Because the Bible is the foundation for the preaching of the church, effective preachers are able students of the Word. This annual survey offers a glimpse at many of the more useful and significant Bible study resources published each year.
The most significant study Bible to come out this year is the Holman Christian Standard Study Bible (B&H), joining the ESV Study Bible and the NLT Study Bible as the key comprehensive study Bibles available today. In addition to detailed notes, it includes a large number of helpful, color photographs and illustrations, brief word studies of key words and longer essays on key theological, ethical and practical subjects. This will be a very helpful resource.
When the Word of Promise New Testament Audio Bible (NKJV) appeared a couple of years ago, I wished the same people would produce a recording of the Old Testament. Now they have! The Word of Promise Old Testament (NKJV) is a wonderful resource. Any reading is also an interpretation, and there will be places where you might argue for a slightly different interpretation. However, overall this is very well done, providing the full text of the NKJV OT with different actors providing a dramatized reading and background sounds. In a significant interpretive move which I applaud, the voice for the “angel of the Lord” is Jim Cavalziel who also does the voice of Jesus in the New Testament. My whole family really enjoys this recording.
The Peoples’ Bible (Fortress) employs a multicultural approach (e.g., post-colonial and feminist hermeneutics) seeking to listen to under-represented voices. The main material is in book introductions and essays with only occasional comments on verses. In the end, I did not find this study Bible or its companion, The Peoples’ Companion to the Bible (Fortress), to be helpful.
Nelson has gathered material from its Chronological Study Bible (NKJV, 2008) into a separate book, Chronological Guide to the Bible, for use with any translation. The book provides introductory material and a method for reading the Bible in chronological order (though that order is open to debate in places). The Fire Bible: Global Study Edition is a reprint of the Full Life Study Bible, a study Bible from a Pentecostal perspective.
Start: The Bible for New Believers, New Testament (ed. Greg Laurie) provides some introductory matter similar to what often is found in evangelistic follow-up material. Then it has brief introductions for each book, as well as occasional comments. It is not a proper study Bible but can be useful for new believers. The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (NKJV, Nelson) is a devotional Bible more than a substantive study Bible, providing devotional material from Max Lucado.
Nelson has published The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Strong’s has been updated regularly. The main change in this edition is the significant expansion of the Hebrew and Greek dictionaries with the inclusion of material from Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. Probably most people today are using electronic concordances, and Vine’s material is now dated.
The 17th century Contemplations on the Historical Passages of the Old and New Testaments by Bishop Joseph Hall has been reprinted by Tentmaker Publications. It is a privilege to have again this work which was praised by Baxter, Spurgeon, Whitefield and others. It is not a commentary but a collection of theologically rich contemplations on various texts from the creation, the fall, the flood to the ascension of Christ. It is not a quick read, but Hall writes beautifully and with theological insight.
I also will mention a new resource to appear this year, the Ancient Christian Texts series from IVP. Following on the success of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series, this series (edited by Tom Oden and Gerald Bray) provides new translations of full-scale patristic commentaries on biblical texts which previously weren’t available in English. While these never can replace a regular commentary in sermon preparation, they can be valuable in understanding how the church has understood the Scriptures in the past. The volumes now available include Ambrosiaster on Romans and 1-2 Corinthians, Ambrosiaster on Galatians-Philemon, Origen on Numbers, Theodore of Mopseutia on John and the Incomplete Commentary on Matthew, whose authorship is unknown.
Three significant Bible atlases have appeared this year, as well. Two previously award-winning atlases are out in new editions: Carl Rasmussen’s Zondervan Atlas of the Bible and Barry Beitzel’s The New Moody Atlas of the Bible. Entirely new is the Crossway ESV Bible Atlas by John Currid and David Barrett. All three of these are impressive with a wide range of information, illustrations and maps. I found it difficult to choose between them. Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts (3rd Edition) is helpful, but not at the same level of these other three.
Douglas Stuart has updated and revised his perennially helpful Old Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors in a 4th edition (WJK). His concern for preaching and theology (which helped guide what he included and skipped) makes this a useful tool for preachers. This edition has been expanded considerably.
