Commentaries for the Whole Bible

I have updated my recommendations for commentaries, based on what has come out in the last five years.

One of my good friends thought I should post a single post recommendation of the five to ten best commentaries on each book of the Bible. Piper’s recommendations are good, but not always the best, in my opinion (I’m not trying to put myself above Piper by saying this: it is just a difference of opinion). Furthermore, I regard this list as a place to start. As Richard Phillips says in the comments, pastors should be willing and able to read as many commentaries as they can stuff into their schedule. See the comments for some great discussion on these issues. Here are my recommendations for commentaries (most are modern, but there are exceptions):

Whole Bible Commentary Sets: Calvin, Henry, REBC

Old Testament Sets: Keil and Delitzsch

Genesis: Currid (volumes 1 and 2), Waltke, Candlish, Mathews (volume 1 and volume 2), Ross, Greidanus, Duguid (volume1, volume 2, volume 3) ; Exodus: Currid (volumes 1 and 2), Enns, Hamilton, Stuart, Mackay, Ryken, Alexander, Carpenter (volume 1, volume 2), and Houtman (volume 1, volume 2, volume 3), Garrett; Leviticus: Currid, Kiuchi, Bonar, Ross, Wenham, Hess, MathewsKaiser, Milgrom (volume 1, volume 2, volume 3); Numbers: Duguid, Wenham, Currid, Cole, Ashley, Milgrom, Olson, Harrison; Deuteronomy: Currid, Craigie, Tigay, Block, Fernando, McConville, Wright; Joshua: Hess, Woudstra, Davis, Currid, Hubbard, Pitkänen, McConville/Williams; Judges: Block, Davis, Butler, Schwab, Chisholm, Younger, Webb, Webb; Ruth: Hubbard, Duguid, Ulrich, Block, Block, Hawk; Samuel: Tsumura, Arnold, Woodhouse, Woodhouse, Davis (volume 1, volume 2), Firth, Youngblood, Bergen, Auld, Phillips, BaldwinKings: Davis (volumes 1 and 2), Ryken, Sweeney, Provan, Wray Beal, Davies; Chronicles: Pratt, Hill, Dillard, Boda, Knoppers (volume 1, volume 2), KleinKleinBraun, Merrill, Williamson; Ezra-Nehemiah: Williamson, Throntveit, Rata, Kidner, Thomas, Brown; Esther: Duguid, Jobes, Firth, Reid, Gregory, Tomasino; Job: Clines volume 1 and volume 2 and volume 3, Andersen, Hartley, Jones, Jackson, Fyall, Thomas, Longman, Walton, Seow, Ash, Gray; Psalms: Van Gemeren, Grogan, Mays, Kidner (volume 1, volume 2), Spurgeon, Ross (volume 1, volume 2, volume 3), Declaisse-Walford/Jacobsen/Turner, Hossfeld/Zenger (volume 2, volume 3); Proverbs: Waltke (volume 1 and volume 2), Longman, Fox, volume 1 and volume 2, Ross, Kitchen; Ecclesiastes: Seow, Bartholomew, Enns, Bridges, Ryken, Greidanus, O’Donnell, Schoors; Song of Songs: Hess, Garrett, Bergant, Exum, Longman, Duguid, Duguid, O’Donnell, Hamilton; Isaiah: Motyer, Webb; Mackay, volume 1, volume 2, Oswalt volume 1 and volume 2, Smith, Williamson, Grogan; Jeremiah: Ryken, Dearman, Lundbom (volumes 1, 2, and 3), Mackay volume 1 and volume 2, Thompson; Lamentations: Renkema, Dobbs-Allsopp, Mackay, Salters, Parry, Berlin; Ezekiel: Duguid, Block (volumes 1 and 2), Greenberg volume 1 and volume 2, Hummel volume 1 and volume 2, Naylor, Wright, Greenhill; Daniel: DuguidLongman, Ferguson, Schwab, Hill, Baldwin, Davis, Harman, Fyall; Minor Prophets (as a whole): McComskey, Nogalski, NAC, NIVAC, WBC, Tyndale; Hosea: Macintosh, Andersen/Freedman, Garrett, Dearman, Barrett, Kidner; Joel: Crenshaw, Garrett, Robertson, Busenitz, AllenAmos: Andersen/Freedman, Paul, Smith, Motyer, FyallObadiah: Raabe, Renkema, Busenitz, Block, Allen, BridgerJonah: Martin, Sasson, Mackay, Timmer, Phillips, Estelle, Youngblood, Nixon, Fairbairn, Lessing, RobertsonMicah: Waltke, Andersen/Freedman, Mackay, Davis, PhillipsNahum: Robertson, Bruckner, Mackay, Christensen, Spronk, BridgerHabakkuk: Andersen, Prior, Currid, Mackay, Robertson;  Zephaniah: Sweeney, Vlaadingerbroek, Berlin, Mackay, Webber, Robertson; Haggai: Moore (Geneva series, op), Verhoef, Mackay Duguid, Fyall, Merrill, PettersonZechariahPhillips, Kline, Mackay, Duguid, Gregory, Merrill, Petterson, Boda, Wolters, WebbMalachi: Hill, Baker, Mackay, Duguid, Snyman, Merrill, Petterson;

