon
New International Greek Testament Commentary
by James D.G. Dunn

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Colossians Philemon by James Dunn

Reviews and Accolades:

• Craig Blomberg, etal: a “priority” commentary on Colossians and Philemon

• Tom Schreiner: recommended; “a technical but very helpful interpretation”

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Dunn takes a moderately critical approach to Scripture. He is associated with the Church of Scotland and Methodism.

He is well-known for writing the Romans commentary in the WBC series, which is considered one of the best Romans commentaries.

This commentary will be maximized by those who have been trained in Greek. Dunn questions Pauline authorship.

The publisher notes that “at a time when the study of Greek is curtailed in many schools of theology, we hope that the NIGTC will demonstrate the continuing value of studying the Greek New Testament.”

See more about the New International Greek Testament Commentary series.

#6

The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians
New International Commentary on the New Testament
by F.F. Bruce

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Colossians Philemon by F.F. Bruce

Reviews and Accolades:

• Keith Mathison: #3 ranked commentary on Colossians; a “unique combination of scholarship and readability”

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Bruce takes an evangelical approach to Scripture. This commentary is best for expository preachers, Bible college and seminary students, church elders and teachers, and experienced Bible readers.

Bruce is well-known for writing the Acts commentary in the same series, which is considered one of the best Acts commentaries.

The publisher notes that NICNT series gives readers “an exposition that is thorough and abreast of modern scholarship and at the same time loyal to the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God.”

See more about the New International Commentary on the New Testament series.

#7

Colossians and Philemon
Tyndale New Testament Commentary
by N.T. Wright

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Colossians Philemon by N.T. Wright

Reviews and Accolades:

• Tom Schreiner: recommended; “brief and insightful commentary”

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Wright takes an evangelical approach to Scripture. He is an Anglican bishop.

This commentary is best for expository preachers, Bible college and seminary students, church elders and teachers, and experienced Bible readers.

The publisher notes that the TNTC volumes approach “the text section by section, drawing out its main themes. It also comments on individual verses and deals with problems of interpretation. The aim throughout is to get at the true meaning of the Bible and to make its message plain to readers today.”

See more about the Tyndale New Testament Commentary series.

#8

The Message of Colossians and Philemon
The Bible Speaks Today
by Dick Lucas

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Colossians commentary Dick Lucas

Reviews and Accolades:

• Keith Mathison: #5 ranked commentary on Colossians; “emphasizes the big picture and the overall flow of the text”

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Lucas takes an evangelical approach to Scripture. This commentary is best for expository preachers, Bible college and seminary students, church elders and teachers, and experienced Bible readers.

The distinctives of the BST series are (1) “BST authors are committed to a serious study of the text in its own integrity,” (2) that “expositors should not be antiquarians, living only in the remote past” but suggest application for living, and (3) “each book is intended to be both readable in style and manageable in size.”

See more about the Bible Speaks Today commentary series.

#9

Colossians and Philemon
Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament
by Murray J. Harris

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Philemon commentary Murray Harris

Reviews and Accolades:

• Tom Schreiner: recommended; helps “student with the Greek text”

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Harris takes an evangelical approach to Scripture. This commentary will be maximized by those who have been trained in Greek. Volumes in this series are technical, but authors offer preaching help.

Harris wrote the John commentary in the same series.

The publisher notes that the EGGNT series “closes the gap between the Greek text and the available lexical and grammatical tools, providing all the necessary information for greater understanding of the text.”

#10

Colossians and Philemon
Hermeneia
by Eduard Lohse

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Philemon commentary Eduard Lohse

Reviews and Accolades:

• Tom Schreiner: recommended; “a technical commentary”

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Lohse takes a critical approach to Scripture. He is Lutheran. Lohse denies Pauline authorship. This commentary will be maximized by those who have been trained in Greek.

The publisher notes that the Hermeneia series “has a rich background in the history of biblical interpretation as a term for the detailed, systematic exposition of a scriptural work.”

More Book of Philemon Commentaries for Christian Ministry

Please read: Why are the Philemon commentaries below not in the “Top 10”? It’s not necessarily because they have received poor reviews or because people haven’t found them helpful. The reasons vary:

  • Some are relatively new and haven’t been widely reviewed, read, or used yet.
  • Others haven’t been widely distributed, so it is difficult to get enough information to aggregate.
  • Still others may be outdated in relation to biblical scholarship or out of print and difficult to acquire.

The “Top 10” list is reviewed annually. Readers are encouraged to consider the volumes in this section before making a purchase. These 10 are not in any particular order.


The Letter to Philemon
The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries
by Joseph A. Fitzmyer

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Philemon commentary Joseph Fitzmyer

Reviews and Accolades:

• Craig Blomberg, etal: a “priority” commentary on Philemon

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Fitzmyer takes a critical approach to Scripture. This commentary will be maximized by those who have been trained in Greek. The authors hold to Pauline authorship.

The publisher notes that the Anchor series “vigorously pursues the goal of bringing to a wide audience the most important new ideas, the latest research findings, and the clearest possible analysis of the Bible.”


Colossians and Philemon
Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
by G.K. Beale

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Colossians commentary G.K. Beale

Interview: Read Best Bible Commentaries’ interview with G.K. Beale on this volume

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Beale takes an evangelical approach to Scripture. He teaches at Westminster Theological Seminary. Those who have been trained in Greek will maximize this commentary.

