How many commentaries are enough?

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Everett Headley | Forum Activity | Posted: Tue, Jul 22 2014 9:19 AM

I just picked up Boice's commentaries and EBC (old school version) mainly just to replace dead tree versions with Logos ones.  It got me thinking, just how many commentaries are enough?  I generally use about 4 or 5 and have others that are more technical or specialized for difficult texts.  After adding these two to my Logos Library, I probably will not buy any more sets, just individual volumes here and there.  I guess it only took me 10 years to get all of the ones I want in Logos, but it made me wonder how many everyone else uses on average and if they will buy more just to have more in Logos?

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 9:58 AM

I would still recommend New Interpreter's Bible. It is a fair bargain now before it's release date in August. And may compliment your library with slightly different views (not that there are not plenty of strong evangelical voices like Kaiser in Leviticus and Wright in Romans). As I have said to others if you find it is not going to be for you, one can always call Logos up within the first month and get one's money back. I do think there are some souls out there who buy everything to simply have a larger Logos library, I have more than a few purchases, usually CP pricing ones that I virtually never use. I do not think one needs to own everything but then that is me.

-Dan

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Tanner Thetford | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 10:13 AM

I personally like to have as many as I can get within reason/cost. I've found that it has been helpful to have my personal favorites, plus the standard good ones (NICOT, WBC, NAC etc). I'm not in any hurry to get more, but I will certainly be picking them up as I get a chance. As Dan mentioned, New Interpreter's, Pillar, and others are on my short list, etc.

I subscribe firmly to the perspective that the more resources I have, the more powerful a tool Logos becomes. I have not been a Logos user very long, but already I have experienced the joy several times of finding the exact information I needed in a resource that I didn't even know existed, much less that I had. I feel that as I expand into more commentaries in the future, I will surely have many more years of the same joy.

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Unix | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 10:19 AM

I guess that to a large degree it depends on if You want to have several types of commentaries: pastoral, devotional, application, technical, Jewish, historical-critical, grammatical-critical, textual-critical, archaeological, inter-textual; whether You want the views from many different authors and denominations; whether You want both brief and in-depth commentaries on the same books of the Bible; whether You buy introductions separately or if You want to have so many commentaries that the introduction material is enough; how many excursuces You want; and whether You want to cover the entire Bible - including the Apocrypha and perhaps some Pseudepigrapha, Apostolic Fathers and "Gnosticism" as well?

When I look at sets I always consider what I'm paying for: do I really want to pay for dated volumes (if there are many dated volumes in the set I'm looking at it's better to cherry-pick among the current volumes)? is it too verbose (the problem is I wouldn't have time to read through it - not even just the parts I need)? are there many volumes from a denomination that I want to avoid like the plague (in my case Southern Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Seventh-Day Adventist, Jehovas Witness, and the entirely Wesleyan sets)? does it ad too much from a denomination which is too easy to collect too my much (Reformed)? The latter is the reason why I cancelled the New Testament Library set (but I'm going to buy a few individual volumes if it's ever broken up which I think it will be).

Another question to ask Yourself is whether You want to do special studies and specific topics only. In that case You might want to research monographs instead. For example when it comes the genuine Pauline letters including Ephesians, or Ecclesiasticus.

A final point to consider is if the inclusion of images is very important or not.

I will be interested in what others say on this topic and what motives they have for buying any of the more expensive commentary sets currently on pre-pub or which really valuable and useful individual volumes from any set they have found?

Aply!
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Rob | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 10:32 AM

How much is enough?

“Just a little bit more.”

John D. Rockefeller

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David A Egolf | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 10:32 AM

The more the merrier!  Sometimes you come across something in the Bible that just hits you as odd and it is interesting to see if anyone else notes it. 