New Testament Sets: Kistemaker and Hendriksen, Lenski, Meyer

Matthew: France, Garland, Carson, Chamblin volume 1 and volume 2, Davies/Allison volume 1 and volume 2 and volume 3, Ryle, Osborne, Doriani, Wilkins, O’Donnell, Sproul; Mark: France, Edwards, Stein, Cranfield, Collins, Ryle, Garland, Garland, Strauss; Luke: Bock, Bovon, Ryken, Stein, Green, Garland, Marshall, Ryle, Edwards; John: Carson, Köstenberger, Köstenberger’s Theology of John, Michaels, Bruner, Phillips, Ryle; Acts: Bock, Fitzmyer, Peterson, Witherington Barrett volume 1 and volume 2, Thomas, Pervo, Keener, Waters, Schnabel; Romans: Moo, Fitzmyer, Cranfield volume 1 and volume 2, Jewett, Kruse, Longenecker, Nygren, Boice, Shedd, Hodge, Haldane, Morris, Porter, Runge; 1 Corinthians: Thiselton, Garland, Bailey, FitzmyerCiampa/Rosner, Naylor, Fee, Riddlebarger2 Corinthians: Harris, Garland, Barnett, Furnish, Thrall volume 1 and volume 2, Naylor (volume 1, volume 2), Seifrid, Guthrie; Galatians: Ryken, Longenecker, McWilliams, Pipa, Fesko, George, Schreiner, Barnes, Johnson, Moo, Wilson, Silva; Ephesians: O’Brien, Hoehner, Thielman, Best, Arnold, Baugh; Philippians: O’Brien, Silva, Fee, Hansen, Reumann, Martin-Hawthorne, Bockmuehl, Johnson, Holloway, Keown (volume 1, volume 2); Colossians: O’Brien, Garland, Moo, Harris, Wilson, Pao, Woodhouse; Thessalonians: Bruce, Green, Fee, Cara, Beale, Morris, Wanamaker, Phillips, Shogren, Weima; Pastoral Epistles: Ryken, Mounce, Knight, Towner, Marshall, Köstenberger, BarcleyPhilemon (see also Colossians): Fitzmyer, Barth, Nordling, McKnight; Hebrews: Attridge, Ellingworth, O’Brien, France, Lane volume 1 and volume 2, Owen, Phillips, Schreiner; James: Moo, McCartney, Blomberg, Motyer, Allison, McKnight, Krabbendam, Varner; 1 Peter: Achtemeier, Jobes, Green, Schreiner, Guthrie, Doriani, Leighton; 2 Peter/Jude: Davids, Bauckham, Green, Schreiner, Moo, Bateman; Epistles of John: Marshall, Kruse, Yarbrough, Stott, Lieu, O’Donnell, Jobes, Derickson; Revelation: Beale, Smalley, Johnson, Poythress, Koester, Phillips, Resseguie, Kelly, BeekeHamilton

Please note that I do not agree with the viewpoint of all of these commentaries. These are simply the five-ten best commentaries on each book of the Bible with a link to where they can be found (with a few exceptions).

