Commentaries That Comment on the Text

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.

Frédéric Louis Godet Commentary Collection (16 Vols.)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:


  1. Jim VanSchoonhoven says

    Wow, thanks so much for this post, to be honest with you I have felt the same exact thing that this post is saying, and the sources you have listed are really some of my most loved resources, I wish a few more of the sets were actually in Logos, but what you have said, lines up with my experience in the difference between most modern top line commentaries and the older top line commentaries.
    I have been going more and more to the old dead guys for the meat of what the text means. Thanks for putting this into words!
    And it is nice to know that I am not the only one that has noticed the differences!
    By the way I can hardly wait for your discource grammar book!!!
    In Christ,

  2. I am surprised that John Eadie Commentaries and Bible Reference Collection (11 Vols.) on Pre-Pub was not mentioned in the blog

  3. Good call, Ted. Eadie’s a good fit for this. We just added it to the post. Thanks for pointing it out.

  4. John Murphy says

    Concur with Jim! (On the Discourse Grammar too). As an example, I’ll point out Bruce Waltke’s commentary on Proverbs. I bought the book eagerly because I love Waltke, then I started reading it…disappointed. He spends (wastes) so much time commenting on modern scholars debate/comment/rabbit trails, that the great nuggets that are they (and they ARE there) are liking chipping gold out of concrete.
    Dead guys here I come! Thanks, Steve, for pointing this out.

  5. John Murphy says

    Just made a dynamic “Dead Guys” commentary collection with the authors that Steve pointed out. Got to love Logos 4!

  6. Jim Lowther says

    I wish you would say something about the Biblical Commentary on the New Testament, by Hermann Olshausen as well. Along with Peter Lange and Heinrich Meyer’s Commentary on the New Testament, it is valuable for its synthesis of German exegetical in an accessible English format. I am hoping that it will move from “gathering interest” into development soon.
    Best wishes,
    Dr. Jim Lowther

  7. Jim, Olshausen’s commentary could have been listed here as well. Thanks for pointing it out.