Monday, July 19, 2010
Which commentary should I buy?
From time to time I am asked by students which commentary series they should buy. My answer is always the same. Don’t buy an entire series unless you are getting an irresistible deal! I speak from experience.
When I was in seminary I bought all of the then available volumes in a respected series. But I soon discovered that there were some duds. Every series, no matter how well respected, is going to have some volumes that are disappointing. Furthermore, not every commentary is suited for every task. Like a set of screwdrivers or drill bits, you need different tools for different jobs. While the Word Biblical Commentary series may provide some great linguistic and exegetical insights, you are not going to get the type of modern day application for preaching that you will find in the NIV Application series. In fact, like your home toolbox, you will probably need both and will use both at the same time; sort of like using your hammer with a screwdriver (with apologies to Craftsman tools).
Rather than buy every volume in a set, investigate and find out which ones are the best of the lot and buy those ones. Your bookshelf will not look as cool as it would with all those matching dustcovers, but you will benefit from a variety of approaches which will enrich your study as you prepare to teach and/or preach.
If you want to know more, Bill Muehlenberg provides a good summary in an article in Christianity Today: How to Pick a Good Commentary.