Commentaries are in both the reference section and in the tall shelves downstairs (call numbers 220-228). The majority of the commentaries are available in print. One notable exception is the Oxford Biblical Studies Online which is an electronic platform that includes six Bible verisons, concordances, a one-volume commentary, 5,000 entry encyclopedia, and an atlas.
Often you need a Bible Dictionary or Encyclopedia not a commentary.
- If you want to define what a word means
throughout the Bible, then use a Bible dictionary (call number: REF
220.3). Commentaries can be narrowly focused on a single book or
biblical author at the expense of the big picture.
- If you want
to visualize what ceremonial washing jars, or the tabernacle
looked like, chose an illustrated or pictorial encyclopedia of the Bible
(i.e. Zondervan pictorial series).
you want to emphasize a Greek/Hebrew word’s meaning rather than
the english translation, then work with a dictionary/lexicon that
focuses on that language (i.e. REF 225.4803 A747g 2000).
- If you are just getting aquainted with a book of the Bible or a theological topic, then a handbook (call number REF 220.02) can get you grounded on the basic themes and interpretive questions.
How to choose the “correct” commentary? With
everything you read, it is a good idea to evaluate the author’s perspective and
purpose. This is especially the case with commentaries, because a person’s
presuppositions can greatly influence their interpretive conclusions. Commentaries
will reflect the author’s views regarding scripture, theology, and
hermeneutical methods. Therefore, a commentator that is critical or suspicious
of miracles may regard these portions of the Bible as mythological additions.
Other commentators may take genres that you think are figurative to be literal
or find allegory where others see only narrative. It behooves you to know
something about the author’s perspective before you read. A good commentator
will discuss other possible meanings of a passage before arriving at their own
conclusion. Alternately their purpose in writing may differ from yours. A
commentary that focuses on language issues may not give you the historical
background you need to do a thorough exegesis.
Best Commentaries is a site that has rankings, reviews, and tags commentaries based on the author’s perspective and intended audience too. Get a recommendation from here or ask for recommendations in the library.