Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
TWO COMMON PROBLEMS IN USING COMMENTARIES
1. Leaning on them too much.
The Bible student should first go to the Bible and dig out as much meaning as possible for himself. For this, he must get a good understanding of how to interpret the Bible. The equivalent of a Bible Institute education is the starting point to be able to use commentaries effectually and test them properly so as not to be led astray by any error that might be present. We deal with this in the course The Effectual Bible Student, which is available as a free eVideo at
2. Despising them.
On several occasions I have heard people disdain commentaries, but I have learned to love good commentaries and I thank God for them often. I thank God that I read and understand English, because that is where most of the good commentaries are today.
When I was a young Christian, I determined to read and study the Bible alone and to forgo consulting any commentaries or study books. I did this religiously for awhile, and the Lord made it plain to me that I need help from men and that He was not going to give me everything by direct enlightenment. It is not that the Bible is insufficient; it is that I am only one weak man and can’t possibly know and understand everything without help. When I rejected the use of commentaries, I was left with my own meager resources, and though I have some gifts in understanding and teaching the Bible, I am still only a very man with limited ideas, learning, and experience when left to my own resources.
Any man who is honest before God will acknowledge that most of his knowledge and understanding is gleaned from other men. God has ordained this. That is why we start life as a child and are dependent upon parents and tutors, and even as we grow older, we remain very dependent upon the help of others.
God has given ministry-gifted men to the churches, and He uses them to edify the saints (Ephesians 4:11-14; 2 Tim. 2:2). If I were shut up on a remote island with only the Bible, I am sure the Lord would give me everything I needed for that situation directly through His Word, but that is not His normal way of operation.
I am thankful that some of the excellent teaching of past and present generations has been captured in print so I can possess it and consult it whenever I please. Such material is worth its weight in gold. It is priceless.
Many older commentaries, such as Barnes, Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, the Biblical Illustrator, and John Gill were written by men who were fluent not only in the biblical languages, but also in Latin and other languages so that they could dig out treasures from more ancient commentaries and translate them into English. For the most part, the ancient commentaries which were written in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Syriac, and other languages, have not been translated into English, and since very few people today read the ancient languages (and even if they did, those commentaries are not readily available), this material has largely disappeared from use. But by God’s grace many excellent thoughts from the ancient commentaries were captured for us by some of the older English commentators.
Some preachers seem to disdain books. I once heard a man say at a preacher’s meeting, “We don’t need more books; we need more preaching.”
That’s a statement of shocking ignorance. A good Christian book is simply good preaching and teaching in printed format.
While it is true that there are many heretical books available in the average Christian bookstore (and we have warned about that in our video presentation and free eBook “Dangers in Christian Bookstores”), and while it is true that we must weigh every book by the infallible standard of God’s Word, it is ridiculous to discount the value of good books.
The apostle Paul was a student to the end of his life. Even when in prison awaiting his death, he said to Timothy, “The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” (2 Timothy 4:13).
“Bring the books” said the stalwart old warrior! “Bring the books” said the man whom we are told to imitate. “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me” (1 Cor. 4:16). “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample” (Philippians 3:17).
Men of God through the centuries have valued the written and printed page. Charles Spurgeon advised the preachers in his Bible College, “Sell your shirt and buy books.” He was talking about the value of good books in the ministry.
It has been said, “The man who doesn’t read is no better off than the man who cannot read,” and, “Five years from now you will be the same person except for the people you meet and the books you read.”
John Wesley exhorted a preacher friend as follows: “What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps by neglecting it you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep: there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it any more than a thorough Christian. O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or no; read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a petty, superficial prayer” (John Wesley to John Trembeth, August 1760).
B.H. Carroll, first president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, “read history, all history, ancient, mediaeval, modern, civil, political and religious; biography and autobiography he absolutely devoured. He read all science, all romance, all poetry. For at least sixty of his seventy-one years, he averaged reading 300 pages a day. During his latter years even more than that. Only a little while before his death he was known to average 1,000 pages a day for ten consecutive days. ... He always read history with a map before him, and always kept near him the best and latest of the world’s atlases.” He told one young preacher, “My boy, you are in great danger. You have no library and do not read” (Dr. B.H. Carroll: The Colossus of Baptist History).
