Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

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.

See also:

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 Romanstrans. 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.


See also:  Michael Bachman, Anti-Judaism in Galatians?:  Exegetical Studies on a Polemical Letter and on Paul’s Theology (Eerdmans, 2009).


Additional studies:


  • 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.

Colossians, Philemon

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.

I and II Thessalonians

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. 

September 27, 2010 - Posted by | Bible, Biblical interpretation, book reviews


  1. This post is beyond helpful for me as a layman to get a foot in the door as to what commentaries I should check out. I’ve been reading plenty of volumes of systematic theologies, but the only commentary I’ve read so far has been Barth’s Romans. A shame!

    Comment by stephen colosos | September 27, 2010 | Reply

    • Yes, but stick to ones that are less technical. Many commentaries can be read profitably by laity, but some are so technical that they demand a background in languages and critical studies. I’ve given some indication of this in these lists, but check closer, too. That’s one drawback of shopping Amazon.com instead of browsing a theological bookstore, you can’t look through the volume ahead of time.

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 27, 2010 | Reply

  2. As for Corinthians, did you ever try Kierkegaard’s “Works of love”? I hasve only read a little bit of it by attending 2 meetings in the Danish Church at Buenos Aires. I liked it.

    Comment by mountainguy | September 28, 2010 | Reply

    • No, I’ve not read nearly as much S.K. as I probably should. I’ve only read Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. I didn’t even realize that Works of Love was about the Corinthian correspondence. Thanks for the heads up.

      Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 28, 2010 | Reply

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