Building A Theological Library: The General Letters

November 13, 2013 — Leave a comment


A couple of weeks ago, we finished Paul’s Letters with a look at my recommendations for commentaries on the Prison and Pastoral Epistles. Just to reiterate, these are my preferences and what make up my library (for the most part). There are definitely some great resources I’ve overlooked. What I’m trying to do here is give you what I typically look for, and in the case of individual books, what I think is the best 2 commentaries for a pastor to have on each (because I think you should have at least 2) and what is the best single commentary for the interested reader to pick up (who is maybe not a pastor). What I’m listing here is a) what commentaries I currently have and b) what commentaries I’m still tracking down (gradually and systematically).

Below, I’m giving you four recommendations for each book. The first two are the best technical commentaries (or at least what I go to for technical/exegetical work). The third is the best in-depth commentary for the average reader. The fourth is the best devotional commentary for someone who isn’t doing research or sermon prep, but just wants to understand the flow of the book better.

Today, we’ll continue our trek through into Paul’s epistles. If you’re keeping score at home, here’s the modified table of contents:

Hebrews 1

James 2

1 Peter 3

2 Peter/Jude 4

1-3 John 5

Revelation 6


  1. Honorable mentions to Ellingsworth (NIGTC), Cockerill (see my review), and Allen (NAC) as far as technical commentaries go. For a beefier “devotional” option, I have found George Guthrie’s NIVAC volume very helpful. For a helpful commentary rich with historical perspective, consult Philip Edgcumbe Hughes volume. I know all this because I’ve been doing back end sermon research for a pastor preaching through Hebrews. On a weekly basis I utilize all of the commentaries I’ve mentioned except for Ellingsworth, mainly because the technicality is more than this particular pastor’s needs require. Lane gets the edge because of the layout of the WBC series which allows for neat summaries, while Bruce gets the edge over Cockerill for being concise, and because he’s F. F. Bruce
  2. Honorable mentions here are McKnight’s in the NICNT series, McCartney’s in the BECNT series, and Martin’s in the WBC series. I have Martin, but not the other two, though I am partial to volumes in both series. I also like McKnight as a commentator, mainly for his different perspective from mine on certain theological issues. Also worth noting is that Moo (whose commentary is the top ranked overall) wrote the volume in the TNTC series which would be accessible to more readers and is less extensive than his PNTC volume. Lastly, guys with last names starting with “M” like to write James commentaries
  3. Here the honorable mentions for more technical commentaries are Davids (NICNT) and Michaels (WBC). Also, McKnights’ NIVAC volume barely misses the cut. It fits somewhere between Grudem and Clowney, and I’ve found it useful in my sermon research
  4. I didn’t relist Schreiner here, but he is good technical but accessible work. Close on the more devotional commentary (but with substantial introductory matter) is Green’s volume in the TNTC series
  5. For an additional technical commentary, Smalley’s in the WBC series is helpful. Also so is Daniel Akin’s volume in the NAC series, and I imagine Jobes upcoming volume in the ZECNT series will be too
  6. Honorable mentions here are Osborne’s BECNT volume (from a pre-mil perspective) and Morris’ TNTC volume (more extensive than Poythress and probably a good read in tandem). I should note the commentaries in the actual list are all in the a-mil vein, and Beale’s, though in a more technical series, is the best, and less technical than the other volumes in that series, but is a daunting read. That’s why it is placed 2nd and not 3rd


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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