Best Bible Commentary Series: The Top 50

bible commentaries bookshelf

With so many Bible commentary series available today, many people want to know which ones are best.

There is a wide variety of commentaries series today, because readers have a wide variety of purposes for using them.

Some are written for pastors and preachers, others for professors and scholars, and still others for lay people. Some series even attempt to be helpful to all of the above simultaneously.

Commentary series approach the biblical text in different ways.

  • Some employ Arminian writers, while others utilize Calvinistic or Reformed writers. Some series reflect denominational distinctiveness, such as Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and many more.
  • In some series, authors explain the original languages of the bible, while in others they comment on the English text.
  • Some devote a lot of space to history, others to theology, and still others to application.

With so much variation, it would be helpful to have a way to organize them. But are rankings the best approach?

Can commentary series be ranked?

There is no question that it would help many readers to hear the answer to the question, “What commentary series are best?”

The challenge of answering that question with complete objectivity is significant.

As mentioned above, commentaries have different purposes, different approaches, and in some cases, they can be very unique. Readers also have these characteristics. Consider these examples:

  • It would not be helpful to rank a technical commentary over a devotional one, if the reader’s purpose is devotional in nature.
  • It would not be helpful to rank a historical commentary over a theological one, if the reader needs a theologically-focused volume.

But what if there was another way to organize them?

Commentary Series: Tiers

Below I have organized 50 different commentaries series into five tiers of 10. These facts underlie their arrangement:

(1) Each tier of 10 is arranged alphabetically, rather than a strict 1-10 listing.

(2) Each tier contains a combination of authors who take different approaches to the biblical text and have different focuses, such as exegetical, theological, historical, and so on.

(3) The factors that determined placement into one tier instead of another are a combination of aggregate reviews, enduring usefulness to readers, and the recommendations of pastors, professors, and lay people.

I used the information I collated for listing the best Old Testament commentaries and the best New Testament commentaries by individual volume.

Is the tiered approach perfect? No. Each reader should use the information below as a starting point, and not take it as the final word on the topic. A tiered approach reduces subjectivity, but it doesn’t eliminate it altogether.

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Bible Commentaries: An Overview

Tier One: 1-10

The commentary series in tier one have multiple well-reviewed volumes that are considered among the very best for the particular book of the bible that they cover. The series are, on the whole, consistently helpful and sound.

Series
Title
Why Tier One?Browse
Baker
Exegetical
Commentaries
on the New
Testament


peter commentary cover
contains numerous well-reviewed volumes by influential evangelical authors who exegete the Greek text in ways that are helpful to academics and pastorsSee on
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Expositor’s
Bible
Commentaries


psalms commentary cover
introductory to mid-level series covering the entire bible with several highly-praised volumes and, relatively speaking, has been affordable over the years for most pastors; the revision of the series in 2007 helped draw more attention to this now-classic setSee on
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New
American
Commentaries


hebrews commentary cover
employs authors and perspectives from one of the largest Protestant branches, Baptist; many volumes positively reviewed by Baptist and non-Baptist alike; mid-level, not technicalSee on
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New
International
Commentaries
on the
Old/New
Testament


zechariah commentary cover
perhaps the most praised mid-level series based on collated reviews; one of the oldest evangelical series, a go-to for pastors especially; stays up-to-date with new and replacement volumesSee on
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New
International
Greek
Testament
Commentaries


revelation commentary cover
a technical, mildly critical series on the Greek text, but does not allow textual criticism to damage theological conclusions; a favorite series for conservatives and pastors who seek technical insightSee on
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NIV
Application
Commentaries


hebrews commentary cover
likely the most-popular commentary series today, it helps readers apply Scripture; dozens of well-reviewed volumes; a staple series for many pastors and it helps that volumes are affordableSee on
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Pillar
New
Testament
Commentaries


luke commentary cover
contains several acclaimed volumes that are thorough in exegesis and in theological insight; the series is still incomplete (Revelation, please?), but has built a well-deserved reputation the last 30 years; edited by D.A. CarsonSee on
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Tyndale
Old/New
Testament
Commentaries


numbers commentary cover
accessibility, affordability, and sound commentary have marked this series for decades; most volumes have proved helpful to readers who have various purposes, from devotional help to leading bible studiesSee on
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Word
Biblical
Commentaries


esther commentary cover
though approaches to the text can vary widely from author to author in this series, there is no debating the indelible impact of certain volumes, most often the conservatives ones, on biblical scholarship and Christian ministrySee on
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Zondervan
Exegetical
Commentaries
on the New
Testament


romans commentary cover
the youngest series in the top tier, the positive reviews for released volumes help make up for its lack of longevity; as opposed to the WBC series, the content in these volumes may be the most helpfully arranged of any series See on
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Tier Two: 11-20

The commentary series in tier two vary. Some have been around for years, but contain fewer well-reviewed volumes. Others are newer, and though the volumes that have been released so far have been well-received, their collective body of work is less.

Series
Title
Why Tier Two?Browse
Anchor
Yale
Commentaries


mark commentary cover
volumes are technical, but not so dense as to overwhelm readers; employs a wide variety of critical approaches to the text that are light on theology; certain volumes are well-reviewed for the biblical book they coverSee on
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Baker
Commentaries
on the OT:

Wisdom
and Psalms


job commentary cover
if this series covered more books of the bible with the same quality as it does with existing ones, it would likely be top tier; accessible to pastors, helpful to professors and scholars, it is praised for its combination of exegesis, theology, and literary insightSee on
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Bible
Speaks
Today


malachi commentary cover
John Stott’s volumes elevate this series as a whole; well-reviewed by lay readers as a devotional aid, helpful to pastors as an introductory resource for preachingSee on
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Hermeneia
Commentaries


luke commentary cover
high-grade, technical biblical scholarship for those seeking insight into the original languages; authors take a variety of critical approaches to the textSee on
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Interpretation
Commentaries


john commentary cover
mid-level, theologically- focused, affordable, pastor-friendly, mildly critical series; some volumes have endured for decadesSee on
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IVP
New
Testament
Commentaries


luke commentary cover
influential, evangelical authors contribute volumes in this series that is designed for pastors; paperback availability make the series easily attainable; mid-level with application help, making in comparable to the NIVACSee on
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J. Vernon
McGee
Commentaries


proverbs commentary cover
not much depth, but highly illustrated, this series is favorite of many lay people; McGee’s long-lasting radio ministry helps the awareness of these introductory volumesSee on
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Old/New
Testament
Library
Commentaries


revelation commentary cover
volumes lack exegesis and instead focus on the literature and theology of particular books: some recent NT volumes are well-reviewed and long-lived OT contributions boost the series as a wholeSee on
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Reformed
Expository
Commentaries


matthew commentary cover
volumes record some of the best Reformed preaching today; understandable theology and illustrations make the biblical text clear and relevant to pastors and lay readers alikeSee on
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Zondervan
Illustrated
Bible
Commentaries


revelation commentary cover
though the commentary itself is introductory, few series, if any, improve upon the pictures, charts, maps, and other illustrations that these volumes provideSee on
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Tier Three: 21-30

Most of the series in tier three are narrowly focused by design or have limited audiences. These characteristics mean that their readership is not as widespread as other series that have greater universal appeal.

Series
Title
Why Tier Three?Browse
Ancient
Christian
Commentaries


Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture
preserves, simplifies, and organizes commentary from early church fathers so that modern readers can benefit from their faith, insight, and scholarship; perhaps more pastors should consider using these volumesSee on
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Apollos
Old
Testament
Commentaries


haggai commentary cover
few volumes released so far, but this high-quality, mid-level, mildly critical series has a chance to be important for scholars and pastorsSee on
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Focus
on the
Bible


joshua commentary cover
introductory, yet many volumes offer profound theological and devotional reflections; helpful to lay people and pastors alike, authors offer readers illustrations that can be used for teaching and preaching; Reformed perspectiveSee on
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For You

romans commentary cover
the name recognition of Tim Keller’s volumes elevate the series a whole, but other authors contribute solid commentaries; introductory, so lay readers can benefitSee on
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John
MacArthur
Commentaries


hebrews commentary cover
most sections of this New Testament series read like sermons, which is likely where MacArthur refined his explanations of the text; MacArthur is controversial in some circles, so tier three seems fitting overall, but those devoted to his teaching will surely place it higherSee on
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JPS
Torah
Commentaries


commentary cover
covering the first five books of the bible only prevents this series from being placed in a higher tier; mildly critical explanations will be maximized by those who know Hebrew; volumes read from right to leftSee on
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Mentor
Commentaries


exodus commentary cover
helpful, pastor-friendly, mid-level series that utilizes Reformed authors; could climb to a higher tier if the quality of upcoming volumes remains highSee on
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Preaching
the
Word

exodus commentary cover
exposition commentary, which requires authors to have preached expository sermons through the biblical book on which they write; some volumes are large because the biblical book is large, but they are still reasonably pricedSee on
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Socio-
Rhetorical
Commentaries


thessalonians commentry cover
the project of Arminian scholar Ben Witherington, the socio-rhetorical approach is brilliantly executed for books such as Acts; the narrow focus prevents the series from placing in a higher tierSee on
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Understanding
the Bible
Commentaries


genesis commentary cover
formerly the New International Biblical Commentary series, some well-reviewed volumes elevate the series as a whole, though some don’t hit the markSee on
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Tier Four: 31-40

Some of the series in tier four are solid, yet young, and they may, in time, rise higher as more people review them and use them. Others have audiences of devoted readers, but those audiences are small relative to all those who read commentaries.