Further Update: On someone’s suggestion over at the Puritan Board, I am going to explain what I mean by “best.” The way I am using it here is that of the answer to this question: which commentaries have the most explaining power? Which commentaries give me the most number of “aha” moments? I am here assuming that the reader of commentaries will read critically. I am also assuming that the reader will apply the text himself. That is the teacher/preacher’s job, although pointers are often helpful.

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Limited Time Offer on One of the Most Important Sabbath Books Ever Published

My friend Chris Coldwell is offering a tremendous, limited time offer deal on Nicholas Bownd’s Puritan work on the Sabbath. There are two main Puritan works on the Sabbath, of which this is one (the other is Cawdrey/Palmer). It is a fine, critical edition, well-bound (as are all of Naphtali Press works). $16 for this edition is a steal. Take advantage of the offer. Chris is also offering a two-book deal with the second edition of Gillespie’s English Popish Ceremonies for only $35 (another steal!). The Gillespie work is THE work refuting Roman Catholic additions to worship, and defending the regulative principle of worship. Both of these deals are for US shipping only.

The most witty remark about this reprint has to be James Dennison’s quip: “After four centures of rest, Nicholas Bownd’s famous book on the Sabbath has re-Bownded.”

Joel Beeke says: “It is astonishing that the Puritan Nicholas Bownd’s famous work on the Sabbath, which greatly influenced later Puritanism and the Westminster Assembly, and by extension, Western Christendom for centuries, has not been printed in a critical edition with modern typeface long ago. Not reprinted since 1606, this classic work emphasizes the fourth commandment’s morally binding character, the divine institution of the entire Sabbath as the Lord’s Day set apart to worship God, and the cessation of non-religious activities that distract from worship and acts of mercy. I am so grateful that it is back in print, and pray that it will do much good to restore the value and enhance the joy of the Lord’s Day for many believers around the world.”

New Book on Adoption

My friend has finally finished his published book on adoption, and it looks to be a dandy. I have only read the sample so far, but it looks to be encyclopedically informed, confessionally Reformed, exegetically sensitive, Vossian biblical-theologically, historically exhaustive, systematic theologically incisive, and pastorally rich. Adoption really is the most under-rated doctrine of all. It is fully as important as justification itself, and is a key plank of union with Christ, which has finally come into its own. Take it and read!

Identity Crisis

There can be no doubt that many, many people are experiencing identity crises these days. How people see themselves is usually determined by what other people think about them, or else it becomes something that they set a standard for themselves. Of course, the “high self-esteem” gurus have held the field for decades now. The problem, they say, is that people simply have too low a self-esteem, and that we need to encourage people to build up their self-esteem. Is this the answer?

While I have several important theological differences with Tim Keller, the little booklet he wrote called The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is not one of them. He starts off discussing the problem of self-esteem, and, quoting Lauren Slater’s New York Times article of 2002, notes that it is rather high self-esteem, or hubris, or pride, that seems to be the problem, whether it is that someone has an over-inflated view of themselves, or an under-inflated (implying a previously inflated) view. The imagery of Paul in 1 Corinthians 3-4 describing ego and hubris uses the amusing metaphor of bellows at a forge: empty, painful, busy, and fragile.

The biggest problems in this area are that we look for approval in the wrong places, and by the wrong people. A blogger can write just to please his readership and get that many more hits. Or, a preacher can tell a congregation what their itching ears want to hear. The problem, as Keller points out, is that looking for approval in these places is a black hole (citing the example of Madonna’s rather honest self-portraiture), a bottomless pit that can never be filled.

What matters is not how other people evaluate us, nor how we evaluate ourselves, but what God says about us. This simultaneously results in a feeling of being filled, contrary to the bottomless emptiness of what humanity can do in ascribing worth to people; and also, a justification in God’s courtroom. Keller connects true biblical self-worth to justification. We are worth what God says we are worth, and His declaration of innocence (Keller mentions the imputation of Christ’s righteousness) defines our worth. The quote of the book is on page 39:

For the Buddhist…performance leads to the verdict. If you are a Muslim, performance leads to the verdict. All this means that every day, you are in the courtroom, every day you are on trial. That is the problem. But Paul is saying that Christianity, the verdict leads to performance.

