Friday, December 28, 2018

Modern-day Bible Commentary Sets (Reboot/2018)

The original 2015 article can be read here, fwiw.

I certainly prefer the older commentaries any day over the newer ones, but I do look at newer commentaries when studying the Bible. These are modern-day commentary sets that I have found to be useful. As usual, Bible commentaries are the last step or final consultation after one has done his own study of the Bible text. In the end, their comments are as good as yours, except that they bring a wealth of studied insights into cultural, historical, linguistic, and theological perspectives. However, when the commentary contradicts plainly what the Bible says or teaches, then we correct the commentary and not the Bible. Purchasing an entire set is expensive and often not the best way to obtain a good library. Sets produced by multiple contributors cannot be uniform, therefore, some authors/titles naturally exceed others making their works distinguished, however, I do not intend to single out any particular recommendations in this article. My short list of recommended modern-day Bible commentaries reflect those that are generally accepted by the wider conservative evangelical readership. It is no surprise to find views that either implicitly or explicitly espouse higher and/or lower text criticisms. This is the scourge on scholasticism which was brought about the Enlightenment period and has metastasized into post-post modernity. Thankfully, the Bible itself having been providentially preserved by God allows us to know how to decipher truth from error. And now onto the sets:

Crossway Classic Commentaries (CCC; Crossway; J.I. Packer/A. McGrath). Edited for popular readership, but still good. Reformed. How they manage to crunch Owen’s 11 Vol. on Hebrews into one volume is mysterious. Adapted/abridged for wide-spread readership of the classics. (1993 – 2001)

Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC; Zondervan; F.E. Gaebelein). 12 vol. set, 1970-80’s. Has a one volume set, not recommended: “The NIV Bible Commentary.” The entire set was based on the NIV but had some excellent works and not so excellent contributions, too. Hints of higher criticism pepper this work. Tends toward pre-millennialism (that’s a good thing).

Expositor’s Bible Commentary Revised Edition (EBCR; Zondervan; T. Longman III/D Garland). Similar to above except newer. (2005)

New American Commentary (NAC; Broadman & Holman; E. R. Clendenen, gen. ed.) – NIV based, Southern Baptist. (1991 - )

New International Commentary O.T./N.T. (NICOT/NICNT; Eerdmans) – most recommended by the broader evangelical camp. (1970 - )

NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC; Zondervan) – user friendly. Attempts to deal with the text in context and make current/relevant applications (“bridging the gap”). Contributors theological perspective peppers this work. (1994 - )

New Testament Commentary (NTC; Baker; Hendricksen/Kistamaker) – Expository, Interesting takes on theologically loaded terms. Useful insights on culture. Reformed. (ca. 2002)

Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC; Eerdmans; Carson) – similar to NICNT. Focused on exegesis (critical text, though) and theology. Very little application. Technical discussions land in the footnotes on purpose. (ca. 2013)

Preaching the Word (PTW; Crossway; R. Kent Hughes, gen. ed.) – Modern-day devotional/Homiletical commentary. Verbose but good. Master wordsmiths, many useful illustrations. (1990 – 2013)

Reformed Expository Commentary (REC; P&R; Ryken, etc.) – similar to PTW (Hughes). Modern-day devotional commentary. (2005 – 2013)

Tyndale O.T. and N.T. Commentaries (TOTC/TNTC; IVP & Eerdmans; Wiseman &) – worthy set from (1964 - ) .A major rework was accomplished. Expositional, critical text advocates, but useful. (2004)

Word Communicator’s Commentary (WCC; Nelson, prev. Word) – mixed bag. Useful for sermon prep. Esp. with introducing a text or segues.  Renamed: The Preacher’s Commentary (1990).