The revivalist preacher George Whitefield read Matthew Henry through four times during his lifetime. And this is a man who preached an estimated 18,000 sermons, an average of 500 a year or ten a week.
Charles Spurgeon, who has been called the Prince of Preachers, did not have a lot of patience with preachers who despise commentaries. He addressed the following statement to his Bible School students:
“Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have laboured before you in the field of exposition. If you are of that opinion, pray remain so, for you are not worth the trouble of conversion, and like a little coterie who think with you, would resent the attempt as an insult to your infallibility. It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others. My chat this afternoon is not for these great originals, but for you who are content to learn of holy men, taught of God, and mighty in the Scriptures. It has been the fashion of late years to speak against the use of commentaries. If there were any fear that the expositions of Matthew Henry, Gill, Scott, and others, would be exalted into Christian Targums, we would join the chorus of objectors, but the existence or approach of such a danger we do not suspect. The temptations of our times lie rather in empty pretensions to novelty of sentiment, than in a slavish following of accepted guides. A respectable acquaintance with the opinions of the giants of the past, might have saved many an erratic thinker from wild interpretations and outrageous inferences. Usually, we have found the despisers of commentaries to be men who have no sort of acquaintance with them; in their case, it is the opposite of familiarity which has bred contempt” (Spurgeon, Two Lectures Addressed to the Students of the Pastor’s College, Metropolitan Tabernacle).
Spurgeon advised his Bible students to read the entire multi-volume Matthew Henry commentary set in the twelve months after they graduated from Pastor’s College. That’s more serious reading than many Independent Baptist preachers do in their entire ministries!
Spurgeon observed that a good commentary will provide new lines of thought to the student. Of Matthew Henry, Spurgeon said,
“You will find him to be glittering with metaphors, rich in analogies, overflowing with illustrations, superabundant in reflections. ... You will acquire a vast store of sermons if you read with your note-book close at hand; and as for thoughts, they will swarm around you like twittering swallows around an old gable towards the close of autumn.”
It is obvious that many men of God of former times were more studious than the average preacher today, and wiser about the value of good books.
For forty-seven years, I have had the privilege of accessing a wealth of commentary and Bible study material and delighting as new thoughts swarm around me like twittering swallows!
SOME TIPS FOR USING COMMENTARIES EFFECTIVELY
At the same time, the Bible student must learn how to select the right commentaries and know how to weigh the teaching of every commentary. The wise Bible student will “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). This means that the better he knows how to rightly divide Scripture through diligent study and sound Bible education, the better he can test commentaries and every other form of Bible teaching.
1. Commentaries must be judged by the Scriptures (Ac. 17:11; 1 Co. 14:29; 1 Th. 5:21).
Commentaries don’t judge Scripture; Scripture judges commentaries. A commentator is simply a Bible teacher, and no commentator is infallible. The wise Bible student will carefully test everything the commentator says by comparing it to Scripture itself.
It is important for believers to be grounded in the teaching of God’s Word before they spend much time in commentaries other than those that are the most theologically sound.
In fact, as already mentioned in this report, I consider the equivalent of a Bible Institute education to be a starting point to have the foundation and discernment necessary to weigh commentaries effectively.
Beware of the presumption of commentators who try to change or add to the Word of God or who ignore the plain meaning of Scripture.
For example, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown comments on Genesis 4:3 “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD,” as follows: “Hebrew, ‘at the end of days,’ probably on the Sabbath.” In fact, there is nothing in the Hebrew to signify that it was the sabbath, and the KJV translation is perfectly fine.
In 1 Corinthians 1:16, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown comments: “It is likely that such ‘households’ included infants (Ac 16:33). The history of the Church favors this view, as infant baptism was the usage from the earliest ages.” In fact, this is unscriptural nonsense. Though Paul baptized “the household of Stephanas” (1 Cor. 1:16), there is no mention of infants. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 16:15 we are told that this household addicted themselves to the ministry. This could not be said of infants. It is not legitimate to build doctrine on the silence of Scripture. Doctrine can only be established legitimately upon a clear “thus saith the Lord.” And what did the Lord Jesus teach: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16). It is obvious that an infant is incapable of believing on Christ as his Lord and Saviour and is not therefore a proper candidate for baptism.
