Top Commentaries on Philemon

Bible commentaries on the New Testament book of Philemon are listed below. The commentaries listed first are those that have received the best reviews. You will also find options for commentaries on Philemon that help pastors, teachers, and readers with application of the Bible, commentaries that approach the Scripture verse-by-verse, classic Christian commentaries, and much more. (See more about the scholars, pastors, ministries, and schools whose commentary reviews are being utilized.)

Best Reviewed Bible Commentaries on Philemon



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


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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”

Best for: pastors, teachers, scholars

Purpose: From the publisher: “Designed for serious pastors and teachers of the Bible, the Pillar commentaries seek above all to make clear the text of Scripture as we have it…[the authors’] ideal is a blend of 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.



Colossians, Philemon (New International Version Application Commentary) by David E. Garland


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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”

Best for: pastors, laypeople with significant biblical and theological knowledge

Purpose: From the General Editor: The primary goal of the NIV Application Commentary Series is to help you with the difficult but vital task of bringing an ancient message into a modern context. The 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. These are commentaries, not popular expositions. They are works of reference, not devotional literature.” See more about the NIV Application Commentary series.



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


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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

Best for: pastors, teachers, scholars

Purpose: From the publisher: “The idea for this 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…We arrived at a design that includes seven components for the treatment of each biblical passage”: Literary Context, Main Idea, Translation and Graphical Layout, Structure, Exegetical Outline, Explanation of the Text, and Theology in Application.” See more about the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series.



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


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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”

Best for: pastors, teachers, scholars

Purpose: From the publisher: “WBC series delivers the best in biblical scholarship, from the leading scholars who share a commitment to Scripture as divine revelation. It emphasizes a thorough analysis of textual, linguistic, structural, and theological evidence. The result is judicious and balanced insight into the meanings of the text in the framework of biblical theology.” See more about the Word Biblical Commentary series.

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



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


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Reviews and Accolades:

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

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

Best for: students, pastors, teachers, professors, and scholars with training in Hebrew who can follow a technical commentary

Purpose: From the publisher: “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… the volumes of the NIGTC are for students who want something less technical than a full-scale critical commentary… the supreme aim of this series is to serve those who are engaged in the ministry of the Word of God and thus glorify God’s name.” See more about the New International Greek Testament Commentary series.



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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Reviews and Accolades:

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

Best for: pastors, teachers, scholars

Purpose: From the publisher: “Written for scholars, pastors, and lay readers alike…undertaken to provide earnest students of the New Testament with 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.



Colossians and Philemon (For Everyone) by N.T. Wright


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Reviews and Accolades:

Tom Schreiner: recommended; “brief and insightful commentary”

Best for: individual study, devotional reading, Bible studies, adult Sunday school classes

Purpose: From the publisher: “N.T. ‘Tom’ Wright has undertaken a tremendous task: to provide guides to all the books of the New Testament, and to include in them his own translation of the entire text. Each short passage is followed by a highly readable discussion, with background information, useful explanations and suggestions, and thoughts as to how the text can be relevant to our lives today. A glossary is included at the end of each volume.”



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


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Reviews and Accolades:

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

Best for: pastors, teachers, scholars

Purpose: The “the three distinctives of The Bible Speaks Today 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.



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


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Reviews and Accolades:

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

Best for: students, pastors, teachers, professors, and scholars with training in Hebrew who can follow a technical commentary

Purpose: From the publisher: “The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) 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. The series makes interpreting any given New Testament book easier, especially for those who are hard pressed for time but want to preach or teach with accuracy and authority… The body is devoted to paragraph-by-paragraph exegesis of the Greek text and includes homiletical helps and suggestions for further study.”



Colossians and Philemon (Hermeneia) by Eduard Lohse


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Reviews and Accolades:

Tom Schreiner: recommended; “a technical commentary”

Best for: students, pastors, teachers, professors, and scholars with training in Hebrew who can follow a technical commentary

Purpose: From the publisher: “The Hermeneia commentary series seeks to offer authoritative interpretation of the earliest texts of the biblical books… The name Hermeneia, from the Greek, has a rich background in the history of biblical interpretation as a term for the detailed, systematic exposition of a scriptural work. Hermeneia is designed for the serious student of the Bible…The editors of Hermeneia impose no systematic-theological perspective upon the series (directly, or indirectly by selection of authors).”



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


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Reviews and Accolades:

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

Best for: students, pastors, teachers, professors, and scholars with training in Hebrew who can follow a technical commentary

Purpose: From the publisher: “The Anchor Yale Bible Series, previously the Anchor Bible Series, is a renowned publishing program that for more than 50 years has produced books devoted to the latest scholarship on the Bible and biblical topics.” The 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.” See more about the Anchor Bible Commentary series.



