Volume 48 - Issue 1

Comments on New Testament Commentaries

By Brian J. Tabb

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” (Eccl 12:12)

“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” (2 Tim 4:13)

Pastors and theological students have long prized commentaries. Charles Spurgeon called biblical commentators “a glorious army … whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit.”1 The English preacher remarked that Matthew Henry’s work should be “chained in the vestry for anybody and everybody to read” and considered John Trapp “my especial companion and treasure.”2 While pastors today still read Henry, Calvin, and other classics from centuries past, numerous commentary series and stand-alone volumes published in recent years offer students of the Scriptures a wide range of options—and opinions! To borrow the words of the ancient Preacher, “Of making many commentaries there is no end.”

This article offers my own reflections about the purpose, value, and limits of biblical commentaries, followed by specific commentary recommendations for each NT book. Themelios has regularly published reviews of biblical commentaries since its inception. The first issue in 1975 included Richard Bauckham’s review of Beasley-Murray’s work on Revelation,3 and subsequent issues have featured a NT literature survey around the turn of the millennium4 and overviews of studies on Luke, John, Colossians, and the Pastoral Epistles,5 not to mention book reviews of many major commentaries published in English. Additionally, longtime Themelios editor D. A. Carson has published the New Testament Commentary Survey (now in its seventh edition), and additional books and online lists offer recommendations about the “best commentaries” available.6

Here I seek to provide an up-to-date, focused treatment of NT commentaries. Rather than simply providing long lists of resources, I offer an introductory paragraph highlighting representative critical and conservative commentaries on each NT book7 followed by three shortlist recommendations for pastors and theological students. For every shortlisted commentary, I provide a link to a published Themelios review (where available) as well as a paragraph summarizing the commentary’s strengths or benefits with pastors and theological students particularly in mind. Most of the shortlist volumes are written by established evangelical scholars and published in the past thirty years. Before offering specific commentary recommendations, let’s first consider the history and purpose of commentaries and reflect on the best ways to use these important resources.

1. The Purpose of Commentaries

The practice of commenting on important works goes back to ancient Athens and was advanced by literary scholars in Alexandria.8 Antiquity’s most prolific commentator, Didymus of Alexandria, wrote between 3,500 and 4,000 works.9 Early Christian commentators include Hippolytus of Rome (on Daniel) and Origen (on Matthew, John, and Romans) in the early third century AD.10

Most fundamentally, commentaries seek to explain the sense of a written work. In his work on the Iliad, Aristarchus of Samothrace tried “to explain Homer by Homer, to interpret him by himself.”11 In the biblical tradition, commentators take their cues from the Levites who “read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read” (Neh 8:8 NIV). Commentaries are written on texts that are important for a community of readers and require explanation due to factors such as historical distance, differences in language, and challenging subject matter.12 First-century Hellenistic readers sought commentaries to make sense of Homer and Aristotle. How much more necessary are good commentaries that help contemporary Christian readers understand the authoritative canonical texts written thousands of years ago in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek!

There are various sorts of biblical commentaries and series that reflect distinctive emphases. Some seek to illuminate the text’s historical-cultural context (e.g., The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary); others help readers navigate its original language and syntax (e.g., Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament and Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament [EGGNT]); others review the text’s reception history (e.g., Hermeneia and Wiley Blackwell Bible Commentaries); still others focus on the text’s contribution to biblical theology or its enduring theological and pastoral significance (e.g., Evangelical Biblical Theological Commentary [EBTC]). Some well-rounded series are particularly well-suited to the needs of pastors and theological students, such as the Baker Exegetical Commentary (BECNT), Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC), Zondervan Exegetical Commentary (ZECNT), and New International Commentary (NICNT). Regardless of commentaries’ intended scope and audience, they share a common concern to orient readers to the text and clarify its meaning.

G. K. Chesterton famously quipped, “Though St John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators”13 (a sobering word as I write a commentary on the Apocalypse). It is a daunting task to write a commentary (unless your name is Didymus), and many critics have chastised commentators for their deficiencies and limitations. For example, Marita Mathijsen rehearses the “seven deadly sins” of commentary writing:14

  1. assembling a hodgepodge of facts in search of comprehensiveness;
  2. offering dictionary definitions for terms without really clarifying the text’s meaning;
  3. including anecdotes and other information that is interesting but not essential for understanding the text;
  4. failing to explain terms, customs, institutions, and actions in their historical context;
  5. proposing solutions to riddles that introduce further riddles (which she likens to the mythical Hydra that grows new heads after the first is cut off);
  6. presenting condensed textual explanations that include a dizzying maze of abbreviations and references to various other works;
  7. presenting various lists, references, and facts in an arid style that doesn’t serve the reader.

NT commentaries may also go astray by treating the text in a fragmented, atomistic way that leads readers to miss the forest for the trees, and by adopting new hermeneutical fads in their search for novelty or originality.15 Stated positively, a good commentary faithfully and lucidly explains the meaning of the biblical text in its literary and historical-cultural context. A good commentary does not simply rehash the opinions of all who’ve gone before but offers fresh insights based on rigorous, and careful examination of the text with awareness of the larger scholarly discussion.

2. How to Use Commentaries

Trusted commentaries are an essential part of a theological library, taking their place alongside standard lexicons, Bible dictionaries, and works of historical, systematic, biblical, and pastoral theology. While consulting commentaries is valuable, it is a poor substitute for doing the hard work of carefully and prayerfully poring over the biblical text in its original language and in good translations. As Johann Albrecht Bengel famously said, “apply yourself wholly to the text; apply the text wholly to yourself.” Once pastors and theological students have reflected deeply on a text’s literary context, considered its flow of thought, and wrestled with its meaning and significance, they are ready to receive the full benefits of wise, learned commentaries.

For those who take the time to carefully and prayerfully study and meditate on the biblical text for themselves, good commentaries are invaluable tools. C. S. Lewis wrote, “My own eyes are not enough for me. I will see through those of others.”16 Most pastors preparing their weekly sermons do not have the option to sit down with a senior biblical scholar to ask questions about the text’s difficult Greek syntax and unusual terms, its historical-cultural context, and its history of interpretation. But pastors can bring those questions to the commentaries on their shelf or in their digital library. Writing a major exegetical commentary is no small undertaking. Seasoned scholars spend years and sometimes decades carefully poring over the biblical text, teaching exegesis and survey courses, reading countless academic articles and monographs, mastering extrabiblical primary sources, and working with experienced editors to refine their writing to communicate the fruits of their research most effectively. So pastors and students of the Scriptures would do well to consult well-chosen exegetical commentaries to expand and deepen their grasp of the biblical text’s meaning in its context that they may rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15).

Some authors stress the need to read commentaries “to broaden your horizons,” consulting works by those from other ethnic or cultural backgrounds and church traditions.17 While busy pastors with a limited book budget may have difficulty following this advice, it’s certainly applicable to biblical scholars and seminary professors, who should consult read deeply and broadly, including works in other languages (where possible)18 as well as commentaries and sermons from previous generations. Familiarity with older works may help the interpreter to build up some immunity “from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.”19 Thus, while my recommendations below focus on more recently published commentaries, expositors would do well to consult older works such as Chrysostom on Matthew, Augustine in John, Murray or Lloyd-Jones on Romans, Luther on Galatians, Lightfoot on Philippians, Owen on Hebrews, or Bede on Revelation, to name a few.20 Moreover, Langham Publishing has produced the Africa Bible Commentary and Asia Bible Commentary series and multiple single-volume biblical commentaries, making the insights of global scholars readily available to readers worldwide.21
While there is real value in reading broadly, all students of Scripture should remember that “the dominant need is to understand meanings accurately. Postmodern sensibilities notwithstanding, the issue at stake is that of sheer faithfulness to the biblical message rather than smuggling one’s own ideas into the interpretation under the cover of the authoritative text.”22

3. New Testament Commentary Recommendations

I’ve reviewed the purpose of commentaries, reflected on ways to use them effectively, and discussed strategies for effectively using commentaries. Now I offer a shortlist of recommended commentaries for pastors and theological students, the primary readers of this journal.

