Today’s guest post is from Dr. Steve Runge, a scholar-in-residence at Logos Bible Software and author of the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament, Lexham High Definition New Testament, and the forthcoming Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis.
What do you look for in a commentary? Sometimes it’s insight into how a passage is structured; other times it’s understanding how a particular passage fits into some larger debate. Most often, though, you turn to a commentary when you get stumped by the text itself. After all, where else better to turn than to a commentary?
A commentary that primarily comments on the text would seem like an obvious thing, but in many cases as modern commentaries have gotten more and more specialized, less and less of the content actually focuses on the biblical text. Now there’s a place for all the debates and contemporary discussions that are ancillary to the text itself, but they can distract your focus.
One of my mentors told me that the best way to get answers to questions about how the text hangs together is to read commentaries that were written before the previous century, and he specifically mentioned Frédéric Louis Godet as an example. Men like Godet were writing in a time before the New Perspective on Paul, before many of the Enlightenment-driven critical methodologies were in vogue. As a result, far more of the content in these commentaries was actually devoted to commenting on the text. They did not get distracted from their primary purpose: expositing Scripture to help readers better understand and apply it.
If you’re interested in modern interpretive controversies, there are plenty of titles to chose from (see, e.g., our Commentaries Product Guide). But if solid engagement with what the biblical text actually says is what you’re after, I will pass on the advice that I have richly benefited from: check out Godet and the his contemporaries (e.g., Henry Alford, William Robertson Nicoll, John Eadie, J. P. Lange, and the authors of the Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament like J. B. Lightfoot, H. B. Swete, and B. F. Westcott). They provide an important balance to modern scholarship, filling in holes that unfortunately seem to be growing bigger as the years pass. Do not look down on the “dead guys.” READ them.
The 16-volume Frédéric Louis Godet Commentary Collection includes commentaries on Luke, John, Romans, and 1 Corinthians as well as important biblical and theological studies. It’s nearly 100% of the pre-orders needed to send it into production. If you’re interested in solid exposition of the biblical text, place your pre-order for the Godet collection today.
For more on this subject, see our previous blog posts: