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Critical/Exegetical Commentaries

A guide for locating and using critical commentary sets available in Baylor University Libraries.

Anchor Bible

Described by some reviewers as more of a "translation with...notes" than a true commentary (Soulen, 36), the Anchor Bible (hereafter AB) has a very simple format.

Beyond the standard introductory matter, aclimating readers to standard background issues of Biblical books (historical context, redaction histories, occasion and purposes of writings, etc.), the actual commentary consists of three elements:  

1) Original (ie, commentator's) translation of the text

2) Brief comment on the text

3) Extensive translation and textual notes.

AB transliterates Greek and Hebrew terms, aiding pronunciation. Not necessary for advanced biblical studies students, but helpful for those without a strong biblical languages background.

The translation and textual notes are definitely the strongest suit of this series, providing a wealth of exegetical and background detail helpful to the student.

The publisher's intention is to produce a commentary series "aimed at the general reader with no special formal training in biblical studies; yet...written with most exacting standards of scholarship..." (Albright and Freedman, Eds. foreward) 

The series also describes itself as "a project of international and interfaith scope: Protestant, Catholic and Jewish...." So the series is theologically diverse and does not represent any one particular confessional or faith stance. 

Book Coverage: Old Testament, New Testament, Apocrypha

Word Biblical Commentary

One of two critical series that consistently get 'top marks' for technical scholarship in reviews, WBC is avowedly Evangelical in theological commitments. Broadly therefore the series is committed a view of "Scripture as divine revelation and to the truth and power of the gospel." (Hubbard, et al Editorial preface)

In addition to original translations of the text, the series structures its analysis of the text into five divisions, enabling scholars to focus respectively on

a) textual analysis per se,  

b) contemporary scholarship on texts

c) exposition of the text.

The divisions are as follows:

Form Function
Notes Textual analysis
Bibliography State of modern scholarship (ca time of publication) on book or passage
Form and Structure "                                       "                               "                            "
Comment Exposition of textual meaning
Explanation "                                      "                                 "                            "


The commentary employs a verse by verse analysis of the text (words of text given in their original languages).

The New Testament commentaries do not transliterate original terms. However, transliterations do accompany the verses of the Hebrew text in the Old Testament commentaries. 

Book Coverage: Old Testament, New Testament

Old Testament Library

Described by one reviewer as "a distinguished collection of commentaries written in the critical tradition" (Longman, 27), OTL is another core critical commentary series with ample technical tools for the professional exegete.

Individual commentators are given some scope to structure volumes according to their methodological requirements.

However, the following core elements are common to the series:

  • passage by passage treatment
  • extensive scholarly bibliographies opening each passage under review
  • original translations of the text
  • textual and philological notes
  • Discussions of literary and history of tradition issues (where appropriate)
  • Discussion of the Old Testament context
  • New Testament context
  • History of exegesis
  • Theological Reflection


Continental Commentaries

The volumes of the Continental Commentary series lack the tight editorially imposed consistency of form and structure of the Word Biblical Commentary or Anchor Bible. Organization seems very much left to the discretion of the commentator. So this series is a bit of a 'lucky dip'.

Size, depth (of analysis) and (readership) level vary widely by commentator and book in this series.

Many of the volumes are English translations of German originals.

Some volumes provide running, original translations of the text (e.g., Galatians); some do not (e.g., Leviticus). Some volumes have a complex, detailed form and structure (e.g., Isaiah commentaries); and some have a very simple form and structure.

Some include the technical and textual apparatus you will find in WBC, Anchor or Hermeneia; and some don't.

Despite the general unpredictability of structure and form however, some features recur across the series:

  • passage-by-passage / verse-by-verse treatment of the text
  • detailed analysis of text
  • substantial, 'current' and scholarly bibliographies concluding each volume

Some volumes were designed for a more general readership. And some are highly technical.


This series own statement of aims provides the best description of its scope and purposes:

"The series is designed to be a critical and historical commentary to the Bible without arbitrary limits of size and scope. It will utilize the full range of philological and historical tools, including textual criticism..., the methods of history of tradition..., and the history of religion."

Volumes of this series have all of the critical, historical and textual tools imaginable:

  • Seemingly exhaustive general scholarly bibliographies at the beginning of each volume
  • detailed, current bibliographies preceding treatment of each passage
  • running, original translation of the passage under scrutiny
  • textual notes for each verse in the footer of each page
  • Structural, source and origin analyses of each passage
  • verse-passage treatment and commentary
  • words of original biblical languages included in analysis
  • Extensive and detailed "History of Interpretation" excurses throughout
  • Summaries of argument
  • Concluding section addressing contemporary relevance of passages

Employing Stuart's "Yardsticks", the series can be characterized overall as follows:

Size: One-to-one (frequently Several-to-one)

Detail: In-depth

Level: Technical

Theology: variegated

By design the series is confessionally pluralistic; no single theological/confessional viewpoint is represented consistently throughout the series. 

Book Coverage: Old and New Testaments, plus New Testament apocrypha.

This is a highly prized series for serious exegetical study.

University Libraries

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