This list is limited to commentaries written in English and assumes that readers have some facility with biblical Greek and theological training. Where available, I include links to Themelios reviews of recommended commentaries.

3.1. One Volume and Online Commentaries

Most single-volume commentaries offer Bible readers a short introduction to each biblical book with an outline of its contents and a brief discussion of each chapter. Most pastors and theological students will want to consult more substantial exegetical commentaries, but one or two good single volume commentaries offers a helpful starting point to one’s personal theological library, especially for lay people. Here are my three shortlist recommendations:

1. Beale, G. K. and D. A. Carson, eds. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.

This is not your ordinary one-volume commentary but a serious exegetical work focused on explaining how the New Testament authors cite and allude to the Old Testament Scriptures. In fact, it is one of the most valuable and frequently used books in my library, and I require it as a seminary textbook every year. Each book is covered by recognized experts: Pao and Schnabel on Luke, Köstenberger on John, Silva on Galatians, Weima on 1–2 Thessalonians, Guthrie on Hebrews, Beale and McDonough on Revelation, etc. Pastors and theological students looking to add to their library would do well to start with this incredibly useful volume.

2. Carson, D. A., R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, eds. New Bible Commentary. 21st century ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994.

For a single-volume commentary treating the whole-Bible, I recommend the New Bible Commentary. While it’s been in print for nearly three-decades, it remains a solid reference work with an outstanding group of contributors: Marshall on Luke, Morris on John, Moo on Romans, Winter on 1 Corinthians, Beasley-Murray on Revelation, etc. For example, France’s entry on Matthew begins with a succinct four-page introduction covering Matthew the Teacher, Matthew’s treatment of several key issues (Jesus the Messiah, Israel and the church, and Jesus the King), Authorship and Date, recommended further reading, and an outline of the book’s contents. France’s comments on the biblical text are brief yet informative, typically 400–500 words of exposition on each unit. This would be a solid choice for students and thoughtful Christians looking for an affordable, useful commentary to begin their theological library.

3. TGC Concise Commentary.

Readers of this journal may also be interested in a new online commentary series published by TGC. A team of trusted evangelical scholars have written introductions to the Old and New Testament and accessible commentaries on each biblical book, which are available for free online. The commentary introductions address each book’s authorship, date, purpose, theological focus, and outline, the exposition of the text is clear and crisp, and a substantial bibliography directs readers to further resources.

3.2. The Gospel according to Matthew

The First Gospel was one of the most commented on books during the patristic age, including early expositions by Origen and Hiliary of Poitiers and ninety sermons by John Chrysostom. In recent decades, there have been a number of important technical commentaries published on Matthew, including W. D. Davies and Dale Allison’s landmark three-volume work (ICC), John Nolland’s careful NIGTC volume, and Craig Keener’s socio-rhetorical commentary that Donald Hagner has called a “tour de force.”23 Craig Blomberg (NAC) and Charles Quarles (EBTC) are also worthy of note.

While many others could be discussed, here are my shortlist picks for Matthew’s Gospel:

1. Carson, D. A., Walter W. Wessel, and Mark L. Strauss. Matthew–Mark. Revised ed. EBC 9. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. Read Gerhard Maier’s review of the first edition.

Carson’s work is well-known to readers of Themelios, and pastors and students of Scripture have been well-served by his Expositor’s Bible Commentary on Matthew since its original publication in 1984. Revised in 2010, Carson’s commentary includes a sixty-page introduction and nearly six-hundred pages of judicious, verse-by-verse exposition that assumes the Gospel’s inerrancy, historicity, and unity. He explains that Matthew’s Gospel fulfills multiple purposes, instructing and encouraging believers in the faith, supplying apologetic and evangelistic material, and fostering a deeper understanding of the Messiah’s “person, work, and unique place in the unfolding history of redemption” (p. 49).

2. France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. NICNT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007. Read Donald Hagner’s review of France’s earlier Matthew commentary.

The late R. T. France, the first general editor of Themelios, devoted much of his distinguished career to studying the Gospels, and this massive Matthew commentary is his magnum opus. France extensively discusses introductory matters in an earlier book (Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher),24 so his NICNT commentary includes only a brief introduction followed by over a thousand pages of careful yet readable exposition.

3. Osborne, Grant R. Matthew. ZECNT. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. Read the review by Jonathan Pennington.

Osborne is an exemplary commentator, who writes clearly, summarizes major scholarly views with charity, and regularly makes sound exegetical decisions. The reader-friendly series format includes the author’s own translation, the main idea of each unit, a clear exegetical outline, and relevant theological reflections. I have assigned this volume as a seminary-level textbook, and as Jonathan Pennington notes, “the pastor who makes this one of the main commentaries in sermon preparation will not be disappointed” (review).

3.3. The Gospel according to Mark

No complete commentaries on the Gospel of Mark survive from the patristic era,25 and the Second Gospel has often been overshadowed by Matthew, Luke, and John. C. E. B. Cranfield (CGTC) and William Lane (NICNT) were for many years the standard commentaries on Mark, later joined by Robert Guelich and Craig Evans’ WBC volumes, Robert Gundry’s massive Eerdmans commentary, and Morna Hooker’s work in the BNTC series. The technical commentaries by Joel Marcus (AB) and Adela Yarbro Collins (Hermeneia) represent the standard historical-critical treatments of the book. The excellent commentaries by Robert Stein (BECNT) and Eckhard Schnabel (TNTC) fall just outside of my shortlist but would be valuable resources for pastors and students.

Here are my shortlist commentaries on Mark:

1. Edwards, James R. The Gospel according to Mark. PNTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002. Read the review by Iain Campbell.

Edwards asserts that Mark’s Gospel “displays considerable sophistication in literary intention and design” and portrays “a profoundly theological conception of Jesus as the authoritative yet suffering Son of God” (p. 3). Following a brief yet informative introduction, Edwards organizes his commentary in sixteen chapters (e.g., “The Gospel Appears in Person” [Mark 1:1–13]). Throughout, he combines clarity of style with insightful, responsible exegesis. Highly recommended.

2. Strauss, Mark L. Mark. ZECNT. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.

Strauss’s fine commentary was a finalist for the 2015 Christian Book Award, and I have assigned this volume as a course textbook. He analyzes the Gospel in sixty-three units. Strauss examines the literary context of each unit, summarizes the main idea, offers his own translation and structural analysis, provides an exegetical outline, explains the text verse-by-verse, and reflects on the text’s theological contribution. Some readers may quibble with some of Strauss’s textual divisions26 or interpretive decisions (e.g., rendering Mark 1:41 “being indignant” rather than “moved with pity”27), but overall this is a first-rate commentary that will serve pastors and students well.

3. France, R. T. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text. NIGTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002. Read the review by Darrell Bock.

France masterfully blends careful analysis of the Greek text with an appreciation for Mark’s literary artistry and profound theology (see his treatment on “Mark the Storyteller” and “the Message of Mark” on pp. 15–35). As Bock notes in his review, France “keeps the reader’s focus on what is most important to appreciate.”

3.4. The Gospel according to Luke

Luke is the longest book in the NT and is well-served by a number of useful commentaries. Joseph Fitzmyer (AB), I. Howard Marshall (NIGTC), and John Nolland (WBC) have been go-to technical commentaries for decades, and the standard historical-critical commentary is now François Bovon’s expansive Hermeneia set (translated from German). Robert Tannehill’s The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts and Joel Green’s NICNT commentary offer strong literary analysis of the Third Gospel, and the best non-technical treatments include Walter Liefeld and David Pao (EBC), Thomas Schreiner (ESVEC), and Nicholas Perrin’s new work in the TNTC series (replacing the venerable Leon Morris).

Here are my short-list recommendations on Luke:

1. Edwards, James R. The Gospel according to Luke. PNTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015.

Carson writes in the editor’s preface, “Again and again Dr. Edwards displays a sure-footed exegesis that helps readers grapple with the text of Scripture, simultaneously engendering deepening knowledge and grateful reverence” (p. xi). Edwards focuses particularly on Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s saving promises.28 This work shares the same strengths as Edwards’s earlier Mark commentary in the same series. It is eminently readable and consistently insightful and highly recommended for all students of Luke’s Gospel.

