There are a handful of biblical books for which there is no shortage of commentaries. One thinks immediately of books such as Genesis, Psalms, the Gospel of Matthew, and the book of Revelation. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, however, may very well be the one book of the Bible that has inspired the most commentaries. The sheer number of commentaries on Romans makes it somewhat difficult to choose a “top 5.” Dr. Sproul wrote an outstanding expositional commentary on Romans. I recommend this volume to anyone who is not familiar with the great themes of Paul’s epistle. In addition to this volume, the following are five of the most helpful commentaries on the book of Romans.
1. Douglas Moo — The Epistle to the Romans (New International Commentary on the New Testament, 2018).
The first edition of Douglas Moo’s NICNT commentary on Romans was published in 1996. It has recently been released in a second updated edition. This commentary is judged by many to be the best all-around evangelical commentary on Romans. It is thorough, but it is not overly technical. Moo presents his exegetical arguments carefully and cogently. This reader is especially impressed by his treatment of Romans 11. In terms of intermediate–advanced level commentaries, this one is the best place to begin. Moo has also written the commentaries on Romans in the Encountering series and in the NIVAC series.
2. Frank Thielman — Romans (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2018).
The Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series is relatively new compared to some of the other standard series with which readers of this blog are familiar. With each section of the text in the ZECNT series, the commentator provides 1). Literary Context, 2). The Main Idea, 3). Translation of the Greek, 4). Structure, 5). An Exegetical Outline, 6). A verse-by-verse explanation of the text, and 7). A Theology in Application section. There are also often “In-Depth” excursus where the author deals with a particular issue at length. Thielman’s commentary on Romans in this series will be very helpful to pastors and teachers. It is easy to read and follow.
3. Thomas R. Schreiner — Romans (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2018).
The first edition of Schreiner’s commentary on Romans was published in 1998. This new second edition is fully updated. It is somewhat difficult to determine whether Schreiner or Thielman should be in the number 2 spot. Ultimately, I gave Thielman’s commentary the silver because I find the layout of the Zondervan series a little bit more helpful overall. That said, Schreiner’s commentary should not be neglected. It is an outstanding work.
4. Richard N. Longenecker — The Epistle to the Romans (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 2016).
The NIGTC series requires a working knowledge of Greek. For those who have that knowledge, Longenecker’s commentary on Romans will prove very helpful. The commentary proper is over 1,000 pages. Because the Introduction by itself is over 500 pages, it was published in a separate volume, Introducing Romans. As with any commentary, readers will find places where they disagree, but this work is a treasure trove of information.
5. Colin Kruse — Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Pillar New Testament Commentary, 2012).
Colin Kruse’s commentary on Romans in the Pillar series replaces the original excellent work by Leon Morris. For those who need a solid evangelical commentary on Romans but do not need something exhaustive, Kruse is the place to start. It’s difficult to say that Kruse’s work is “better” than Morris’. They are both very good commentaries, and if you can get both, do so. Each has its own strengths. I’ve moved Kruse’s commentary to this spot and placed Morris among the “Runner Ups” only because Morris’ work will likely become more difficult to obtain in coming years now that it has been replaced in this series.
Among the commentaries that would certainly be in the list if it were a Top 10 instead of a Top 5 are those by Leon Morris, C. E. B. Cranfield (Vol. 1, Vol. 2), J. V. Fesko, and David G. Peterson. There are a number of other helpful commentaries on the book of Romans. Among the more recent scholarly commentaries are those James Edwards, Ben Witherington, C.K. Barrett, and Robert H. Mounce. Among older evangelical works are those by Charles Hodge, John Murray, and F.F. Bruce. Works that will especially help preachers include the commentaries by D. Martyn Lloyd Jones, Paul Barnett and James Montgomery Boice.
Helpful Related Works
One of the most perennially difficult passages in this epistle is Romans 7. There is even a three-views book on the subject. For those who are interested, one of the most interesting books on this subject is the volume by Will N. Timmins, titled Romans 7 and Christian Identity.
This article is part of the Top 5 Commentaries collection.