February 24, 2011

Choosing OT commentaries

I love owning commentaries. I have continually found that it is so worthwhile to have great commentaries on hand when I am studying a passage or a theme. It's the area of my own personal library that has been growing the fastest over the last few years, especially as my own interests have turned from systematic theology to biblical theology (though of course not eschewing the former). But, commentaries are expensive! So as I've been trying to choose, I've been combing the web for wisdom. And I've been especially digging for ideas on some Old Testament resources, the area where my own library is the most lacking. I'm particularly looking for good commentaries on Genesis and Daniel (two important but highly contested books in OT, which seems to complicate buying commentaries), so that has been driving my search. I feel like I've got a pretty good handle on NT commentary series, authors, etc. But the OT is somewhat different territory. So, I thought I'd share a few resources I've been digging through. Some are rather obvious, others less so, but for what it's worth, here they are.

John Walton, professor at Wheaton and prolific and respected OT scholar and author, has made a list of "go-to" commentaries available on the web. Obviously a great resource.

Denver Journal (from Denver Seminary) has a great annotated bibliography for both OT and NT resources authored and updated by their faculty. I've found this to be a great list (especially the NT version) for a number of years and have been pointed to some great resources. 

Tremper Longman, who has authored an OT commentary survey, as well as a number of top flight OT commentaries of his own, has a list of recommended commentaries that is available on BestCommentaries.com.

Which brings me to BestCommentaries.com. This great web site is a creative and increasingly useful resource for evaluating different commentary series and volumes, getting some hints about what is forthcoming and from whom, and seeing various reviewers' and recommenders' estimations of various volumes. It includes input from sources such as Tremper Longman (mentioned above) from his OT commentary survey, as well as D. A. Carson's corresponding NT input, info from Denver (Seminary) Journal's recommended resources (another great source mentioned above), input from R. C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries, John Piper and Desiring God, John Glynn's commentary survey, as well as from numerous individuals. I'd say it has a distinctly conservative and reformed bent, and it seems (based on the age of many of the input lists) heavily weighted toward resources that are at least five or ten years old. But these weaknesses aside, it is a great source of reviews and rankings.

This list is certainly incomplete, and leaves off things like Amazon (where reviews are a mix of helpful and less-than-helpful). But it shows that there are some good and worthwhile resources out there. And I'd love to find more. I will try to update as more come my way.

Addition: I have come across a neat resource from Grove City Books (which is associated with Ridley Hall, Cambridge). They publish the Biblical Studies Bulletin, and they also have a book-by-book index of "Commentaries on Commentaries." I've only looked at a few so far, but they seem to be short synopses of important commentaries across the theological spectrum, dated between 1996 and 2006 (so they are slightly dated), and written by scholars (Genesis was written by Gordan Wenham, for example).


Jason Button said...

Thanks for posting resources you have found helpful in your search for good commentaries. BestCommentaries.com is indeed a very useful resource. I have also found the others you noted very useful, too.

I have been collecting lists of resources as well as recommendations at www.theosource.com. The commentary recommendation list can be found here. I hope that this site can be of help to you, too.

James K. said...

Jason, thanks for the referral. It's always great to hear from a kindred spirit. I've only had a couple quick minutes to peruse www.theosource.com, but I already know I'm going to enjoy digging in. It looks like a great sight, so thanks for the referral.

Jason Button said...

My pleasure. Send me an email if you have any questions or suggestions. I'm always trying to improve the site. I recently added a page of links to seminary recommendation lists. I've added the link to John Walton's OT recs that you noted above.