John Goldingay’s Old Testament Theology, Vol. 3: Israel’s Life (IVP) is detailed and rich but also very readable and readily applicable. It will provide a wealth of useful information for preaching. One of the most significant new resources for OT study is the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament (ed., Walton, 5 vols., Zondervan). This is a treasure trove of information and is beautifully illustrated.
Genesis is served this year with gems from the past. Banner of Truth has published a new translation of Calvin’s Sermons on Genesis Chapters 1-11. These new translations are very readable, and the theological and pastoral concerns of Calvin make the expositions quite worthwhile. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ The Gospel in Genesis: From Fig Leaves to Faith (Crossway) is another collection of previously unpublished sermons. Crossway is to be thanked for continuing to publish more of his sermons, which are consistently fruitful. This volume contains nine sermons from the early chapters of Genesis, each with an eye to how the texts point to the gospel. Thus, they are examples of gospel-centered preaching of the Old Testament. Cotton Mather’s Biblia Americana: Genesis, Vol. 1, edited by Reiner Smolinski, (Baker) sounds like an impressive resource; but I have not had a chance to look at it.
Tremper Longman’s How to Read Exodus (IVP) provides a helpful summary of critical issues, overview of the main themes of the book and discussion of how it connects to the new covenant. All of this is helpful for preaching long books especially. Longman is stronger on historicity of the Exodus than on Adam.
Two recent commentaries on Numbers complement one another well. John D. Currid’s Numbers (Evangelical Press) treats the text carefully and concisely, affirming Mosaic authorship, historicity and the miraculous. David Stubbs’ Numbers (BTCB, Baker), though more brief gives much space to how the stories and laws in Numbers connect to Christian practice and theology. Both aspects will be helpful in preaching.
Victor H. Matthews’ 101 Questions & Answers on the Historical Books of the Bible (Paulist Press) provides brief answers from a more critical perspective to some basic questions regarding these books without much concern for how the whole storyline of the Bible fits together. Joshua by Gordon McConville and Stephen N. Williams (THOTC, Eerdmans) is about one-third commentary and two-thirds theological reflection, making it a useful supplement to other commentaries. However, they are skeptical on the historicity of the book.
Three new volumes have appeared on 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary volume on these four books (by Youngblood, Patterson and Austel) is necessarily brief and marred by the choice of the series to use parenthetic references often piled up in the middle of sentences. They have little theological reflection. More substantial are David Tsumura’s The First Book of Samuel (Eerdmans) and David Firth’s 1&2 Samuel (Apollos, IVP). Both are very detailed with good, sustained discussion of the Hebrew text and background issues. Tsumura, dealing with only one book, has more space and defends the historicity and integrity of the biblical witness, though he provides very little theological reflection. Firth, in his “Explanation” sections, deals with theological meaning and connection to the New Testament.
Interpreting the Psalms for Teaching and Preaching (Chalice, edited by Bateman and Sandy) is a helpful book containing essays on various specific psalms, as well as essays on preaching the Psalms, the Psalms in worship and other aspects of the importance of the Psalms. William de Burgh’s helpful 19th century exposition, A Commentary on the Book of Psalms (2 vol.), has been reprinted. It was highly praised by Spurgeon and is still useful. The author works with the Hebrew and moves to theology. Iain Campbell’s In the Care of the Good Shepherd: Meditations on Psalm 23 (Day One) is a collection of six pastoral, theological sermons on this well-known Psalm. These will be helpful in considering the meaning and application of this text.
I have been delighted to discover the Concordia Commentary series (Concordia), and Andrew Steinmann’s Proverbs only confirmed my appreciation. Commenting on the Hebrew text, Steinmann provides detailed interaction, interpreting Proverbs in light of the gospel. This commentary is a joy to read and will be very useful.
Craig Bartholomew’s Ecclesiastes (BCOTWP, Baker) is the weightiest of the new commentaries on Ecclesiastes. It is more attuned to the scholarly discussions, breaks new ground and is theological. Philip Ryken’s Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters (Crossway) is a good sermonic exposition of Ecclesiastes with an eye to how the message fits with the whole of Scripture. This will be a great resource for preachers. His preface alone is well worth reading. Daniel C. Fredericks and Daniel Estes’ Ecclesiastes & the Song of Songs (Apollos, IVP) is rendered less usable by the format Apollos uses (basically the same as that used by the Word Biblical Commentary), but Estes’ exposition of Song of Songs is sound, wise and very worthwhile for pastors. He argues (rightly, I think) that the book is not allegorical and makes several points about sexual purity, enjoyment in marriage and care for one another.
