As much as Americans love democracy, we want sports to be a simple meritocracy: may the best team win.
A lose-and-you’re-out tournament is our idea of a championship. We don’t want sportswriters telling us who they think is best; we want winners to prove who’s best. That’s why Americans love college basketball’s March Madness.
For years, Bible commentary fans have relied on “sportswriters” to tell them which commentaries are best. Carson and Longman (through their commentary surveys) and Denver Seminary and Detroit Seminary (through their lists) have long determined the best commentaries for each Bible book. Bestcommentaries.com (the Sportswriters Association of the commentary world) has aggregated those votes and become the go-to resource for recommendations. But there has never been a definitive commentary championship.
Until now. The scholars have voted; now it’s time for you, the primary intended readership, to tell us which commentaries are the best. This year, Logos March Madness focuses on commentaries (and MobileEd courses), and you are giving us your top picks. You can participate in the latest round of voting here.
What if commentaries were sports teams?
All this topic of competition has gotten my mind running. What if commentaries were sports teams?
The New International Commentary on the Old Testament and New Testament are the UCLA of commentaries. They have racked up the most impressive series of first-place finishes at bestcommentaries.com: 15 number ones and numerous top-five volumes. Craigie on Deuteronomy, Waltke on Proverbs, Longman on Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs, Block on Ezekiel, Fee on 1 Corinthians, Moo on Romans—this team is stacked. This is the evangelical commentary series to have. I expect it to do well in the tournament. (Also note that F.F. Bruce is the John Wooden of evangelical commentaries.)
The Word Biblical Commentary actually has an equal number of first-place finishes, but fewer second places. It’s the University of Kentucky of commentaries—just not quite up to the level of UCLA. (It’s also in the lead in round 3, and you can add your vote to help.)
But there are some other honored programs and figures in the commentary sport:
- The Pillar New Testament Commentary is Duke. Some memorable victories, including especially that time D.A. Carson stepped on Andreas Köstenberger’s chest in the Gospel of John championship.
- The New American Commentary is Kansas. Multiple major titles; blue uniforms—at least when Kansas is playing in the Old Testament.
- The Evangelical Exegetical Commentary is Gonzaga: no one knows where it comes from—but, surprise, it’s from Washington State. And, surprise, it almost won last year. Watch out for the EEC.
- Calvin, contrary to what some may think, is not the James Naismith of commentaries: he didn’t invent the sport. He’s more like the Kenny Sailors, the guy who invented the jump shot and set the game on a path from which it hasn’t really deviated.
- The Ancient Christian Commentary Series is the Marv Albert of the commentary world, and the only one with the attribute of eternality: he has always existed.
- The Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament is Connecticut: high-quality; hard to spell.
- The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries are—well, you can guess.
May the best commentaries win.
Mark L. Ward, Jr. received his PhD from Bob Jones University in 2012; he now serves the church as a writer for Faithlife. His most recent book is Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible.