Help! What Commentary Should I Use? (Pt. 1)

This post was originally published at Rolfing Unshelved, a blog of the university library for which I work as a reference assistant.



I was in college when I first began using commentaries. I was rather aimless, didn’t have much help or guidance, and just sort of jumped in. Maybe that’s been your experience as well.

The whole process of learning about commentaries is sort of like a circle — There’s no obvious starting point. You just have to enter somewhere, learn from your mistakes, and figure things out as you go. In one sense, the best way to get to know commentaries is to just use them.

But the process doesn’t have to be that aimless. Your entrance into the world of commentaries doesn’t have to be as abrupt as mine was.

Here are some resources to help you get started and guide you along the way.

Best Commentaries is a site dedicated to providing reviews and rankings for a variety of Biblical resources including — as the name suggests — commentaries. Although it may not be the most reliable source, by and large I have found the rankings fairly accurate and helpful.

Once you select a specific Biblical book, Best Commentaries provides you with a list of commentaries on that book organized according to their “score.” Best commentaries also offers basic information about each commentary, e.g., author, date, series, and type (technical, pastoral, devotional, Jewish, special). Each commentary page even tells you if Rolfing carries that particular book (hover over the particular book and click the link to WorldCat under “Find”)!

You can also perform searches by specific reviewers to see the ratings of a specific reviewer. Or, you can check out lists of recommended commentaries by respectable sources.

Rolfing’s recommended commentary lists

Rolfing staff put together two amazing lists of recommended commentaries, both of which are available on our website (Old Testament; New Testament). Be sure to check out these recommendations when collecting resources for your next paper!

Other seminaries

Just like our library has recommended commentary lists (above), most other seminaries do too. So, check out some other seminaries’ recommended commentary lists when you need another opinion.

Baker Academic’s commentary surveys

Baker Academic publishes two outstanding resources that provide a survey and analysis of top commentaries for each book of the Bible. We have them in our reference section and online as e-books.

Be sure to consult these!

Ask professors

Finally — I know this is crazy — but ask your professors. If they are teaching a class on Hosea, then they probably know a good deal about it, which probably means they know which commentaries you should be using. So, ask them. They’ll be glad to help!