Which Commentary Set Should I Buy?

If you’ve never used BestCommentaries.com, you’re in for a treat. You can search for commentaries by book, by set, and by author. I find myself most often searching by book, because on the Romans page, for instance, all the commentaries will be ranked by an aggregate of recommenders.

John Dyer, the man who runs the site, has done an excellent job with it. And he recently (I think) added a chart showing how commentary sets stack up against one another. It will help you understand this post if you look at that chart first. But here’s a snippet:


I realized that with a little Excel wizardry, I could come up with an average score for each commentary set he lists. A low score means that a given set had more top-rated commentaries. Here are the top seven (the bolded ones are part of the Logos Platinum package):

New International Comm. OT/NT 2.5
Pillar NT Comm. 4.4
Baker Exegtical NT Comm. 5.1
Word Biblical Comm. 5.3
NIV Application Comm. 5.5
Tyndale NT/OT Comm. 5.5
New American Comm. 6

I have all of these in Logos except for Tyndale (I have most of the books in analog form, and they’re for sale so I can get the electronic versions) and NIVAC. I use them all, and I agree with these rankings.

The rest of the list is as follows (those bolded are evangelical; the others are predominantly liberal):

Anchor Bible 8.4
Hermeneia 10
International Critical Comm. 10.1
Expositor’s Bible Comm. 10.5
NT Library 11.5
New Century Bible Comm. 12.6
Continental Commentary 12.7
New International Bible Comm. NT 13.4
Abingdon NT Comm. 14.9

There are many other commentary sets, but a jury of your peers (and of those none of us could hope to be peers with) has tended to coalesce around these as responsible and useful.

Note that some of them, such as the Word Biblical Commentary, have a high number of liberal works. I wouldn’t make the WBC my first purchase.

But if you can get the Logos Platinum package and then save up the thousand or so bucks for the NICOT/NICNT, you’ll have four of the top seven—plus one set that should be on that list, the NIGTC; and one worth checking if you have it, Hendriksen and Kistemaker’s BNTC.

If you get physical books instead, you can just pick and choose the best available commentaries. I haven’t done the math to figure out how you’d be better off. But I prefer having my commentaries in Logos. Reference work like these are the kind of books I don’t mind reading on a computer screen.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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