Of course, Keller is not addressing the fine-tuned discussions between Westminster East and Westminster West about the relative order and relationship of justification and sanctification. At any rate, contrary to the contemporary grace movement, Keller does not shy away from performance. One might wish that he would have included a statement to the effect that even the performance is based on the enabling grace of God. Presumably, however, he would not disagree with that. All in all, a helpful little exposition of 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7.

P.T. O’Brien and Plagiarism

Over on Aquila Report, I just read the article on P.T. O’Brien and the plagiarism that was found in his commentaries. I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it can definitely be said that he should have been more careful with how he used his information. Now, no details were given in the report as to the person(s) he plagiarized and where in his commentaries. So, we need to be cautious about how much we can say.

On the other hand, plagiarism might just be the easiest thing to do in commentary writing. Indeed, in some ways, it seems endemic to the genre. I read my commentaries in chronological order so that I can get a sense of the history of interpretation on a particular passage. Unattributed references to ideas introduced by previous commentaries are everywhere. Honestly, I am fairly certain that I see this every week. Sometimes, they fall into the category of things that they all say, and can fairly be categorized as forming part of the common stock of knowledge. Many other times this is not true. All it seems to take is one unattributed instance of copying, and then subsequent commentators seem to think that the tidbit is fair game.

This makes me wonder whether someone has it in for P.T. O’Brien and just pointed out what just about every other commentator does all the time. Take the Ephesians commentary, for instance. First of all, it was published 17 years ago (the Philippians commentary is 25 years old now!). Why hasn’t any expert in the secondary literature on Ephesians (or Philippians) caught that plagiarism until now? More importantly, why didn’t D.A. Carson, one of the most well-read and erudite New Testament scholars of the present age, catch the plagiarism when he edited the book? Why did Carson continue to recommend these commentaries so highly in his book on commentaries? The Ephesians commentary is one I’ve read all the way through, and I don’t remember having any of those moments where I thought to myself that O’Brien had plagiarized anything, and I read at least 30 commentaries on Ephesians when I was preaching through it. This is suspicious to me.

What I would rather have from Eerdmans is a chart listing the instances so that I can make up my own mind about it, because there is no way I am giving my O’Brien commentaries back to Eerdmans for a refund. They are just too good to give up. A chart would be far more helpful to scholars and pastors so that they will not perpetuate the plagiarism, but will track down the ideas back to their original source and attribute properly. With the current policy, the O’Brien commentaries will live in a sort of no-man’s land, with people not sure what to do with them. I am quite sure that there is still plenty of O’Brien left in his commentaries, and it would be a pity to waste it. Eerdmans, please let us sort out the wheat from the chaff. Do the pastoral and scholarly world a favor, and let us see the findings for ourselves. That way, we can still salvage what is good from his commentaries, and there is a lot of that.

Is the Federal Vision Gone?

Since the internet debate has died down quite a bit from its heyday about a decade ago, many people have assumed that the Federal Vision is gone and dead. A highly erroneous conclusion. It is not dead. Every one of its proponents is still out there, spreading their false doctrine industriously, now under cover of darkness, since they no longer present themselves as targets online. The missions field is especially problematic, with the FV gaining ground in Russia, Eastern Europe, and parts of Africa. Even in the PCA, the issue is not dead. Jeff Meyers is still at large, as is Mark Horne. They are influencing many Covenant Seminary grads through their internship programs. Douglas Wilson is basically the only FV proponent still visible much on the internet, as we might expect, since he is the one who presents the public persona of the FV. If anything, the battle concerning the FV, while it has practically disappeared from the internet, is still very much alive and well in churches.

Enter now my friend Dewey Roberts into the field. He argued the Leithart case before the SJC. The SJC had determined that Dewey had not proven his case. A large part of that, I suspect, is that Dewey was probably using early drafts of his book to argue his case. When I talked to him about it on the phone, he was saying many of the things that came out in the book. Before the SJC, the way to win a case is to compare the teachings of Leithart (or whoever is on trial) to the Westminster Standards only. Here is what the defendant believes, in his own words, and here is what the Westminster Standards say. Dewey’s purpose in this book is much, much broader than that. He is comparing the Federal Vision to historic Christianity, and his findings are that they are two different things. The main thesis of the book is that the Federal Vision is either Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian in its system, and is therefore not Christian doctrine.

