Ellicott’s Commentaries on Pauline Epistles

The astute (including those who subscribe to our Community Pricing RSS Feed) have recently noticed that we’ve popped up a bevy of commentaries on Pauline Epistles by Charles Ellicott in our community pricing system. They are:

Why would we do such a thing? Ellicott’s commentaries were highly respected in their day for their grammatical insight and general approach. Here are excerpts from some reviews of his work back in Ellicott’s day:

To Bishop Ellicott must be assigned the first rank, if not the first place in the first rank of English biblical scholarship. The series of commentaries on the Pauline Epistles are in the highest style of critical exegesis; so high, indeed, that rightly or wrongly he has felt constrained by friendly criticisms to compromise with the humble capacity of his audience, and make a more sparing use of those expressive old technicals, which enabled him to place his results in the most compact shape. Mr. Ellicott’s genius is endowed with the most opposite qualities. His imagination and feeling are intense, yet his patience of analysis is unbounded. His exegesis is at once dry and glowing. It is microscopic; not because the critic is cold and mechanical, but because of his ardent soul the ultimate particle of sacred thought revealable by only the most perfect lens is infinitely more precious than gold. To appreciate and enjoy Cicero was with Quintillian a test of true intellectual taste; to study, enjoy, and fully appropriate Ellicott in these commentaries is the prerogative of a true biblical scholar. And yet to the popular preacher, who wishes to preach, as far as possible, from the text exactly as the apostle wrote, and from the inspired mind exactly as the apostle thought, these exegeses are a rare aid and insurance.
From: Methodist Review, April 1865, p. 310 (via Google Books)

Bishop Ellicott’s works on the shorter Pauline Epistles are so well known to students of the New Testament text that his characteristics as a commentator need not be enumerated. This volume closely resembles his earlier ones in plan and execution. It is above all things a philological commentary; that is, it aims to expound the sense by the close application of grammatical tests and principles. This fact will repel those who have too little time or patience to carefully follow the critical processes which have been necessary to the author’s purpose. But we agree with him in saying: “If the student will patiently wade through these details of grammar, he will be rewarded by a real knowledge of the mind of the original, which, so far as I know, cannot certainly be acquired any other way” (Preface, p. 7).
From: New Englander and Yale Review, 1889, page 389 (via Google Books)

But why else? The only volume of Ellicott’s that I have any experience with is his volume on the Pastorals. And I consult it not only because of his grammatical insights, but because — at least in the volume on the Pastorals — he interacts with classic and patristic Greek literature and also looks for exegetical insight from the early versions (Latin, Syriac and even Gothic!).
Here’s what Ellicott has to say in his preface to his volume on the Pastorals:

Possibly a more interesting addition will be found in the citations of authorities. I have at last been enabled to carry out, though to a very limited extent, the long cherished wish of using some of the best versions of antiquity for exegetical purposes. … …
In thus breaking ground in the Ancient Versions, I would here very earnestly invite fellow-labourers into the same field. It is not easy to imagine a greater service than might be rendered to Scriptural exegesis if scholars would devote themselves tot he hearty study of one or more of these Versions. I dwell upon the term scholars, for it would be perhaps almost worse than useless to accept illustrations from a Version, unless they were also associated with a sound and accurate knowledge of the original Greek. (Ellicott, Pastorals, pp. ix-x)

On sources and influences for his work on the Pastorals, Ellicott writes at the end of his preface:

These, [some previous commentators, particularly Coray's Συνέκδημος Ιερατικός] with the Patristic commentators, the able Romanist expositors, Justiniani, Cornelius a Lapide, and Estius, and a few other writers noticed in the preface to the Epistle to the Galatians, are the principal authorities which I have used in the present commentary.

It’s because of the sources and depth of commentary that I enjoy Ellicott on the Pastorals. I’ll be excited to see if these volumes make their way from community pricing, into pre-pub, and finally into Logos Bible Software.


NB: We’re still doing research into Charles J. Ellicott’s published writings. Do you know of other commentaries by Ellicott that we should pursue? Once we isolate all of them, we may take the next step of making a collection. So help us out and comment on this post if you have more information about Ellicott’s commentaries. Thanks!

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3 Responses to “Ellicott’s Commentaries on Pauline Epistles”

  1. David Mackey August 1, 2007 at 7:54 pm #

    I’m a big fan of including quotes from church authorities, even though I am Protestant. I think it gives a better view on the history of the doctrine, as well as quoting from secular authorities as appropriate – e.g. Barclay.

  2. Nigel August 2, 2007 at 12:22 am #

    I’ve got his multi volume commentary on the whole bible. Very good stuff

  3. Michael December 29, 2009 at 3:50 am #

    I recently purchased a second-hand copy of Ellicott’s 8-volume “A Bible Commentary for English Readers.” It looks to be a very good commentary. This set was printed by Cassell and Company Ltd. The set I have has a publishers note in it that states “This edition being specially prepared for subscription is not obtainable through the general booksellers.” It is edited by Charles John Ellicott DD when he was Lord Bishop of Gloucester which would date it sometime between 1897 to 1905.