Review: A Commentary on Commentaries?

Commentary on Commentaries

We have so many commentaries on the Bible, books of the Bible, and sections and themes of the Bible. Do we really need another commentary?

Yes.

The more theologians study a book, it’s cultural background, and the information in relation to other books of the Bible and ancient sources, the more commentaries will abound.

So why this book?
Because there are a ton of commentaries! One can’t buy every single one. We don’t have the money nor the time to do so.

Instead, John F. Evans has done it for us in A Guide to Biblical Commentaries & Reference Works. For the past 20+ years (since I was born in 1989), he’s been compiling information on other commentaries for this Reference Guide. This isn’t the first edition he’s written. There have actually been 9 editions so far, and it is written with the student, the pastor, and the scholar in mind.

The Chocolate Milk

He starts off the book by giving the reader “Two Warnings for Orientation” and about how commentaries are not to be used as a crutch. No matter how many commentaries you do read, nor how many you want to read, they do not replace your own personal Bible study efforts. All commentators have their own background of ideas and beliefs (conservative, liberal, and all in between). None of them will be 100% right, even if you combined them all. You need to use and be able to use your own mind in studying the Bible.

Then he gives a few pages for “Book Format,” “Evaluating Commentaries,” “Background Reading,” etc. After the short intro Evans gets into the good stuff.

He goes book by book giving a list of his top commentaries and why they are good. After his highlights, he gives a successive list of other commentaries on what’s good, decent, or is just a plain waste. And it’s amazing the vast amounts of detail he gives overall. Where someone finds this kind of time for a quality reference book like this is beyond me.
He gives information about:

  1. All 66 books,
  2. 9 different topical studies (The Minor Prophets, Apocalyptic Literature, Jesus and His Parables, etc) 
  3. Bargains for a Bare-Bones Library
  4. Ideal Basic Library for the Pastor
  5. The Ultimate Reference Library

There’s a link to a PDF on the bottom of the page to view a sample of the book.

Evans doesn’t simply give information. Practically speaking, he often includes whether a commentary is more useful for the student, the pastor, or the scholar. He notes if a commentary is so large and dense that the average pastor may find little value for weekly his preparation, but a student or scholar will find the book of great value. This is also a wonderful help because no commentary is the same. Some have much more applicational value (NIV Application Commentary [NIVAC]) while others are much more detailed (New International Greek Testament Commentary [NIGTC]).

This man has both pastoral and academic interests, and is very considerate of his audience.

The Spoiled Milk

This is a superbly, up-to-date reference book. But sometimes Evans talks more about the commentator than about the commentary itself. Though often when he does speak on the commentator, one can see the commentator’s perspective and know if they would find the commentary useful of not.

Recommended?

If you are a pastor or a student who is of the kind which uses commentaries, this book will save you time and money. Although since you’ll know which commentaries are the ‘good’ ones, you may end up spending more money buying them all. Regardless, this ought to be added to your library.

There are two single Testament commentaries out now. One is authored by Tremper Longman (Old Testament Commentary Survey), the other by D. A. Carson (New Testament Commentary Survey), but Evans gives more detail in his whole Bible guide.

Lagniappe

  • Paperback: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Doulos Resources; 9th edition (October 1, 2010)
  • Amazon
  • PDF: Includes Introduction, Index, and three samples (the Pentateuch, Genesis, and Matthew). This will give you a good taste of the book as a whole.
  • An additional website that is very helpful in finding good commentaries: Best Commentaries
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