This page is part of the best and largest collection of Bible commentaries on the internet, including every commentary that Charles Spurgeon recommended:
These are older whole Bible commentaries. See also:
Commentary Series & Study Bibles Themed from Church History
Exegetical & Theological Dictionaries on the Bible
Latin Whole Bible Commentaries 40
Bible Background, Survey, Authenticity & Introduction 78+
Biblical Theology 30+
Bibliographies of Commentaries on the Bible
Order of Contents
About this Collection
This collection of 60+ whole Bible commentaries includes:
(1) every reformed commentary since the Reformation that is in English and is fully online,
(2) every commentary recommended by Charles Spurgeon as good or better which is online, and
(3) most of the significant commentaries in English and online, up through the early 1900’s, that Bible-believers would be interested in.
Most existing collections of Bible commentaries on the net are: (1) limited in their number and completeness, (2) are very broad in their content, encompassing every wind of doctrine and much chaff, being no sure guide, and/or (3) are not helpfully arranged for the unacquainted reader to know which one’s are the best. In light of this, it is hoped that this webpage will be the most helpful and complete collection of whole Bible commentaries on the net to those who savor the Word of God.
In addition to the recommendatory categorizations below (which are not infallible, as everyone has different tastes, interests and opinions), Spurgeon’s justly famous, helpful and humorous comments and evaluations have been quoted where possible. His scale is as follows:
*** – ‘Heartily recommended’
** – ‘Good, but more ordinary’
* – ‘Least desirable’
For Spurgeon’s recommendations and evaluations in full, see Commenting and Commentaries, p. 63 (1876). Commentaries that are reformed are marked by **. Within the categories below, the commentaries are sorted in alphabetical order by author.
Please also note, in relation to this collection, the words of Spurgeon:
‘It is to be specially noted, that in no case do we endorse all that any author has written in his commentary. We could not read the works through, it would have needed a Methuselah to do that; nor have we thought it needful to omit a book because it contains a measure of error, provided it is useful in its own way; for this catalog is for thoughtful, discerning men, and nor for children.
We have not, however, knowingly mentioned works whose main drift is skeptical, or Socinian, except with a purpose; and where we have admitted comments by writers of doubtful doctrine, because of their superior scholarship and the correctness of their criticisms we have given hints which will be enough for the wise. It is sometimes very useful to know what our opponents have to say.’
In addition to the commentaries below, you may also find commentaries on the whole Old Testament and the whole New Testament helpful. Many of the works below can be bought on Amazon and BookFinder. A book in hand is worth two on the computer.
Order of Commentaries ** – Reformed
. Henry, Matthew **
. Calvin, John **
. Poole, Matthew **
. Gill, John **
. Clarke, Adam
. Jamieson, Fausset, Brown **
. Mayer, John **
. Diodati, John **
. English Annotations **
. Ness, Christopher **
. Mather, Cotton **
. Brown, John, of Hadddington **
. Scott, Thomas **
. Sutcliffe, Joseph
. Chalmers, Thomas **
. Kitto, John
. Barth, Christian
. ed. Lange, John P.
. Wordsworth, Christopher
. Geikie, John
. Gray, James
Commentary Wholly Biblical
Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
Manners & Customs of the Bible
. Bush, George
. Trapp, John **
. Whitecross, John **
On Difficult Passages
. Thaddaeus, Johannes
. Knatchbull, Norton
Useful Commentaries (22)
. Dutch Annotations **
. Roberts, Francis **
. Hall, Joseph **
. Clarke, Samuel **
. Patrick, Lowth, et al.
. Wells, Edward
. Wall, William **
. Wesley, John
. Priestley, Joseph
. Haweis, Thomas
. Benson, Joseph
. Holden, George
. ed. Jenks, William **
. Cobbin, Ingram
. D’Oyly & Mant
. Barnes, Albert
. Fraser, Donald
. ed. Nicoll, William Robertson
. Ellicott, John
. MacLaren, Alexander **
. Carroll, B.H.
. Morgan, G. Campbell **
. ed. Henry, Carl
. Simeon, Charles **
. Preacher’s Homiletic Commentary **
. The Pulpit Commentary
. Expositor’s Dictionary of Texts
. Hawker, Robert **
. Bonar, Horatius **
. Meyer, F.B.
. Grotius, Hugo
. International Critical Commentaries
The Best Commentary Ever Written on the Bible
Henry was a reformed puritan. Here is a thoughtful and helpful Preface to the commentary by Archibald Alexander (1828, 8 pages), the first professor at old Princeton Seminary. While abridged versions of anything are not usually recommended, this Concise Version of Matthew Henry’s Commentary is very suitable for children, family reading-aloud, and for those who just want to make it through the Bible a bit quicker.
Rev. Derek Thomas: ‘George Whitefield read this commentary four times on his knees. It cost, then, a quarter of an average working man’s annual salary!’
Spurgeon: *** ‘First among the mighty for general usefulness we are bound to mention the man whose name is a household word, Matthew Henry. He is most pious and pithy, sound and sensible, suggestive and sober, terse and trustworthy. You will find him to be glittering with metaphors, rich in analogies, overflowing with illustrations, superabundant in reflections. He delights in apposition and alliteration; he is usually plain, quaint, and full of pith; he sees right through a text directly; apparently he is not critical, but he quietly gives the result of an accurate critical knowledge of the original fully up to the best critics of his time. He is not versed in the manners and customs of the East, for the Holy Land was not so accessible as in our day; but he is deeply spiritual, heavenly, and profitable; finding good matter in every text, and from all deducing most practical and judicious lessons.
His is a kind of commentary to be placed where I saw it, in the old meeting-house at Chester [where Henry preached]—chained in the vestry for anybody and everybody to read. It is the poor man’s commentary, the old Christian’s companion, suitable to everybody, instructive to all…
You are aware, perhaps, that the latter part of the New Testament [after the book of Acts] was completed by other hands, the good man having gone the way of all flesh… they have executed their work exceedingly well, have worked in much of the matter which Henry had collected, and have done their best to follow his methods, but their combined production is far inferior to Matthew Henry himself, and any reader will soon detect the difference.
