New commentaries come out seemingly by the day. It’s impossible to keep up with with one or a few books of the Bible, but with so many new series popping up, it’s impossible for laypeople to get any idea of which ones are suitable to use for their purposes. Nijay Gupta, professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary, has written a brief handbook for students and pastors on various commentaries for each book of the New Testament (some are, of course, grouped together—1–2 Thessalonians, the three pastoral epistles, and 1–3 John). Presumably, this book is aimed at students and pastors because they aren’t able to spend as much time studying the scholarly literature as professors and scholars are. It is difficult enough for scholars to keep abreast of the field!
In chapter one (of only two chapters!) Gupta begins by noting that modern commentaries have been around for a little over 100 years, theologians throughout church history “have been dedicating themselves to spending time patiently working through a biblical book, considering various questions and conundrums arising from the text, and pondering its meaning for today” (1). Commentaries continue because there are always new things to discover and learn. But not every new commentary offers very much that is new or useful.
He warns about online commentaries, which are often old and have problems that have been corrected in recent years. Similarly, while commentaries written by pastors can be helpfully theologically and devotionally, they don’t usually have the time needed to do the heavy Greek (and Hebrew) research required for commentary writing. such commentaries rarely “break new exegetical or historical ground” (4). He surveys 20 different commentary series, noting their current editor, giving the series description (from the commentary series themselves), it’s academic level (technical, semi-, or non-), its theological orientation, the critical methods employed in getting to the meaning of the text, the pricing level, and a brief note about the series.
Chapter two looks at each book of the New Testament, looks at a few technical, then semi-technical, then non-technical commentaries, as well as a hidden gem. Gupta plays an “own it” stamp on one commentary in each section. So for 2 Corinthians, the technical commentaries were written by Victor Furnish (AB), Murray Harris (NIGTC)—own it, Ralph Martin (WBC), and Margaret Thrall (ICC). I own most of the commentaries here, which was nice to see. Gupta offers a few comments on what makes each commentary unique. Gupta then lists commentaries for each NT book from women, people of color, and majority world scholars.
Gupta has three appendices. The first is a quick list of the recommended commentaries (the ones with the own it” stamps”). The second is a list of German and French commentary series, and the third is a list of Gupta’s works with a quick comment on each book of his.
Gupta offers a nice quick guide to the best commentaries. Of course one can quibble with his choices, but for what it’s worth, I appreciate this volume over Carson’s. I do still prefer the guide to biblical commentaries by John Evans, a pastor in Arizona. However if you’re looking for a reliable guide written by a NT professor, this should be your first stop.
- Author: Nijay K. Gupta
- Paperback: 124 pages
- Publisher: Lexham Press (October 7, 2020)
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