Favorite Biblical Commentaries: Acts and the Pauline Epistles
The Book of Acts:
Although I love the Book of Acts, I confess to having very few commentaries on it. It has not played the role for me that it has for some Mennonites and most Pentecostals and Charismatics, nor the different role that it has many Catholics. Yet, it’s not that I have neglected this work, but simply that I have approached it more devotionally than academically–and have never been asked to preach through it.
- F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary. 3rd rev. ed. (Eerdmans, 1990) First published in 1951, I just realized that my edition was published the year of Bruce’s death.
- Hans Conzelmann, The Acts of the Apostles (Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible) (Augsburg-Fortress, 1987). A major contrast with Bruce, Conzelmann sees the book as an apologetic to Roman officials that Christianity is not subversive of the empire. I disagree completely, but all should wrestle with Conzelmann’s case.
- Frank Stagg, The Book of Acts: The Early Struggle for an Unhindered Gospel (Broadman Press, 1955).
- William H. Willimon, Acts (Interpretation: A Commentary for Teaching and Preaching) (Westminster/John KnoxPress, 1988).
Richard J. Cassidy, Society and Politics in the Acts of the Apostles (Orbis Books, 1987). Not a commentary, but a monograph that directly takes on Conzelmann and shows that Acts is far from a pro-Roman apology, but, rather, depicts the early church as constantly in conflict with Rome and the empire acting unjustly in dealing with the earliest Christians.
- Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Luther Classic Commentaries) (Kregel Classics, 2003). My copy is to a translation and edition long out of print, but I linked to this new translation because every Protestant should read Luther’s Commentary on Romans.
- John Calvin, Commentary on Romans trans. John King (Forgotten Books, 2007). I picked up my copy (an 1834 translation by Francis Sibson) in a used bookstore 20 years ago, but, once more, I think we should not neglect the classics when interpreting Scripture.
- Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans trans. Edwyn C. Hoskyns (Oxford University Press, 1968). A book that literally changed the life of the Church in the 20th C.
- Ernst Käsemann, Commentary on Romans. trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Eerdmans, 1994). My favorite critical commentary on Romans.
- John E. Toews, Romans (Believers Church Bible Commentary) (Herald Press, 2004). Excellent commentary from an Anabaptist-pacifist perspective.
- Luke Timothy Johnson, Reading Romans: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Smyth & Helwys, 2008). Good close reading from a rhetorical-critical perspective. It’s also a fascinating Roman Catholic perspective on a book of the Bible that has been central to the Protestant Reformation.
- Paul J. Achtemeier, Romans (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching) (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1985).
I & II Corinthians
Commentators on the Corinthian correspondence sometimes treat the books separately and sometimes together.
- Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching) (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1997). A fine commentary by one of the best New Testament scholars today.
- Charles H. Talbert, Reading Corinthians: A Literary and Theological Commentary on I and II Corinthians (Crossroads Publishing, 1987).
- Linda L. Belleville, 2 Corinthians (IVP New Testament Commentary) (IVP, 1996). A brief commentary, but very helpful for preaching and teaching.
- Craig S. Keener, 1-2 Corinthians (New Cambridge Bible Commentary) (Cambridge University Press, 2005). Very good on the Greco-Roman background, including epistolary practices.
- Anthony C. Thistleton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Greek Testament Commentary) (Eerdmans, 2000).
- Murray J. Harris, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Greek Testament Commentary) (Eerdmans, 2005).
- Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians trans. Theodore Graebner (repr. Book Jungle, 2008). His classic commentary on the Epistle Luther called “my wife.”
- John Calvin, Commentaries on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians trans. and edited by David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance (Eerdmans, 1996). I have my differences with Calvin’s theology, but he was a superb expositor of Scripture.
- Hans-Dieter Betz, Galatians: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Churches in Galatia (Hermeneia) (Augsburg-Fortress, 1979).
- Richard N. Longenecker, Galatians (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 41) (Thomas Nelson, 1990).
- Frank J. Matera, Galatians (Sacra Pagina) (Michael Glazier Books, 2007). A contemporary Catholic perspective on a book that Protestants have called “the Charter of Christian liberty.”