More Bible Commentaries with Application Help for Pastors



Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon: The Fellowship of the Gospel and The Supremacy of Christ (Preaching the Word) by R. Kent Hughes


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Best for: pastors, laypeople with significant biblical and theological knowledge

Purpose: From the publisher: “For years, Crossway’s Preaching the Word commentary series has helped pastors, preachers, and anyone who teaches God’s Word to better interpret and apply the message of the Bible. Under the careful editorial oversight of experienced pastor and best-selling author R. Kent Hughes, this series is known for its commitment to biblical authority, its pastoral tone and focus, and its overall accessibility.” See more about the Preaching the Word commentary series.



Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching) by Ralph P. Martin


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Best for: pastors, laypeople with significant biblical and theological knowledge

Purpose: From the publisher: “This series of commentaries offers an interpretation of the books of the Bible. It is designed to meet the need of students, teachers, ministers, and priests for a contemporary expository commentary. These volumes will not replace the historical critical commentary or homiletical aids to preaching. The purpose of this series is rather to provide a third kind of resource, a commentary which presents the integrated result of historical and theological work with the biblical text.” See more about the Interpretation commentary series.



More Verse-by-Verse Commentaries



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


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Best for: pastors, teachers, scholars

Purpose: From the publisher: “The New American Commentary is introduced to bridge the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This new 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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Best for: pastors, teachers, scholars

Purpose: From the publisher: “Each volume in the Understanding the Bible Commentary Series breaks down the barriers between the ancient and modern worlds so that the power and meaning of the biblical texts become transparent to contemporary readers. They present a careful section-by-section exposition of the biblical books with key terms and phrases highlighted and all Hebrew transliterated. Notes at the close of each chapter provide additional textual and technical comments for those who want to dig deeper.” See more about the Understanding the Bible Commentary series.



Philippians and Philemon (New Testament Library) by Charles B. Cousar


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Best for: expository preachers, Bible college and seminary students, church elders and teachers, experienced Bible readers

Purpose: From the publisher: “The New Testament Library series offers authoritative commentary on every book and major aspect of the New Testament, providing 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.” See more about the New Testament Library commentary series.



Philemon (Tyndale New Testament Commentary) by N.T. Wright


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Best for: pastors, teachers, scholars

Purpose: From the publisher: This series is “designed to help readers understand what the Bible actually says and what it means…[each commentary] examines 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.



Philemon (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Revised Edition) by William W. Klein


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Best for: pastors, teachers, scholars

Purpose: From the publisher: “Written primarily by expositors for expositors…its stance is that of a scholarly evangelicalism committed to the divine inspiration, complete trustworthiness, and full authority of the Bible…the chief principle followed in this commentary is the grammatico-historical – namely, that the primary aim of the exegete is to make clear the meaning of the text at the time and in the circumstances of its writing.” See more about the Expositor’s Bible Commentary series, original and revised.



Philemon (The IVP New Testament Commentary) by Robert W. Wall


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Best for: pastors, teachers, scholars

Purpose: From the publisher: “Each volume, 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… Preachers, teachers, students and other individuals who want to dig deep into the heart of the New Testament will find an indispensable companion in the IVP New Testament Commentary Series.” 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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Best for: students, pastors, teachers, professors, and scholars with training in Hebrew who can follow a technical commentary

Purpose: From the publisher: “This commentary, like each in the 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 on the Bible) by Risto Saarinen


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Best for: pastors, laypeople with significant biblical and theological knowledge

Purpose: From the publisher: “Pastors and leaders of the classical church—such as Augustine, Calvin, Luther, and Wesley—interpreted the Bible theologically, believing Scripture as a whole witnessed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ…The Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible 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 commentaries are designed to serve the church—through aid in preaching, teaching, study groups, and so forth—and demonstrate the continuing intellectual and practical viability of theological interpretation of the Bible.” See more about the Brazos Theological Commentary series.



Social, Historical, and Cultural Background Commentaries



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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Best for: pastors, teachers, scholars

Purpose: From the publisher: “Using sociorhetorical criticism, 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.” See more about the Socio-Rhetorical Commentary series.



Classic Christian Commentaries for Bible Study



Colossians and Philemon (MacArthur New Testament Commentary) by John MacArthur


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Best for: individual study, devotional reading, Bible studies, adult Sunday school classes

Purpose: From the publisher: “If you’re familiar with John MacArthur’s in-depth Bible teaching, you have an idea of what you’ll find in The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. The commentary takes you deep into each passage, verse by verse—sometimes word by word. It’s like having a Bible teacher sitting next to you as you study Scripture.”



First and Second Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (Thru the Bible Commentary Series) by J. Vernon McGee


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Best for: individual study, devotional reading, Bible studies, adult Sunday school classes

Purpose: From the publisher: “Radio messages from J. Vernon McGee delighted and enthralled listeners for years with simple, straightforward language and clear understanding of the Scripture. Now enjoy his personable, yet scholarly, style in a 60-volume set of commentaries that takes you from Genesis to Revelation with new understanding and insight.”


Also see:

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