Welwyn Commentary Series. (WCS; Evangelical Press, Britain) – easy read, practical for Pastors and Sunday School teachers. (1979 – 2011)

Single-Author sets:

Analytical Bible Expositor (27 vol.) – (Scripture Truth Book Company) – by John G. Butler – Expositional annotations, great outlines, practical applications. This set comes from a Fundamental Baptist perspective. (2018)

Bible Exposition Commentary (IVP; Warren Wiersbe). N.T. “Be series” included. Popular and useful. (2007 – 2009)

Boice’s Expositional Commentaries (27 Vol.) – (JMBEC; Baker Books; James M. Boice). – Easy read, but great lessons, illustrations, & applications. (1972 – 2001)

Daily Study Bible (N.T. 18 Vol.) by William Barclay. – Insights into culture and applications abound. Weakness is liberal/critical interpretations with the four gospels. (Westminster John Knox Press; ca. 1993).

John Phillips Commentary Series – (27 Vol.) – (Kregel pub.) - Excellent for pastors and teachers. Helpful outlines and great illustrations. (ca. 1970, republished around 2001).

Interpretation of the New Testament – (14 vols.) also known as Lenski’s Commentary on the N.T. (Augsburg; R.C.H. Lenski). [ca. 1930] – classic conservative Lutheran commentary, but a critical text proponent. $$$ but insightful. (1934 – 2008)

Understanding the Bible (11 Vol.) – (Northstar Ministries; David Sorenson) – Top-flight set from an Independent, Fundamental, Baptist perspective. Dispensationalist/KJB-based. If you must have a set, this is one to get. (2005)

Single-Volume sets:

Baker Commentary on the Bible by Walter Elwell. - based on the NIV. (Baker Books; 2000)

Bible Believer’s Commentary: 2nd Edition by William McDonald. (Thomas Nelson; 2016) – evangelical, dispensational.

Bible Knowledge Commentary: O.T & N.T. by John Walvoord/Roy Zuck. (Victor Books; 1985) – dispensational.

IVP Bible Background Commentary: O.T. (John Walton, 2000) and N.T. (Craig Keener, 2nd edition, 2014) – helpful insights into culture, and history. (IVP Academic)

Select titles:

I would like to see David Cloud and Thomas Strouse produce more Bible Commentaries. Bro. Cloud comes from an Fundamentalist Baptist perspective and his materials reads more like a pastoral commentary, and Bro. Strouse comes from a Biblicist Baptist perspective and his commentaries reads more like a technical commentary. Their respective commentaries can be viewed in their web-pages look up Way of Life for Cloud and Bible Baptist Publications for Strouse. It appears that they are both involved in on-going writing projects. Also, I want to mention that select verse-by-verse commentaries are authored by Donald Waite (Bible for Today), an Independent, Fundamental, Baptist well-known for his defense of the King James Bible and its traditional text basis. Beyond this listing, I also want to mention the works of E.L. Bynum, Robert Sargent & Gary Prisk, Stewart Custer, D. Edmond Hiebert, and Homer Kent, Jr. - these names have written Bible commentaries and/or similar works or studies on individual Bible books. They do not share the same Biblical/Theological perspectives among each other but they are commendable in their research, insights, and materials.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Recommendations for Personal Devotional Readings

(These recommendations are arranged in no particular order)

The Poor Man’s Morning and Evening Portions by Robert Hawker

               “There is always such a savor of the Lord Jesus Christ in Dr. Hawker that you cannot read him without profit.” (C.H. Spurgeon on Hawker in Commenting and Commentaries). There’s just no better description of Hawker’s writings and this devotional delivers just that. The earliest publication that I could find was in 1845. No doubt there are several editions available whether in print or online. Hawker was an ordained Anglican priest, but his devotional surpasses the spirituality of contemporary Protestantism. It is a great thing that the “Enlightenment” bore zero influence over his writings. I doubt very many devotionals, if any, could ever match Hawker’s Christ-centered meditations.

Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

                Need I say more? Originally written to aid in the family altar, this devotional was first published in 1865.  “Morning by Morning,” and “Evening by Evening” were two separate books but thankfully, they are combined, and some editions are even updated for an easier reading experience. Spurgeon was a Particular Baptist pastor, and prolific writer. His devotional is very similar to Hawkers and is just as spiritually enriching.