See also: Michael Bachman, Anti-Judaism in Galatians?: Exegetical Studies on a Polemical Letter and on Paul’s Theology (Eerdmans, 2009).
- Tom Yoder Neufeld, Ephesians (Believers Church Bible Commentary) (Herald Press, 2002). The Book of Ephesians comes alive with power in Yoder Neufeld’s commentary for the life of the church. It challenges both mainline and Anabaptist traditions.
- Markus Barth, Ephesians 1-3: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (The Anchor Bible vol. 34) (Doubleday and Co., 1974). Markus Barth, Ephesians 4-6: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (The Anchor Bible vol. 34a) (Doubleday and Co., 1974). The best critical commentary of the 20th C.
- Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 42) (Thomas Nelson, 1990).
- Pheme Perkins, Ephesians (Abingdon New Testament Commentary) (Abingdon Press, 1997). Excellent for pastors.
- Markus Barth, The Broken Wall: A Study in the Epistle to the Ephesians (Regent College Publishing, 1959).
- Tet-Lim Yee, Jews, Gentiles, and Ethnic Reconciliation: Paul’s Jewish Identity and Ephesians (Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series) (Cambridge University Press, 2008).
- Thomas Yoder Neufeld, Put on the Armor of God: The Divine Warrior from Isaiah to Ephesians (JSNT Supplement Series 140) (Sheffield Academic Press, 1997).
- Karl Barth, Epistle to the Philippians 40th Anniversary Edition with a New Introduction by Bruce L. McCormack and Francis Watson (Westminster/John Knox Press, 2002). I was so excited when this new edition was published because I had never read Barth’s commentary on Philippians.
- Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (New International Commentary on the New Testament) (Eerdmans, 1995). This is an excellent commentary from the best Pentecostal Neutestamentler active today.
- Fred B. Craddock, Philippians (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching) (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1985).
- Ralph P. Martin, Philippians (New Century Bible) (Eerdmans, 1980). This is a slim commentary, but Philippians is a slim book and Martin has spent his career working on its problems.
- Carolyn Osiek, Philippians, Philemon (Abingdon New Testament Commentaries) (Abingdon Press, 2000). Excellent use of socio-historical and newer literary methods with an eye to relating the social worlds of the text to those of contemporary churches.
The canonical order separates these two books by the Thessalonian correspondence, but there are numerous literary and historical connections that tie the two books together. Since both are small books, they are often placed together in one commentary.
- James D. G. Dunn, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary) (Eerdmans, 1996). This is Dunn at his best.
- Eduard Lohse, Colossians and Philemon (Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible) (Augsburg-Fortress Press, 1972).
- Marianne Meye Thompson, Colossians and Philemon (Two Horizons New Testament Commentary) (Eerdmans, 2005). This commentary series takes its name from the philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer (and its appropriation for NT studies by Anthony Thistleton) with it’s twin focus on “the horizon of the text,” and “the horizon of the reader,” and their intersection. Thompson fulfills such high ideals admirably.
- Ernest D. Martin, Colossians and Philemon (The Believers’ Church Bible Commentary). (Herald Press, 1993).
- N. T. Wright, The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians and to Philemon: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) (Send the Light, 1988).
I and II Thessalonians
- F. F. Bruce, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 45) (Thomas Nelson, 1982).
- I. Howard Marshall, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (The New Century Bible) (Eerdmans, 1983).
- Ben Witherington III, 1 & 2 Thessalonians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Eerdmans, 2006).
- Victor Paul Furnish, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians (Abingdon New Testament Commentaries) (Abingdon Press, 2007).
The Pastoral Epistles: I and II Timothy, Titus
- William D. Mounce, The Pastoral Epistles (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 46) (Thomas Nelson, 2000).
- Martin Dibelius and Hans Conzelmann, The Pastoral Epistles (Hermenia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible) (Augsburg-Fortress, 1972). The classic German critical approach.
- Paul Zehr, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus (Believers Church Bible Commentary) (Herald Press, 2010). Brand new. What makes this work so helpful is that, in addition to the verse-by-verse commentary, Zehr includes numerous essays on the special problems of the Pastorals and relates them to contemporary issues in the church today.
- W. Hulitt Gloer, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus (Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary) (Smyth & Helwys Press, 2010). Includes CD-Rom with searchable text.