In his commentary on Noah’s flood, Matthew Henry claims that Noah sent out the raven and dove on the sabbath. He says, “This intimates that it was done on the sabbath day, which, it should seem, Noah religiously observed in the ark.” In fact, Henry, one of my favorite commentators, was letting his imagination run wild, for there is not even a hint of such a thing in Scripture.
In commenting on Psalm 24, Howard Hendricks says the context is David bringing the Ark to Jerusalem (Living by the Book, p. 242). But this is ridiculous in light of the actual words of the Psalm, which speak of the King of Glory, the LORD strong and mighty, everlasting doors, the LORD of hosts, the King of glory. This is not David. This is none other than Jesus Christ entering the Millennial Jerusalem. Then will be fulfilled literally the words of Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the LOD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”
In the comments on Malachi 4:2, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings,” the Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “The phrase ‘the sun of righteousness’ appears only here in Scripture. Though many commentators have taken these words to refer to Christ, the phrase seems to refer to the day of the Lord in general. In the kingdom, righteousness will pervade like the sun.” I see zero reason in the text itself or anywhere else in Scripture to accept this position. The Sun of righteousness can be none other than Christ. The pervading of righteousness in the kingdom will originate from Christ Himself sitting on His throne in Jerusalem. I will not accept comments like this that miss the point and try to explain away the plainest meaning of the text.
In the study of Jonah, the Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “The phrase three days and three nights need not be understood as a 72-hour period, but as one 24-hour day and parts of two other days (cf. Est 4:16 with Est 5:1 and comments on Mat 12:40, where Jesus said His burial would be the same length of time as Jonah’s interment in the fish’s stomach).” The truth is that the phrase three days and three nights can mean nothing other than three days and three nights! The situation in Esther has nothing to do with the matter. If Christ said that He would be in the heart of the earth for three days, that could mean one day and a portion of two others, but three days and three nights cannot mean “one 24-hour day and parts of two other days.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary has a lot of excellent comments, but we always have to test the commentaries by God’s Word!
In the comment on Zechariah 13:7, the Zondervan King James Version Commentary says, “The Lord will smite the worthless shepherd who leads Israel astray (see 11:15-17). In the New Testament, this verse is applied to the death of Jesus and the scattering of the apostles (see Matt. 26:31; Mark 14:27, 49-50). The context of Zechariah 13, however, has in view the final judgment of Israel.” This interpretation of Zechariah 13:7 ignores the plain teaching of the New Testament and the words of the verse itself. Jehovah God calls the shepherd of this verse “my shepherd” and “my fellow.” It can be none other than Christ. As for the context of Zechariah 13, all through the concluding chapters of Zechariah, the prophesy jumps between near and far views. The gap of 2,000 years between Zechariah 13:7 and 13:8-9 is common in Bible prophecy. Again, the Zondervan King James Version Commentary is very helpful in many places, but no commentary is infallible.
In Ezekiel 34:23, the Zondervan King James Version Commentary says, “My servant David is a ruler like David and from his line.” In fact, David is David, and David himself will be a prince in the kingdom where his son will be King. See Jer. 30:9; Eze. 37:24-25; Hos. 3:5. When describing the Millennial Temple in chapters 40-48, Ezekiel mentions “the prince” 18 times. This prince eats bread before the LORD (Eze. 44:3), the LORD being the Messiah. See Eze. 43:2-3. The prince will offer a sin offering “for himself” (Eze. 45:22), which is not something that the sinless Messiah will do.
In 1 Corinthians 4:5, the Believer’s Bible Commentary says, “That each one’s praise will come from God is not to be taken as a flat promise that every believer’s service will show up in a favorable way in that day. The meaning is that everyone who deserves praise will receive praise from God and not from men.” Many other commentaries have a similar perspective of this verse, but it isn’t what the Bible says. It says, “and then shall every man have praise of God.” It doesn’t say that every man will have complete praise of God, but some praise of God, and that is certain. Every person who appears at the judgment seat of Christ is saved, born again, changed, and there will be plenty of things in his life to show that, things that God will praise, even if there are other things that are not praiseworthy. It is a reminder that God is not a severe taskmaster to His redeemed people. He is eager to praise them.
