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Religion & Philosophy Research Guide: Bible Commentaries

This research guide features resources and strategies for finding information and conducting research related to Religion and Philosophy.

Surveys of Bible Commentaries

Online Guides to Commentaries

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Introduction to Bible Commentaries

When searching the JFL main page for a Bible commentary, select the Books tab, then enter Commentary, and the biblical book in question.

  • For digital commentaries only, limit the results to Online Books. 
  • E.g., Commentary Romans

Another search tactic is to pick a popular series and enter that name along with the biblical book of choice. 

  • E.g., Baker Exegetical Acts
  • e.g., Pillar New Testament Ephesians 

There are 4 Types of Bible Commentaries:

  • Expository -- intended to explain the meaning of the text and make personal application.
  • Devotional -- intended to assist the reader with their personal walk with God.
  • Cultural -- help the reader with the cultural background behind the biblical text.
  • Exegetical -- assist the reader to understand the human author's intended meaning of the biblical text.

For an introduction to these various types of Bible commentaries see the tutorial below.

What makes for a Scholarly Exegetical Commentary?

A Good Scholarly Exegetical Commentary;

  • Covers the historical background behind the biblical book and includes authorship, recipients or audience, and date of composition.
  • Seeks to understand human author’s intended meaning.
  • Seeks to understand how the original recipients would have understood the human author.
  • Discusses various interpretations of a difficult passage.
  • Will give what the commentator believes is the best interpretation of a difficult passage.
  • Relies on the original languages for interpretation, Hebrew & Aramaic for OT and Greek for NT.
  • Cites journal articles and books.


For additional help on what makes for a good commentary see Fee, Gordon D., and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: Fourth Edition, HarperCollins Christian Publishing, 2014.

- The author alone is not the best way to determine if a work is an exegetical or scholarly commentary. And, sometimes a scholar may produce two versions of a commentary, one that is more technical and one that is more applicational or aimed at a general audience. Find your passage in the commentary, and then look for footnotes, in-text citations, use of original languages, and other forms of documentation. Pick a problem passage, one that is often debated, and examine how the author works through the difficulties and interpretative debates. Once a commentary has been identified as scholarly, the others in that same series can safely be deemed scholarly too.

To identify a commentary as 'devotional' or non-scholarly is Not a statement about its theological perspective or truthfulness. Some very academic commentaries have questionable viewpoints, and some devotional works are solidly biblical. The distinction is about how the author documents their own resources, how they openly engage other viewpoints and perspectives, and how they provide the reader with quality resources that were used within the commentary or that can facilitate more research.

How to Find Commentaries;  

  • Access the library’s online catalog at for print and electronic books.
  • From the library’s web page under where you find “Find Resources” click on “Books.” 
  • Under the search box you will see a default search for “Print,” "E-book” and "Audiobook." If you live far from campus unclick the box next to "Print."
  • For commentaries on biblical books search “Bible” and the name of the Bible book followed by the word "Commentaries, e.g., “Bible. – Mark -- Commentaries.” For books that a number in front of them such as in I John use, "Bible -- Epistles of John -- Commentaries" or for I Samuel use, "Bible -- Samuel -- Commentaries."

As you look through the results, be on the lookout for noted scholars in the field and reputable academic publishers (B&H Academic, Brazos, Eerdmans, Baker, IVP, Zondervan, etc.).

For additional help in how to find commentaries watch the tutorial below.


Bible Commentary Genre Search

Click here to do a genre search of Bible commentaries in the Jerry Falwell Library. A variety of Bible commentaries will show up in the search results covering books in the Old Testament and New Testament.