Favorite Biblical Commentaries: The Gospels
Overviews and Special Topics for the Gospels:
- Mark Allan Powell, Fortress Introduction to the Gospels. (Fortress Press, 1998).
- Kurt Aland, Synopsis of the Four Gospels: Greek-English Edition (United Bible Societies, 1976).
- Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, eds., Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (InterVarsity Press, 1992).
- Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels 2nd ed. (IVP, 2008). 1st edition published in 1988. Though I think this work overreaches in a conservative direction in places, it is far more accurate than the overly skeptical “Jesus Seminar” approach.
- James D. G. Dunn, ed., Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, A. D. 70 to 135. (Eerdmans, 1999).
- William R. Farmer, ed., Anti-Judaism and the Gospels (Trinity Press International, 1999).
- Jacob Neusner and Bruce Chilton, eds., In Quest of the Historical Pharisees. (Baylor University Press, 2007).
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:
- Michael H. Crosby, House of Disciples: Church, Economics, & Justice in Matthew (Orbis Books, 1989; Repr., Wipf and Stock, 2004).
- Michael H. Crosby, Spirituality of the Beatitudes: Matthew’s Vision for the Church in an Unjust World (Orbis Books, rev. ed., 2005).
- Glen H. Stassen, Living the Sermon on the Mount: A Practical Hope for Grace and Deliverance. (Jossey-Bass, 2006).
- David E. Aune, The Gospel of Matthew in Current Study (Eerdmans, 2001).
- Donald Senior, C. P. , The Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Michael Glazier Books, 1985).
- Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus (Orbis Books, 1988). The link is to the 20th Anniversary edition. Myers’ commentary on Mark was as revolutionary as Karl Barth’s on Romans. Most commentaries are works to be consulted as one studies Scripture. This is one to be read from beginning to end–but while reading the Gospel of Mark, simultaneously!
- R. Alan Culpepper, Mark (Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary) (Smyth & Helwys Press, 2007). Comes with CD Rom. Culpepper has been primarily a Johannine scholar, but he does excellent work on the “action Gospel” of Mark. Full disclosure: Culpepper was my teacher in seminary so I may show some bias in choosing his work.
- Sharyn Dowd, Reading Mark: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Second Gospel (Smyth & Helwys Press, 2000).
- Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross I: Chaps. 1-8 (Eerdmans, 2009) and Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross II: Chaps. 9-16 (Eerdmans, 2009). Originally published in 1993 as one volume, it’s size argued for republishing in two volumes.
- Ben Witherington III, The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Eerdmans, 2001).
- John R. Donahue, S.J. and Daniel J. Harrington, S. J., The Gospel of Mark (Sacra Pagina series) (Michael Glazier Books, 2002). Best Catholic commentary I’ve yet seen on Mark.
Additional important Markan studies:
- Joan Mitchell, Beyond Fear and Silence: A Feminist-Literary Approach to the Gospel of Mark (Continuum, 2001).
- Willard Swartley, Mark: The Way for All Nations (repr., Wipf and Stock, 1999).
- David Rhoads, Mark as Story 2nd. ed. (Fortress Press, 1999). Classic narrative study that shows Mark as a master storyteller.
- David Rhoads, Reading Mark, Engaging the Gospel. (Augsburg Fortress, 2004).
- Joel B. Green, The Way of the Cross: Following Jesus in the Gospel of Mark (Wipf and Stock, 2009).
- I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Text Commentary) (Eerdmans, 1978). The best technical commentary on the Greek text.
- Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke (Sacra Pagina) (Liturgical Press, 2006).
- Charles H. Talbert, Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary, rev. ed. (Smyth & Helwys Press, 2002).
- John Nolland, Luke 1:1-9:20 (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 35a) (Thomas Nelson, 1989) ; John Nolland, Luke 9:21-18:34 (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 35b) (Thomas Nelson, 1993); John Nolland, Luke 18:35-24:53 (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 35c) (Thomas Nelson, 1993). This huge 3 volume commentary is the most complete and comprehensive.
- Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX: Introduction, Translation and Notes (The Anchor Bible, vol. 28) (Doubleday and Co., 1982) and Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, The Gospel According to Luke X-XXIV: Introduction, Translation, and Notes (The Anchor Bible, vol. 28a) (Doubleday and Co., 1985). Massive 2 volume commentary from a contemporary Catholic perspective. Especially valuable for its translation.
Additional valuable studies on Luke:
- Richard J. Cassidy, Jesus, Politics, and Society: A Study of Luke’s Gospel (Orbis Books, 1978).
- I. Howard Marshall, Luke: Historian and Theologian 3rd edition (IVP, 1998).
- Donald Senior, C.P., The Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (Liturgical Press, 1992).
- Joseph Grassi, S.T.L., S.S.L., Peace on Earth: Roots and Practices in Luke’s Gospel (Liturgical Books, 2004).
- 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:
- R. Alan Culpepper, Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design (Fortress Press, 1983). Pioneering work in literary criticism. Full disclosure: Culpepper was my teacher in seminary.
- Robert Kysar, John, the Maverick Gospel (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2007). 3rd. ed., The first edition was published in 1976.
- Craig L. Blomberg, The Historicity of John’s Gospel: Issues and Commentary (IVP, 2001). As a corrective to the skeptical approaches which see little or no historical accuracy in the 4th Gospel, this is excellent. But Blomberg may go too far in the other direction, failing to let John be the creative artist and theologian that was less concerned with historical concreteness. Full disclosure: Blomberg was my teacher as an undergrad.
- Marrianne Meye Thompson, The God of the Gospel of John. (Eerdmans, 2001).
- Wes Howard-Brook, Becoming Children of God: John’s Gospel and Radical Discipleship (Orbis Books, 1994; repr., Wipf and Stock, 2004). Corrects readings which see the 4th Gospel as apolitical and individualistic.
- D. Moody Smith, The Fourth Gospel in Four Dimensions: Judaism and Jesus, the Gospels and Scripture (University of South Carolina Press, 2008). Readers should race to buy this, not so much for the answers given (though many are persuasive), but for the way the issues are carefully considered.
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