Every minister ought to read Matthew Henry entirely and carefully through once at least… Begin at the beginning, and resolve that you will traverse the goodly land from Dan to Beersheba. You will acquire a vast store of sermons if you read with your notebook close at hand; and as for thought, they will swarm around you like twittering swallows around an old gable towards the close of autumn. If you publicly expound the chapter you have just been reading, your people will wonder at the novelty of your remarks and the depth of your thoughts, and then you may tell them what a treasure Henry is.’
Calvin, John – Commentary on the Bible ** d. 1564
Most people know of Calvin as the one whose name is imbibed (against Calvin’s wishes) in the label ‘Calvinism’, otherwise known as the harmonious teaching of Holy Scripture. What is not as well known is that his judiciousness as a commentator perhaps even excelled his skills as a theologian. This remains, after 400 years, to be one of the best commentaries available. Slowly read it and you will understand why.
Spurgeon: *** ‘Of priceless value.’ ‘It would not be possible for me too earnestly to press upon you the importance of reading the expositions of that prince among men, John Calvin!… if it be possible, procure them… use them diligently. I have often felt inclined to cry out with Father Simon, a Roman Catholic, ‘Calvin possessed a sublime genius,’ and with Scaliger, ‘Oh! How well has Calvin reached the meaning of the prophets—no one better.’ You will find forty-two [22 in some modern editions] or more goodly volumes worth their weight in gold. Of all commentators I believe John Calvin to be the most candid.
In his expositions he is not always what moderns would call Calvinistic; that is to say, where Scripture maintains the doctrine of predestination and grace he flinches in no degree, but inasmuch as some Scriptures bear the impress of human free action and responsibility, he does not shun to expound their meaning in all fairness and integrity.
He was no trimmer and pruner of texts. He gave their meaning as far as he knew it. His honest intention was to translate the Hebrew and the Greek originals as accurately as he possibly could, and then to give the meaning which would naturally be conveyed by such Greek and Hebrew words: he labored, in fact, to declare, not his own mind upon the Spirit’s words, but the mind of the Spirit as couched in those words. Dr. King very truly says of him,
‘No writer ever dealt more fairly and honestly by the Word of God. He is scrupulously careful to let it speak for itself, and to guard against every tendency of his own mind to put upon it a questionable meaning for the sake of establishing some doctrine which he feels to be important, or some theory which he is anxious to uphold. This is one of his prime excellences. He will not maintain any doctrine, however orthodox and essential, by a text of Scripture which to him appears of doubtful application, or of inadequate force. For instance, firmly as he believed the doctrine of the Trinity, he refuses to derive an argument in its favor from the plural form of the name of God in the first chapter of Genesis. It were easy to multiply examples of this kind, which, whether we agree in his conclusion or not, cannot fail to produce the conviction that he is at least an honest commentator, and will not make an passage of Scripture speak more or less than, according to his view, its divine Author intended it to speak….
If you needed any confirmatory evidence as to the value of his writings, I might summon a cloud of witnesses, but it will suffice to quote one or two. Here is the opinion of one who is looked upon as his great enemy, namely, Arminius:
‘Next to the perusal of the Scriptures, which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin’s commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than [Werner] Helmich [(1551-1608) a Dutch Protestant divine] himself; for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the Library of the Fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most others, or rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent gift of prophecy.’’
Poole (1624–1679) was a reformed puritan.
Spurgeon: *** ‘Matthew Poole also wrote Annotations upon the Word of God, in English, which are mentioned by Matthew Henry as having passed through many impressions in his day, and he not only highly praises them, but declares that he has in his own work all along been brief upon that which Mr. Poole has more largely discussed, and has industriously declined what is to be found there. The three volumes, tolerably cheap, and easily to be got at, are necessaries for your libraries.
On the whole, if I must have only one commentary, and had read Matthew Henry as I have, I do not know but what, I should choose Poole. He is a very prudent and judicious commentator; and one of the few who could honestly say:
‘We have not willingly balked any obvious difficulty, and have designed a just satisfaction to all our readers; and if any knot remains yet untied, we have told our readers what hath been most probably said for their satisfaction in the untying of it.’
Poole is not so pithy and witty by far as Matthew Henry, but he is perhaps more accurate, less a commentator, and more an expositor. You meet with no ostentation of learning in Matthew Poole, and that for the simple reason that he was so profoundly learned as to be able to be able to give results without display of his intellectual crockery.
A pedant who is for ever quoting Ambrose and Jerome, Piscator and Oecolampadius, in order to show what a copious reader he has been, is usually a dealer in small wares, and quotes only what others have quoted before him, but he who can give you the result and outcome of very extensive reading without sounding a trumpet before him is the really learned man… Strange to say, like the other great Matthew [Henry], he [Poole] did not live to complete his work beyond Isaiah 53; other hands united to finish the design.’
Gill, John – Exposition of the Bible ** (d. 1771)
*** ‘A very distinguished place is due to Dr. Gill. Beyond all controversy, Gill was one of the most able Hebraists of his day, and in other matters no mean proficient. When an opponent in controversy had ventured to call him ‘a botcher in divinity,’ the good doctor, being compelled to become a fool in glorying, gave such a list of his attainments as must have covered his accuser with confusion.
His great work on the Holy Scriptures is greatly prized at the present day by the best authorities, which is conclusive evidence of its value, since the set of the current of theological thought is quite contrary to that of Dr. Gill. No one in these days is likely to be censured for his Arminianism, but most modern divines affect to sneer at anything a little too highly Calvinistic: however, amid the decadence of his own rigid system, and the disrepute of even more moderate Calvinism, Gill’s laurels as an expositor are still green.
His ultraism is discarded, but his learning is respected: the world and the church take leave to question his dogmatism [systematic theology], but they both bow before his erudition. Probably no man since Gill’s days has at all equaled him in the matter of Rabbinical learning. Say what you will about that lore, it has its value: of course, a man has to rake among perfect dunghills and dustheaps, but there are a few jewels which the world could not afford to miss. Gill was a master cinder-sifter among the Targums, the Talmuds, the Mishna, and the Gemara. Richly did he deserve the [honorary doctoral] degree of which he said, ‘I never bought it, nor thought it, nor sought it.’
He was always at work; it is difficult to say when he slept, for he wrote 10,000 folio pages of theology. The portrait of him which belongs to this church, and hangs in my private vestry, and from which all the published portraits have been engraved, represents him after an interview with an Arminian gentleman, turning up his nose in a most expressive manner, as if he could not endure even the smell of free-will. In some such a vein he wrote his commentary. He hunts Arminianism throughout the whole of it.
He is far from being so interesting and readable as Matthew Henry. He delivered his comments to his people from Sabbath to Sabbath, hence their peculiar mannerism. His frequent method of animadversion is, ‘This text does not mean this,’ nobody ever thought it did; ‘It does not mean that,’ only two or three heretics ever imagined it did; and again it does not mean a third thing, or a fourth, or a fifth, or a sixth absurdity; but at last he thinks it does mean so-and-so, and tells you so in a methodical, sermon-like manner. This is an easy method, gentleman, of filling up the time, if you are ever short of heads for a sermon. Show your people firstly, secondly, and thirdly, what the text does not mean, and then afterwards you can go back and show them what it does mean. It may be thought, however, that one such a teacher is enough, and that what was tolerated from a learned doctor would be scouted in a student fresh from college.
For good, sound, massive, sober sense in commenting, who can excel Gill? Very seldom does he allow himself to be run away with by imagination, except now and then when he tries to open up a parable, and finds a meaning in every circumstance and minute detail; or when he falls upon a text which is not congenial with his creed, and hacks and hews terribly to bring the word of God into a more systematic shape. Gill is the Coryphaeus of hyper-Calvinism, but if his followers never went beyond their master, they would not go very far astray.’ ‘Invaluable in its own line of things.’ – Spurgeon
Clarke, Adam – Commentary on the Bible
Clarke (c. 1760-1832) was a British Wesleyan.
*** – ‘I have placed next to Gill [a vehement Calvinist] in my library [the vehement Arminian] Adam Clarke, but as I have no desire to have my rest broken by wars among the authors, I have placed Doddridge between them [a much more temperate Calvinist]. If the spirits of the two worthies could descend to the earth in the same mood in which they departed, no one house would be able to hold them.
Adam Clarke is the great annotator of our Wesleyan friends; and they have no reason to be ashamed of him, for he takes rank among the chief of expositors. His mind was evidently fascinated by the singularities of learning, and hence his commentary is rather too much of an old curiosity shop, but it is filled with valuable rarities, such as none but a great mane could have collected. Like Gill, he is one-sided, only in the opposite direction to our friend [Gill] the baptist. The use of the two authors may help to preserve the balance of your judgments. If you consider Clarke wanting [lacking] in unction, do not read him for savor but for criticism, and then you will not be disappointed.
The author thought that lengthy reflections were rather for the preacher than the commentator, and hence it was not a part of his plan to write such observations as those which endear Matthew Henry to the million. If you have a copy of Adam Clarke, and exercise discretion in reading it, you will derive immense advantage from it, for frequently by a sort of side-light he brings out the meaning of the text in an astonishingly novel manner. I do not wonder that Adam Clarke still stands, notwithstanding his peculiarities, a prince among commentators.
I do not find him so helpful as Gill, but still from his side of the question, with which I have personally no sympathy, he is an important writer, and deserves to be studied by every reader of the Scriptures. He very judiciously says of Dr. Gill, ‘He was a very learned and good man, but has often lost sight of his better judgment in spiritualizing the text;’ this is the very vedict which we pass upon himself, only altering the last sentence a word or two; ‘He has often lost sight of his better judgment in following in learned singularities;’ [Clarke commenting in Gen. 3 of] the monkey, instead of the serpent, tempting Eve, is a notable instance.’ ‘Despite some few oddities, this is one of the most learned of English expositions.’ – Spurgeon
Jamieson, Fausset, Brown – Commentary Critical & Explanatory on the Whole Bible ** (1871) Written by Robert Jamieson (Gen.-Job, Church of Scotland), Andrew Fausset (Psalms-Malachi, Anglican) and David Brown (N.T., Free Church of Scotland)
Reformed. Known as the JFB Commentary. Highly recommended.
*** ‘A really standard work. We consult it continually, and with growing interest. Mr. Fausset’s portion strikes us as being of the highest order [Fausset on the Psalms and prophets was a historic premillennialist, as was Spurgeon].’
‘Of this I have a very high opinion… It is to some extent a compilation and condensation of other men’s thoughts, but it is sufficiently original to claim a place in every minister’s library: indeed it contains so great a variety of information that if a man had no other exposition he would find himself at no great loss if he possessed this and used it diligently.’ – Spurgeon
Mayer, John – Exposition of the Whole Bible ** (1627-1653)
Mayer produced one of the major reformed, whole Bible commentaries during the 1600’s. The first volume was published in 1627 and the last in 1653.
“Formerly thought to be the best, next to [John] Trapp.” – Howard Malcom
** ‘A rare and valuable author… The six volumes, folio, are a most judicious and able digest of former commentators, enriched with the author’s own notes, forming altogether one of the fullest and best of learned English commentaries; not meant for popular use, but invaluable to the student. He is a link between the modern school, at the head of which I put Poole and Henry, and the older school who mostly wrote in Latin, and were tinctured with the conceits of those schoolmen who gathered like flies around the corpse of Aristotle. He appears to have written before Diodati and Trapp, but lacked opportunity to publish. I fear he will be forgotten, as there is but little prospect of the republication of so diffuse, and perhaps heavy, an author. He is a very Alp of learning, but cold and lacking in spirituality, hence his lack of popularity.’ – Spurgeon
Diodati, John – Pious Annotations, upon the Holy Bible ** (1643)
** “Bickersteth says: ‘The spiritual and evangelical remarks are of much value.’ Diodati’s notes are short and worth consulting.” – Spurgeon
These were also popularly known as the Westminster Annotations, as over half of the commentators were Westminster divines. The first edition has rather brief notes. The fuller third (and last) edition is considered the best edition. It can be purchased on the Puritan Hard-Drive, sold by Still Waters Revival. Here is an introduction to the commentary with the list of contributors.
