Commentaries on the Four Gospels

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New Testament Commentaries

Malachi  ⇐ ⇒ Acts

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“Were I a younger man, and to begin my studies again, the four gospels would bulk more prominently in my attention than they have done.”

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

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Subsections

Individual commentaries on:

Matthew
Mark
Luke
John

The Life & Times of Jesus
Bible Characters in the Gospels
Gospel Harmonies
The Synoptic Question

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Order of Contents  30+

Best  8
More  20
Early & Medieval Church  2
On the Gospels Generally  4
Introduction to  3
Bibliography  1
Authenticity of  2

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The Best Commentaries on the Four Gospels

Practical and Devotional

1600’s

Hall, Joseph – Contemplations on the Historical Parts of the New Testament  d. 1656

Hall (1574–1656) was an influential reformed Anglican bishop.  These devotional and practical contemplations savor of deep spirituality and are very insightful.  One of a kind and one of the best.

***  ‘Need I commend Bishop Hall’s Contemplations to your affectionate attention?  What wit!  What sound sense!  What concealed learning!  His style is as pithy and witty as that of Thomas Fuller, and it has a sacred unction about it to which Fuller has no pretension.’  ‘The work can be readily procured; but if its price were raised in proportion to its real value, it would become one of the most costly books extant.’ – Spurgeon

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1800’s

Bonar, Horatius – Light and Truth, or Bible Thoughts and Themes, vol. 2: The Gospels  d. 1889

Bonar (1808-1889) was an influential Scot and brother to Andrew Bonar.

***  ‘…The passages selected are popularly expounded, but the thought is not deep.  The volumes will be more prized by the ordinary reader than by the minister.’ – Spurgeon

Ryle, J.C. – Expository Thoughts, for Family and Private Use, Mt, Mk, Lk, vol. 1 (chs. 1-11), 2 (11-End), Jn, vol. 1 (chs. 1-6), 2 (7-12), 3 (13-End)

Ryle (1816–1900) was an evangelical Anglican who wrote many first-rate practical and devotional works.  He was an Amyrauldian.

***  “We prize these volumes.  They are diffuse, but not more so than family reading requires.  Mr. Ryle has evidently studied all previous writers upon the Gospels, and has given forth an individual utterance of considerable value.”

“A masterly commentary.  Very suggestive and offers helpful devotional thoughts on every passage.” – Cyril J. Barber

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Intermediate

Ford, James – The Gospels, Illustrated (Chiefly in the Doctrinal and Moral Sense) from Ancient and Modern Authors, vols. 1 (Mt), 2 (Mk), 3 (Lk), 4 (Jn)  1859

Ford (1797-1877) was an Anglican.

***  “Those who wish to see what the Fathers said upon the Gospels, and to read the choicest sayings of the early Anglican bishops, cannot do better than consult Ford, who has made a very rich collection.  Some of the extracts do not materially illustrate the text, but they are all worth reading.”

Jacobus, Melancthon – Notes on the Gospels, Critical and Explanatory, vols. 1 (Mt-Mk), 2 (Lk), 3 (Jn)  1868-9

Jacobus was a northern, old school presbyterian minister who had graduated from old Princeton Seminary.  He was also a professor at Western Theological Seminary, Pennsylvania.

***  “Jacobus is sound and plain, and is therefore a safe guide to Sunday-school teachers and others who need to see the results of learning without the display of it.” – Spurgeon

 His writings are:  “characterized by solid learning, sound doctrine, and lucid statements, a pleasant style, and the most serious spirit of piety.” – William S. Plumer

“The excellent Commentaries of Dr. Melancthon Jacobus have deservedly attained a high reputation, and their wide circulation proves how well they are adapted to the wants of both ministers and laymen.  They present, in a brief compass, the results of extensive erudition, abound in judicious exposition and pertinent illustration, and are, moreover, distinguished by doctrinal soundness, evangelical character, and an eminently devout spirit.” – Charles Hodge, William Henry Green, J.W. Alexander

Lange’s Commentary – Commentary on Mt. (Lange), Mk. (Lange), Lk. (Oosterzee), Jn. (Lange)

Lange (1802-1884) was a conservative German professor of Theology at the University of Bonn and was a broadly Calvinist theologian, though influenced by Schleiermacher (not a good influence).  The commentary he edited on the whole Bible is very valuable (pastors should buy it if found).

***  “The Gospels are among the best of the series.” – Spurgeon

Stock, Eugene – Lessons on the Life of our Lord, for the Use of Sunday School Teachers  1875

***  “For real use a thoroughly commendable book.  Teachers and preachers have here more matter given them on the lesson than they are likely to use.  Admirable!” – Spurgeon

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On the Words of Jesus

Brown, John, of Edinburgh – Discourses and Sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, Illustrated in a Series of Expositions, vol. 1 (up to his last days), 2 (his last days)  These volumes do not cover the whole of each Gospel, but what the title says.

