Choosing a Bible Commentary

Some food for thought about using Bible commentaries: they CAN be pretty useful.

There are “conservative” commentaries like the Zondervan Bible Commentary which are just Christian apologetics. They start with the assumption of Nicean doctrine and then try to force it into every verse of the Bible. Those commentaries are toilet paper.

But then there are “liberal” commentaries which do not presuppose a theology, infallibility, or even the existence of a god in many cases! Those commentaries focus more on word meanings in extra-biblical materials of the same periods, highlighting similarities and differences between various authors regarding the same topics and etc.. They do more to reveal all of the POSSIBLE meanings of a passage rather than to convince you that their interpretation is right. Anchor-Yale is a great example of this type of commentary. To me, these are invaluable!

The problem they solve is that our Bibles are twice / thrice translated documents from thousands of years ago and to say that they are “culturally removed” from us doesn’t even begin to cut it. Then the final versions of the Bibles we read fall along an entire range of translational accuracy from Bibles like the NASB and ESV which are more word-for-word (but harder to understand) to Bibles like The Message which are FAR more ‘creative’ in their translation (ie less accurate), but make for simple reads. In other words, getting to the authors’ original intent is often very difficult (if not impossible) by reading the Bible alone.

Deut. 23:18 Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

I spent a long while wondering why it was (apparently) wrong to sell dogs. A commentary helped me understand that the “dog” in question was actually a male temple prostitute.

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