In Hebrews 5:13, “unskilful in the word of righteousness,” Vincent comments as follows: “It is a mistake to attempt to give the phrase here a concrete meaning. It signifies simply a word of normally right character. It is not the Christian revelation, which would require the article” (Vincent Word Studies), and A.T. Robertson comments, “Perhaps moral truth is meant by ‘word of righteousness.’” This is nonsense. The very context is teaching and learning “the oracles of God” (v. 12). The “word of righteousness” can be none other than the Scripture.
These are examples of how commentators err by failing to let the Bible speak for itself.
2. The Bible student should know the theological position of the commentator and should be aware of potential errors.
It is important to know the theological position of the commentator, as this will usually be reflected in his notes.
There is the problem of the allegorical interpretation of prophecy.
Most of the most widely-used commentaries are written from an amillennial perspective. As a result, they interpret prophecy allegorically and therefore falsely. This is true of Matthew Henry, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, John Wesley, John Calvin, Adam Clarke, Albert Barnes, Abbott, Matthew Poole, and a great many others. Consider some examples of the allegorical interpretation of Revelation 20:1-10:
“A prophecy of the binding of Satan for a certain term of time, in which he should have much less power and the church much more peace than before. The power of Satan was broken in part by the setting up of the gospel kingdom in the world; it was further reduced by the empire's becoming Christian...” (Matthew Henry).
“Thousand symbolizes that the world is perfectly leavened and pervaded by the divine; since thousand is ten, the number of the world, raised to the third power, three being the number of God” (Jamieson, Fausett, Brown).
“The millennium-vision is, like so many of the apostolic visions, an ideal picture; it exhibits a state of things which is possible to mankind at any time. The vision has its approximate fulfillment, as the Church, in the faith of the reality of her Lord’s victory, carries on her warfare against the prince of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places. That this approximate fulfillment is not unreal may be seen in the fact that Christendom has replaced heathendom; Christ has taken the throne of the world; the prince of this world has been judged; the ascendency of Christian thought and Christian principles has marvellously humanised and purified the world. ... Here, therefore, as in Rev 7:4, "one thousand" signifies "completeness." Satan is bound "for a thousand years;" that is, Satan is completely bound. ... this sentence assures Christians that, for them, Satan has been completely bound, and they need not despair nor fear his might(cf. ‘loosed,’ infra). The chapter thus describes, not a millennium of the saints, but the overthrow of Satan” (Preacher’s Homiletical Commentary).
“[I]t is not likely that the number, a thousand years, is to be taken literally here. ... there is no doubt that the earth is in a state of progressive moral improvement; and that the light of true religion is shining more copiously everywhere, and will shine more and more to the perfect day. But when the religion of Christ will be at its meridian of light and heat, we know not” (Adam Clarke).
“Whether these thousand years signify that certain space of time, or a long time, I cannot say; only it is probable, that if it signifies an uncertain, indefinite time” (Matthew Poole).
“[W]hat is meant by ‘for a thousand years’? The best interpretation seems to be that this phrase expresses a quality, and does not express a period of time” (Pulpit Commentary).
“In this book of symbols how long is a thousand years? All sorts of theories are proposed, none of which fully satisfy one. Perhaps Peter has given us the only solution open to us in 2 Peter 3:8 when he argues that ‘one day with the Lord is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day’” (A.T. Robertson).
To help rectify this problem, we have published many of the old Pre-tribulational commentaries in the Treasury of Rare Dispensational Commentaries, available as part of the Fundamental Baptist Digital Library (www.wayoflife.org).
There is the problem of Protestant theology.