Gary Smith’s second volume on Isaiah, Isaiah 40-66 (B&H), now is available and along with the first volume becomes one of the standard must-have commentaries on this important prophetic book. Smith knows the scholarly literature well and provides a readable, careful exposition while also making valuable theological comments.
In Jeremiah-Ezekiel (EBC, Zondervan), Brown on Jeremiah stands out as helpful, making particular use of rabbinic literature. Robert Jenson’s Ezekiel (BTCB, Baker) is engaging and punchy. His introduction arguing for the propriety of a theological reading of the OT is worthwhile in itself. Thomas Scheck has translated Origen’s Homilies 1-14 on Ezekiel (Paulist Press). These homilies can be a useful supplement showing how a key leader of the church’s past handled a challenging book.
John Goldingay and Pamela Scalise have provided good, brief commentaries in The Minor Prophets, Vol. 2 (Hendrickson), though they don’t address connections to the New Testament as do the following two volumes. John Currid’s Expectant Prophet: Habakkuk Simply Explained (Evangelical Press) is a wonderful resource for preaching. Though not citing Hebrew, Currid has worked through the full Hebrew text himself, and he expounds the text with an eye to its overarching theology and meaning. Iain Duguid’s Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (Evangelical Press) is a great resource for preaching these valuable though often neglected books. The commentary is solid and brief. The greatest value is his theologically sound help in seeing how to apply these books in the new covenant, making the point, for example, in Haggai that the Temple in the Old Covenant does not correspond to today’s church but to Christ.
Moyer Hubbard’s Christianity in the Greco-Roman World: A Narrative Introduction (Hendrickson) in spite of the title focuses particularly on Paul. Hubbard uses imaginative stories to present various aspects of life in the Greco-Roman world, followed by discussion of key issues. Frequent side bars with quotes from primary sources are well done.
In The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical Thought World of the New Testament (Vol. 1, The Individual Witnesses; Vol. 2, The Collective Witness, IVP), Ben Witherington has given us almost 1,700 pages on New Testament theology and ethics! He is particularly concerned that the discussion of ethics not be divorced from theology (though I think he overstates the divide, at least as seen in the world of pastoral ministry). It may be best to await the condensed single volume he has promised.
Thomas R. Schreiner’s Run to Win the Prize: Perseverance in the New Testament (Crossway) is an excellent book, immensely valuable for pastors. In a more succinct fashion than his previous book (The Race Set Before Us with Ardel Caneday), Schreiner expounds the doctrines of assurance and perseverance, issues which are of vital importance in day-to-day pastoral ministry. This is a must-read. Schreiner also has provided a condensed version of his New Testament theology in Magnifying God in Christ (Baker). Pastors ought to interact with Schreiner’s work either in this shorter version or in the longer one. Schreiner is an excellent pastoral, biblical theologian; this work will be helpful in preaching and pastoring.
The Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Jesus by Jeremy Howard is a concise, apologetic work on the life, work and teachings of Jesus aimed at a popular audience. It will be a helpful resource and useful for passing on to others.
Charles Talbert’s Matthew (Paideia; Baker) relies heavily on parallels in other ancient texts to reconstruct how the original audience would have heard this gospel. Based on such parallels, he argues the virgin birth account was made up to bolster theological ideas such as God’s initiating grace. I found this unconvincing and unhelpful.
Andreas Kostenberger’s The Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters: The Word, the Christ, the Son of God (Zondervan) is a unique book. Treatments of John’s theology are rare and Kostenberger is well-qualified to produce one. This is a detailed, thorough analysis, which is now one of the essential resources for studying John’s writings.
R.C. Sproul’s John, the latest volume in the St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Reformation Trust), provides theological exposition with an eye to application for a general audience. Pastors will need some more in-depth commentaries; but this will be a helpful supplement, especially in the stage of moving to the overall meaning of the text and application.
