Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians was likely written during the time of his two-year house arrest in Rome (AD 60–62). During this same period, Paul also wrote Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians. These four epistles are now commonly referred to as the “prison epistles.” Ephesians is a profound book, and the following are five of the most helpful commentaries on the book:
1. S.M. Baugh — Ephesians (Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, 2016).
The best commentary on Ephesians available as of the writing of this blog (in 2020) is S. M. Baugh’s contribution to the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series. The author is confessionally Reformed, conservative, and a highly competent New Testament scholar. The commentary is clear and comprehensive. If you can have only one commentary on Ephesians, this is the one to own.
2. Frank Thielman — Ephesians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament Commentary, 2010).
If you can have more than one commentary on Ephesians, Frank Thielman’s work in the BECNT series would be a great choice. As with any good exegetical commentary, a reader with a working knowledge of Greek will be able to glean more from the book, but it is written in such a way that those without this knowledge should be able to benefit as well.
3. Clinton E. Arnold — Ephesians (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2010).
As is the case with many of these “Top 5” blog posts on the New Testament books, the BECNT commentary and the ZECNT commentary are neck and neck. It is difficult to know which is better. I like the layout of the ZECNT series better, but I find Thielman a slightly clearer writer. Both are excellent commentaries, and each offers great insights into the epistle. Pastors and teachers really cannot go wrong with either.
4. Harold Hoehner — Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (2002).
In terms of sheer size (960 pages), Harold Hoehner’s commentary on Ephesians is the place to turn for those seeking the most comprehensive conservative evangelical treatment of this epistle. Hoehner was for many years a professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, so his dispensationalism shines through at certain points. This is not a reason, however, to ignore this masterful work. There are more than a few very helpful insights in this massive volume. His section on the authorship of the epistle is invaluable.
5. F.F. Bruce — The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (New International Commentary on the New Testament, 1984).
F.F. Bruce was one of the last generation’s most prolific evangelical authors. He wrote numerous commentaries and other works, and I have personally benefited from everything that I have read by him. His commentary on Ephesians is in a volume that also contains his commentaries on Colossians and Philemon, so it is not as thorough as some of the commentaries mentioned above, but Bruce is always worth consulting.
There are a number of other helpful commentaries on the book of Ephesians including those by A.T. Lincoln, Charles Hodge, Francis Foulkes, Klyne Snodgrass, Darrell Bock, Ian Hamilton, Paul Gardner, Sinclair Ferguson, Walter Liefeld, Lynn Cohick, and Michael Allen.
Helpful Related Works
Iain Duguid’s book The Whole Armor of God is a helpful discussion of Ephesians 6:10–18. Although it is a work of historical fiction, David De Silva’s A Week in the Life of Ephesus, like Witherington’s A Week in the Life of Corinth, is a helpful work because it provides a helpful introduction into the historical context of Paul’s letter.
This article is part of the Top 5 Commentaries collection.