Knowing as I do the history of the Leithart case rather well, I think I made the same mistake Dewey did, actually, but from the reverse direction. Dewey argued his book in front of the SJC, while I expected his performance in front of the SJC negatively to impact the book. Neither of us was right. This book is quite well done, carefully argued, and theologically perceptive. I thought, over the course of some 350 blog posts, and countless comments, that I had considered the FV from just about every possible angle. Dewey showed me wrong. He has many angles that I had not thought of before. If the peacefully slumbering PCA (at least on FV concerns) will read this book, they will find that there is still work to be done, and that we need to do it. The gospel really is at stake, and the Federal Vision really is heresy, not just heterodoxy.

I have a couple of things I would criticize, one very small thing, and one more substantial thing. The small thing is the chapter endnotes. I hate endnotes. I have made no bones about the fact. One has to twist one’s hand in very awkward positions in order to be able to flip back and forth. If the purpose of footnotes is to avoid distracting one from the main line of argumentation, then endnotes fail miserably, because the added time of flipping back and forth makes it very difficult to keep on the thread of the main argument. But chapter endnotes are even worse than book endnotes, since you are constantly losing your place. Why couldn’t we have had footnotes on the same page as the text?

The more substantial criticism I have is the number of times Dewey quoted Guy Waters’s book on the FV as an original source. Now, Waters’s book is truly excellent, and one of the most important publications on the debate. Nevertheless, I prefer to see sources quoted first-hand, rather than second-hand. That way, if one wants to follow the paper trail backwards, one can examine the quotation in its original context much easier. The FV proponents will, of course, cry foul because they, like so many artists, are being misunderstood, boo hoo. The Ninth Commandment is often abused as the last refuge of the heretic. This criticism does not, I think, affect the validity of Dewey’s arguments.

I learned a lot from this book, and I hope that my readers will buy the book and read it, as well. Federal Vision proponents, know this: Dewey has your number, and he got it well. We know what you’re trying to do, and we are on guard.

I Am Going to Enjoy This

Robert W. Jenson wrote the Brazos commentary on Ezekiel in 2009. I am really going to enjoy reading this commentary, even though he is not a conservative in his theological outlook. The reason I am going to enjoy this commentary is that he doesn’t hold with the prim and proper divorce of theology and exegesis. Instead, he refreshingly allows (even demands!) his doctrinal categories to determine the direction of his exegesis. Of course, everyone actually does this. In fact, the more that people protest that they don’t, the more viciously non-self-aware those scholars are. Jenson also injects his commentary with humor. He says:

The proposition that exegesis of the Old Testament might call up points of Christian doctrine of course offends the modern exegetical academy’s chief dogma. That, vice versa, Christian doctrine should shape interpretation of Old Testament passages offends it even more deeply. But the exclusion of the church’s doctrine from interpretation of the church’s scripture is after all a very odd rule on its face; and it is indeed as Christian scripture that the church reads what she calls the Old Testament. How the academic community came to be committed to an antidoctrinal, and thus in this case ironically ahistorical mode of exegesis, is an often told tale that need not be repeated here.

The present commentary, like the others in the series, thus offers alternatives to the modern academy’s prejudices. I will not often argue theoretically the legitimacy of christological or trinitarian or ecclesiological readings I present, but will mostly allow them to convince readers by their own sense and appropriateness to the text at hand-or not. I do ask for suspension of a priori incredulity-who knows, the church might be right about how to read her own scripture (pp. 25-26).

Lastly, Jenson issues a serious (!) warning about reading his commentary:

The purpose of a commentary is to assist readers’ involvements with the text. Perhaps readers should therefore take warning before going further. Attention to a text can turn into experience of its matter, and the judgments and promises of God as given through Ezekiel are so extreme that they can easily undo ordinary religiosity-to say nothing of the disastrous spiritual adventures that might be ignited by his visions (p. 30).

I find myself wishing that more commentators wrote like this.

When Should We Read Commentaries?