Brown of Edinburgh (1784-1858) was a rightly renowned Secession minister, professor and exegete.  He was the grandson of John Brown of Haddington (1722-87), also a famed Secession minister.

***  “Of the noblest order of exposition.  Procure it.” – Spurgeon

The publication of Dr. Brown’s first great commentary, Expository Discourses on the First Epistle of Peter, in 1848:

“formed a marked era in the history of scriptural interpretation in this country [of Scotland]…  Too many of those who hold the office of ministers of the Word attempt something in the way of applying the Scriptures, without being well qualified to ascertain and to establish their true and correct meaning, and without labouring to found the application upon its only sufficient basis, viz. a careful and accurate exposition of their actual import…  This is the right and the only right mode of employing the Sacred Scriptures, and it is because we get so little of this either from the pulpit or the press, that we attach the highest value to Dr. Brown’s expository works.” – William Cunnigham

Stier, Rudolph – Words of the Lord Jesus, vol. 1 (Beginning of Ministry), 2 (Mt 10-18, etc.), 3 (Mt 19-25; Mk 1-12; Lk 4-11), 4 (Lk 11-19; Jn 3), 5 (Jn 4-10), 6 (Jn 11-17), 7 (Passion), 8 (Passion, Risen & Ascension)

Stier (1800–1862) was a German minister and academic who had a mystical strain in some of his writings.

***  “No one can be expected to receive all that Stier has to say, but he must be dull indeed who cannot learn much from him.  Read with care, he is a great instructor.” – Spurgeon

“An extensive study revealing the author’s mystical leanings, thorough familiarity with ascetic literature and unique ability to present Greek concepts and word studies in a pleasing manner.” – Cyril Barber


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More Commentaries on the Four Gospels

Practical and Devotional

1700’s

Quesnell, Pasquier – The Gospels with Moral Reflections on Each Verse, vols. 1 (Mt-Lk 6), 2 (Lk 7-Jn)  1719-1725 

Quesnell, a Roman Catholic, wrote a commentary on the whole New Testament, but only the Gospels are online.

**  ‘A sweet and simple French writer who says many good things of a very harmless character.’ – Spurgeon

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1800’s

Adam, Thomas – Exposition of the Gospels, vols. 1, 2  1837, to be distinguished from Thomas Adams the puritan.

**  “Short and sweet; but Adam is not the first man as an expositor.” – Spurgeon

Anonymous – Choice Notes, Drawn from Old and New Sources on MatthewMark, Luke, John  1868-9

**  “These are taken from the grander treasuries of Prebendary Ford [see above].  We have mentioned them because those who could not afford to buy Ford’s books might be able to get these.” – Spurgeon

Beith, Alexander – Expository Discourses on: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John  1857

**  “Discourses which must have been very profitable to the hearers.  Students will do better with works which are more condensed.” – Spurgeon

Bouchier, Barton – Manna in the House: or, Daily Expositions of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John  1852

*  “Mr. Bouchier writes sweetly, and his books aid the devotions of many families.  Ministers may read them with profit; but they are not exactly intended for them.” – Spurgeon

Burgon, John W. – Plain Commentary on the Four Holy Gospels Intended Chiefly for Devotional Reading  1856

Burgon (1813–1888) was an Anglican remembered for his conservative stance against the textual criticism of the new Westcott-Hort Greek Text that essentially underlies most modern versions of the Bible today.  He was a high-churchman after the Tractarian school.

**  “Ryle says: ‘This is an excellent, suggestive and devout work; but I cannot agree with the author when he touches upon such subjects as the Church, the sacraments, and the ministry.'” – Spurgeon

Denton, W. – The Gospels for the Sundays and other Holy Days of the Christian Year, vol. 1, 2, 3  1860-3

**  “Curates will find this just the thing they need for sermonizing.” – Spurgeon

Ripley, Henry – The Gospels, with Notes, vol. 1 (Mt-Mk), 2 (Lk-Jn)  1851

**  “Adapted for Sunday-School use.  Simple, brief, and practical.” – Spurgeon

Williams, Isaac – Devotional Commentary, vols. 1 (Gospels), 2 (Harmony), 3 (Nativity), 4 (2nd Year of Ministry), 5 (3rd Year of Ministry), 6 (Holy Week), 7 (Passion), 8 (Resurrection)  1882

**  “Anglican popery for quartz, and sparkling grains of precious gospel largely interspersed as gold.  We cannot imagine any spiritual man reading these works without benefit, if he knows how to discriminate.” – Spurgeon

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1900’s

De Graff, D.G. – Promise and Deliverance, vol. 3 (Mt-Lk), 4 (Jn)

De Graaf was Dutch Reformed.