This volume has been well-reviewed for its exegesis and helpfulness to pastors.

Beale also wrote the well-reviewed Revelation commentary in the NIGTC series, which is considered one of the best Revelation commentaries

The publisher notes that the BECNT series “combines” scholarly depth with readability, exegetical detail with sensitivity to the whole, and attention to critical problems with theological awareness.”

See more about the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series.


Philemon
Concordia Commentary
by John G. Nordling

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Philemon commentary John Nordling

Theology, Audience, Purpose: Nordling takes an evangelical approach to Scripture. He is evangelical and Lutheran. While not technical, the volumes in the Concordia Commentary series reflect seminary-level scholarship.

The target audience is pastors, professors, and teachers. The target audience is pastors, professors, and teachers.

According to the publisher, authors in the Concordia series “fully affirms the divine inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture as it emphasizes ‘that which promotes Christ’ in each pericope.”


Philippians, Colossians, Philemon
New American Commentary
by Richard R. Melick Jr.

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Colossians commentary Richard Melick
Best for: pastors, teachers, scholars

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Melick takes an evangelical approach to Scripture. He is Baptist.

This commentary is best for expository preachers, Bible college and seminary students, church elders and teachers, and experienced Bible readers.

The publisher notes that the NAC series “has been designed primarily to enable pastors, teachers, and students to read the Bible with clarity and proclaim it with power.” See more about the New American Commentary series.


Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon
Understanding the Bible Commentary Series
by Arthur G. Patzia

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Colossians commentary by Arthur Patzia
Best for: pastors, teachers, scholars

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Patzia was a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. This commentary is best for expository preachers, Bible college and seminary students, church elders and teachers, and experienced Bible readers.

The publisher notes that the UCBS series “present a careful section-by-section exposition of the biblical books with key terms and phrases highlighted…” See more about the Understanding the Bible Commentary Series.


Philippians and Philemon
New Testament Library
by Charles B. Cousar

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Philippians commentary Charles Cousar

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Cousar is Professor of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia. This commentary is best for expository preachers, Bible college and seminary students, church elders and teachers, and experienced Bible readers.

This commentary is less than 100 pages.

The publisher notes that the NLT series provides “fresh translations based on the best available ancient manuscripts, critical portrayals of the historical world in which the books were created, careful attention to their literary design, and a theologically perceptive exposition of the biblical text.”


Philemon
Expositor’s Bible Commentary Revised
by William W. Klein

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Colossians commentary Expositor's

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Klein takes an evangelical approach to Scripture. The publisher notes that the REBC series reflects “scholarly evangelicalism committed to the divine inspiration, complete trustworthiness, and full authority of the Bible.”

See more about the Revised Expositor’s Bible Commentary series.


Philemon
The IVP New Testament Commentary
by Robert W. Wall

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Philemon commentary IVP Wall

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Wall takes an evangelical approach to Scripture. This commentary is best for expository preachers, Bible college and seminary students, church elders and teachers, and experienced Bible readers.

Wall wrote the 1-2 Timothy commentary in the Two Horizons series.

The publisher notes that the IVPNTC series is “informed by the best of up-to-date evangelical scholarship, presents passage-by-passage commentary based on the NIV along with background information on authorship, setting, theme and various interpretive issues.”

See more about the IVP New Testament Commentary series.


Philippians and Philemon
Paideia Commentary on the New Testament
by James W. Thompson and Bruce W. Longenecker

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Philippians commentary paideia

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Longenecker is Professor of Early Christianity at Baylor University. This commentary is best for readers who can follow a technical Greek commentary.

The publisher notes that this series “approaches each text in its final, canonical form, proceeding by sense units rather than word-by-word or verse-by-verse. Each sense unit is explored in three sections: (1) introductory matters, (2) tracing the train of thought, (3) key hermeneutical and theological questions.

Graduate and seminary students, professors, and pastors will benefit from this readable commentary, as will theological libraries.”


The Pastoral Epistles with Philemon and Jude
Brazos Theological Commentary
by Risto Saarinen

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Philemon commentary Risto Saarinen

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: This commentary is best for expository preachers, Bible college and seminary students, church elders and teachers, and experienced Bible readers.

The publisher notes that the Brazos series “enlists leading theologians to read and interpret Scripture for the twenty-first century, just as the church fathers, the Reformers, and other Orthodox Christians did for their times and places.”


The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians
A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles
by Ben Witherington III

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Colossians commentary by Ben Witherington

Theology, Audience, and Purpose: Witherington takes an evangelical approach to Scripture. He is Arminian.

This commentary is best for expository preachers, Bible college and seminary students, church elders and teachers, and experienced Bible readers.

Witherington wrote the Revelation commentary in the same series.

The publisher notes that in the SRC series”the New Testament is interpreted within the context of the world in which it was written and read—the rhetorical method makes use of ancient or classical writings and strategies of communication, while the social science method notes issues of cultures and customs.”


Classic Philemon Commentaries

Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon
Ancient Christian Commentary
by Peter Gorday

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Colossians commentary Robert Fairbairn

Synopsis: From the publisher: “This volume opens up a treasure house of ancient wisdom that allows these faithful witnesses, some appearing here in English translation for the first time, to speak with eloquence and intellectual acumen to the church today.”


Also see:

Compare 75 different commentary series on the Bible Commentary Series Comparison Chart

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