2. Bock, Darrell L. Luke. 2 vols. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1994–1996. Read the review by Thomas Martin.

Bock’s comprehensive treatment of Luke’s Gospel is well-organized and skillfully executed. He carefully expounds the book’s Greek text, situates it in its historical-cultural context, and effectively engages scholarly questions about the Gospel’s historicity and use of sources (concerns that benefit academic readers more than most preachers, as Martin notes in his review). Bock has published shorter commentaries in the NIVAC and IVPNTC series, but this two-volume Baker commentary is the standard for pastors and serious students with some facility in Greek.

3. Garland, David E. Luke. ZECNT. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

This commentary follows the same user-friendly format as other volumes in the ZECNT series. Garland frequently references primary sources like Josephus and the Mishnah and notes important secondary sources while maintaining focused on the biblical text. His writing is clear and sometimes memorable. For example, he comments that Jesus “is not a publicity hound … but one who is engaged in a divine mission” (p. 194) and calls Luke “the evangelist of prayer” (p. 977). In sum, Garland is a seasoned commentator who makes sound exegetical decisions and thoughtful theological reflections on Luke’s Gospel.

3.5. The Gospel according to John

The Fourth Gospel has been likened to a soaring eagle29 and to a pool shallow enough for a child to wade and deep enough for an elephant to swim.30 Many commentators, ancient and modern, have reflected on John’s heights and depths. C. K. Barrett and Raymond Brown (AB) contributed major critical commentaries in the mid-20th century, and Leon Morris (NICNT) was the standard evangelical treatment of John for decades. J. Ramsey Michaels’s massive commentary replaced Morris in the NICNT series and offers “a balanced, nourishing, and very generous meal of Johannine fare.”31 Herman Ridderbos’s theological commentary is “refreshing and useful,”32 while Marianne Meye Thompson (NTL) is insightful and accessible to pastors and students.

Certainly, many more John commentaries could be discussed, but here are my short-list recommendations:

1. Carson, D. A. The Gospel according to John. PNTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.

While Carson’s commentary was published three decades ago, it remains a treasured resource for pastors and students. The hefty eighty-page introduction covers issues like the book’s authorship (by the apostle John), structure, and evangelistic purpose, as well as a rich discussion of the Gospel’s theological emphases and sage advice on preaching from John. Throughout, the commentary is marked by clear, straightforward, penetrating exposition of the text.

2. Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. 2 vols. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003. Read the review by Alistair Wilson.

Keener’s commentary reflects rich, detailed engagement with John’s Gospel, informed by extensive examination of primary sources and command of the scholarly literature. Indeed, “There are few questions Keener has not addressed.”33 While the thoroughness and length of this commentary may deter pastors, it is lucidly written and invaluable as a reference work.

3. Klink III, Edward W. John. ZECNT. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016.

Klink aims to situate the Gospel of John “in its divine context as Christian Scripture” as well as “in its historical context” (p. 41). This is an outworking of a “confessional approach” that embraces the theological claims and the complete historicity of the biblical text (pp. 22–24). Klink outlines the Gospel into ten major sections and follows the same readable format as the other ZECNT volumes (discussed above). He writes as a scholar-pastor, combining exegetical rigor, clear communication, and warm devotion to Christ.

3.6. The Acts of the Apostles

F. F. Bruce’s two commentaries on Acts served as the gold standard of conservative scholarship for decades, and his revised NICNT volume remains useful to pastors and students. Joseph Fitzmyer (AB) and C. K. Barrett (ICC) authored important critical commentaries, while Bock (BECNT) offers a well-balanced evangelical treatment of Acts, and Ben Witherington’s socio-rhetorical commentary is superb. Patrick Schreiner’s new CSC volume helpfully captures the book’s theological message, and Steve Walton’s forthcoming commentary will be an outstanding addition to the WBC series.

Here are my shortlist recommendations for Acts:

1. Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. PNTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009. Read the review by Carl Park.

Peterson’s commentary on this book of theological history is simply outstanding—exegetically responsible, eminently readable, and consistently insightful. Peterson carefully attends to the text’s literary qualities (see pp. 39–48) and consistently draws out the book’s profound theological message (summarized on pp. 52–97). I’ve assigned Peterson as a seminary textbook and consult this commentary whenever I preach on Acts.

2. Schnabel, Eckhard J. Acts. ZECNT. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. Read the review by Benjamin Wilson.

As readers familiar with Schnabel’s other writings would expect, his Acts commentary combines meticulous research, sound exegesis, and a strong emphasis on the early Christian mission. Schnabel’s masterful engagement with the book’s historical-cultural context and primary sources serves as a nice complement to Peterson’s emphasis on literary and theological matters. An expanded digital edition of Schnabel’s commentary is available on Logos Bible Software.

3. Keener, Craig S. Acts: An Exegetical Commentary. 4 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012–2015. Read Sean Adams’s review of volumes 2–3.

Keener’s encyclopedic work is the most thorough and detailed commentary available on Acts (over 2,300 pages). It includes a far-reaching introduction, numerous excurses on a variety of topics, and meticulous attention to the text of Acts and a wealth of primary sources that are especially beneficial to academic readers. For pastors who are deterred by the length and cost of Keener’s four-volume set, the commentaries by Schreiner, Witherington, and Bock (noted above) are strong one-volume options.

3.7. Romans

It is difficult to improve on Luther’s opening remarks in his Preface to Romans: “This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.” Commentaries abound on this great letter, and it is impossible to mention them all here. One’s view of the New Perspective(s) on Paul strongly influences choices about Romans and Galatians commentaries. For example, Nijay Gupta includes New Perspective advocates James Dunn (WBC) and N. T. Wright (NIB) among his top recommendations on Romans,34 while my shortlist commentaries are each conversant with the New Perspective while maintaining a more traditional, reformed reading of Paul. In addition to the commentaries mentioned below, pastors may consider the fine older work by John Murray (Eerdmans Classic) and less technical volumes by David Peterson (EBTC), David Garland (TNTC), Robert Yarbrough (ESVEC), and Andrew David Naselli (Crossway).

Here are my top three recommended Romans commentaries for pastors and students:

1. Moo, Douglas J. The Letter to the Romans. 2nd ed. NICNT. Grand Rapids Eerdmans, 2018. Read Stanley Porter’s review of the first edition.

First published in 1996 and now in a revised edition, Moo’s Romans commentary is a model of careful, thorough, balanced exegesis. He consistently presents major interpretive positions in an even-handed way and provides textual arguments in favor of his decisions (see, for example, his treatment of “the righteousness of God” on pp. 73–78). This commentary’s rather brief introduction may be supplemented by Longenecker’s Introducing Romans.35 Moo has published several shorter, more popular works on Romans, but the NICNT volume remains the gold standard.

2. Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans. 2nd ed. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018. Read Craig Blomberg’s review of the first edition.

Schreiner excels in clearly explaining the letter’s flow of thought. The second edition includes revised analysis of several key interpretive matters, including the meaning of the righteousness of God (1:17), the Gentiles as Christians in 2:14–15, and the logic of 5:12, which Schreiner now renders “death spread to all, because all sinned” (p. 276). This well-written, up-to-date commentary proves a reliable guide for pastors and students.

3. Thielman, Frank. Romans. ZECNT. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018.

It’s exceedingly difficult to shortlist only three Romans commentaries, as one could make a good case for including Cranfield (ICC), Longenecker (NIGTC), or Kruse (PNTC), among others. I give the nod to Thielman as an established evangelical scholar who writes well, makes sound exegetical decisions, and offers a meaty yet reader-friendly commentary on Paul’s greatest letter.

3.8. 1 Corinthians

Paul summons the Corinthian believers to grow in purity and unity in response to the gospel as he addresses a series of controversial topics in the church, such as factions, lawsuits, marriage and divorce, and spiritual gifts, etc.36 First Corinthians is well served by many strong commentaries, and it is difficult to choose only three. Anthony Thiselton (NIGTC) and David Garland (BECNT) have written excellent technical commentaries on the Greek text, and Bruce Winter’s After Paul Left Corinth is remarkably insightful about the letter’s historical, cultural, and social context.

