John Dyer has set up BestCommentaries.com site where you can read and give reviews for some of the best English language commentaries.
I hope many will join this community and offer their reviews so that Christians can find commentaries that will help them understand the Bible better and point them more to Christ.
However, it’s not easy to write a good review. How can you write a review that will best serve the kingdom of God? Remember to answer the following questions:
1. What is the Author’s View on Scripture?
Sometimes an author will claim to be an evangelical, but their commentary will make odd claims. As you read watch out for some tell tale signs such as:
- Denying the named author is the true author.
- Pretending a passage doesn’t mean what it clearly says.
- Not accepting later Scripture’s interpretations of the passage (such as how the author to the Hebrews interprets certain Psalms as pointing to Christ).
2. What are the Author’s Definitive Doctrines?
If you’re considering Martyn Lloyd Jones’ commentaries on Romans, it won’t take you too long to find out his theology with a quick google. However, when finding out about an obscure researcher from an Australian seminary it can take a bit longer.
Give the reader some idea of the author’s theological perspective. Are they Arminian, Presbyterian, Charismatic? These things can help someone with only enough money for one commentary to understand which will serve them best.
3. Are There Any Odd or Innovative Interpretations?
Some commentators are more out to make a name for themselves than faithful interpret the passage. Warn potential readers if this is the case. Tremper Longman when reviewing a commentary once noted someone who gave an interesting new interpretation. He advised it was worth a look (as it may be true) but if you only had money for one commentary to find something else. New interpretations aren’t bad, but let the reader of your review make the decision if they’re worth it.
4. Who are the Intended Audience?
Pastors, laypeople and scholars all have very different needs and skill levels, and different commentaries are written for those purposes. Do you need Greek to understand it? Does it give application to those who aren’t in the pastorate? Does it give advice on preaching?
5. What are the Author’s Strengths?
All authors have to carefully select their content, whether they write 1,000 pages or 100. Therefore, they will have undoubtedly chosen to focus on certain aspects of the book.
Are they better at discussing it’s theology or it’s translation, it’s application or near eastern contexts? Do they explain it in easy terms or do they pull to shreds liberal arguments? These things may help a reader decide which commentary is going to be useful for their need.
6. How Thoroughly Does the Author Cover the Content?
I’ve read some commentaries that have had very long introductions, but have been somewhat lacking in the text. Equally some commentaries have had too short an introduction. Tell your reader these things. If you think you’re 200 page commentary is not enough if it’s your only commentary, let them know this.
7. Does it Point to Christ?
Sometimes commentators get so bogged down in technical issues they forget the whole point of the Bible is to point people to Christ. This is especially true of Old Testament commentaries. If you are going to flag up one thing, make it this: does the commentary keep in mind the supremacy of Christ?
Whether it’s a commentary on Proverbs or Hebrews, if a commentary forgets the main character it isn’t worth buying. All commentaries, all Christian books and even reviews should have that aim. Make sure you’re review has that aim too.