Ask five different pastors this question, and you will get five completely different answers. Paul Levy, for instance, reads a couple commentaries all the way through before starting a sermon series. After that, he uses them only when he’s stuck. Others (and this seems to me to be the majority position) advocate that one should only use commentaries at the very end of the process of writing a sermon or Bible study. Oftentimes, the justification for this position is that one must make allowance for the work of the Holy Spirit, and we should not merely parrot what other people say. Some even advocate that no commentaries should be read until after the sermon is written. My experience is a little different.

I find that after I have gone through the text in the original languages very carefully, I still don’t have very many thoughts of my own. I am not much of an original thinker. I really only form my ideas of what the text says in conversation with others who have delved far more deeply into the text than I have.

As with any theological book, one eats the meat and spits out the bones. The same is true for commentaries. By all means, work through the text carefully on your own (and do it first, not least so that you can understand what the commentaries are saying). However, why limit yourself to your own ideas? Why not allow the historical stream of churchly interpretation to feed into your understanding of the text? I usually find that my final position on a text has a very eclectic set of nuggets gleaned from many different sources. I am often surprised at how it works. A commentary from which I got no help for weeks at a time sometimes justifies its very existence in one week where it nails the text and none of the others did. It can be breathtaking at times. Then there are those commentaries that very often have solid insights on almost every page (though these are rare).

To answer the objection about the Holy Spirit is easy. Firstly, the Holy Spirit comes through prayer. I seriously doubt that reading more commentaries constitutes an obstacle that the Holy Spirit cannot overcome. Furthermore, why couldn’t the Holy Spirit be operating through those commentaries to give you what you need? Can the Holy Spirit use the words of dead white European and American males (and a few of them alive still)? There are some excellent female interpreters of Scripture as well, who have written good commentaries (Joyce Baldwin and Karen Jobes spring immediately to mind)

The saddest thing of all in my mind is when a pastor thinks he is so much smarter than church history that he doesn’t need to read what anyone else thought on a passage of Scripture. Really? So you’re smarter than Calvin, are you? Smarter than Augustine? You have the Holy Spirit and they did not? We are not enslaved to any one interpreter. We are not required to believe everything that any non-inspired theologian wrote. Reading them does not mean that we are limited to them. But iron sharpens iron, as the biblical proverb has it. Why allow ourselves to be dulled by refusing to engage in the great centuries-old conversation about the meaning of the text? Limiting ourselves unnecessarily can result in very dull sermons, where so many nuggets in the text are simply by-passed so that the pastor can get up on his hobby-horse.

Make no mistake: there are dangers no matter what position you take on the reading of commentaries. The dangers of reading lots of commentaries are pride, an overdose of explanation, a presentation of too many alternative interpretations (which can easily bewilder a congregation), merely parroting in the sermon what others say, and confusion in one’s own mind about the meaning of the text. The dangers of reading too few commentaries, however, outweigh the dangers of reading too many, in my opinion. For here are the dangers of reading too few: ingrown, idiosyncratic interpretation; missing too many details of the text; application that has no root in the meaning of the text; stream of consciousness preaching; pride and over-reliance on one’s own interpretive skills (which would fall foul of Proverbs’ dictum to lean not on your own understanding); a despising of church history; a denigration of the Holy Spirit’s work in other ages of the church; chronological snobbery. It seems to me that the dangers of reading too many are more easily avoidable than the dangers of reading too few, since they are more obvious. If a sermon is the result of one mind interacting with many minds about the text, is there not a multitude of counselors? Isn’t that safer? I advocate, therefore, and practice an earlier reading of the commentaries in the process of sermon-writing and Bible study preparation. I advocate reading the commentaries (and as many as time and money allow) right after the careful reading of the text in the original languages.

Should We Read Expository Commentaries?

This question is a matter of debate over at Ref21, with Rick Phillips taking the pro side, and Paul Levy taking the con side. I have to say, having read many expository commentaries, that I whole-heartedly agree with Rick. Paul raises some important points, however, which deserve careful consideration.