Most of the commentaries are written from a Protestant rather than a Baptist perspective and therefore err on the doctrine of the church, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. The Methodist Adam Clarke inserts infant baptism into his commentary on Matthew 28:19, even though there is no mention of such a thing in the Scripture: “But, certainly, no argument can be drawn from this concession against the baptism of children. When the Gentiles and Jews had received the faith and blessings of the gospel, it is natural enough to suppose they should wish to get their children incorporated with the visible Church of Christ; especially if, as many pious and learned men have believed, baptism succeeded to circumcision, which I think has never yet been disproved” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible). The Bible Knowledge Commentary, on 1 Timothy 3:15, says, “Paul was simply affirming the crucial role of the universal church as the support and bulwark--not the source--of God’s truth.” This is clearly false. Regardless of what position one takes on a “universal church,” it is obvious from the context that Paul is not referring to any such thing. The context is the church that has pastors and deacons, which can be nothing other than the “local” assembly. A “universal church” has no way of being the pillar and ground of the truth. What would it mean? How would it work? If the universal church is defined as all born again Christians, how do all born again Christians act as the pillar and ground of the truth, when they are scattered among many kinds of churches and hold to many different doctrines and have no practical association together? If the universal church is defined as all Christians and all denominations, as it frequently is, that makes it even more impossible that such a “church” could be the pillar and ground of the truth.
There is the problem of modern textual criticism.
Most commentaries err on the doctrine of the preservation of Scripture and accept the heresy of modern textual criticism and follow the critical Greek text. And in many cases, they don’t even acknowledge that there is a textual issue. For example, The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary has the following comment on 1 Timothy 1:1 - “Our translation changes both the order and the language of the Greek text, presumably to be consistent with common usage. The title ‘Lord’ is not in the original, and the order that Paul used both times in verse 1 Ti. 1:1 was Christ Jesus.” This is not true. The KJV follows the Greek Received Text which reads exactly as the KJV reads. It is the critical Greek text that removes “Lord” and changes the order of Jesus Christ. B.H. Carroll is typical in rejecting the Trinitarian statement in 1 John 5:7 “Now, as to the integrity of this book, there is one exception. In the King James Version, Joh 5:7-8 reads: ‘For there are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one.’ Now look at verse 8, two words of the second line, ‘in earth’ — ‘there are three that bear witness in earth.’ Let us take out of the King James Version all verse 7 and the words, ‘in earth,’ of verse 8. They are unquestionably an interpolation.” Carroll was dead wrong on this. We will definitely not take out those words from the King James Bible and for very good theological reasons. (See “A Defense of 1 John 5:7” at www.wayoflife.org.) The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, gives credence to the heresy that Mark’s Gospel ends at verse 8. It leans on the arguments and reasoning of heretics such as Bruce Metzger, Robert Bratcher, and Eugene Nida. It concludes, “External and especially internal evidence make it difficult to escape the conclusion that vv. 9-20 were originally not a part of the Gospel of Mark. ... Thus the best solution seems to be that Mark did write an ending to his Gospel but that it was lost in the early transmission of the text. The endings we now possess represent attempts by the church to supply what was obviously lacking” (Expositor’s). This is a blatant and heretical denial of the divine preservation of Scripture. In contrast, Arno Gaebelein, Frank’s father and an earlier and fundamentalist leader, was wiser in his note on Mark 16 in The Annotated Bible of 1913: “Higher criticism declares that the proper ending of the Gospel of Mark is verse 8. They disputed the genuineness of verses 9-20. Another hand, they claim, added later these verses. That spurious translation, which goes under the name of ‘The Twentieth Century New Testament’ (wholly unsatisfactory) also gives this portion as ‘a late appendix.’ It is not. Mark wrote it and some of the best scholars have declared that it is genuine. How foolish to assume that the blessed document, which begins with the sublime statement ‘The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ could end with ‘they were afraid!’ The trouble with these critics is that they approach the Word of God with doubt and reject its inspiration” (The Annotated Bible). Here, Arno Gaebelein identifies the chief problem with modern textual criticism, which is that it does not approach the biblical text on the basis of faith, but rather employs the tools of natural textual criticism for a supernatural book. Frank Gaebelein was corrupted by his rejection of Bible separation and his wrong associations, which included an extended liberal arts education that included a stint at Harvard, a bastion of skepticism. See 1 Corinthians 15:33.
Consider “keepers at home” in Titus 2:5, KJV. The modern versions and lexicons and commentaries that follow the critical Greek text have “working at home” (ASV, ESV, Vine, Wuest). The critical text has the Greek oikourgos (oikos - home and ergon - work). The KJV follows the Received Greek text which has oikouros (oikos - home and ouros - a keeper). oikourgos is a much weaker concept than oikouros. The mother is not merely a worker at home; she is the guardian of the home under the husband’s authority and supervision!