Here are my shortlist recommendations on 1 Corinthians with pastors and students in mind:

1. Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. 2nd ed. NICNT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014.

Fee’s commentary has been a valuable resource for preachers and students of 1 Corinthians since 1987, and the 2014 revision utilizes the 2011 edition of the NIV and interacts with more recently published scholarly literature on the letter. His exegesis and arguments are typically reliable and persuasive, with a few exceptions. For example, he curiously treats 14:34–35 as an interpolation rather than an authentic Pauline composition. Overall, this commentary remains an excellent choice.

2. Ciampa, Roy E. and Brian S. Rosner. The First Letter to the Corinthians. PNTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010. Read the review by Drake Williams.

Ciampa and Rosner offer a carefully researched, coherently argued commentary that provides reliable guidance for pastors and students of this letter. They attend particularly well to Paul’s use of the Old Testament and to the apostle’s confrontation of the Corinthians’ core problems of immorality and idolatry.

3. Schreiner, Thomas R. 1 Corinthians. TNTC 7. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2018.

While most of my short-list recommendations are longer exegetical commentaries, I make an exception here for Schreiner’s wonderful recent contribution to the Tyndale series (replacing Leon Morris’s earlier work). Schreiner helpfully expounds Paul’s argument in the letter and makes judicious exegetical decisions throughout.

3.9. 2 Corinthians

Carson calls 2 Corinthians “the most passionate and in some ways the most difficult of Paul’s letters,”37 and it is well-served by a number of good commentaries. In addition to the shortlist volumes discussed below, Scott Hafemann (NIVAC) offers an excellent blend of careful exegesis and contemporary application, Mark Seifrid (PNTC) provides rich theological reflections, and Paul Barnett (NICNT) helpfully navigates the letter’s historical-cultural context.

1. Guthrie, George H. 2 Corinthians. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015. Read the review by Malcolm Gill.

This commentary ably handles the technicalities of Paul’s Greek syntax and the historical-cultural context of the letter without losing sight of its pastoral aims and theological message. Guthrie writes, “Paul commends his ministry … as one of integrity. Appointed by God, under the lordship of Christ, and suffering in his proclamation of the gospel, Paul calls the Corinthians to repent from unhealthy relationships and embrace his authentic leadership” (p. 50). Highly recommended.

2. Garland, David E. 2 Corinthians. 2nd ed. Christian Standard Commentary. Nashville Holman, 2021. Read Alistair Wilson’s review of the earlier edition.

Garland is a seasoned commentator, and he proves up for the challenge with 2 Corinthians. This revised edition is over a hundred pages longer than his 1999 NAC volume and is informed by two further decades of scholarship. Garland’s style is clear and compelling throughout as he shows that the apostle not only defends his ministry but, “more importantly, he clarifies the implications of the gospel that they have failed to grasp” (p. 18).

3. Harris, Murray J. The Second Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text. NIGTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005.

The pastor or theological student poring over the difficult Greek of 2 Corinthians will find able assistance from Harris’s outstanding commentary. The lengthy introduction engages critical debates about the integrity of 2 Corinthians and thoughtfully summarizes the letter’s theology. The eight-hundred pages of commentary model careful exegesis and scholarship, and Harris’s “expanded paraphrase” of the letter is very helpful. Readers seeking a less-technical commentary should consider Hafemann (noted above).

3.10. Galatians

Luther famously remarked, “Galatians is my favorite epistle, the one in which I place all my trust. It is my Katie von Bora.”38 This great letter is well served by many older and more recent commentaries. David deSilva (NICNT) and Craig Keener (Baker) have recently published major exegetical commentaries that reflect careful attention to the Greek text, the letter’s historical and cultural context, and current scholarly discussions. J. Louis Martyn (AB) remains influential for his “apocalyptic” reading of Paul, while James Dunn (BNTC) reflects a New Perspective approach. If I expanded my shortlist beyond only three, I would add the very fine commentaries by Jarvis Williams (NCCS) and Matthew Harmon (EBTC).

Here are my shortlist commentaries on Galatians (of which I think Luther would approve):

1. Moo, Douglas J. Galatians. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013. Read the review by John Anthony Dunne.

Moo is well known for his magnificent Romans commentary and award-winning Theology of Paul and His Letters and many other books, and his exposition of Galatians does not disappoint. He slightly favors the south Galatian hypothesis and concludes that Paul wrote this letter just before the events of Acts 15, and he offers a robust argument for the traditional rendering “faith in Christ” for the debated phrase πίστις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (pp. 38–48). Moo models insightful exegesis throughout, presents interpretive options clearly and fairly, and offers well-reasoned, theological sound conclusions. Highly recommended.

2. George, Timothy. Galatians. 2nd ed. CSC. Nashville: Holman, 2020. Read Walt Russell’s review of the first edition.

George writes, “St. Jerome once said that when he read Paul he could hear thunder. There is a thunderstorm on every page of Galatians” (p. xvii). This introductory comment reflects the sort of clarity of expression and awareness of the history of interpretation that make George’s commentary a helpful complement to more detailed technical commentaries such as Moo, Schreiner, and Keener. Carson noted that George’s first edition (published in 1994) was thin in its treatment of contemporary scholarship,39 but the revised edition is conversant with apocalyptic and New Perspective readings of Paul and both recent and classic commentaries on Galatians.

3. Schreiner, Thomas R. Galatians. ZECNT. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010. Read the review by Philip Kern.

Schreiner writes, “Paul unpacks the heart of the gospel. We see the meaning and the centrality of justification by faith, which Luther rightly argued was the article by which the church stands or falls. How can a person stand before a holy God without being condemned? Paul answers that question in Galatians” (p. 21). The commentary includes Schreiner’s own translation of the letter, summaries of the literary context, structure, and main idea of each unit, judicious explanation of the Greek text, and theological reflections. He skillfully navigates challenging passages such as 3:10–14, which teaches that “the curse of the law is removed only by the cross of Christ, and thus faith is the pathway to blessing” (p. 200). The commentary concludes with a concise summary of major theological themes in Galatians (pp. 387–401).

3.11. Ephesians

Ephesians takes only about nineteen minutes to read straight through, yet this letter addresses a broad range of theological and ethical matters. Ephesians “clarifies the heart of the Christian faith, explores the dynamics of a personal relationship with Christ, sets forth God’s overall plan for the church, and draws out the implications of what it means to live as a Christian.”40 There is a longstanding debate over the book’s authorship: critical commentaries such as Andrew Lincoln (WBC) and Ernest Best (ICC) think that Paul did not write Ephesians, while works by Harold Hoehner (Baker), Clinton Arnold (ZECNT), Lynne Cohick (NICNT), and others affirm Pauline authorship.

Here are my shortlist recommendations for Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

1. Campbell, Constantine R. The Letter to the Ephesians. PNTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2023.

This new commentary replaces the earlier volume by Peter O’Brien, to whom Campbell dedicates his work. Campbell writes especially with teachers, expositors, theologians, and students in view, and he seeks to bring forth “the rich profundity of the message of Ephesians” without overwhelming readers with technical details on the one hand or compromising depth for accessibility on the other (p. xiv). In this balance, Campbell admirably succeeds. He regularly draws attention to crucial theological emphases in the letter such as union with Christ, the Missio Dei, the glory of God, and God’s plan for the church’s unity and maturity. While there are a number of excellent Ephesians commentaries, this is among the best.

2. Baugh, Steven M. Ephesians. EEC. Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2016.

Baugh offers a rich, detailed, well-argued exegetical commentary on Ephesians. He interacts carefully with the Greek text (like Thielman, Hoehner, and Arnold), offers his own translation and outline of each passage, and provides detailed comments as well as thoughtful theological synthesis of the apostle’s teaching from a Reformed perspective. Baugh’s treatment of the household exhortations in Ephesians 5 is exemplary, and his summary devotional applications throughout are well stated. For example, he comments on ch. 6, “Christianity is not a stroll through the mall but a grim fight … a contest against supernatural foes. Because we cannot stand on our own against superhuman powers, we must rely on the strength of the Lord’s own might, which he supplies chiefly through prayer” (p. 562). The blend of exegetical rigor and theological depth makes Baugh’s volume a worthy addition to the pastor’s shelf.

