When selecting individual commentaries, one should determine their needs before making a purchase.
While there are several kinds of commentaries out on the market, the four most common types are exegetical,
expositional, devotional and cultural. The following describe the intent of each kind, along with an
example from each category:
Exegetical: These commentaries focus more on understanding the grammar and
language of the Text. They are often more technical and academic than other types of commentaries, and
may or may not assume the reader has a working knowledge of the original Biblical languages. Though
scholarly in nature, these books are useful tools when studying through a book simply because they
address critical issues that are not discussed in the other types of commentaries.
Word Bible Commentary: Genesis, 2 Vol. Wenham, G. Waco, Texas: Word Books,
Publisher, 1987. (Advanced, preface)
Expositional: These books are usually written by pastors who have preached
through the book they are commenting on. They are generally filled with easy-to-follow outlines,
illustrations and applications for the reader. Oftentimes, these books are taken directly from the
preaching notes of the pastor writing the book.
Creation & Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis.
Ross, A. P. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996. (Intermediate,
Devotional: Commentaries that are devotional in nature focus more upon reflection
and application of the Text. Their purpose is not to address scholars, but general readers. Nourishing
both mind and heart, Puritan commentaries are some of the most soul-searching examples of devotional
literature the church has ever seen. A modern example would be the following:
The Genesis Record: A Scientific & Devotional Commentary on the Book of
Beginnings. Morris, H. M. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991. (Basic,
Cultural: While not as prevalent as exegetical, expositional and devotional
commentaries, cultural commentaries are helpful tools when seeking to discover the background of the
text one is studying.
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Genesis-Deuteronomy. Walton, J. and
Matthews, V. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998. (Basic / Intermediate,
There are literally hundreds of individual commentaries on the books of the Bible, so trying to
choose one with so many options can be a bit frustrating. For the sake of space, only those commentaries,
which cover the complete Old Testament and complete New Testament, will be listed.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 2 Vol. Walvoord, J. and Zuck, R. B., eds.
Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985. (Basic,
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 Vol. Gaebelin, F., ed.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Company, 1985. (Intermediate,
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Keener, C.
Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993. (Basic,
Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary. Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., and House, H. W., eds.
Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publisher, 1999. (Basic,