A little over a decade ago (2008–2009), I put together a series of blog posts on the best commentaries for each book of the Bible. The feedback was very positive. Since that time, many new commentaries have been written, and several new commentary series have been launched. Because of this, I have updated all of the top 5 lists to take into account these new publications.
Each article to follow contains, first, a list of the five commentaries that I found to be the most helpful on a given biblical book. This is followed by a list of “Runners Up” in no particular order. Finally, I have included a section where I suggest one or more books that are not commentaries. Often these are books dealing extensively with some important biblical-theological theme.
Because of questions I have received from readers about the old series, I do want to note a few things:
The inclusion of a commentary or book in these lists does not mean that I agree with or endorse every particular interpretation found within it or everything that author may have said elsewhere. If a book is included in one of these articles, it simply means that I find the book helpful in one way or another to at least some audiences.
I have not read every one of these commentaries from cover to cover. They are reference works, and I use them as reference works. I have read some cover to cover. I have read extensively in others. I have used others for study of specific passages.
Aside from one or two very recent exceptions, I have not been provided copies of these commentaries by publishers. I have purchased some. I have borrowed others from libraries. The commentaries I have included on these lists are there because I found them helpful in one way or another. They are not included because of any quid pro quo arrangement with any publishers. If any publishers did begin to send complimentary copies of commentaries, I would not object (commentaries are generally expensive), but it would not guarantee a recommendation of any particular commentary.
Finally, I would like to make a few general observations regarding these updated top 5 lists.
In some cases, my updated top 5 commentaries on a given book of the Bible are the same as they were twelve years ago. In a few cases, there is an entirely new top 5. In most cases, there are a few new titles that made it into the top 5. There are a variety of reasons for this.
First, commentaries take a long time to write, edit, and publish. With some biblical books, especially Old Testament books, only a small number of commentaries have been published in the last decade. Also, the fact that a commentary is newer doesn’t necessarily mean that it is better, so even if a new commentary has been published, I may not have found it as helpful as other older commentaries.
Second, more new commentaries are published on New Testament books than on Old Testament books. This means that there are more noticeable differences in the updated top 5 lists for the New Testament books. And yet, even here, there is an imbalance. There are more new commentaries written on Romans, for example, than on Jude.
Third, it is also important to note that since I have not been able to read every commentary in existence, there may be commentaries that deserve to be in the top 5 and aren’t because I am unaware of their existence or I haven’t had the opportunity to use them yet. In short, if a commentary is not on one of these lists, it does not necessarily mean that I do not find it helpful in some way.
Before proceeding to specific commentaries on each book, there are two older commentary sets that I highly recommend for every book of the Old and New Testament. First, every student of Scripture should consult John Calvin, who wrote commentaries on almost every book of the Bible. Calvin’s commentaries fill a large multi-volume set, but they can also be found free online. Second, students of Scripture should not skip Matthew Henry’s older commentary. It is easy to dismiss Henry in this age of modern technical commentaries, but his work is a gold mine—especially in terms of practical application. It too is available online. With every top 5 list to follow, John Calvin and Matthew Henry should simply be assumed.
OLD TESTAMENT: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra & Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
NEW TESTAMENT: The Gospel of Matthew, The Gospel of Mark, The Gospel of Luke, The Gospel of John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians & Philemon, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, The Pastoral Epistles, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter & Jude, The Epistles of John, Revelation
This article is part of the Top 5 Commentaries collection.