3. Thielman, Frank. Ephesians. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010. Read the review by Mark Owens.

Thielman’s commentary masterfully explains the purpose of Ephesians, the argument of the letter, and the apostle’s use of Scripture. The thirty-page introduction addresses the usual topics with clarity and brevity (authorship, setting, structure, etc.), followed by over four hundred pages of careful exposition. For example, Thielman helpfully explains the challenging citation of Psalm 68:18 in Ephesians 4:8 (pp. 264–68), and he notes that Paul weaves “complex theology with straightforward ethical instruction” throughout his household instructions in Ephesians 5–6 (p. 371). While engaging in detail with the Greek text, he maintains a clear and accessible style and draws out important biblical-theological connections in Ephesians.

3.12. Philippians

Paul’s letter to the Philippians “sparkles with joy—the sort of life-giving, heart-refreshing joy that is tangibly transforming in its effect on the mundane realities of everyday existence.”41 Keown’s lengthy commentary (EEC) and Silva’s shorter volume (BECNT) provide excellent treatment of the letter’s Greek text. Fee (IVPNTC), Garland (EBC), and Bockmuehl (BNTC) are strong options for mid-range commentaries, and Carson’s Basics for Believers is a short, edifying exposition of the book for general readers.

Here are my shortlist recommendations for Philippians with pastors and students in mind:

1. Harmon, Matthew S. Philippians: A Mentor Commentary. Mentor. Fearn, Ross-shire: Mentor, 2015. Read the review by Dennis Johnson.

Harmon’s fine study on Philippians has been called “a felicitous merger of careful scholarship, exegetical prudence, and pastoral sensitivity” (review). Harmon’s work stands out particularly in his careful attention to Paul’s allusions to the OT (for example, Isa 45:14–25 and 52:13–53:12 as the backdrop for the famous Christ Hymn in Phil 2) and his thoughtful suggestions for preaching/teaching and application at the end of each section.

2. Hansen, G. Walter. The Letter to the Philippians. PNTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009. Read the review by Matthew Harmon.

Hansen’s volume is a worthy contribution to the Pillar series. His introduction sets an effective tone for the commentary as a whole: “Paul’s letter to Philippians exudes a joyful spirit and warm affection. As a thank you note to his friends for their generosity, Paul’s letter wraps them in his warm embrace. Yet, as he affirms his friends, he also responds to their problems…. Above all, Paul’s letter leads us to worship Jesus Christ as we contemplate his suffering on the cross, his exaltation as Lord, and his ultimate victory over all earthly powers” (p. 1). Hansen proves a sure guide for interpreters of this treasured apostolic letter.

3. Fee, Gordon D. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. NICNT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995. Read the review by Ben Witherington III.

Fee is a masterful commentator. He served as longtime editor of the esteemed NICNT series and contributed superb volumes on 1 Corinthians, 1–2 Thessalonians, and Philippians. He calls Philippians “a hortatory letter of friendship,” which reveals “an extraordinary amount of Pauline theology” (p. 46). Fee accurately and elegantly expounds the text of Philippians, which “invites us into the advance of the gospel” and “points us to Christ, both now and forever” (p. 53).

3.13. Colossians and Philemon

Colossians and Philemon are often treated together in commentaries. Paul pens both of these short letters from prison and refers to many of the same individuals (Onesimus, Epaphras, Aristarchus, Mark, etc.), and scholars often identify Philemon as a resident of Colossae. Murray Harris (EGGNT) and James Dunn (NIGTC) serve as able guides for the Greek text of the book, and the newer and older TNTC volumes by Alan Thompson and N. T. Wright, respectively, are helpful non-technical commentaries.42

Here are my shortlist picks on Colossians and Philemon:

1. Beale, G. K. Colossians and Philemon. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2019.

Beale leaves few exegetical stones unturned in this marvelous commentary. Beale’s work stands out in two primary ways: extensive focus on OT allusions in Colossians and clear explanations of Paul’s flow of thought, with summary exegetical ideas for each unit. For example, Beale summarizes the main idea of Colossians 1:15–23 this way: “Christ’s supremacy over the first creation is a pattern recapitulated for the new creation to bring about reconciliation of all creation, especially in order to make believers acceptable before God.” He extensively shows that Genesis 1:26–28 and Psalm 89:27–29 provide the crucial basis for Paul’s presentation of Christ as the “image” of God and “firstborn.” Highly recommended.

2. Moo, Douglas J. The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon. PNTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008. Read the review by Jason Meyer.

Moo’s work showcases his characteristic strengths as a seasoned commentator and complements the approach of Beale. Moo offers lengthier introductions to both letters, providing a very through defense of Pauline authorship of Colossians and the letter’s theology. Moo considers various proposals for the situation behind Paul’s letter to Philemon and slightly favors the traditional hypothesis that Onesimus was a runaway slave, though he stresses that the letter is not about slavery but focuses on the deep fellowship of believers in Christ (p. 378).

3. Pao, David W. Colossians and Philemon. ZECNT. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. Read the review by Nijay Gupta.

Pao’s excellent commentary admirably achieves the aims of the ZECNT series and excels particularly in his reflections on these letters’ “theology in application.” For example, he commends Colossians 1:9–14 as “a powerful model of prayer.” Reflecting on Colossians 3:18–41, Pao stresses Paul’s point for the household code—“A wife/child/slave must put the Lord first” (p. 263)—then extensively reflects on the theological and practical implications of the centrality of Christ in relationships between husbands and wives, children and parents, and slaves and masters.

3.14. 1–2 Thessalonians

The Thessalonian letters are well served by a number of technical and non-technical commentaries. In addition to the commentaries mentioned below, the works by Gordon Fee (NICNT), Charles Wanamaker (NIGTC), F. F. Bruce (WBC), and Gene Green (PNTC) are all helpful treatments of these letters. For academic readers, Nijay Gupta’s critical introduction to the Thessalonian correspondence provides useful guidance to the secondary literature and key issues such as the disputed authorship of 2 Thessalonians.

Here are my shortlist recommendations (each affirms Pauline authorship of both letters):

1. Weima, Jeffrey A. D. 1–2 Thessalonians. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2014. Read the review by Peter Orr.

Carson wrote in 2013, “There is no commentary on the Thessalonian epistles that stands head and shoulders above all others in a crowded field,”43 but Weima’s remarkable volume was published the following year and remains the gold standard on these letters. This commentary is comprehensive, carefully argued, and usually compelling. Weima takes a literary-epistolary analysis to these books, ably explains their Greco-Roman context, and pays attention to Paul’s allusions to the Old Testament.

2. Beale, G. K. 1–2 Thessalonians. IVPNTC 13. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003.

Beale’s short commentary excels in reading these letters through the lens of inaugurated eschatology and showing the significance of Paul’s use of the Old Testament. He also carefully traces the apostle’s argument and includes thoughtful applications for contemporary readers. I have assigned this commentary as a college textbook, and it serves as an excellent complement to a fuller exegetical commentary on the Greek text.

3. Shogren, Gary S. 1 and 2 Thessalonians. ZECNT. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. Read the review by Gene Green.

This commentary exhibits the format and strengths of other ZECNT volumes. Shogren divides the letters into fourteen units, summarizing the context, main point, and logical flow of each unit, expositing the Greek text, and offering theological applications. The commentary’s concluding note illustrates Shogren’s theological depth and pastoral concern: “Above all else, Paul sketches out a cosmovision at the center of which is Christ…. This is why even dying in Jesus is no tragedy” (p. 354).

