Best Bible Books: New Testament Resources, John Glynn, edited by Michael H. Burer with contributions by Michael H. Burer, Darrell L. Bock, Joseph D. Fantin, and J. William Johnston. Grand Rapids: Kregel Ministry, 2018.
Summary: A review of commentaries, dictionaries, and other scholarly resources related to the New Testament, singling out those the contributors deem of greatest value.
Theological students, pastors, and anyone serious about Bible study face a dilemma. There is a surfeit of resources in English and for most, limits to their budgets. What are the best resources to purchase to have a useful library at hand for study, preaching and teaching and academic scholarship?
John Glynn, a freelance academic writer, edited ten editions of Commentary and Reference Series before his death in 2007. This new 11th edition carries on much of the tradition he established while expanding it by separating New Testament resources from Old Testament and theological resources (forthcoming).
The work begins with the editor’s recommendations for building a Personal Reference Library, a valuable starting list for anyone building their library. This is followed by a chapter on commentaries series. Favored are the Word Biblical Commentary and the New International Greek Testament Commentary, the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary, and the Pillar New Testament Commentaries. For preaching and application, the New International Version Application Commentary was not commended here, but most volumes in the series were commended in the reviews. The Bible Speaks Today series was also commended for expositional works.
There are then sections listing recommendations of New Testament Introduction, Survey, and Theology books, and books on Jesus and the Gospels. These are in standard bibliography comment, some including very brief comments. Commended works are highlighted by shading.
The bulk of this work is reviews of commentaries, by books of the Bible. Each review includes comments on the approach of the commentary–types of critical approaches, emphases, format–how the material is organized, and usability–including who the commentary might be most useful for. Commentaries are rated by Good, Better, and Best. Commentaries are included from a variety of theological positions–evangelical (the most), more liberal Protestant, denomination (particularly Lutheran and Anabaptist), and Catholic (Sacra Pagina). While the “Best” ratings tend to go to well-executed works by evangelicals, a number of the Anchor Bible (or Anchor Yale Bible, which has succeeded it, some Sacra Pagina, and Hermeneia work also receive these ratings. Commentaries are organized by “Technical/Semitechnical” and “Exposition” categories.
Following the commentaries are further bibliography lists by categories and subcategories. These follow the format of the bibliographies at the beginning of the book, highlighting commended works, with a sprinkling of brief comments about selected works. The categories are:
- Scholarly One Volume Commentaries
- New Testament Background
- Popular References
- General References
- New Testament Greek Resources
- Exegesis, Interpretation, and Hermeneutics
The work concludes with a listing of “the Ultimate New Testament Commentary Collection” selecting one from the Technical/Semitechnical category and one from the Exposition category. In this list, the Baker Exegetical Commentary New Testament and the New International Version Application Commentaries were the most often commended.
Of course, those familiar with the commentaries may not always agree. I was pleased to see commentaries by Linda Belleville and G. Walter Hansen receive “best” ratings as did several of Ben Witherington’s rhetorical commentaries (these scholars are personal friends), as well as much of the work of Colin Kruse, Craig Keener and Craig Blomberg, as well as classics by C. E. B. Cranfield (Mark), C.K. Barrett (Acts) and others. It did seem on the whole that rhetorical critical approaches did not rate as highly. More liberal or Catholic works of exceptional merit were singled out, but these seemed fewer than the evangelical works. Likewise, recent scholarship is favored, but some classic works do receive “bests.” There is a dearth of commentaries or other scholarly works from English speakers in the two-thirds world, or African Americans and Latinx Americans, and women are still significantly in the minority though represented.
This work is valuable especially for the student or young pastor acquiring a theological library. I was also impressed with how many works I acquired twenty to thirty years have been revised or replaced, and some series, like the Baker and Zondervan series weren’t even around (as well as the new Evangelical Exegetical Commentaries published through Faithlife/Logos). If you acquired many of your books more than ten years ago, and intend to continue to be active in ministry, you might find this a helpful tool. This would also be a helpful source when one begins to preach on a New Testament book, or as a source for a beginning bibliography on some New Testament question. It might even suggest a way to organize your library!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.