Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

Favorite Biblical Commentaries: The Gospels

Overviews and Special Topics for the Gospels:


Serious students of the First Gospel will need to consult the older 3 vol. ICC Commentary by W.D. Davies and C. Dale Allison and/or the massive 3 volume commentary by Ulrich Luz. But both are too dense and detailed for the needs of the ordinary pastor.

  • David E. Garland, Reading Matthew:  A Literary and Theological Commentary on the First Gospel. (Smyth & Helwys Press, 1993).  Full disclosure:  Garland was one of my NT profs. at seminary (the old SBTS, not Truett where he is now), but I honestly think this is one of the best examples of the strength of the newer literary criticism.
  • Robert H. Gundry, Matthew:  A Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art.  (Eerdmans, 1982).   This was one of the first commentary-length examples of an American evangelical scholar making full use of genre and redaction criticism. Not all elements are equally persuasive, but the storm of controversy which greeted this commentary in U. S. conservative evangelical circles was completely unjustified and Gundry has some excellent insights.  The revised 2nd edition (which I have on order) is called:  Matthew:  A Commentary on His Handbook for a Mixed Church Under Persecution.
  • Eduard Schweizer, The Good News According to Matthew. Trans. David E. Green. (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1975).  Written for ordinary readers but thoroughly informed by critical scholarship.
  • Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture(New American Commentary, vol. 22). (Broadman & Holman, 1992).   Full disclosure:  I am not a fan of the New American Commentary series as a whole, but it has some good volumes, especially in the New Testament and this is one.  Blomberg was my NT professor in my undergrad days, but he is more conservative than I am on critical and theological issues.  This is still a good choice for working pastors.
  • Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. Rev. Ed. (Eerdmans, 2005).  In all his work, Keener’s great strength is how thoroughly  he knows 1st C. Greco-Roman culture. Here that is combined with the latest evidence on Jewish-Christian relations in the 1st C. to get at the shock-value of Matthew to his first readers.
  • John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary) (Eerdmans, 2005).  The most serious work directly on the Greek text since Davies and Allison.
  • Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1-13 (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 33a) (Thomas Nelson, 1993) and Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 14-28 (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 33b) (Thomas Nelson, 1995).

In addition, several studies on aspects or portions of Matthew are essential for serious students:


Additional important Markan studies:


Additional valuable studies on Luke:


  • Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John:  A Commentary (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1971).  I have several strong disagreements with Bultmann, but this large commentary set the agenda for 2 1/2 generations and serious students need to wrestle with it.
  • C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John:  An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text 2nd. edition (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1978).  Excellent centrist British counterpoint to Bultmann.
  • George R. Beasley-Murray, John, rev. ed. (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 36) (Thomas Nelson, 1999).  Probably the best evangelical commentary on John in English. (I know that J. Ramsey Michaels has a brand new commentary that may change that estimate, but I haven’t seen it, yet.  Nor have I seen Craig Keener’s 2 volume work.)
  • Ben Witherington III, John’s Wisdom:  A Commentary on the Fourth Gospel  (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1995). Very few commentaries take on nearly all the major scholarly issues (surveying the field) while also working to provide practical help for the contemporary preacher and for churches seeking to be guided by John’s Gospel.  Unfortunately, Witherington is a bit snide concerning the practices of Christians who, e.g., practice footwashing as a sacrament/ordinance in light of John’s Gospel.
  • Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII (The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries) (Yale University Press, 1995; repr. from 1970); The Gospel According to John XIII-XXI (The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries (Yale University Press, 1995; repr. from 1970). Classic contemporary Roman Catholic perspective.

Additional helpful works on John’s Gospel:

September 26, 2010 Posted by | Bible, Biblical interpretation, blog series, book reviews | Leave a comment