Digging for Commentary the New-Fashioned Way

How it used to be done

When I first began my seminary training in 1992, things were a little different. Doing research meant going to the library and digging through a literal card catalog (yeah, the kind with 3 x 5 cards). I learned about the “usual places” to look for exegetical help: commentaries, journals, Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias and so on. For instance, I wanted to find some discussion about why Jethro is called “Moses’ father-in-law” so many times in Exodus 18 (18x compared to “Jethro” 7x). You see, I had an inquiring mind, but the kinds of questions I came up with were not often discussed in “the usual places.” So now what?

About that time, Sheffield Academic Press began producing a host of wonderful resources–both Old and New Testament–that provided focused discussion of specific passages, themes or issues in a book, ones that did not really fit in with the normal template of a commentary. They also published collections of essays that were thematically related, sometimes focused on a single book of the Bible, other times tracking one theme through a whole testament. There was “gold in them thar hills” as the saying goes, but boy, was it ever some mighty hard digging to find it. It took a lot of work to find a nugget, but wow, was it ever worth it when you found what you were looking for!

At about the same time I began to realize that commentaries are selective. Although commentators are expected to cover certain topics for each passage, sometimes writers will stop and rant about something they are passionate about, oftentimes relegated to a footnote. But these “extended dance versions” comments are hit and miss. They may not even be about the book they are commenting on, but on some other book that is quoted or alluded to! Oh how the times have changed; the search resources available today are astounding in comparison.

The tide turns . . .

So how have things changed? Well to begin with, having an electronic version of the resource opens the door for full-text searches, which is a great thing. But Logos resources go about four or five steps further down the road than your average search engine like Google Books. Every book or resource has been painstakingly analyzed by our Electronic Text Development department. This means that no matter how obscure an abbreviation scheme is used for biblical book (e.g. Ezekiel, Ezek, Ez), no matter what punctuation scheme (e.g. 1:1, 1.1, 11), you’re going to find it, thanks to the festive folks in ETD . Try that using a Kindle or with Google books!

But wait, there’s more! Logos 4 has streamlined the search process by allowing rule-based collections to be built. Collections allow you to do more focused searches or reports. I have all of my commentaries in one collection, all of my grammars in another. Why not separate them by Old/New Testament or by Greek/Hebrew? Because of the rants I mentioned above. Some great nuggets about Acts 2 can be found in commentaries on Joel because of Peter’s quotation in Acts 2:17-21, for example.

Getting the most out of your resources

But it gets even better! Remember the Sheffield resources I mentioned earlier, the ones that have great discussions about passages, but that were terribly hard to find (and that cost you two children and a small aardvark to purchase!)? Adding collections of JSOT, JSNT, or Sheffield Readers into your commentary collections will significantly expand the volume of extended discussions about key passages. The same is true of journal collections like:

There are a number of great Old Testament collections from Sheffield that are currently on Pre-Pub:

If your current focus is the New Testament, there are plenty of great collections available as well:

There is no better platform for “mining” resources like these than Logos 4, period. Whether you are looking for technical discussions for research papers, or for homiletical or devotional material for teaching, you will only find what you have. If you are looking for new resources that will expand your exegetical pool for searching, then take a serious look at these collections. There are great nuggets in them thar hills, and no better tool for finding them than Logos 4!


  1. Mark Barnes says

    There are several resources I would like from these collections, but I can’t afford the whole collection just for the one or two books I need. Please consider selling books individually, as well as in collections.

  2. JJ Miller says

    Ahh, we think alike!
    In the late 80’s I started asking questions about literary structure and choices that the author made and found very little that addressed this even in a Seminary library. I stumbled on to “Literary Interpretations of Biblical Narratives (Vol.1 & 2) and it opened up a world of new insights.
    In the late 80’s, I discovered JSOT and JSNT and some excellent monographs from Sheffield Press. I learned of authors such as David Clines, Shimon Bar-Efrat, James Ackerman, Jan Fokkelman, Adele Berlin, and Michael Fishbane. Things started opening up.
    When Logos came out, things got really exciting. Then a fellow named Runge published a truly unique Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament and this enabled me to better see literary devices and markers more readily!
    As I prepare messages, I have my tools readily available in Logos, saving me tons of time. This is precisely why I want my collections in Logos and not in print (if I have a choice). I love printed books, so I suppose I will always buy them. But, since it is a matter of financial necessity, I can not have both print and electronic. I have no interest in having a book in kindle or in PDF format, if I have the choice in having it in Logos format. Logos searching is so powerful, that I would miss too much (not mentioning the time involved) by having a book in any other format.

  3. Bob Beckman says

    What exactly is the aardvark to child exchange rate? Can one substitute older children, say teenagers, or use a marginally larger aardvark?

  4. Andrew Baguley says

    Tis true that Logos’ ability to recognize many abbreviation schemes for biblical books make things so much better, especially with hovering and clicking bringing up the text. It would be great if this applied to other important texts as well. It sometimes applies to the Mishnah, but passages such as the following from DLNTD would be so much better if they linked through to the early church fathers:
    Rather than having a juridical sense as in Paul, “justification” seems to signify moral transformation (1 Clem. 30–33; Diogn. 9–10; Ign. Rom. 5; Ign. Phld. 8; Herm. Vis. 3.9; Herm. Sim. 5.7; see Hermas, Shepherd of). The atoning death of Christ brings forgiveness (Ign. Smyrn. 6) but only as prerequisite for obtaining salvation (Ign. Eph. 9). As Torrance (94–95) observes, for Polycarp Christ is the “down payment” (arrabōn) of our righteousness (Pol. Phil. 8.1), a down payment that must be supplemented by obedience (Pol. Phil. 2.2).
    Martin, R. P., & Davids, P. H. (2000). Dictionary of the later New Testament and its developments (electronic ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

  5. JJ Miller says

    :) You are trying to say something, aren’t you!?

  6. David Paul says

    Just an observation: Even though you may only want individual titles from the various collections that are on PrePub, you ought to “sign-up” for them anyway…at least until they tip over into the production phase–then you can cancel your order. That way, some of these excellent resources that have lingered inexplicably in PrePub for months or even years can go into the production que. I have noticed that many if not all of the so-called “collections”, whether disparate items or multi-volume works, do end up being available as discrete resources.
    The key is to get them from the “maybe” pile to the “make” pile.

  7. Bob Beckman says

    I just appreciated a little un-expected humor.

  8. Ok you peeked my interest…
    So what did you find out about why Jethro is called “Moses’ father-in-law” so many times in Exodus 18 (18x compared to “Jethro” 7x)?