** ‘…the Westminster Annotations [come to us] as the production of a still more venerable assembly; but if, with my hat off, bowing profoundly to those august conclaves of master minds, I may venture to say so, I would observe that they furnish another instance that committees seldom equal the labors of individuals. The notes are too short and fragmentary to be of any great value. The volumes are a heavy investment.’ ‘Contain valuable remarks, but are somewhat out of date. The work is probably less esteemed than it should be.’ – Spurgeon
Ness, Christopher – A Complete History & Mystery of the Old & New Testament, Logically Discussed & Theologically Improved: in Four Volumes… the like Undertaking (in such a Manner & Method) being Never by any Author Attempted Before: yet this is now approved & commended by Grave Divines ** (1690-1696)
Ness (1621-1705) was the reformed puritan that wrote An Antidote Against Arminianism, which is known to some reformed folk.
*** ‘Far more useful [than the commentary of Arthur Jackson (1653)] is Ness’ History and Mystery of the Old and New Testament, a grand repository of quaint remarks upon the historical books of Scripture. You will find it contained in four thin folio volumes, and you will have a treasure if you procure it.’ ‘Quaint, pithy, suggestive. Full of remarks such as are to be found in Thomas Fuller and Bishop Hall.’ – Spurgeon
This was the first whole Bible commentary to come from American soil. Cotton was a reformed puritan. The series is projected to be 10 volumes. The 47 page General Introduction to the series is online. These volumes are very pricey as they are done by an academic publisher.
Brown, John, of Haddington – The Self-Interpreting Bible ** This is something similar to a study Bible with footnotes and side-notes.
Brown (1722-1787) was a famed Scottish seceder, the grandfather of the also justly famous commentator John Brown of Edinburgh.
** ‘Useful in its day, and still popular. Notes on the New Testament an undisguised plagiarism from Guyse. Not a student’s book.’ – Spurgeon [Guyse was a pretty good N.T. commentator, and hence Brown’s NT commentary is pretty good as well!]
The Holy Bible with Explanatory Notes & Practical Observations, Gen.-Esther, Job-Song, Isa-Mal, Mt-Acts, Rom-Rev ** (d. 1821; 1788 ff.)
Practical Observations on the New Testament, Arranged for Family Worship (1844) with an Introduction by Archibald Alexander
*** ‘Among entire commentators of modern date, a high place is usually awarded to Thomas Scott, and I shall not dispute his right to it. He is the expositor of evangelical Episcopalians (even as Adam Clarke is the prophet of the Wesleyans), but to me he has seldom given a thought, and I have almost discontinued consulting him. The very first money I ever received for pulpit services in London was invested in Thomas Scott, and I neither regretted the investment nor became exhilarated thereby.
His work has always been popular, is very judicious, thoroughly sound and gracious; but for suggestiveness and pith is not comparable to Matthew Henry. I know I am talking heresy, but I cannot help saying that for a minister’s use, Scott is mere milk and water—good and trustworthy, but not solid enough in matter for full-grown men. In the family, Scott will hold his place, but in the study you want condensed thought, and this you must look for elsewhere.’
‘J.M. Neale says of Scott’s practical observations, ‘They are such as some men would not take the trouble of even thinking, many would not be at the pains of speaking, and—one should have imagined, were not the fact as it is—such as no man would have condescended to write down.’ This judgment is far too severe, and reveals the High Churchman: it raises Scott in our esteem.’ – Spurgeon
Sutcliffe, Joseph – A Commentary on the Old and New Testament (1838)
Sutcliffe was a Wesleyan minister.
*** ‘To comprise the whole Bible in one volume [in the original edition] necessitated notes few and brief. Sutcliffe, though an Arminian, is in general so good that we wish we had more of him; his style is vivacious and forcible.’ – Spurgeon
Chalmers was a leader in the early Free Church of Scotland. Here are brief expositions through the Bible. The contents of the volumes are: (1) Genesis – Joshua, (2) Judges- Job, (3) Psalms – Jeremiah, (4) The New Testament, (5) Genesis – 2 Kings 11 (the content of this last volume is different than the first two volumes).
*** ‘Those acquainted with the writings of Chalmers will know what to expect from his pen when guided by fervent devotion.’ ‘The readings are not upon every portion of Scripture, neither can they be viewed as a full exposition of any part thereof. They are precious fragments of immortal thought.’
Kitto, John d. 1850
This is a full commentary full of scholarship as footnotes on the Biblical text. Many of the pictures are small and helpful (as one finds in a Bible dictionary); the large pictures are exceedingly well done and sometimes magnificent.
*** ‘A work of art as well as learning.’ ‘…you will [should] economise rigidly until you have accumulated funds to purchase Kitto’s Pictorial Bible. You mean to [should] take that godly freight on board before you launch into married life [speaking to young seminary students]. As you cannot visit the Holy Land, it is well for you that there is a work like the Pictorial Bible, in which the notes of the most observant travellers are arranged under the texts which they illustrate. For the geography, zoology, botany, and manners and customs of Palestine, this will be your counselor and guide.’ – Spurgeon
*** ‘The omission of the [biblical] text renders the work cheaper.’ – Spurgeon
Daily Bible Illustrations: being Original Readings for a Year, on subjects relating to Sacred History, Biography, Geography, Antiquities & Theology, vols. 1 (Gen), 2 (Ex-Jud), 3 (Ruth-2 Sam), 4 (Kings-Esth), 5 (Job-Song), 6 (Isa-Mal), 7 (Gospels), 8 (Acts)
*** ‘They are not exactly a commentary, but what marvelous expositions you have there! You have reading more interesting than any novel that was ever written, and as instructive as the heaviest theology. The matter is quite attractive and fascinating, and yet so weighty, that the man who shall study those eight volumes thoroughly, will not fail to read his Bible intelligently and with growing interest.’ – Spurgeon
Barth, Christian, G. – The Bible Manual: an Expository & Practical Commentary on the Books of Scripture, Arranged in Chronological Order, Forming a Handbook of Biblical Elucidation, for the Use of Families, Schools & Students of the Word of God (1865)
*** ‘Helpful in showing the historical position of the books, and in assisting to illustrate them by the circumstances under which they were written. We have referred to it with benefit.’ – Spurgeon
Lange, John P. – A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal & Homiletical, with Special Reference to Ministers & Students HTML (1866) This was originally 24 vols.