Voices from the Past Vol. 1 by Richard Rushing

                Rushing has done a masterful job compiling materials from 23 Puritans. He edited and arranged their writings for a daily devotional reading. Here is a modern masterpiece (published in 2009 by Banner of Truth) of great meditations from those who sought to “purify the Church of England.” I have not read the sequel but if it is like the treasury of vol. 1, I have no reason to think it would disappoint.

Daily Light (New Testament readings) and Morning Light (Old Testament readings) by Dave Olson

                Olson’s works are extremely helpful for every Christian. Both devotionals are loaded with practical insights that edify the believer towards godliness. The recommended Bible reading portions built into the devotionals will allow the reader to read through the Bible in proportion throughout the year. It is published by Dave Olson is an independent Baptist, and he serves the missions director at Fairhaven Baptist Church, Chesterton, IN. He also teaches in the church’s Bible College.

The Two Year Bible Reading Plan by Jeff Voegtlin

                Jeff Voegtlin's Two Year Bible reading plan infuses a great daily dose of the O.T. and N.T. in a paragraph format with minor editing for ease of reading. Besides reading online, anyone can receive an email feed of this reading plan by signing up on his website (click on the Reading tab). Jeff Voegtlin is an independent Baptist, and serves as Associate Pastor of Fairhaven Baptist Church, Chesterton, IN and Dean of Education in the church's Bible College.

Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden by Charles Spurgeon

                This book is a storehouse of both spiritual and practical instructions cloaked in word-pictures or illustrations. Spurgeon would read Thomas Manton's sermons and other writings and be constantly struck with his "solid, sensible instruction forcibly delivered." And beside Manton's highlighted excerpts, the Prince of Preachers would add his own thoughts, making this Puritan Paperback a double-masterpiece. It is illustrations, meditations, prayers, admonitions, exhortations that provide so much reflection as multifarious as a well-kept garden. Originally published back in 1883 but re-published and edited for ease of reading in 2017 by the Banner of Truth.

Friday, April 27, 2018

A Book Evaluation: Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible

Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible. By Mark Ward. Lexham Press: WA, 2018. Kindle Edition.

The sole case against the regular use of the King James Version is its vernacular. Dr. Ward correctly identifies the AV’s English to be “early modern English.” What is not mentioned however is that the KJV as an accurate translation of the original languages, is not merely standardized English but also Biblical English. The KJV reader is exposed to a meticulous reflection of the Hebrew/Aramaic and the Greek. The KJV Hebraisms and syntax scrupulously exhibit the originals. Idiomatic expressions and certain terminologies are at times mistaken for archaisms. Indeed, there are words that are archaic, but none are unintelligible. The KJV pushes the English toward the original languages. A good solution is one that is unfortunately discounted by Dr. Ward in his introductory diagnostic question: “So do we…teach people to read it? No.”

If much of English-speaking Christianity has sent the King James Version to that part of the forest where trees fall with no one there to hear them, it is owing to both ignorance (for many) and sedition (on the part of unbelieving textual criticism and religious liberalism). Thankfully, the KJV is not the treasure of commercialism, but rather the Lord’s churches. Yes, generally speaking, no one misses the 1537 Matthew’s Bible, nor the Geneva Bible, but this is because the current iteration of a faithful English Bible points exclusively to the King James Version. Dr. Ward highlights five points that readers will lose if they stop using the KJV. “Intergenerational ties to the Body of Christ” reflects an ecclesiology not shared by this reviewer however to contextualize his first point a KJV-link is appreciated. To view the KJV as part of a rich heritage to hand down is commendable. Part of the beauty of the King James Version is that it is a faithful translation which ought to be handed down to subsequent generations until such a time as another faithful English translation would iterate differently. This occasion is perhaps possible, but most likely not probable. Dr. Ward correctly fears allowing traditions to set aside the Word of God. While this is a valid concern, there is nothing by way of tradition about the King James Version that stands to set aside the Word of God. Simply put, the traditions which surround the AV are good ones. Dr. Ward puts forward another healthy, diagnostic question: “What do we do with the KJV in the twenty-first century?” A healthy response: study it.

