Understanding BestCommentaries.com Scores

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This post has 16 Replies | 1 Follower

Posts 57
James | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, Dec 3 2015 3:06 PM

Hi everyone,

This is just a general warning about the scoring method of Bestcommentaries.com, which up until a few months ago was my go-to source on determining which commentaries I should buy (and still is for a rough guide). Before I pass my critique though, I do acknowledge that they have stated here that "A numerical rating can never fully capture the value of a work. It is only included here as a guide to help students of the Scriptures know where to start."

With that in mind, I wish to just make a note about the scoring method. More or less, this score can be reduced to a "popularity contest" more than anything. I always wondered why I would always see some exceptional commentaries with relatively poor ratings vs. some of the more basic devotional/exposition commentaries. Why is this?

Here is the formula: score = (weighted average) + (# of times in a library / 10) + (# of overall reviews / 10).

The highest scored volume is D. A. Carson's PNTC commentary of John. Here is the part I find strange. His commentary is used as a benchmark for all other commentaries (set to 100) and then everything is scaled relative to this with a score between 60 and 100.

Since the "best" commentary is very subjective, I understand this is very difficult to then quantify. My humble two cents is that one also keeps in mind the type of commentary they are after (ie, textual/exegeitical, pastoral, devotional etc) and choose accordingly. Read the amazon reviews for the text too, as these can often provide more information on what the commentary offers (something which I applaud Bestcommentaries.com for providing access to).

Hope this is helpful.

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Posts 450
Dave Moser | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 3 2015 4:02 PM

For the reasons you listed a numerical score is almost useless.

This is why annotated commentary surveys are invaluable. They will tell you what the strongest commentaries are and why. They list the strengths and weaknesses of commentaries and allow you to make an informed decision. They even break the discussion into sections with the best technical, intermediate, and expository commentaries, each with their strengths and weaknesses. My commentary surveys have been tremendously valuable to me. They've pointed me to great new resources and saved me tons of money on resources I'm glad I didn't buy.

New Testament: Carson

Old Testament: Longman

These are some of the most important reference works in the Logos library.

Posts 2465
Lee | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 3 2015 4:20 PM

I agree with what has been said.

In this ratings system, newer series (some very specialized) and works by less well-known authors tend to be at a disadvantage.

Posts 548
John Kaess | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 3 2015 5:18 PM

In addition to the 2 resources that you list, i also use:

Commentary and Reference Survey (a comprehensive guide to biblical and theological resources) by John Glynn

It isn't in Logos as far as i know, but the hard copy is worth having and is available from Amazon.

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Mark Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 3 2015 6:11 PM

Depending on one's Logos library, one can also take advantage of book reviews given in the journals. Unfortunately, until Faithlife starts tagging book reviews, they can take a bit of work to locate. Also unfortunately, journal updates are not coming out in as timely a fashion as they were under an earlier publisher. For more recent works (often not covered by the suggestions given above) recent journal reviews can be very helpful.

Pastor, North Park Baptist Church

Bridgeport, CT USA

Posts 57
James | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 3 2015 6:46 PM

Mark Smith:
For more recent works (often not covered by the suggestions given above) recent journal reviews can be very helpful.

Mark could you please detail what journals you use? I see many reviews on Themelios is the one I usually see reviews in but I'm sure there are many others.

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SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Dec 3 2015 7:44 PM

John Kaess:
It isn't in Logos as far as i know, but the hard copy is worth having and is available from Amazon.

One other useful resource that is in Logos/Verbum is Fitzmyer's An Introductory Bibliography for the Study of Scripture, which is cheap on its own and also found in some base packages.

https://www.logos.com/product/2832/an-introductory-bibliography-for-the-study-of-scripture

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Mark Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Dec 4 2015 7:36 AM

James:
Mark could you please detail what journals you use? I see many reviews on Themelios is the one I usually see reviews in but I'm sure there are many others.

Themelios is very useful. Beside that I seem to get the best results from:

  • Ashland Theological Journal
  • Bibliotheca Sacra
  • Bulletin for Biblical Research
  • The Churchman
  • Emmaus Jourmal
  • Grace Theological Journal
  • Journal of Biblical Literature
  • Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
  • Master's Seminary Journal
  • Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
  • Westminster Theological Journal

Pastor, North Park Baptist Church

Bridgeport, CT USA

Posts 391
Geo Philips | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Dec 4 2015 11:45 AM

Perhaps this is where something like a community shared note would come in handy - 'Links to Commentary Reviews In Journals'

Mark Smith:

James:
Mark could you please detail what journals you use? I see many reviews on Themelios is the one I usually see reviews in but I'm sure there are many others.