*** ‘The volumes greatly differ in excellence, yet none could be spared. We have nothing equal to them as a series.’ ‘I am not so enamored of the German writers as certain of my brethren appear to be, for they are generally cold and hard, and unspiritual… I do, however, greatly prize the series lately produced under the presidency of Dr. Lange.
These volumes are not all of equal value, but, as a whole, they are a grand addition to our stores. The American translators have added considerably to the German work, and in some cases these additions are more valuable than the original matter. For homiletical [preaching] purposes these volumes are so many hills of gold, but, alas, there is dross also, for Baptismal Regeneration and other grave errors occur.’ – Spurgeon
*** ‘Dr. Wordsworth’s Holy Bible, with Notes and Introductions, is a valuable addition to our stores, but it is rendered much more bulky and expensive than it needed to be by the printing of the text at large. It gives many precious hints, and much of the choicest thought of medieval writers, besides suggesting catch-words and showing connections between various passages. Although it is occasionally marred by the characteristic weaknesses of the Bishop, and has here and there foolishnesses at which one cannot but smile, it is a great work, such as only an eminent scholar could have produced.’ – Spurgeon
Geikie, John Cunningham – Hours with the Bible, or the Scriptures in the Light of Modern Knowledge, OT vol. 1 (Gen), 2 (Ex-Jud), 3 (Samson-Solomon), 4 (Rehoboam-Hezekiah), 5 (Manasseh-Zedekiah), 6 (Exile-Malachi); NT, vol. 1 (Gospels), 2 (Acts, James, 1-2 Thess), 3 (Gal, 1-2 Cor, Rom, Col, Phile, Eph, Phil, 1-2 Tim, Tit), 4 (1-2 Pet, Heb, Rev, 1-3 Jn) new ed. (1893)
‘One of the best religious writers of the age.’ – Spurgeon
‘We can never know too much of that literature which throws side-lights on the Bible, and which unfolds the customs of the people, difficult allusions,historical coincidences, geographical details. Geikie’s Hours with the Bible; Kitto’s Daily Illustrations, edited by Dr. Porter; Dr. Smith’s Bible Dictionary; books like these are invaluable….’ – F.B. Meyer
Franz Delitzsch placed his ‘Life and Time of Jesus’ in ‘the highest rank.’
Gray, James, C.
*** ‘We can only speak of the New Testament; it is surpassingly useful, sententious and sensible. Buy the work at once.’
‘Most helpful in suggesting divisions, and furnishing anecdotes. Multum in parvo [a lot in a little]. Our opinion of it is very high. It is not critical, but popular. The author has used abbreviations in order to crowd in as much as possible.’ – Spurgeon
The Class & the Desk: a Manual for Sunday School Teachers, vol. 1 (Gen-Esth), 2 (Job-Mal), 3 (Mt-Acts), 4 (Rom-Rev) (1867)
*** ‘Condensed thought. Suited for teachers and local preachers.’ – Spurgeon
Uniquely Useful Commentaries
Most of these works would be in the category of great commentaries, except they are not typically what one expects from a commentary.
Anonymous – The Commentary Wholly Biblical: an Exposition in the Very Words of Scripture, vols. 1 (Gen-Job), 2 (Ps-Mal), 3 (NT) n.d.
The commentary is purely composed of related verses to the verse at hand. Useful as they are typed out as opposed to having to look up all the cross-references.
** ‘It is very handy to have explanatory passages thus presented to the eye. In general the work is excellently done; but ministers with scanty purses can make a Biblical exposition for themselves.’ – Spurgeon
Torrey, R.A. – The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge first published approx. 1830
This is the best mine of cross-references, topical concordance and ultra concise commentary there is. Invaluable as a Bible-study tool. Torrey (1856-1928) was an American fundamentalist who greatly expanded and re-published this work. While this work is very popular in fundamentalist circles (and can be found for $20 at your local bookstore), for some reason the reformed crowd seems to be largely unaware of its usefulness.
Manners & Customs of the Bible
Bush, George – Illustrations of the Holy Scriptures, Derived Principally from the Manners, Customs, Rites, Traditions, Forms of Speech, Antiquities, Climate & Works of Art & Literature of the Eastern Nations… with a Description of the Present State of Countries & Places Mentioned in the Sacred Writings… (1836) 709 pp.
Bush was a Biblical scholar, a professor of oriental literature in New York City University, and initially a presbyterian minister. Not every verse is commented on.
Trapp, John – A Complete Commentary on the Bible ** (d. 1669)
Trapp was a reformed Anglican, though presbyterian in his leanings.
*** ‘Would it be possible to eulogize too much the incomparably sententious and suggestive folios of John Trapp? Since Mr. Dickinson has rendered them accessible, I trust most of you have bought them. Trapp will be most valuable to men of discernment, to thoughtful men, to men who only want a start in a line of thought, and are then able to run alone.
Trapp excels in witty stories on the one hand, and learned allusions on the other. You will not thoroughly enjoy him unless you can turn to the original, and yet a mere dunce at classics will prize him. His writings remind me of himself: he was a pastor, hence his holy practical remarks; he was the head of a public school, and everywhere we see his profound scholarship; he was for some time amid the guns and drums of a parliamentary garrison, and he gossips and tells queer anecdotes like a man used to soldier-life; yet withal, he comments as if he had been nothing else but a commentator all his days.
Some of his remarks are far-fetched, and like the far-fetched rarities of Solomon’s Tarshish, there is much gold and silver, but there are also apes and peacocks. His criticisms would some of them be the cause of amusement in these days of greater scholarship; but for all that, he who shall excel Trapp had need rise very early in the morning.