Series
Title
Why Tier Four?Browse
Christ-
Centered
Expository
Commentaries


ecclesiastes commentary cover
introductory, so good for lay people, but lacks sufficient depth for some pastors; the Christ-Centered approach is especially helpful with Old Testament volumesSee on
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Concordia
Commentaries


galatians commentary cover
volumes are of excellent quality, and the commentary in each volume is thorough; a product of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the authors are evangelical and affirm inerrancySee on
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Evangelical
Exegetical
Commentaries


john commentary cover
a relatively new series, which may rise to a higher tier over time; volumes contain refined exegesis with theological insight; many that have used them report their general helpfulnessSee on
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For
Everyone


luke commentary cover
introductory, affordable, paperbacks that explain the basics in understandable ways; the lack of depth may prevent widespread use by pastors; OT volumes can be mildly criticalSee on
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International
Critical
Commentaries


isaiah commentary cover
the abridged paperback editions have made some of the superb volumes in this series affordable and accessible to many more people than when these technical commentaries were only available in hardbacks that often exceeded $100 newSee on
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Keil-
Delitzsch
Commentaries


keil delitzsch commentary
an enduring Old Testament series whose conservative commentary is based on the Hebrew text, it is still helpful to pastors and affordable with used sets often found for under $100 on secondary marketsSee on
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Living
Insights
(Swindoll)


corinthians commentary cover
these New Testament volumes are a favorite for those who love the teaching of long-time pastor, Charles Swindoll; introductory in nature, they may be more useful for lay people than other audiencesSee on
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New
Cambridge
Bible
Commentaries


matthew commentary cover
this mid-level series has a chance to climb to a higher tier as more volumes are released; some volumes are very well reviewed, others have not lived up to expectations; authors are diverse and include Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant scholarsSee on
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New
Interpreter’s
Bible
Commentaries


mark commentary cover
for a series that covers all 66 books, its relatively affordable; it’s friendly layout makes it easy to wade through the mid-level, sometimes mildly critical, explanations on the biblical text; the publisher and author are ArminianSee on
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Story of
God Bible
Commentaries


daniel commentary cover
the focus of the series is on the “grand story” of the bible as a whole and how individual books fit into it; the series is still new and time will tell if readers believe this approach is helpfulSee on
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Tier Five: 41-50

The series in tier five are certainly worthy of consideration, but for different reasons do not have a wide readership today.

Series
Title
Why Tier Five?Browse
Biblical
Theology for
Christian
Proclamation


hebrews commentary cover
a new series that recently changed publishers; if it survives and continues to produce quality volumes, it could rise higher as a useful resource for pastorsSee on
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Black’s
New
Testament
Commentaries


john commentary cover
many volumes are now dated, but certain volumes have proved to have long-lasting influence; perhaps more for scholars now than pastors, the series’ approach is mildly criticalSee on
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Boice
Expositional
Commentaries


James Montgomery Boice commentary
volumes read like sermons; from the ministry of Reformed pastor James Montgomery Boice; these slim, introductory paperbacks can be used as devotional aidsSee on
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Brazos
Theological
Commentaries


revelation commentary cover
the series employs systematic theologians to write biblical commentaries; reviews have been mixed for these paperbacks that cost the same as many hardback commentariesSee on
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Continental
Commentaries


matthew commentary cover
advanced hardback commentaries that offer thorough and refined exegetical insight via English translations of German volumes; may not prove to be practical for many readers other than scholarsSee on
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Crossway
Classics
Commentaries


acts commentary cover
abridged commentaries on certain biblical books from renown Reformed writers from previous centuries; the publisher chose to employ the NIV translation in these volumes, which has resulted in mixed reviewsSee on
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Gospel
According
to the
Testament
Commentaries


nahum commentary cover
thin affordable paperbacks that offer readers Christ-centered insight into Old Testament books with devotional and theological applicationsSee on
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Holman
Old/New
Commentaries


holman commentary
introductory and basic, these hardbacks help pastors with overviews and sermon layout; they lack exegetical, theological, and historical depthSee on
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International
Theological
Commentaries


International Theological Commentary
the series values theological diversity in authors which results in inconsistent commentary on OT books; these mildly critical paperback volumes don’t have a wide audience; a few volumes have received positive reviewsSee on
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Kregel
Exegetical
Commentaries


Kregel Exegetical Library commentary
still a new series, these mid-level hardbacks could rise to higher tiers if the quality of new releases is high; the first volumes offer theological insight into the textSee on
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Teach
the
Text


romans commentary cover
certain volumes have received good reviews, but limiting the space for authors on passages proved to be challenging for certain volumes; now discontinued, it is difficult to see this series rising to higher tiersSee on
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Two
Horizons
Commentaries


genesis commentary cover
this series, whose volumes blended biblical studies with theological studies, produced some helpful volumes; now discontinued, it is difficult to see this series rising to higher tiersSee on
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More Bible Commentaries

Chart: See 100 Reformed New Testament Commentary Volumes

Chart: See 100 Arminian New Testament Commentary Volumes

Also compare 75 different commentary series

Want to compare and contrast even more commentary series? Please see the Bible Commentary Comparison Chart, which contains 75 different series.