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Intermediate

Forster, John – The Gospel Narrative… with a Continuous Exposition… and Notes, Briefly Collected from the Best Critics and Commentators  1845

**  “Paraphrase upon a good system, carefully executed, and instructive.  Thoroughly Anglican.” – Spurgeon

Hall, Charles – Notes, for the use of Bible Classes, vol. 12  1857

**  “This book is as full of reverence to Bishops and other Episcopal arrangements as if it had been ‘appointed to be read in the Churches.’  American Episcopalians can evidently be very thorough.” – Spurgeon

Norris, John – A Key to the Narrative of the Four Gospels  1871

Norris was an evangelical.

**  “‘Canon Norris writes primarily to help ‘younger students’ in studying the Gospels, but the unpretending volume is one which all students may peruse with advantage.  It is an admirable manual for those who take Bible classes through the Gospels.’ – So says the London Quarterly” – Spurgeon

Olshausen, Hermann – Commentary on the Gospels and Acts, vols., 1, 2, 3, 4

Olshausen was a somewhat conservative liberal.

**  “Olshausen is mentioned by Alford as so rich in original material, that he has often cited him in his ‘New Testament for English Readers’.  He is one of the most devout of the Germans, and a great scholar; but we are not enamored of him.” – Spurgeon

Riddle, J.E. – The British Commentary on the Holy Gospels compiled chiefly from the writings of eminent British divines  1843

*  “Choice extracts selected by the author of the well-known Latin Dictionary.  Ministers should make such collections for themselves rather than purchase them.” – Spurgeon

Townson, Thomas – Discourses on the Gospels

**  “Bishop Lowth welcomed this as ‘a capital performance.’  It is only so from Lowth’s point of view.” – Spurgeon

Trapp, Joseph – Explanatory Notes upon the Four Gospels in a New Method, for the Use of All, but Especially the Unlearned English Reader  1748

*  “This Trapp, grandson of the famous commentator, is the author of a wretched pamphlet upon ‘the nature, folly, sin, and danger of being righteous overmuch.’  He opposed Whitfield and Wesley with more violence than sense.  His work is utterly worthless, and we only mention it to warn the reader against confounding it with the productions of the real old Trapp [who was a puritan, see under Whole Bible Commentaries].” – Spurgeon

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Advanced

Campbell, George – The Gospels Translated, with Notes, vol. 1, 2  1814

**  “Clear and cold.  Orme says it is ‘one of the best specimens of a translation of the Scriptures in any language.’  The preliminary dissertations are valuable; the notes are purely critical.” – Spurgeon

Elsley – Annotations on the Gospels and Acts, vols. 1, 2, 3

**  “Wholly critical and philological.” – Spurgeon

Pearce, Zachary – A Commentary, with Notes, on the Four Evangelists  Buy  1777

Pearce (1690-1774) was an Anglican.

*  “A huge mass of learning, said by great divines to be invaluable.  To most men these volumes will simply be a heap of lumber.” – Spurgeon

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The Early and Medieval Church

Titanus – The Earliest Life of Christ… being the Diatessaron of Tatian (c. 160 AD), with a historical and critical Introduction, Notes & Appendix by J. Hamlyn Hill  1894  400 pp.

Tatian (120-180 AD) was a Syrian Christian writer.  This was his attempt at a harmony of the Gospels.

Ford, James – The Gospels, Illustrated (Chiefly in the Doctrinal and Moral Sense) from Ancient and Modern Authors, vols. 1 (Mt), 2 (Mk), 3 (Lk), 4 (Jn)  1856-72

***  “Those who wish to see what the Fathers said upon the Gospels, and to read the choicest sayings of the early Anglican bishops, cannot do better than consult Ford, who has made a very rich collection.  Some of the extracts do not materially illustrate the text, but they are all worth reading.”

Aquinas, Thomas

Catena Aurea, Commentary Collected out of the Fathers, vols. 1 (Mt 1-21), 2 (Mt 22-Mk), 3 (Lk), 4 (Jn)  The Latin means ‘a golden chain’.  The volumes are numbered differently

**  “The Fathers are over-estimated, by a sort of traditionary repute, for we question if they are much read.  This collection of extracts we always look into with curiosity, and sometimes we find a pearl.” – Spurgeon

Commentary on St. Matthew’s Gospel  This, and the below, is different than the Catena Aurea.