Themelios is very useful. Beside that I seem to get the best results from:

  • Ashland Theological Journal
  • Bibliotheca Sacra
  • Bulletin for Biblical Research
  • The Churchman
  • Emmaus Jourmal
  • Grace Theological Journal
  • Journal of Biblical Literature
  • Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
  • Master's Seminary Journal
  • Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
  • Westminster Theological Journal

Posts 1216
Matt Hamrick | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Dec 4 2015 12:37 PM

Geo to make it work now create a collection of your journals if you haven't already. Open up a search and search the journal collection with largetext:"Book Review*" OR heading:"Book Review*" then it will show you all the journals with book reviews.

Posts 476
elnwood | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Dec 4 2015 2:05 PM

I don't use BestCommentaries.com. The main problem with it is that they don't classify who recommends the commentaries.

So, Carson's commentary on John is well-acclaimed among Reformed and Evangelical list-makers. The reason he scores so high is because the vast majority of the lists used on BestCommentaries.com are Reformed and/or Evangelical. And they generally copy each other's recommendation lists, because very few people are able to read all those commentaries to make an evaluation on every book in the Bible. (Full disclosure: I am Reformed and Evangelical).

But non-evangelical scholarship ignores Carson's commentary on John almost completely. For example, the commentary recommendation lists from Princeton Theological Seminary, Calvin Seminary, Claremont School of Theology, Georgetown University, and Luther Seminary do not list it.

So if BestCommentaries.com populated their lists with non-evangelical scholars, Carson would have ranked very low, and Raymond Brown's commentary on John (currently ranked 7th) would be far and away on top.

I keep my own list of recommended commentaries, but I take into consideration who is recommending it. Some commentaries, like Carson's, get rave reviews from evangelicals, but not from non-evangelicals. Others, like D. Edmond Hiebert, are highly recommended on lists by dispensationalists, but are absent from non-dispensational lists.

Commentary recommendation lists is kind of like Textual Criticism. It doesn't matter quite as much how many times a commentary is recommended, but who recommends it, and whether a diversity of witnesses recommends it.

Posts 118
Jonathan Ray | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Dec 6 2015 6:16 AM

elnwood:
I don't use BestCommentaries.com. The main problem with it is that they don't classify who recommends the commentaries.

I would also add that newer commentaries (say within the past 10 years or so) are not ranked very high either. They go to the bottom of the list until an evangelical commentator like Carson or Longman III reviews them in book form.

What is nice about bestcommentaries is that it compiles a list for you of titles, authors, and series you might have missed. Otherwise, it is a bit arbitrary.

Posts 623
JAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Dec 6 2015 7:24 AM

elnwood:
Commentary recommendation lists is kind of like Textual Criticism. It doesn't matter quite as much how many times a commentary is recommended, but who recommends it, and whether a diversity of witnesses recommends it.

          Wink

"The Christian mind is the prerequisite of Christian thinking. And Christian thinking is the prerequisite of Christian action." - Harry Blamires, 1963

Posts 476
elnwood | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Dec 6 2015 8:33 PM

The other thing that I don't like about BestCommentaries.com is that it doesn't classify commentaries. It says nothing about what commentary is the best for a given audience. In contrast, Longman's work classifies commentaries as being for pastors, scholars, or laypeople.

Richard Bauckham has the best commentary on 2 Peter/Jude -- great for students and professors who know Greek. But his commentary is too long and in depth for a layperson and others who don't know Greek. Also, Bauckham denies that Peter wrote 2 Peter, and I found that diminished its usefulness significantly when I was teaching through 2 Peter with a different authorship view.

So to rank commentaries on the Greek and Hebrew text on the same list as "expository commentaries" (essentially sermon collections) and everything in between is kind of crazy. If two books are not comparable, then you shouldn't compare them or rank them.

Posts 57
James | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Dec 6 2015 8:39 PM

elnwood:
So to rank commentaries on the Greek and Hebrew text on the same list as "expository commentaries" (essentially sermon collections) and everything in between is kind of crazy. If two books are not comparable, then you shouldn't compare them or rank them.

I agree 100%. If they are to keep the numerical scoring, they should at least separate commentaries by type/audience and score accordingly. I'd also remove the "seed" commentary (D.A. Carson's PNTC on John) as it is very arbitrary. 

If I paid attention to this before I purchase my first library in Logos I probably would have saved massive $$$ rather than sticking to the rankings here.

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Dec 7 2015 1:47 AM

elnwood:
The other thing that I don't like about BestCommentaries.com is that it doesn't classify commentaries.

Many of the commentaries are tagged with their academic level: technical, pastoral, devotional or special study. Bauckham's commentary is tagged as technical.

Posts 389
James C. | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Dec 7 2015 5:52 AM

I don't like bestcommentaries because they don't want critical reviews. I posted a review years ago about a commentary, gave it a half star and gave all the reasons to stay away and I got an email asking me to change my review. My review was not mean or agrees I've but critical. But that's simply not what they want. Only positive reviews, or at least it was years ago.  

Since then I've never been back. 

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