Exegetical Commentary Guide

What are the best commentaries for working with the Greek New Testament? This guide provides you with my list top exegetical commentaries, along with the pros and cons of each. 

What is an exegetical commentary?

Not all commentaries are useful for working with the text of the Greek New Testament. There are three broad categories of commentary, and it is useful to know the difference between them before you start. 

Devotional Commentaries

These are the most readable and accessible of all commentaries. Sometimes they don’t even seem like commentaries. They tend to work well to accompany your daily bible reading (as long as you’re looking for something that doesn’t interact strongly with the text). These tend to be strong on application, medium on interpretation and largely don’t talk about the original language. 

Expositional Commentaries

Most commentaries are expositional commentaries. These are the most popular type of commentary because they are useful to the widest variety of people. You typically don’t need to know Greek (or Hebrew) to work with them as they mostly work out of a translation. Expositional commentaries do provide interpretation, and often there is exegesis behind the exposition, but the exposition, not the exegesis is the focus of the commentary. 

Exegetical Commentaries

By contrast, an exegetical commentary focuses primarily on the original language and is often much lighter when it comes to application. Some exegetical commentaries provide more interpretation, others focus more on various forms of criticism, and don’t spend as much time on what the text means. 

The commentaries in this guide are all exegetical commentaries, and while I’ve focused on commentaries that deal with the Greek text, I’m also looking for good explanations of meaning (interpretation), particularly in passages that are theologically challenging. 

Top 5 Exegetical Commentaries

5. In fifth place, I’ve put the New International Commentary on the New Testament. This is very strong commentary series overall, and some of these volumes are simply must-have volumes on their own. Strengths:
  • Consistent quality throughout all volumes
  • Some excellent individual commentaries
  • Older or weaker volumes are steadily being updated
Weaknesses:
  • Sometimes too brief (perhaps in volumes being replaced)
  • Formatting is not clear and you have to look for verse divisions
  • Often relegates discussion of Greek to footnotes, for this reason, could be considered expositional rather than exegetical
Where to buy
4.The Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament is my pick for fourth. One of the strengths of this series is that is has second-to-none formatting, making it a pleasure to use. In addition, it has block diagramming and discusses literary features of the Greek text. Strengths:
  • More recent series
  • Best-in-class formatting and layout
  • Block diagramming (of English)
  • Includes Greek text with English
  • Includes a discussion of literary features
Weaknesses:
  • Sometimes a little brief
  • Lacks discussion of textual variants
  • Not as many outstanding commentaries
  • Series still in production, so some volumes missing (e.g. Hebrews and Petrine epistles)
Where to buy
3.The New international Greek Testament Commentary has been in production since 1978, and is a solid choice for working with the Greek New Testament. Strengths:
  • Solid discussions of the Greek text
  • Good formatting
  • Lists textual variants prior to comments
Weaknesses:
  • Some volumes detract from the overall value of the series
  • Series still in production, so some volumes missing (e.g. Ephesians)
Where to buy
2.The Baker Exegetical Commentary Series is an excellent all-round exegetical commentary series featuring some outstanding individual commentaries, and consistent overall discussion. Strengths:
  • Some outstanding volumes (and some being updated by the original author)
  • Overall excellent discussion of the text
  • Additional notes covering text-critical questions
  • Generally good formatting, though not on par with ZEC
Weaknesses:
  • Inconsistent discussion and interaction with the Greek texts in some volumes compared to others
  • Still missing one volume (Hebrews)
Where to buy
1.My all-round favorite exegetical commentary is the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary series published by Lexham Press. This is the newest exegetical commentary set on the market beginning publication in 2011. Strengths:
  • Theologically consistent contributors who hold to a high view of scripture
  • Greek-first approach to commentary
  • Strongest interaction with text criticism
  • Very good footnotes
Weaknesses:
  • Primarily electronic – restricted to logos Bible Software
  • Numerous volumes still missing
Where to buy

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