Are you thinking about investing in a commentary set to help with your sermon preparation? If so, here are our top five picks. All of them come from a more conservative/Evangelical perspective, because that’s our lane. No matter your background, you definitely want to read outside of your own lane to gain insight into differing perspectives, but for this list of top five commentaries, we stuck with what we know.
One important factor when choosing a Bible commentary is finding something that’s going to push you, and that’s not just devotional. There are a lot of very shallow commentaries that are designed for general readers. However, as a pastor, if you’re really looking to dig deep in the text, you’re going to have to get a little technical sometimes. The Word Biblical commentary set will stretch you a bit, but will also give you a wealth of information you don’t already know. It gets into the technical aspects of the text, while staying pretty readable.
We should note that some of the books in this set are better than others. For example, the two-volume commentary on Genesis is excellent!
Tyndale Old Testament and New Testament Commentary Sets
The Tyndale Old Testament and New Testament Commentary Sets from Intervarsity Press are really nice, but you probably don’t want to use it on its own. On the commentary scale of “very scholarly” to “very devotional,” the Tyndale set is right in the middle. So, it’s very readable and easy to understand, as well as being concise, fantastic AND affordable- but we recommend using it in conjunction with something a little more technical and scholarly when you’re preparing your sermon.
With each of these sets, we’ve chosen commentaries that have different authors for each volume, and the Tynday Commentary set is no exception. This is good for a couple of reasons- First, it means you’re able to draw from a lot of different people’s perspectives when you use the commentaries. Second, it means there’s a lot of oversight and a vigorous editing process. In other words, it’s not just a random person who sat down and did a commentary on the whole book of the Bible and got it published.
As we proceed through this list, we’re doing our best to give you a balanced view of each set. However, when you’re looking for a commentary, read both good and bad reviews. Do some digging and research before buying one.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Set should be the first set that most people own. Here’s why: it’s a foundational, fantastic commentary. At risk of sounding too enthusiastic, we truly think that every evangelical needs to have this in their library. It works through verse-by-verse, gives you the information you need without being super devotional, but also doesn’t get so technical that you can’t understand what they’re talking about unless you have a PhD.
If you know someone graduating from Bible College who’s about to go into the ministry, buy this entire commentary set for them! It will bless them in their ministry for years to come.
When it comes to preaching commentaries, most of them are trying help you understand what the text says, leaving you to conclude the practical applications for your life and ministry. So when it comes to interpreting the text and really digging into the author’s original intentions, you can buy all five of these commentary sets, or the book that covers what you’re studying. But from there, you can’t stop! You have to help your hearers understand how the passage applies to our world, and how the original principles apply to their lives. That’s where the NIV Application Commentary becomes vital.
The NIV Application Commentary takes a section of verses, then it talks about the original context. It also has a section where it bridges the context with our world, and then it has the immediate application to our modern world. You can sit down and read through it, jotting down notes about potential takeaways for your sermons. It’s kind of expensive, because each book of the Bible is basically its own book, but it’s so good. So, the best way to get it is to buy each book individually, as you need it. Over time, you’ll get the whole set.
Another great idea, if you’re just going through one book: get multiple commentaries on that book, so you can see differences in perspective and points where they overlap. This enriches your study & the perspective you can bring to your congregation.
Using multiple commentaries can get expensive, so check your local library system! Sometimes they’ll have a set that you can try out or use for a week or two if you don’t need the book for very long.
This is a foundational set- if you hear someone talking about “the NAC,” this is what they’re talking about. The New American Commentary is a basic to mid-level exegetical commentary, which means that they dig into the text without getting overly technical. Like the Expositor’s Commentary Set, this is another one that makes a great gift for recent college graduates!
And there you have it! Our top five commentary picks. Of course, you’ll also want to look at commentaries that don’t agree with your beliefs, so that you can address them. Don’t pretend that they don’t exist- instead, learn from them so you’re able to answer those questions as you’re preparing your sermon. We’ve given you 5 fantastic ones- and if you can, budget for these and have them as a resource at your church, inside your church’s library, so that other people can access them too! That’s an idea we stole from The Pastor’s Circle Facebook Group, where pastors ask questions and resource each other.
There’s also a digital commentary set on Sermonary, our cloud-based sermon writing platform. We partner with Thomas Constable of Dallas Theological Seminary, and we have every book of the Bible on the Sermonary platform, which you can purchase as you need them.
What commentary set do you use and love? Did we mention it? Comment on Youtube or use the hashtag #hellochurchpod on any social media platform to let us know!