Trapp is my especial companion and treasure; I can read him when I am too weary for anything else. Trapp is salt, pepper, mustard, vineagar, and all the other condiments. Put him on the table when you study, and when you have your dish ready, use him by way of spicing the whole thing. Yes, gentlemen, read Trapp certainly, and if you catch the infection of his consecrated humor, so much the better for your hearers.’ – Spurgeon
Whitecross, John – Anecdotes Illustrative of a Select Passage in Each Chapter of the Bible, vols. 1 (OT), 2 (NT) ** (1831)
Whitecross was a school master who wrote to engage the minds of the young, though these select anecdotes will be welcome and profitable to all. He also wrote a commentary of anecdotes on the Shorter Catechism.
On Difficult Passages
“Really a commentary on the whole Bible. A very useful work.” – Dr. Leslie McFall
Knatchbull, Norton – Annotations upon Some Difficult Texts in All the Books of the New Testament (Cambridge, 1693)
Knatchbull (1602–1685) was an English politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1640 and 1679. In 1680, Peter du Moulin the younger dedicated to Knatchbull his Short View of the Chief Points in Controversy between the Reformed Churches and the Church of Rome, a translation from an unprinted manuscript by his father, Peter du Moulin the elder.
The Dutch Annotations upon the Whole Bible
‘If Spurgeon had rated the Dutch Annotations, translated by Theodore Haak, for example, according to its just deserts, perhaps it would have been reprinted several times during the twentieth century!’ – Rev. Joel Beeke
** ‘Haak’s Annotations come to us as the offspring of the famous Synod of Dort… but if, with my hat off, bowing profoundly to those august conclaves of master minds, I may venture to say so, I would observe that they furnish another instance that committees seldom equal the labors of individuals. The notes are too short and fragmentary to be of any great value. The volumes are a heavy investment.’ ‘Similar to the Westminster Assembly’s Annotations.’ – Spurgeon
Roberts, Francis – Clavis Bibliorum, or ‘The Key of the Bible’, Unlocking the Richest Treasury of the Holy Scriptures, whereby the Order, Names, Times, Persons, Penmen, Occasion, Scope & Principal Parts containing the Subject Matter of Old & New Testament are Familiarly & Briefly Opened… ** (1648/1675)
Not a traditional commentary, but it gives introductions to the Biblical books and summaries of them. It is particularly full on the Psalms. From the English author of the magnum opus on covenant theology in the puritan period. Rich and experiential.
Hall, Joseph – A Plain & Familiar Explication: by Way of Paraphrase, of All the Hard Texts of the Whole Divine Scriptures of the Old & New Testaments, vols. 1 (Gen-Dan), 2 (Hos-Rev) ** (d. 1656)
By hard texts, Hall means the hard parts in about every other verse of the Bible, as that is how much he comments on.
** ‘Not so pithy as the Contemplations; nor, indeed, could it be expected to be so. It is not necessary to the Student, but might be useful.’
Clarke, Samuel – Annotations upon the Old & New Testaments ** 1690
Clarke (d. 1701) was a late puritan. His annotations are very hard to find, though sometimes the New Testament portion can be bought as a print-on-demand. The main drawback is the brevity (and often sparsity) of his comments. See George Whitefield’s recommendatory preface to Clarke’s Annotations in Whitefield’s Works, vol. 4, p. 277
** ‘Notes very brief, but judicious. Author one of the ejected ministers, an exceedingly learned man. This work was highly commended by Owen, Baxter, Howe and others, but is now superseded.’ – Spurgeon
Patrick, Lowth, Arnald, Whitby & Lowman – A Critical Commentary & Paraphrase on the Old & New Testament & the Apocrypha, vols. 1 (Gen-Josh), 2 (Jud-Ps), 3 (Pro-Apoc), 4 (NT) early-1700’s, printed 1845
Bishop Simon Patrick and Dr. Daniel Whitby were Arminians, but they must be of some use as Matthew Henry in his commentary quotes from Patrick about 150 times and Whitby about 50 times.
*** ‘The Commentary by Patrick, Lowth, Arnald, Whitby, and Lowman, is said by Darling to be of standard authority, but you may do without it with less loss than in the case of several others I have mentioned. The authors were men of great learning, their association in one commentary is remarkable, and their joint production has a place in all complete libraries.’ – Spurgeon
Wells, Edward – An Help for the More Easy & Clear Understanding of the Holy Scriptures, 6 vols. (Oxford, 1724-1728)
Wells (1667-1727) was an Anglican.
The late Dr. Leslie McFall, a Biblical chronologist who had a special interest in resolving Old Testament difficulties, called this work an ‘excellent commentary’. He ranked it as one of the top 6 commentaries on the Old Testament from the pre-1900’s era on his list of his top 27 recommendations from that era (all of which commentaries are on this page or other pages of this website). Cambridge University’s library has a copy of it.
Wall, William – Critical Notes on the Old & New Testament on the Old Testament, vol, 1 (Gen-Job), 2 (Psalms-Prophets), 3; On the New Testament ** (d. 1728; 1734)
** ‘Dr. Wall was the great champion on infant baptism against the learned Gale. His notes are good, but out of date.’ ‘Explains some difficulties, but is far surpassed by other annotators.’ – Spurgeon
Ostervald, Jean – The Arguments of the Books & Chapters of the Old & New Testaments, with Practical Observations, vols. 1 (Gen-Eccl), 2 (Song-Rev) d. 1747, printed 1779
Ostervald (1663-1747) was a Swiss protestant pastor historically in the line of the reformed tradition, though, being one of the primary leaders of the Enlightenment (coming after the orthodox days of Turretin and Pictet), he was thought to show a leaning towards Socinianism and Arminianism (see Wiki). His summaries of the Biblical books, their chapters and his reflection are still useful.
Wesley, John – Explanatory Notes on the Old & New Testaments (d. 1791)
** ‘The Notes on the New Testament are esteemed, but Dr. [Adam] Clark says that those on the Old are meagre and unsatisfactory. He is quite right.’ – Spurgeon
Priestley, Joseph – Notes on All the Books of Scripture, for the Use of the Pulpit & Private Families, vols. 1 (Gen-1 Kin), 2 (2 Kin-Mal), 3 (Mt-Acts), 4 (Rom-Rev, books are out of order) (1803)
‘This work contains valuable notes and observations on the philosophy, natural history, geography, and chronology of the Scriptures.’ – James Darling
Haweis, Thomas – The Evangelical Expositor: or a Commentary on the Holy Bible, 2 vols. Buy
Haweis (1734-1820) was an evangelical Anglican. His book on the Lord’s Supper has been reprinted by Reformation Heritage Books.