Dr. Ward identifies the reader’s understanding as the weighty reason for giving up on the KJV. His solution though is gratuitous. If the problem is the reader’s understanding, then the task is to elevate the reader’s understanding. In Acts 8 where the Ethiopian lacked understanding, Philip did not offer to change the text but rather explained it. A citizen’s lack of understanding the U.S. Constitution is no reason to call for its amendment. To change the KJV because of the reader’s lack of understanding is to introduce a flood of evil. Furthermore, to amend a classic eliminates it from being one (regardless of whatever classic piece it may be).

In Chapters 2-3, Dr. Ward presents a very good point and concern. “It is not impossible that Bible readers are running their eyes past words that simply don’t register.” In other words, how would a reader know to look up a word or words if he assumes he understands it or if he is unaware, perhaps even operating on a false assumption (Mark calls these words “false friends”). Whatever else the solution may be, replacing the text is certainly not the answer. The need is for guidance not gerrymandering the text. Part of the problem was exacerbated by using a modern dictionary when studying an older text. This is something that Dr. Ward points out. An alternative to the peerless OED is the free online tool “Online Etymology Dictionary” ( – Unicorn, halt, commendeth, convenient, wait, & remove (including more false friends) are adequately explained relatively free. This reviewer would like to add “meet” (as in Gen. 2:18) in the “false friends” category. Hebrew poetry and the choice of the KJV translators to render it into prose versus an English poetic equivalent is not without its reasons. Take for instance, Bible Presbyterian Church, Senior Pastor Christian Spencer's lecture on the KJV poetry at a Dean Burgon Society meeting accessible on Readability has always been a concern, but solutions are never beyond reach.

In Chapter 4, Dr. Ward properly qualifies some distinctions within the “KJV-only” camp and more could easily be said but this is not the essence of his book. Modern translations also contain their share of difficult words. One solution is Dr. Waite’s Defined KJB. TBS’ KJV Westminster Reference edition seems beautiful and helpful. Norton’s KJB (the New Cambridge Paragraph Bible, 2005) returns the current KJV to the less than accurate 1611 edition and for that reason it is not helpful (besides removing the italicized words, and the retention of the Apocrypha). Mr. Dave Olson, faculty member at Fairhaven Baptist College, wrote a 78-page booklet that helps: “Understanding the King James Bible.” Hopefully, a future influx of good KJV study Bibles, editions, and books will help solve much of Dr. Ward’s legitimate concerns.

In Chapter 5, Dr. Ward weaponizes the KJV’s vernacular against itself. His syllogism is doubtful (even after reading 5 chapters of good points and observations) in point number 2 “the KJV is not in our language.” If the KJV is not written in English, what language is it written in? Dr. Ward calls for an update of the KJV. It would be better to call for a study of it. The “fear” of revising the KJV is not unfounded. How many attempts have been made only to leave Christendom with a “finished” product that is less accurate to the originals and less enduring. Take the word charity, for instance. Charity could be rendered love in 1 Corinthians 13 but in doing that, one loses the exact definition of a love that is heightened (or sacrificial) to say nothing of its etymological link to a Christian context. The world can legitimately say that Christianity has no settled text. Certainly, “make a good one better” but since the 1885 Revised Version and onward, this remains to be seen.

In Chapter 6, Dr. Ward responds to ten objections to reading vernacular Bible translations. In #2, Beeke’s “Sounds Like the Word of God” point, Dr. Ward sees a conflict between understanding and reverence where there is none. The KJV is sonorous. In #3, the fact that the KJV uses the thees and thous evinces the fact the translators opted for an older English for precision’s sake. Modern English is simply inadequate to reflect the precision of pronouns and adjectives in the original languages. Dr. Ward’s T-V distinction is a fascinating read but Tyndale’s decision was grammatical not historical, per se. That languages change is a fact, but a written text when understood in its own context provides the meanings necessary to help the reader’s understanding. It is in this sense that the KJV is “timeless.” In #4, quotation marks are purposefully avoided for good reasons: the original languages do not utilize them, these are editorial guesses, and it would appear disingenuous to place a quote where a phrase is not actually quoted anywhere, (e.g. Matthew 2:23). In #6, the italics are purposefully utilized to supply the ellipses of the originals. This is a simple matter of accuracy. In #8, Dr. Ward is neutral in the formal/dynamic equivalence issue. This reviewer appreciates the recent upper hand that formal equivalence has received as of late. In #9, The TR rules, period. For the record: the NKJV and the MEV ambitiously claim to use the TR but undermine it both in the text and in the footnotes and/or margins. Text Criticism is certainly complex, but thankfully not beyond men like the late John Burgon and the late Edward Hills; everyone has their favorite text critics. In #10, Dr. Ward summarizes his arguments. To minimize his thesis is to do him a disservice and to bury one’s head in the sand. Dr. Ward’s knowledge is expert and serves his readers well including antagonistic ones.