3.15. 1–2 Timothy and Titus

The letters to Paul’s delegates are often called the Pastoral Epistles because they discuss the qualifications and duties of church leaders. Yet these letters address a range of theological and practical matters—above all the saving power of the gospel, which must be protected and stewarded. Major exegetical commentaries include those by I. Howard Marshall (ICC)—who argues that the letters come from someone other than Paul—as well as Luke Timothy Johnson (AB), Philip Towner (NICNT), and George Knight (NIGTC)—each of whom marshals a strong case for the traditional view of Pauline authorship.44

Here are my shortlist recommendations on the letters to Timothy and Titus:

1. Yarbrough, Robert W. The Letters to Timothy and Titus. PNTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018.

Yarbrough offers a readable, well-informed, mature exposition of these letters that he takes to be written by the apostle Paul. He presents a complementarian perspective on the prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12, takes “women will be saved” (2:15) to refer to eschatological salvation. One particular highlight is Yarbrough’s discussion of Paul as a working pastor: “God’s mighty work in Christ resulted in Paul working mightily” (p. 28). Highly recommended for pastors and theological students.

2. Köstenberger, Andreas J. 1–2 Timothy and Titus. EBTC. Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2020.

Köstenberger acknowledges that this commentary “continues a twenty-five-year-long quest to properly interpret and faithfully live out Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus” (p. xvii), reflected in previous publications like Entrusted with the Gospel and Women in the Church.45 Köstenberger presents a complementarian perspective on 1 Timothy 2:9–15 and frequently makes judicious exegetical decisions with a special focus on the letters’ contribution to biblical theology. Notably, the commentary includes an extensive, 186-page treatment of major biblical theological themes, such as mission, the church, and the last days.

3. Mounce, William D. Pastoral Epistles. WBC 46. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000.

Pastors and students reading the Greek text of Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus will want to have Mounce’s commentary at the ready. Mounce is well known for his introductory Greek textbook, and his work on the Pastoral Epistles blends rigorous scholarship, conservative theological convictions, and pastoral sensibilities. For example, Mounce comments on 1 Timothy 2:12–15 that “Paul sees the prior creation of Adam (Gen 2) as justification for male leadership in the church” (p. 148). He also provides a comprehensive and convincing case for understanding “our great God and savior” as a Christological title in Titus 2:13 (pp. 425–31). While Mounce’s comments are detailed and thorough, his explanation sections helpfully synthesize and apply the text’s message in a way that is accessible to readers regardless of their knowledge of Greek.

3.16. Hebrews

While “God only knows” who wrote Hebrews (to quote Origen), this “word of exhortation” (Heb 13:22) combines urgent pastoral warnings and profound biblical theological reflections on the supremacy of Christ. The letter is well-served by a number of detailed exegetical commentaries, including Craig Koester (AB), Gareth Cockerill (NICNT), Paul Ellingworth (NIGTC), Harold Attridge (Hermeneia), and David deSilva (Eerdmans). David Peterson (TNTC) is a strong option for readers seeking a shorter, less technical commentary, while Harris (EGGNT) offers an excellent resource for students of Greek.

Here are my top three Hebrews commentaries for pastors and theological students:

1. Schreiner, Thomas R. Hebrews. EBTC. Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2020.

This recent commentary blends Schreiner’s strengths as a seasoned professor, pastor, exegete, and biblical theologian. He emphasizes that the letter’s expansive Christology provides the foundation for “the pastoral thrust of the work,” as the author urges readers not to fall away (p. 14). The commentary’s format is straightforward: each unit (2–10 verses) includes an outline, the CSB translation, a summary of the literary context, exegesis, and a “bridge” for contemporary application. Schreiner’s 75-page overview of central theological themes in Hebrews is an excellent resource for all students of this book.

2. Lane, William L. Hebrews. WBC 47A–B. 2 vols. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991. Read the review by John Lewis.

Though published over three decades ago, Lane’s commentary remains a go-to resource for serious students of Hebrews. He writes, “The purpose of Hebrews is to strengthen, encourage, and exhort the tired and weary members of a house church to respond with courage and vitality to the prospect of renewed suffering in view of the gifts and resources God has lavished upon them” (p. c). Throughout, Lane blends careful exegetical analysis of the book’s Greek text with thoughtful reflections on its theological message, and I have used it as a required textbook for exegesis courses.

3. Guthrie, George. Hebrews. NIVAC 58. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.

Guthrie is a well-regarded Hebrews scholar whose writings include a monograph on the book’s structure46 and an excellent treatment of the author’s use of Scripture in the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. This NIVAC volume effectively expounds the text while suggesting thoughtful areas for application. Guthrie’s work effectively complements more technical volumes by Lane, Koester, and others.

3.17. James

Famously called an “epistle of straw” by Luther,47 the letter of James includes various exegetical challenges for readers—including the author’s famous teaching about faith, works, and justification. In addition to the recommendations below, academic readers should also consult Dale Allison (ICC),48 Luke Timothy Johnson (AB), Scott McKnight (NICNT), Peter Davids (NIGTC), and Richard Bauckham (New Testament Readings), while Douglas Moo (TNTC) and George Guthrie (EBC) offer excellent non-technical commentaries.

Here are my shortlist picks for James:

1. Moo, Douglas J. The Letter of James. 2nd ed. PNTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2021. Read Thorsten Moritz’s review of the first edition.

While Moo is well-known for his work on Paul’s letters, his commentary on James displays his usual combination of exegetical rigor, clarity of expression, and sound theology. The first edition of Moo’s commentary appeared in 2000, and the new second edition is about thirty percent longer, owing to interaction with recent scholarship and revised and expanded comments on various passages. His treatment of “Faith, Works, and Justification” is simply outstanding: “Biblical faith cannot exist apart from acts of obedience to God. This is James’s overriding concern” (p. 48). Moo remains a sure-footed guide to this letter.

2. Blomberg, Craig L. and Mariam J. Kammell (Kovalishyn). James. ZECNT. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008. Read the review by Scott Newman.

The initial work in the ZECNT series set a high standard for subsequent volumes. Blomberg and Kammell (Kovalishyn) admirably navigate key exegetical questions in the letter while offering thoughtful theological reflections along the way. They argue that “the theme of wealth and poverty … emerges as this letter’s most important issue” (p. 254), effectively explain James’s teaching on faith and works, and stress that this letter calls readers to “become people of integrity” in response to God’s unwavering constancy (p. 261).

3. McCartney, Dan G. James. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.

McCartney’s work on James is well-researched, clear, and exegetically responsible. He explains that the letter is “about true faith as opposed to a false one” (p. 2). James 1 introduces key themes that the remainder of the letter addresses in a series of discourses (p. 66). The commentary concludes with four excellent excurses: Faith as the Central Concern of James; Faith, Works, and Justification in James and Paul; James and Wisdom; and James and Suffering.

3.18. 1 Peter

“The central issue in 1 Peter is probably the problem of suffering, with which all Christians must of necessity deal.”49 The letter reminds the recipients—“elect exiles” (1:1)—of their unshakeable hope, their abiding joy, and their calling to follow in the steps of our suffering Savior. Among major exegetical commentaries on 1 Peter, Paul Achtemeier (Hermeneia) argues that the letter is pseudonymous, while J. Ramsey Michaels (WBC), Craig Keener (Eerdmans), and the volumes below affirm that the apostle Peter stands behind this letter. Wayne Grudem (TNTC) and I. Howard Marshall (IVPNTC) also offer strong shorter commentaries on this apostolic letter.

Here are my shortlist recommendations on 1 Peter for pastors and students:

1. Jobes, Karen H. 1 Peter. 2nd ed. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2022.

Jobes offers an excellent, well-balanced commentary on 1 Peter that has served readers well since its initial release in 2005. The revised edition retains her assessment of the book’s historical background and of the importance of the Greek Jewish Scriptures for interpreting 1 Peter. She argues, “The explanation of the significance of Jesus Christ (Christology) in 1 Peter is inseparable from the exhortations about how to live the new life in Christ (paraenesis)” (p. 47).

2. Schreiner, Thomas R. 1 and 2 Peter and Jude. 2nd ed. CSC. Nashville: Holman, 2020.

In this revised edition of his earlier 2003 NAC volume, Schreiner reflects broad interaction with recent scholarship and has reworked and expanded his commentary on the letters of Peter and Jude. Writing with his usual clarity, Schreiner is a trustworthy guide to the flow of thought and message of these epistles.

3. Davids, Peter H. The First Epistle of Peter. NICNT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990. Read the review by Craig Blomberg.