Benson, Joseph – Commentary on the Old & New Testaments (d. 1821)
** – “Adopted by the Wesleyan Conference as a standard work, and characterized by that body as marked by ‘solid learning, soundness of theological opinion, and an edifying attention to experimental and practical religion. Necessary to Methodist students.’ – Spurgeon
Holden (1783-1865) was an orthodox Anglican.
ed. Jenks, William – The Comprehensive Commentary on the Holy Bible: containing Scott’s Marginal References, Henry’s Commentary, Condensed … the Practical Observations of Thomas Scott, with Extensive Notes, Selected from Scott, Doddridge, Gill, etc., vols. 1 (Gen-Jud), 2 (Ruth-Ps 63), 3, 4 (Mt-Jn), 5, 6 (Study Helps) ** (1834)
Commentaries compiled from the comments of multiple authors are notorious for containing lots of information, though not always in the most fluent and helpful fashion. This work does it better than most, and (unlike most) the contributors here are only the best.
** ‘Generally used as a pulpit Bible. Said to contain 4,000 notes and 500,000 parallel passages, being all those of Blayney, Scott, Clarke, and others. The tables, notes, introductions, etc. are of standard value.’ – Spurgeon
Cobbin, Ingram – A Condensed Commentary on the Bible (1839)
** ‘An excellent makeshift for a poor man.’ – Spurgeon
D’Oyly & Mant – The Holy Bible according to the Authorized Version: with Notes, Explanatory & Practical; taken Principally from the Most Eminent Writers of the United Church of England & Ireland… vols. 1 (Gen-Job), 2 (Ps-Mal), 3 (NT) (1850)
** ‘Of moderate value. More fitted for the family than the study. A compilation most appreciated among Episcopalians.’ – Spurgeon
Barnes was an American, New Light Presbyterian. He was tried for heresy for his comments denying the imputation of Adam’s sin to the human race on Rom. 5:12. Fortunately, though, if one sticks close to the Biblical text, one will not veer off too often: the rest of his commentary is 98% theologically sound.
“’Albert Barnes,’ say you, ‘what do you think of Albert Barnes?’ Albert Barnes is a learned and able divine, but his productions are unequal in value, the gospels are comparatively little worth, but his other comments are extremely useful for Sunday-school teachers and persons with a narrow range of reading endowed with enough good sense to discriminate between good and evil.
If a controversial eye had been turned upon Barnes’ Notes years ago, and his inaccuracies shown up by some unsparing hand, he would never have had the popularity which at one time set rival publishers advertising him in every direction. His Old Testament volumes are to be greatly commended as learned and laborious, and the epistles are useful as a valuable collection of the various opinions of learned men.
Placed by the side of the great masters, Barnes is a lesser light, but taking his work for what it is and professes to be, no minister can afford to be without it, and this is no small praise for works which were only intended for Sunday-school teachers.” – Spurgeon
Fraser, Donald – Synoptical Lectures on the Books of Holy Scripture, vols. 1 (Gen-Hab), 2 (Zeph-Rev) (1886)
This not a true commentary but synopses of each book of the Bible. Especially helpful for people that want to read through the Bible and pastors who want to preach one sermon through each book of the Bible.
*** ‘Dr. Fraser has observed, like many others of us, the mischief which results from cutting the Bible into fragments, and using it piecemeal. In these volumes he discourses of the Bible at large, indicates the scope of the book, and furnishes a brief digest of its contents. He has compressed rigorously. The design was in itself most laudable, and it has been well carried out.’ – Spurgeon
ed. Nicoll, William Robertson – The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (1903)
This set contains commentaries by both liberals and conservatives. The conservative contributions are some of the best commentaries on those books, including Kellog on Leviticus, W.G. Blaikie on Joshua and 1-2 Samuel, MacLaren on the Psalms, H.C.G. Moule on Romans, and Thomas Edwards on 1 Corinthians. Some of the commentaries by the bigger name liberals can be helpful as well, including those by George Adam Smith, George Findlay, Marcus Dods, F.W. Farrar, Alfred Plummer and William Milligan on Revelation, though of course one has to sift through the chaff.
Ellicott, John – Commentary for English Readers (1905)
Anglican. This is a more popular treatment than his highly acclaimed (and recently republished) scholarly commentaries on some of the epistles of Paul.
MacLaren, Alexander – Expositions of Holy Scripture **
These are popular sermons through most of the Bible by this popular Scottish born, English, baptist preacher.
Carroll, B.H. – Interpretation of the English Bible
Carroll (1843–1914) was an American calvinistic baptist who was an early leader in the Southern Baptist Convention. He was post-millennial.
Morgan, G. Campbell – An Exposition of the Whole Bible, Chapter by Chapter ** Buy
Morgan (1863-1945) was the predecessor of Martin Lloyd Jones at Westminster Chapel.
ed. Henry, Carl – The Biblical Expositor: The Living Theme of the Great Book with General and Introductory Essays & Exposition 1 vol. ed. Buy (1960; A.J. Holman, 1973) 1,310 pp. ToC The work was previously published in 3 vols.
This little known work by leading evangelicals is brief but helpful. Reformed commentators include:
O.T. Allis on the Five Books of Moses
J. Barton Payne on Leviticus
A.M. Renwick on 1 &2 Chronicles
R. Laird Harris on the Psalms
Johannes G. Vos on the Song
E.J. Young on Zephaniah
Geoffrey Bromiley on Haggai
Marten Woudstra on Zechariah
J. Norval Geldenhuys on Luke
Carl Henry on John
John Gerstner on Act
Gordon Clark on Romans
Philip E. Hughes on 1 & 2 Corinthians
J.I. Packer on Galatians
Leon Morris on Colossians
Other notable contributors are: Archer Gleason, FF. Bruce, E.F. Harrison, K.A. Kitchen, George E. Ladd, H.C. Leupold, Wilbur Smith and Merrill Unger, amongst others.