Commentary on the Gospel of St. John

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On the Gospels Generally

Beginner to Intermediate

1800’s

Jukes, Andrew – Characteristic Differences of the Gospels Considered, as Revealing Various Relations of the Lord Jesus  1853

***  “Remarks prompting thought; containing in a small compass a mass of instruction.” – Spurgeon

“An enriching and rewarding study.” – Cyril Barber

Trench, R.C. – Studies in the Gospels

***  “Masterly studies on important topics.  Students will do well to read also Trench’s ‘Sermon on the Mount.’  We do not always agree with this author, but we always learn from him.” – Spurgeon

“A miscellaneous assortment of essays including the temptation of Christ, the calling of Philip and Nathaniel, the Samaritan woman, a consideration of the transfiguration, and the unfinished tower.” – Cyril Barber

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1900’s

Scroggie, William Graham – Know your Bible: A Guide to the Gospels  Preview  Buy  1962  680 pp.

“Worth an entire shelf of books on the same subject.” – Cyril Barber

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Advanced

Wieseler, Karl – Chronological Synopsis of the Gospels  1864

*  “This important work formed the basis both of the Synopsis Evangelica of Tischendorf, and of the Historical Lecture on the Life of our Lord by Bishop Ellicott.  It is much to be regretted that so many novel interpretations and baseless hypotheses should have marred the book; but, notwithstanding all drawbacks, it must be a masterly work to have received the heartiest commendations of the great scholars of the day.  Only the more advanced students will care for this Synopsis.” – Spurgeon

Black, Matthew – An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts  Buy  Oxford 1954

Black was a liberal.  While Aramaic studies may be helpful in understanding the background to the Gospel, as much of the language of Christ’s day was a form of spoken Aramaic, it ought to be remembered that the Greek of the gospel-writers in which they wrote their gospels is what is inspired and has been providentially preserved by God.

“Serves as a valuable corrective of those who see Hellenizing or Hellenistic sources behind practically everything in the early books of the NT.” – Cyril Barber

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Introduction to the Gospels

Westcott, B.F. – Introduction to the Study of the Gospels  1895

Despite Spurgeon’s commendatory words, Westcott had some liberal tendencies.

***  “Worthy of high commendation.  The author knows the German writers, but is not defiled by their skepticism.  He is a man of deep thought, but displays no pride of intellect.  A man had need be a thorough student to value this Introduction: it is not an introduction to the Gospels, or to the reading of them, but to their study.” – Spurgeon

“Remains a most valuable treatment of the preparation of the NT world for the reception of the gospel, the Jewish expectation of a Messiah, the place of oral tradition in the transmission of the NT, the individual characteristics of the Gospels, and the analysis of the difference between the Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels.” – Cyril Barber

Gloag, Paton – Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels  1895  330 pp.

Gloag was Church of Scotland minister and Biblical scholar.  Gloag had some liberal tendencies, though, according to the Dictionary of National Biography, his writings “give no support to the new higher criticism.”

“A most valuable treatment which has been largely ignored by contemporary writers due to the fact that it is hard to obtain.” – Cyril Barber

Godet, Frederick – Introduction to the New Testament: The Collection of the Four Gospels and the Gospel of St. Matthew  1899  310 pp.

Godet was generally a conservative scholar.  It appears that he only finished his introduction to the synoptic gospels and not the rest of the New Testament.

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Bibliography

Metzger, Bruce – Index to Periodical Literature on Christ and the Gospels  Buy  Brill 1962

Metzger was a liberal.

“This is an indispensable aid to the study of the Gospels.  It contains 10,090 numbered entries from approximately 160 journals helpfully arranged in sections.  No annotations.  Includes an author index.” – Cyril Barber

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The Authenticity of the Gospels

1800’s

Lange, J.P – ‘The Historic Records of the Life of Jesus’, ‘Criticism of the Testimonies to the Gospel History’ & ‘The Authenticity of the Four Gospels’  in The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, vol. 1

Norris, John – ‘External Testimonies to their Authenticity’ & ‘Their Internal Character’  1871  17 pp.  in A Key to the Narrative of the Four Gospels

Norris was an evangelical.

**  “‘Canon Norris writes primarily to help ‘younger students’ in studying the Gospels, but the unpretending volume is one which all students may peruse with advantage.  It is an admirable manual for those who take Bible classes through the Gospels.’ – So says the London Quarterly” – Spurgeon

Greenleaf, Simon – The Testimony of the Evangelists Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice… also a Review of the Trial of Jesus  1874  630 pp.

Greenleaf was a professor of law at Harvard.

Dale, Robert W. – The Living Christ and the Four Gospels  1890  320 pp.

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1900’s

Montgomery, John Warwick – History and Christianity  Buy  1971

“A scholarly apologetic for the historical reliability of the Gospels, particularly as these relate to the testimony concerning Jesus Christ.” – Cyril Barber

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“For the balancing of the truth, there is nothing like the Pauline letters; for vitality and freshness, there is nothing like the facts of the gospel.”

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

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Related Pages

Whole Bible Commentaries

Old Testament Commentaries

New Testament Commentaries