While Davids’s commentary was released more than three decades ago, it remains a competent resource for interpreting Peter’s first letter. On difficult passages such as 1 Peter 3:18–22, Davids sets forth the major perspectives and gives sound arguments for his own reading.

3.19. 2 Peter and Jude

Interpreters have long debated the apostolic authorship of 2 Peter and the relationship of 2 Peter and Jude, such that 2 Peter has been called the NT’s “ugly stepchild,”50 while Jude may be “the most neglected book in the NT.”51 Yet these canonical letters certainly warrant serious study by the saints as they seek to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18). Though it is four decades old, Richard Bauckham (WBC) remains the gold standard for academic readers—it has been called “expert, thorough, balanced and lucidly written.”52 In addition to the recommended volumes below, Douglas Moo (NIVAC) and Michael Green (TNTC) are strong non-technical options.

Here are my shortlist commentaries on 2 Peter and Jude, each of which affirms apostolic authorship of 2 Peter:

1. Schreiner, Thomas R. 1 and 2 Peter and Jude. 2nd ed. CSC. Nashville: Holman, 2020.

Schreiner writes, “Peter’s second letter teaches us that God’s grace in Jesus Christ should not and must not be untethered from a life of virtue and godliness” (p. 295), while Jude’s brief letter “should not be ignored” (p. 484). This readable and insightful commentary is my first choice for 2 Peter and Jude.

2. Green, Gene L. Jude and 2 Peter. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.

Green excels in interpreting Jude and 2 Peter in their historical-cultural context. He takes Jude to be written first (by the brother of Jesus), and the apostle Peter imitates portions of Jude in his second letter. He regularly offers judicious treatments of thorny exegetical and theological issues in these letters, such as Jude’s use of pseudepigraphal writings (pp. 26–33). Highly recommended.

3. Davids, Peter H. The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude. PNTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006.

Davids is a recognized expert on the general epistles who has written excellent commentaries on James (NIGTC) and 1 Peter (NICNT), and his work on 2 Peter and Jude is similarly superb. Like Green, Davids argues that 2 Peter follows Jude and extensively incorporates the short letter by Jesus’s brother. He attends to theological themes in these letters while providing sound exegesis and sensible explanations of the text throughout.

3.20. 1–3 John

The letters of John combine simplicity and profundity—a first year Greek student can translate the text with minimal aids, yet these brief epistles make profound claims about “the word of life” (1 John 1:1) the nature of true Christian belief and practice in fellowship with the God who is light, and the urgency of forsaking sin and idols. Excellent exegetical commentaries include the works of I. Howard Marshall (NICNT), Stephen Smalley (WBC), and Gary Derickson (EEC), while John Stott (TNTC) and Marianne Meye Thompson (IVPNTC) provide useful non-technical guides to these letters.

Here are my recommended 1–3 John commentaries for pastors and students:

1. Yarbrough, Robert W. 1–3 John. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.

Yarbrough expertly guides readers through the argument of the Johannine letters with rigorous attention to the Greek text, clear expositions, and evident pastoral concern. Consider, for example, his reflection on the closing charge in 1 John 5:21: “Undistracted and unencumbered by the Christ-substitutes that for so long literally bedeviled God’s people, believers are now freed to walk in the truth: the light, the faith, the love, and the eternal life won for them by the Son of God” (p. 325).

2. Kruse, Colin G. The Letters of John. 2nd ed. PNTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2020.

Kruse is eminently readable and reliable in his exegetical and theological reflections on John’s letters. Originally published in 2000, the revised edition includes additional bibliographic entries, fresh theological reflections after each section, and twenty-four excurses including two new notes on children, fathers, and young men (1 John 2) and God’s invisibility (1 John 4). His “note on the bases of assurance” reflects on a primary concern of 1 John with pastoral wisdom. For Kruse, 1 John 3:23 encapsulates John’s letters “central message: the importance of right belief on the one hand and love for fellow believers on the other” (p. xiii).

3. Jobes, Karen H. 1, 2, and 3 John. ZECNT. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.

This award-winning commentary is exegetically responsible and very well written. Jobes helpfully traces these letters’ flow of thought, summarizes the main idea of each passage, and provides thoughtful theological reflections along the way on topics such as “The Problem of Truth in an Age of Relativism” (1 John 1:1–4) and “Christian Hospitality” (3 John 5–8). The volumes of Yarbrough, Kruse, and Jobes complement each other well, and together admirably serve the needs of a preacher or seminarian.

3.21. Revelation

Carson remarks, “Of the writing of books on Revelation there is no end: most generations produce far too many.”53 Nevertheless, pastors and students need exegetically sound, theologically faithful commentaries as they seek to understand the book’s apocalyptic imagery and urgent message for the church awaiting Christ’s return. People’s preferences for Revelation commentaries are often closely linked to their eschatological views. For example, one dispensationalist institution recommends Buist Fanning (ZECNT), Robert Thomas (Moody), and Paige Patterson (NAC) as top choices on Revelation.54 The most detailed critical commentary is David Aune’s three-volume set (WBC), which is better suited for discerning academic readers than for the typical pastor. Robert Mounce (NICNT) and Grant Osborne (BECNT) are still worth reading, and Peter Leithart’s two-volume theological commentary (ITC) is remarkably insightful, though frequently espouses novel and tenuous interpretations.55 Jeffrey Weima’s The Sermons to the Seven Churches of Revelation is a superb treatment of chapters 2–3.

My shortlist recommendations on Revelation are as follows:

1a. Beale, G. K. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. NIGTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999. Read the review by Dave Mathewson.

1b. Beale, G. K. and David H. Campbell. The Book of Revelation: A Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015.

Though it has been in print for over two decades, Beale’s massive NIGTC commentary remains an outstanding go-to resource for all students of Revelation. This work stands out for many reasons. Beale rigorously traces the book’s overall argument while attending to the precise details of the Greek text. Further, he carefully attends to John’s pervasive use of the OT as a crucial key for interpreting the book and grasping its theological message. The 178-page introduction is wide ranging, and the sections on the book’s use of the OT and interpreting symbolism are essential reading. More recently, Eerdmans published Beale and Campbell’s shorter commentary on Revelation, which is an accessible distillation of the larger work with suggestions for reflection after each section. I regularly assign the shorter commentary as a textbook in exegesis courses while referencing both volumes in my own study.

2. Schreiner, Thomas R. Revelation. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2023.

Schreiner’s much anticipated commentary succeeds Osborne in the BECNT series. This new volume is “substantial enough for serious exegesis but short enough for the busy pastor to read” (Preface). While Schreiner is best known for his work on Paul’s letters and biblical theology, he has also written an excellent book on the theology of Revelation (The Joy of Hearing, which I reviewed) and a helpful shorter commentary on the Apocalypse for the ESVEC series. His substantial introduction covers the usual matters such as authorship, date, genre, and structure, as well as useful treatments of Revelation’s use of Scripture and contemporary objections to the book’s message. He adopts a minority reading of Revelation 20 that he calls “new-creation millennialism.” Overall, Schreiner blends careful exegesis, accessible style, and pastoral warmth in this first-rate exposition of Revelation.

3. Koester, Craig R. Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. AB 38A. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. Read my review.

As I explained in my earlier review, Koester’s commentary is meticulously researched and elegantly written, masterfully situates the Apocalypse in its Greco-Roman and Jewish-Christian context in the late first century, and demonstrates unsurpassed grasp of the history of interpretation of this important and enigmatic book. While I disagree with Koester’s view of the book’s non-apostolic authorship and quibble with some of his interpretive decisions, this work is an invaluable guide to serious students of Revelation. For readers looking for a shorter, non-technical commentary on Revelation, Dennis Johnson’s Triumph of the Lamb or Ian Paul (TNTC) are worthy options.

4. Conclusion

While there is no substitute or shortcut for pastors and theological students to carefully and prayerfully pore over the biblical text for themselves, expositors have long recognized that good commentaries are invaluable resources. The apostle sent for his books and parchments from prison (2 Tim 4:13), suggesting that “Paul remained a reader and thinker devoted to the ministry of the word until the end.”56 Readers today have unprecedented options of new and old biblical commentaries available in print and digital formats from various publishers. I hope that my reflections above provide guidance on how to use commentaries and how to choose commentaries that will illuminate the meaning of the sacred writings.