Thomas Stegman’s Second Corinthians (Baker) provides, as does the rest of the Catholic Commentary series, depth of theological exposition from a Catholic perspective. It has strengths but cannot replace Hafemann, Garland and Harris.
Samuel Ngewa’s Galatians (Africa Bible Commentary, Zondervan) is an evangelical, sermonic treatment engagingly written with an eye to application, but the preacher will need more depth. More in-depth and more useful, while still lively and engaging is David McWilliams’ Galatians (CFP). Williams engages more scholarship and theology, producing a very valuable preaching commentary.
Peter S. Williamson has produced an engaging, conservative Catholic treatment of Ephesians for the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series (Baker). While I was pleased with a number of things in the commentary, the theological depth of Ephesians means of necessity that the differences between Catholic and Protestant understanding come out significantly (i.e., justification, Mary, etc.). Hendrickson has reprinted William Gurnall’s justly famous The Christian in Complete Armour, which won high praise from Spurgeon and John Newton as especially helpful for preaching.
Three new commentaries on Philippians have appeared. Charles Cousar’s volume in the New Testament Library (WJK) is quite brief and includes Philemon. Dean Flemming’s volume is in the New Beacon Bible Commentary series (Beacon Hill), a series expressly within the Wesleyan tradition. This is the first volume I have seen from this series, and it is well-done. Fleming covers the issues without getting bogged down, taking the text seriously as Scripture. He deals with background and exegetical issues, as well as moving to theology and application. Walter Hansen’s volume in the Pillar series (Eerdmans) is the longest and fullest treatment of the three. Hansen provides more interaction with scholarly debates than Fleming, though often coming to the same conclusions. Hansen and Fleming will be useful to pastors to use alongside the commentaries by Fee and O’Brien.
B&H has reprinted Murray Harris’ Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: Colossians and Philemon with plans to continue the series. Harris’ treatment focuses on the syntax of the Greek text more so than any other commentary. For those working with Greek, this will be useful.
Robert J. Cara’s 1&2 Thessalonians (Evangelical Press) is a solid exposition with regular, faithful application. Cara provides his literal translation and pays particular attention to the flow of argument in the text. All of this makes it a valuable mid-level commentary.
John Cook’s Let’s Study 1 Timothy (Banner of Truth) is a good, brief exposition from a conservative, Presbyterian perspective. The preacher will need more, but this will be very useful for Bible studies. Donna Brayerton’s Lectio Divina, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (Beacon Hill Press) is much briefer than Cook with less content. This is more of a devotional guide without much exposition. It also does not cover all the text (e.g., 1 Timothy 2 is skipped).
Peter O’Brien is one of my favorite commentators, so I was excited about the release of his The Letter to the Hebrews (Pillar, Eerdmans). It does not disappoint, and now ranks as one of the best commentaries for preaching Hebrews. O’Brien knows the material and surveys it well without getting bogged down or tedious. He comments with an eye to meaning and theology. David Allen has written a new commentary (Hebrew, B&H) and monograph (Lukan Authorship of Hebrews, B&H) on Hebrews arguing that Luke wrote this letter. Both are books with detailed treatments, though O’Brien’s volume is the stronger choice.
Dan McCartney’s James (BECNT, Baker) is a significant work. He deals carefully with the Greek text without being overly technical and moves to the theology of the text. He also treats more fully theological and ethical issues in the letter.
Douglas Harink’s 1 & 2 Peter (BTCB, Baker) is a good theological exposition, often bringing in the thoughts of systematicians and ethicists in a helpful way, as well as making pointed application. Ian Hamilton’s Let’s Study the Letters of John (Banner of Truth) is a nice brief treatment, making a good supplement to full length commentaries.
The best new commentary on Revelation is Brian Blount’s Revelation: A Commentary (WJK). Blount focuses on the apocalyptic nature of the book and rightly notes how the book would have been understood by its original hearers rather than its connection to current newspapers. I think he misses the discussion of hell in chapter 20, but this will be a very helpful tool in preaching a very complex book. Joseph Mangina’s Revelation (BTCB, Baker) is a good supplemental text. In keeping with its series, this commentary focuses on theological exposition with an eye for how the church has understood this book through the ages. For Revelation this historical awareness is especially helpful. For example, on Revelation 20, Mangina surveys how Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine and Edwards handled the millennial issue.