The first point he raises is that “it is remarkable how many of these sermons are very similar and how they even sometimes cite each other.” It is true that I have seen expository commentaries cite each other. However, the very same point could be raised against more technical exegetical works. Indeed, I have seen many times a certain helpful quotation from someone like Westcott quoted in about ten more recent commentaries, none of them expository. Commenting on Scripture is an inherently accumulative discipline. That is, one accumulates insights from the best of church history. There is bound to be repetition. But there will also be nuggets that are gained in the twelfth or even twentieth commentary that were not present in the first or second. Furthermore, if some of the sermons are similar, then shouldn’t that be an encouragement to the preacher that if his sermon winds up looking a bit like those, that he is in good company, and is not spouting off heresy? While we certainly wish to discourage plagiarism, originality is not always a virtue!

Secondly, he is not convinced that all sermons should be turned into books. This appears to be a more general point that he fleshes out in his points about the difference between preaching and reading, and the fact that not all sermons are great. I agree that not all sermons should be turned into books. Of course, when one considers how many Reformed and Presbyterian preachers there are out there (to take but a small segment of the Christian Church), the vast majority of preached sermons never make it to print. There are well over a thousand sermons preached every single Sabbath day just in the Reformed and Presbyterian community. I would be shocked if more than five of them wind up getting published. That being said, his implied caution to hot-shot preachers who think they’re pretty good is well-taken: don’t automatically assume you are the exception! Every preacher is tempted by the thought that their words are pure gold, and that everyone should hang on their every utterance.

The point about the difference between preaching and reading is a valid one. I am not necessarily in favor of always editing sermons for publication by taking out the specific applications to a particular congregation (unless, of course, specific names are mentioned). One of the problems that preachers typically have is making applications specific enough. I know that I have this problem. It is all too easy to make an application hang out in the realms of generality without ever giving a concrete example, or bringing it home to people in a sharp way. If the sermons are written already with a view to publication, do they have this problem, or do they get edited with this problem in view? Of course, there is also a corresponding danger: if preachers are making their sermons ready for publication before they are even preached, they can often sound like lectures, in the sense that there is not enough repetition and glue holding the message together in a unity. The repetition and glue is not so necessary in a print form. Still, these points do not mean that the difficulties are insurmountable.

Lastly, he wants preachers to read the great books and the classics. A hearty amen from me on that. I don’t, however, see why reading the classics and the greats has to exclude reading expository commentaries in preparation for preaching on that passage. A pastor should read widely, and in many fields. To see how preachers have handled the passage in the past can sometimes even be a life-saver on particularly difficult passages, where the exegetical works might give no help at all.

The New Edition of the Reformation Study Bible

At GA this year, I met Lisa Stolz, senior account manager of church outreach at Ligonier Ministries. We had a great conversation, at the end of which she offered to send me a copy of the new edition of the Reformation Study Bible for review on the blog. I said I would be delighted. Here are my thoughts on the new edition.

What’s new: how does this edition differ from the first edition? In several important ways. 1. It is now based on the ESV, not the NKJV. 2. It has maps and illustrations peppered throughout the text, and not just at the back (no doubt Ligonier saw how effectively the ESV Study Bible had made use of this concept). 3. They have definitely improved the binding of the Bible. Even the leather-look edition that I received looks extremely sturdy (quite thick material), and is Smyth-sewn. 4. They have included not just theological articles throughout the text, but also some longer articles at the end, and most importantly (to my mind, anyway), 4. They have included the ecumenical creeds, the Three Forms and Unity, and the Westminster Standards (I understand the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible includes these as well).

How does this study Bible compare to the ESV Study Bible (which, along with Joel Beeke’s Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible, are the only competitors, to my mind, for the best study Bible for Reformed Christians)? Well, the ESV Study Bible is addressed to a broader audience. The ESV Study Bible has a few more maps and illustrations than the Reformation Study Bible does. However, the ESV Study Bible does not include the creeds and confessions. They are both bound well. Size-wise, the Reformation Study Bible is slightly smaller, though both are significant tomes. I like the printing of the ESV Study Bible slightly better. The notes are slightly more fulsome in the ESV Study Bible, though the new edition of the Reformation Study Bible has significantly increased its comments. You will see more breadth in the ESV Study Bible, more depth in the Reformation Study Bible. They would actually complement each other rather well. I would recommend either to any new Christian, and I would recommend both to any who can afford to have both. I do not have a copy of the Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible, and so I can make no comparison to that study Bible, although I am sure that it is excellent work.

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