[1] C. H. Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries: Two Lectures Addressed to the Students of The Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1890), 6. Available online at

[2] Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries, 7, 11. Cf. Matthew Henry, An Exposition of All the Books of the Old and New Testaments, 3rd. ed. (London: J. Clark, 1721); John Trapp, Annotations upon the Old and New Testaments, 5 vols. (Gloucestershire: Weston-upon-Avon, 1662).

[3] Richard Bauckham, “Review of The Book of Revelation by G. R. Beasley-Murray,” Themelios 1.1 (1975): 28–29.

[4] Alistair I. Wilson, “New Testament Literature Survey—2000,” Themelios 27.1 (2001): 22–31.

[5] I. Howard Marshall, “The Present State of Lucan Studies,” Themelios 14.2 (1989): 52–57; D. A. Carson, “Selected Recent Studies of the Fourth Gospel,” Themelios 14.2 (1989): 57–64; I. Howard Marshall, “Recent Study of the Pastoral Epistles,” Themelios 23.1 (1997): 3–28; Nijay Gupta, “New Commentaries on Colossians: Survey of Approaches, Analysis of Trends, and the State of Research,” Themelios 35.1 (2010): 7–14.

[6] D. A. Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey, 7th ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013). Cf. the companion volume Tremper Longman, III, Old Testament Commentary Survey, 5th ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013). See also the website, the recent book Nijay K. Gupta, New Testament Commentary Guide: A Brief Handbook for Students and Pastors (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2020); and Thomas R. Schreiner, “Recommended New Testament Commentaries for Evangelical Pastors,” 9Marks, 3 February 2023,

[7] Following the convention of many commentary surveys and commentary sets, I treat some shorter NT letters together: Colossians and Philemon, 1–2 Timothy and Titus, 2 Peter and Jude, and 1–3 John.

[8] Eckhard J. Schnabel, “On Commentary Writing,” in On the Writing of New Testament Commentaries: Festschrift for Grant R. Osborne on the Occasion of His 70th Birthday, ed. Eckhard J. Schnabel and Stanley E. Porter, TENTS (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 4–5.

[9] Schnabel, “On Commentary Writing,” 5. “Didymus the scholar wrote four thousand books,” according to Seneca (Epistles 88.37, LCL).

[10] See, for example, T. C. Schmidt, Hippolytus of Rome’s Commentary on Daniel, Gorgias Studies in Early Christianity and Patristics 79 (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2022); Origen, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Books 1–5, trans. Thomas P. Scheck, Fathers of the Church 103 (Washington DC, Catholic University of America Press, 2001).

[11] Cited by Schnabel, “On Commentary Writing,” 14.

[12] Similarly, Schnabel, “On Commentary Writing,” 9.

[13] G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, reprint ed. (Colorado Springs: Shaw, 2001), 15.

[14] Summarizing Marita Mathijsen, “Die ‘Sieben Todsünden’ des Kommentars,” in Text und Edition: Positionen und Perspektiven, ed. Rüdiger Nutt-Kofoth, Bodo Plachta, H. T. M. van Vliet, and Hermann Zwerschina (Berlin: Schmidt, 2000), 257–59. Mathijsen’s analysis focuses on literary commentaries, but many of the points apply to NT commentaries as well, according to Schnabel, “On Commentary Writing,” 20.

[15] Schnabel, “On Commentary Writing,” 26–29.

[16] C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, reprint ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 140.

[17] Gupta, New Testament Commentary Guide, 5.

[18] See, for example, James Prothro’s review of Der Brief des Paulus an die Römer: Kapital 1–5 by Eckhard Schnabel (Themelios 44.1 [2019]: 153–54) and Robert Yarbrough’s review of Die Offenbarung des Johannes by Gerhard Maier (BBR 25.4 [2015]: 588–90).

[19] C. S. Lewis, “Learning in War-Time,” in The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, reprint ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 59.

[20] See especially The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (InterVarsity Press) and Crossway Classic Commentaries series.

[21] See, for example, Steven Guest’s review of the South Asia Bible Commentary, edited by Brian Wintle, Themelios 41.2 (2016): 316–18.

[22] Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey, 1, emphasis original. Schnabel concurs: “The most fundamental function of commentary is the explanation of the sense of the text” (“On Commentary Writing,” 16).

[23] See Donald Hagner’s review of Keener (Themelios 26.1 [2000]: 73–75) and David Wenham’s review of Davies and Allison (Themelios 16.2 [1991]: 27–28).

[24] R. T. France, Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher (Exeter: Paternoster, 1989).

[25] Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall, eds., Mark, ACCS NT 2 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), xxi.

[26] See Ardel B. Caneday’s review (JETS 58.4 [2015]: 831–33).

[27] See Peter J. Williams, “An Examination of Ehrman’s Case for ὀργισθείς in Mark 1:41,” NovT 54 (2012): 1–12.

[28] See Alan J. Thompson’s review (BBR 26.4 [2016]: 596–98).

[29] Augustine, Harmony of the Gospels 1.6; 4.10.11.

[30] D. A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14–17 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1988), 9. Variations of this saying go back at least to Gregory the Great’s Moralia.

[31] Citing Murray Harris’s review (Themelios 36.1 [2011]: 102–3)

[32] Citing Marianne Meye Thompson’s review (Themelios 24.3 [2011]: 59–60).

[33] Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey, 64.

[34] Gupta, New Testament Commentary Guide, 58–61.

[35] Richard N. Longenecker, Introducing Romans: Critical Issues in Paul’s Most Famous Letter (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011). Read the review by Guy Prentiss Waters (Themelios 36.3 [2011]: 508–9).

[36] See Andrew David Naselli, “1 Corinthians,” in Romans–Galatians, ESV Expository Commentary 10 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 211, 213.

[37] Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey, 98.

[38] Martin Luther, Off the Record with Martin Luther, ed. and trans. Charles Daudert (Kalamazoo, MI: Hansa-Hewlett, 2009), 311, cited by Matthew S. Harmon, Galatians, Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Academic, 2021), 1.

[39] Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey, 103.

[40] Clinton Arnold, Ephesians, ZECNT (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 21.

[41] Markus Bockmuehl, The Epistle to the Philippians, BNTC (London: Continuum, 1997), 1.

[42] See Nijay Gupta’s earlier survey (Themelios 35.1 [2010]: 7–14) and Adam Copenhaver’s review of Alan Thompson’s commentary in this issue (pp. 209–11).

[43] Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey, 123.

[44] See Marshall’s earlier survey of scholarship in Themelios 23.1 (1997): 3–28.

[45] Andreas J. Köstenberger and Terry L. Wilder, eds., Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2010); Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner, Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9–15, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016).

[46] George H. Guthrie, The Structure of Hebrews: A Text-Linguistic Analysis, BSL (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998).

[47] For discussion, see Martin Foord, “The ‘Epistle of Straw’: Reflections on Luther and the Epistle of James,” Themelios 45.2 (2020): 291–98.

[48] See Daniel M. Gurtner’s review (Themelios 39.3 [2014]: 533–35).

[49] Peter H. Davids, The First Epistle of Peter, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 30.

[50] As summarized by Peter H. Davids, The Letters of 2 Peter and Jude, PNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 121. For analysis and arguments in favor of Petrine authorship, see Michael J. Kruger, “The Authenticity of 2 Peter,” JETS 42 (1999): 645–71.

[51] D. J. Rowston, “The Most Neglected Book in the New Testament,” NTS 21 (1974–75): 554–63.

[52] See David Wenham’s review (Themelios 11.1 [1985]: 30).

[53] Carson, New Testament Commentary Survey, 156.

[54]Basic Library Booklist,” Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2022.

[55] See Brandon Smith’s review (Themelios 43.3 [2018]: 482–84).

[56] Robert W. Yarbrough, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, PNTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018), 450.

Brian J. Tabb

Brian Tabb is academic dean and professor of biblical studies at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis and general editor of Themelios.

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