Written by Robert Sivigny, University Librarian
Bible commentaries are a key resource for biblical opinion on a topic or text. They are indispensable for nearly every School of Divinity research paper, whether the topic is doctrinal, ethical, pastoral, or textual. This article will discuss how to find commentaries in print and then explore where online full-text Bible commentaries may be found.
Considering the number of Bible commentaries in print, selecting the best ones is an important process, often ignored. Bible commentaries at the Regent Library are arranged on the shelf by book of the Bible-Genesis through Revelation. Currently, for example, there are approximately fifteen shelves devoted to commentaries on the book of Genesis. A guide, Selected Resources for Old and New Testament Studies, by Drs. Pannell and Holman, is excellent for identifying good scholarly Bible commentaries. This forty-seven page guide, arranged by book of the Bible, is available online on the Library Divinity & Religion Subject Guides. Select the Websites tab, then Bibliographies and Guides. A copy is also available for loan at the Reference Desk.
Suppose, for example, you are looking for the best commentaries on the book of Jeremiah. A check in the Jeremiah section shows twenty-six commentaries, with an asterisk beside the most highly recommended titles. Off-campus students should browse this list, identify the commentaries they want, and request them through the Regent Interlibrary Loan.
While there are several other good commentary selection guides, I recommend David Bauer’s, An Annotated Guide to Biblical Resources for Ministry. Bauer, a biblical studies professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, organizes his recommendations into four sections: the whole Bible, the Old Testament, Early Judaism, and the New Testament. The Old and New Testament sections are further arranged by book of the Bible. Bauer includes useful descriptive paragraphs on his recommended commentaries. Bauer always follows his recommended list with a second list of other significant commentaries, giving a fuller picture of what is available on each book of the Bible.
While researchers have an abundance of scholarly commentaries in print to choose from, finding full-text commentaries online remains a challenge. There are a number of older commentaries online, including those by Adam Clarke, Matthew Henry, and Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown. These are available on sites such as Crosswalk.com and Tyndalehouse.com, but I hasten to say that these should not be used for School of Divinity research papers! The best scholarly online commentary series currently on the Web is the IVP New Testament Commentary series at Biblegateway.com. Not all the books of the New Testament are available, but sixteen are. The IVP New Testament Commentary series can be accessed by selecting Additional Resources on the left-hand side bar of the homepage.
NetLibrary, available from the Regent library databases collection, currently offers the Believer’s Church Bible Commentary series published by Herald Press, a Mennonite publisher. The series states in its forward that it is published “for all who seek more fully to understand the original message of Scripture and its meaning for today-Sunday School teachers, members of Bible study groups, students, pastors, and others.” The series can be viewed by opening the Advanced Search option within Netlibrary. With the advanced search menu displayed, type, “commentary” on the first line as a title search and, “bible,” on the second line as a subject search.
Ebrary Academic Complete, another electronic book collection available from the Library databases, also offers a few commentaries that might be of assistance. After logging into Ebrary, click on the advanced search option on the left-hand menu and type “commentary” as a title search and “bible” as a subject search. Currently, five works are available, not all commentaries: Theodoret of Cyrus’ Commentary on Daniel, Diodore of Tarsus’ Commentary on Psalm 1-51, Laura Lieber’s Study Guide to the JPS Bible Commentary: Haftarot, Eliezer Segel’s From Sermon to Commentary: Expounding the Bible in Talmudic Babylonia, and Daniel Frank’s Search Scripture Well: Karaite Exegetes and the Origins of the Jewish Bible Commentary in the Islamic East.
Both the netlibrary and ebrary Academic Complete may offer more full-text commentaries in the future, so it is a good idea to check these collections from time to time. Fore more help in locating scholarly resources on the Bible, contact the Reference Desk or e-mail Bob Sivigny, librarian for Divinity, at firstname.lastname@example.org.