For instance, When Michal helped David escape from Saul, as recounted in 1 Sam 19, the ESV says that she placed an "image" in the bed to make it look like David was still there.  Other Bible versions make it plainer that it was a household god.  I was amazed at how many commentaries do not bother to "comment" on the oddity of David having a household god in his house.  Very few elaborated on exactly what it was in the bed and even fewer drew attention to the incongruity.  I actually redid my Logos commentary priorities based on my results.

BTW: I found that the most complete treatment was by Lange and Schaff from a 100 year old commentary.

Posts 945
Everett Headley | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 10:51 AM

Just a point of clarification, I was asking how many you use on average, or would want in your library.  I'm not needing suggestions...I have my sets that I need.

And FWIW:  A comment like"avoiding like the plague" could be seen as inflammatory...especially for those of us who are Southern Baptist...

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David A Egolf | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 11:04 AM

Everett Headley:

I was asking how many you use on average, or would want in your library.

Well to refine my answer from above based on your refined query, I would say that I typically don't start with a commentary when I study.  I start with Biblical text and then refer to commentaries for research when questions arise. 

Rather than reading a commentary, I attempt to locate audio for general overview material.  I like www.blueletterbible.org and, being from a reformed background, www.monergism.com.

Posts 116
Tanner Thetford | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 11:11 AM

On average I use about 10, including Study Bible notes in that total. I believe I am likely on the low end of the spectrum for this, but I find I need to typically spend much more time on illustration, application, and prayer as I am much more expositionally oriented in my disposition.

That said, they aren't always the same 10. Sometimes a commentary I read loses my interest almost immediately because I feel their exegesis is forced in my particular pericope. Sometimes this is the case even when I felt they were particularly insightful the week before. Thus my desire to have as many different options as I can get.

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 11:23 AM

Everett Headley:
how many you use on average, or would want in your library.

For preaching I would stick to my top 5 trusted commentaries.,

For personal study I want as many as I can get. Logos becomes exponentially more powerful as you add resources.

Disclaimer: I am not currently a preacher.

Logos 7 Collectors Edition

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Unix | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 12:02 PM

Typos edited.

It varies depending on which part of the Bible I'm looking at, on some parts I have little coverage and then I have adequate coverage for other parts. The average number of commentaries I use is probably less than half a dozen, but at least 3-4 for the parts of the Bible I'm particularly interested in. It's that few because some of them on popular parts of the Bible are thick, and I'm interested in some neglected parts of the Bible such as Jude. I have more, not a lot more though. I know I use more for GJn but I'm not in a hurry to buy more for it. It happens that I also buy introductions to books of the Bible separately if there are any really good ones.

I would like to be decisive and make my decisions next month at the latest so that I can fully focus on studies - shopping (incl. reading reviews) consumes too much time. Sorry I asked for recommendations. Is there anyone with an opinion on Darrell L. Bock on Lk 9:51-24:53? I know Bovon is better but I can't afford Bovon for that middle-part of Lk right now (Lk volume 2) - I used to have it though until I swapped it for Accordance lexicons. Bock seems like a low-budget option for the middle-part of Lk. Is it important to have an as updated commentary as possible for the middle-part of Lk?:

Everett Headley:
Just a point of clarification, I was asking how many you use on average, or would want in your library.


Well, I do. But to some extent I avoid Evangelical commentaries and sadly many times those are the cheapest or most common ones. I also avoid thoroughly dispensationalist commentaries but it happens that I accept that the author is a dispensationalist if the reviews clearly say that there are few occurences of that:

Everett Headley:
And FWIW:  A comment like "avoiding like the plague" could be seen as inflammatory...especially for those of us who are Southern Baptist...

Aply!
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Dave Moser | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 12:24 PM

How many commentaries are enough... for what?

  • For preaching I only have time to check a handful (generally 5 or fewer) of my favorite commentaries on that book.
  • For a writing project I can't have enough commentaries.

I have reached something of a saturation point now where I'm experiencing diminishing returns. Having accumulated a good number of commentary sets I only ever purchase a new commentary if it has some unique quality for a sermon or project I'm writing.