In Chapter 7, Dr. Ward walks the readers through his thought process for advocating a multiplicity of English translations. A belief that this reviewer does not share for textual, linguistic, and theological reasons.

Epilogue, Dr. Ward offers a call to action for those who are interested in venturing into modern translations. This reviewer’s call to action is not merely to retain the KJV but to defend the it.

Positives: (Good)
1. Understanding the Bible is paramount.
2. Language is changing. Dr. Ward brings a keen awareness to this fact. Assumptions on the KJV reader’s part must be challenged.

Negatives: (Bad)
1. Dr. Ward maintains a “studied neutrality” on the textual criticism, and translation methodology.
2. Relevance is prioritized over accuracy.

Mega-Negatives: (Ugly)
1.  Dr. Ward calls for replacing the KJV. Anathema! 😇
2.  Dr. Ward has no doctrine of Providential (or Perfect) Preservation of the Scriptures.

Mark Ward earned a PhD in New Testament Interpretation from BJU. He is a prolific writer and serves as a Logos Pro at Faithlife, the premier private Christian software company, imo.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Flowers from a Puritan's Garden

Image result for flowers from a puritan's garden
"Flowers from a Puritan's Garden" by C.H. Spurgeon is a storehouse of both spiritual and practical instructions cloaked in word-pictures or illustrations. Spurgeon would read Thomas Manton's sermons and other writings and be constantly struck with his "solid, sensible instruction forcibly delivered." And beside Manton's highlighted excerpts, the Prince of Preachers would add his own thoughts, making this Puritan Paperback a double-masterpiece. It is illustrations, meditations, prayers, admonitions, exhortations that provide so much reflection as multifarious as a well-kept garden. This is an excellent tool for meditation and devotion. 305 pages of gold, silver, and precious stones.

Publisher: Banner of Truth (BoT) (first published by Passmore & Alabaster, London, 1883; today is published by BoT, 2017).

Series: Puritan Paperbacks.

Pages: 320, including a helpful index of subjects starting on pg. 307.

No Table of Contents - just dive into the book, and relish the wisdom of these gifted men.

There is a Kindle version of this book on Amazon's website, fyi, but it isn't as attractively done as BoT's paperback edition.

Independent Baptist bookstores to consider

Here are some online Independent Baptist bookstores that are worth looking into. Happy book hunting!

Bible Baptist Church Publications, Cromwell, CT

Bible Baptist Church Publications, Oak Harbor, WA

Bible For Today

Challenge Press-Book Haven

Church Bible Publishers

Evangelist Ted Alexander Bookstore

Fairhaven Baptist Church Bookstore

Hope Biblical Counseling Bookstore

Independent Baptist Books/

Local Church Bible Publishers

Mercy & Truth Ministries

Pillar and Ground Publishing

Starr Publications

Tabernacle Bookshop

Way of Life Bookstore

Also if your church (assuming that it is a New Testament, Bible-based, Baptist church) has a book table, or a bookstore, or a smaller type of a bookstore (i.e., a book table) that would be a great place to find some worth while reading materials, no doubt. If you know of any good online Baptist bookstores for me to consider, please feel free to recommend them in the comments sections (heads up: any ones I disagree with won't be posted though, just saying). Be well.