Commentaries -- selected titles available in the Philip Schaff Library

29 January 2010


This guide has as its focus commentary series, identifying but a selection of the many biblical commentary series held in this and other libraries. There are also one-volume biblical commentaries which sometimes approach the text from a particular perspective, be that of African issues or women's issues or others. Identifying these would be a new guide in itself. The purpose of the current guide is to assist the new seminarian more readily identify series to suit her/his individual needs.

A biblical commentary is a book written to provide explanation of the meaning of verses or passages in one or more books of the Bible. Commentaries usually include an introduction to the biblical text under consideration, selective attention to verses or passages, supplemental information to illuminate passages, and a bibliography. Considerations in deciding upon one or another commentary series are numerous. Depth is a multi-faceted issue. Greater depth makes a commentary set physically larger, more expensive, more detailed, and more work to digest. A one-volume commentary set on the whole Bible might be so bereft of depth as to make it worthless in one's view. Conversely a commentary where there are four volumes to a single Bible book may be too much depth. Coupled with depth, is consideration of the audience for whom the commentary is written. Commentaries for a scholarly audience may require knowledge of several languages to comprehend the content. At the other extreme, commentaries written by radio or television pastors for their literal audience are far too lacking to meet the needs of serious students. When evaluating a commentary, read an excerpt on a Bible passage that is familiar to you in order to get a feel for the writer's style and theological position. Examine the writers credentials and affiliations to establish reliability.

When descriptions are in quotation marks, they come from the publisher of the commentary.