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 12:33 PM

Tanner Thetford:
I personally like to have as many as I can get within reason/cost.

Tanner Thetford:
I subscribe firmly to the perspective that the more resources I have, the more powerful a tool Logos becomes.

That's my rule of thumb too. Yes

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Joseph Turner | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 12:51 PM

"How many commentaries are enough?"

All of them Geeked

Disclaimer:  I hate using messaging, texting, and email for real communication.  If anything that I type to you seems like anything other than humble and respectful, then I have not done a good job typing my thoughts.

Posts 215
Simon | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 1:25 PM

I have a lot of commentaries, but I don't think more is better. Yes, it feels good to see your commentary section of your passage guide crowded with a lot of commentaries. But in the end, most of the time you have limited time to study a passage, so you only use a limited number of commentaries.

If you're working or studying in a academic setting, having the major academic commentaries on the bible books your studying is a must have. But before buying them, consider first if you will use these commentaries after your study is completed. Hermeneia and ICC are very nice academic commentaries, but when writing sermons I find most of their volumes of little value.

For sermon writing, I most of time check http://www.ligonier.org/blog/top-commentaries-on-every-book-of-the-bible/ en http://bestcommentaries.com/ to choose which commentaries to use. For a sermon I prefer:

  • One or two technical academic commentaries (ICC, NIGTC, WBC, Hermeneia, Continental, NICOT/NICNT)
  • One or two less technical academic commentaries (Reformed Expository, Baker Exegetical, NAC, Hendriksen and Kistemaker)
  • One or two homiletic/devotional commentaries (Welwyn, Preaching the Word, NIVAC, Simeon, Boice)
  • One or two classics (Calvin, Matthew Henry)
  • As time permits, some sermons (Keller, McArthur, Puritans)

Personally (I'm from a reformed background with academic training) would advise to buy:

  • NICOT/NICNT - a good, academic series, technical level of volumes vary
  • NAC - one of my preferred commentaries, technical and practical, balance varies between volumes
  • WBC - Get it (with or without the Nelson bundle) when discounted. Good commentary, but in some volumes a bit dry.
  • Reformed Expository - I love this series for writing sermons. Sound exposition with great practical value. Only downside is that it is far from complete

These are - imho - the series which offer a good quality in most of their volumes, that they are worth buying. For the other series I would recommend checking how many volumes offer the quality you search for, before buying the whole set. Some series have some great volumes, but buying only those high quality volumes would be much cheaper than buying the whole set.

Besides commentaries, buy

  • BDAG and HALOT - if you're trained to read the original languages, use these dictionaries. These are the current academic standard and are the best. Don't save money on good dictionaries.
  • Two good bible dictionaries: Anchor-Yale, ISBE, NIBD, IVP Bible Dictionary Series - Personally, I prefer Anchor-Yale (most complete) and ISBE (fairly complete and evangelical).
  • Some good theological dictionaries for word studies
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Allen Browne | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 3:51 PM

Everett Headley:
... just how many commentaries are enough? ...

Good thinking.

Most commentators refer to other commentators, so you really do see them (at least the good ones) dealing with the same approaches, and so they become quite similar after a while. So now I tend to buy only commentaries that do NOT represent my viewpoint.

In other words, the question is, will this new commentary you're considering in the future give you something you don't already have? It might if it is written by someone from a very different denomination, someone from a different part of the world, someone with a different set of presuppositions, or someone from a different era.

Posts 3701
BillS | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 4:14 PM

Bruce Dunning:

Tanner Thetford:
I personally like to have as many as I can get within reason/cost.

Tanner Thetford:
I subscribe firmly to the perspective that the more resources I have, the more powerful a tool Logos becomes.

That's my rule of thumb too. Yes

Same here, adding that as many GOOD ones as I can get within reason/cost. Why? Each good commentary offers a unique set of ideas on application of the text. And when I come to that passage again, after working out what I'm hearing it say I like to use DIFFERENT commentaries than last time for more ideas on application of the text... the more commentaries, the more ideas....