See also Lange’s Commentary which provides helpful homiletical material at the end of each Biblical passage. For an example of sermons through each passage of the Bible, see the commentary of Alexander MacLaren. See also Lange above and Meyers below.
Simeon, Charles –Horae Homileticae [Homiletical Hours] ** (d. 1836)
Simoen was an Anglican. The title means ‘hours of homiletics’, as Simeon spent many of his spare hours composing this work dedicated to being useful for preaching. These are sermon outlines on most passages of the Bible.
** “Not commentaries, but we could not exclude them. They have been called ‘a valley of dry bones’: be a prophet and they will live.” – Spurgeon
Various – The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary ** (1892)
This massive set intends to be of help to preachers by including outlines, notes, sermonic ideas and helps as well as commentary extracted from the writings of church history and contemporary writers (to their day).
The goal cannot but fail; what one ends up with is a hodge-podge collection of various excerpted writings relating to the text at hand. However, the extracts are often from some of the best writers in church history including many puritans and reformed folk (though the editors are not reformed and are somewhat liberal), from works one may not otherwise easily find or be aware of. For that reason the set is worthwhile.
Spence & Excell – The Pulpit Commentary late 1800’s
The set is a typical late 1800’s Bible commentary by many authors: it contains a ton of material, a chunk of which is liberal, bland chaff. Because of its massive content, and also because even liberals are sometimes insightful, the set is sometimes helpful.
‘The Pulpit Commentary is a homiletic commentary on the Bible… it consists of 23 volumes with 22,000 pages and 95,000 entries, and was written over a 30 year period with 100 contributors.’ – Wiki
Nicoll, Stoddart & Moffatt – The Expositor’s Dictionary of Texts, containing Outlines, Expositions & Illustrations of Bible Texts with Full Reference to the Best Homiletic Literature, vol. 1 (Gen-Mk), 2 (Lk-Rev) (1911)
Hawker, Robert – Poor Man’s Commentary on the Bible **
Hawker (1753–1827) was a reformed Anglican.
** ‘Full of devotion and sweetness.’ ‘Gentlemen, if you want something full of marrow and fatness, cheering to your own hearts by way of comment, and likely to help you in giving to your hearers rich expositions, but Dr. Hawker’s Poor man’s Commentary. Dr. Hawker was the very least of commentators in the matter of criticism; he had no critical capacity, and no ability whatever as an interpreter of the letter; but he sees Jesus, and that is a sacred gift which is most precious whether the owner be a critic or no.
It is to be confessed that he occasionally sees Jesus where Jesus is not legitimately to be seen. He allows his reason to be mastered by his affections, which, vice as it is, is not the worst fault in the world. There is always such a savor of the Lord Jesus Christ in Dr. Hawker that you cannot read him without profit. He has the peculiar idea that Christ is in every Psalm, and this often leads him totally astray, because he attributes expressions to the Savior which really shock the holy mind to imagine our Lord’s using.
However, not as a substantial dish, but as a condiment, place the Plymouth vicar’s work on the table. His writing is all sugar, and you will known how to use it, not devouring it in lumps, but using it to flavor other things.’ – Spurgeon
Bonar (1808-1889) was an influential Scot and brother to Andrew Bonar. The contents of the volumes are: (1) Old Tetament, (2) The Gospels, (3) Acts-2 Corinthians, (4) Galatians – Jude, (5) Revelation.
*** ‘One volume is rather short space in which to bring out the light and truth of the Old Testament. If Dr. Bonar required four volumes for the New, we wish he had felt the same need for the Old. 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
Meyer, F.B. – Our Daily Homily: Expositions of Selected Passages from Every Chapter in the Bible, vol. 1 (Gen-Ruth), 2 (1 Sam-Job), 3 (Ps-Song), 4 (Isa-Mal), 5 (NT)
Meyer (1847–1929) was an English, baptist pastor who wrote numerous, very good devotional works. Meyer gives a one page devotional on a verse or two from each chapter in the Bible.
Less Useful Commentaries (these are mainly here for reference)
Grotius, Hugo – Annotations on the Old & New Testaments (1641-1650)
Grotius was a leading Biblical scholar of his day as well as an Arminian and Erastian. His commentary was widely influential for generations afterwards, though it greatly suffers for his aberrant doctrinal views and often idiosyncratic and unlikely textual interpretations (which is perhaps why it was so popular). This commentary is here for historic purposes.
This is the gold-standard of unbelieving, destructive, academic scholarship on the Bible. These commentaries are highly not recommended. They are referenced here only for the small amount of good contained in the typical idolatry of liberals for exhaustive scholarship: even though 80% of it is useless trash, the other 20% can be useful at times.
Darling, James – ‘Commentaries, etc. on the Old & New Testament’, pp. 125-35 in Cyclopedia Bibliographica: A Library Manual of Theological and General Literature, vol. 1 (Subjects) (1859)
This is perhaps the most exhaustive bibliographical collection up to its day. It includes foreign language titles.
Malcom, Howard – ‘Commentators on the Whole Bible’, pp. 91-92 in Theological Index: References to the Principal Works in Every Department of Religious Literature, embracing nearly Seventy Thousand Citations, Arranged under Two Thousand Heads (Boston, 1868)
Malcom was likely an old Princeton grad as he mentioned his indebtedness to the Drs. Alexander and Miller in the ‘Preface’. Malcom was a pastor who worked on this volume for over 40 years.
This work includes titles in foreign languages and is more comprehensive than the work of James Darling. The drawback is that there is very limited reference information, which can make finding the works difficult at times.
Hurst, John Fletcher – ‘Commentaries: the Whole Bible’ in Literature of Theology: A Classified Bibliography of Theological and General Religious Literature (1896)
Hurst (1834–1903) was an American bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, a historian, and the first Chancellor of the American University in Washington, D.C.
This work only includes titles in English. “Based on his 1882 work: Biblioteca Theologica. An extensive classified bibliography of ‘the best and most desirable books in theology and general religious literature published in Great Britain, the United States, and the Dominion of Canada.’”