Grace & Peace,
Bill


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mab | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 7:44 PM

How many commentaries are enough?

To echo a Veggie Tales script: How many are there?

In practice, every believer with a Bible and good cross references already has enough. For the pulpit, you don't need a lot. For graduate level study, you want as much as you can find even if it mostly resides in footnote references.

Substituting commentary reading for hands-on exegesis is a very bad practice. Do the text first and treat commentaries as a supplement. 

The mind of man is the mill of God, not to grind chaff, but wheat. Thomas Manton | Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow. Richard Baxter

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Jacob Hantla | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 22 2014 8:13 PM

A bad commentary or a commentary you aren't going to ever look at does you no good. So, within the limits of your budget, you should get as many good commentaries as you would have the ability to benefit from. 

Jacob Hantla
Pastor/Elder, Grace Bible Church
gbcaz.org

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Unix | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 23 2014 12:30 AM

Read this post only if You want to know how it works in reality whether I can afford or should afford commentaries or not.
I have a dilemma: I want to author a book published at earliest a decade from now, but the more I spend on commentaries (which is perhaps the biggest temptation at least at the moment), the less I have left to spend on publishing it + buying a "moped-car". All I could possibly do about my finances in the long term would be to move to a smaller apartment, but then I would probably not have a large enough room for my two desks and bookshelf, plus I need to have a computer in my bedroom which needs to be separate to read devotionals and for leisure-reading plus a separate kitchen is also beneficial in order not to litter. If not having a computer in each room I would not be able to separate schoolwork from other non-mandatory things. So I'm not sure whether a smaller apartment would help me publish earlier (because of saving maybe $1,000 a decade after all the renovation costs for moving), or delay it (because using more time to non-mandatory things and thereby probably even delaying studies or at least lowering grades). Also, it would not be cheap to move - it would cause renovation costs to pay - costs I definitely don't need to pay while still living here. Thirdly, it now seems more likely than before that I would get some girlfriend - and I would be ashamed if I live cramped: it would reveal how poor I am and then I would have to start explaining about my life and would thereby loose the girlfriend. Anyway I know I will either move within two years, or I will wait until about 6 years from now until I move (in which case I don't save anything in time for publishing the book), or never:

mab:
For the pulpit, you don't need a lot. For graduate level study, you want as much as you can find even if it mostly resides in footnote references.

Substituting commentary reading for hands-on exegesis is a very bad practice. Do the text first and treat commentaries as a supplement.

Jacob Hantla:
So, within the limits of your budget, you should get as many good commentaries as you would have the ability to benefit from.


My approach is (and I don't know if this is is the best): first to look for years at which books of the Bible are worth studying, (and also split some books of the Bible such as Isaiah and 2 Corinthians as they didn't originally "come out" like they are now in the canon), then decide whether You want to exclude books that were either very late or not genuine or contain a bit of "Gnosticism", such as: Esther, Wisdom, Luke chapters 1-2, Colossians, Pastorals, 2nd Peter (I think most would exclude this one), Apocalypse. (Sorry I guess I've been focusing on the last century before Christ and the first two centuries, lately, unable to give more examples from the Old Testament.) To continue about my approach: then to separate each part You are going to exegete, study, just get an overview of, or do special studies in, from each other book-by-book of the Bible and start to spend some more time looking at which commentary (no matter of which set) volumes are the best for each book/part of the Bible. Then whether these volumes are in sets that have not been broken up and You definitely can't wait for it to be broken up or it's very unlikely it'll be broken up during the next 10 years and the set goes on a sale, or whether the volumes can be bought individually, You buy either the sets where they are contained or preferably individually. I would say You need few complete sets, and no matter if You save a lot or a little by buying individually it's the way to go.

Then if You have bought a too expensive set or regret some purchase, try sell what You can as soon as You realize Your mistake - in order to free money either for other things (preferably, to get rid of the addiction) or more commentaries.

Aply!
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