In order to properly weigh such things, the Bible student must be well grounded in his understanding of the issue of Bible texts and versions. We recommend Why We Hold to the King James Bible and Faith vs. the Modern Bible Versions, available from Way of Life Literature, www.wayoflife.org. We also recommend Touch Not the Unclean Thing: The Text Issue and Separation by David Sorenson (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com).
There is the problem of sovereign election.
For example, John Gill was a hyper-Calvinist who held to sovereign election and sovereign reprobation. Consider his attempt to explain away the plain meaning of 1 Timothy 2:4-6: “... wherefore the will of God, that all men should be saved, is not a conditional will, or what depends on the will of man, or on anything to be performed by him, for then none might be saved; and if any should, it would be of him that willeth, contrary to the express words of Scripture; but it is an absolute and unconditional will respecting their salvation, and which infallibly secures ... hence by all men, whom God would have saved, cannot be meant every individual of mankind, since it is not his will that all men, in this large sense, should be saved ... rather therefore all sorts of men, agreeably to the use of the phrase in 1Ti 2:1 are here intended, kings and peasants, rich and poor, bond and free, male and female, young and old, greater and lesser sinners ... the meaning [of ‘who gave himself a ransom for all’] is, either that he gave himself ransom for many ... or rather it intends that Christ gave himself a ransom for all sorts of men...” And consider Gill’s comment on John 3:16, “... not every man in the world is here meant, or all the individuals of human nature; for all are not the objects of God's special love, which is here designed, as appears from the instance and evidence of it, the gift of his Son: nor is Christ God's gift to every one ... yet rather the Gentiles particularly, and God's elect among them, are meant...”
The Believer’s Bible Commentary teaches sovereign election in Romans 9. “The potter, of course, is God. The clay is sinful, lost humanity. If the potter left it alone, it would all be sent to hell. He would be absolutely just and fair if He left it alone. But instead He sovereignly selects a handful of sinners, saves them by His grace, and conforms them to the image of His Son. Does He have the right to do that? Remember, He is not arbitrarily dooming others to hell. They are already doomed by their own willfulness and unbelief.” The problem with this comment is that it goes beyond the teaching of Scripture and contradicts Scripture. Romans 9:22-23 says that there are vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy, but it doesn’t say that they are so by God’s sovereign design. Verse 22 says some are “fitted to destruction,” but it doesn’t say why they are so fitted. The Calvinist says they are fitted to be vessels of wrath because they are elected to that by God’s sovereign choice, but Paul doesn’t say that. A few verses previously, in Ro. 8:29, Paul says God’s or election is based His foreknowledge. What did He foreknow? In this same passage, we are plainly told that God offered salvation to all of Israel (Ro. 10:21). Jeremiah describes this in most poignantly. Eleven times God says that He had risen up early and sent the prophets to beseech Israel to turn from her sin. “Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD” (Jer. 29:19; see also Jer. 7:13, 25; 11:7; 25:3, 4; 26:5; 32:33; 35:14, 15; 44:4). God had done this from the time that Israel came out of Egypt (Jer. 7:25). Therefore, lost Israel was fitted to destruction because they did not respond to God’s compassionate call. Words could not plainer. The Romans 9-10 passage says, further, that God offers salvation today to “whosoever believeth” and “whosoever shall call” today (Ro. 10:11-13). Those who do not believe and do not call are fitted to destruction.
There is the problem of New Evangelicalism.
When we read today of “top evangelical scholars,” we understand that this refers to New Evangelicalism. In the 1940s, evangelicalism renounced “separatism” and has since been corrupted to various degrees by unscriptural associations with error. Many evangelical commentaries entertain some liberal positions that can confuse and weaken the readers. For example, some evangelical commentaries and dictionaries give some credence to the view that there was a “natural” element in the destruction of Sodom, such as saying that the miracle pertained to the timing of a natural earthquake, or that the crossing of the Red Sea was through a lake or marsh, or that the backing up of the Jordan River when Israel crossed into the Promised Land was a natural event that has happened at other times, or that the judgments upon Egypt were party natural, or that Noah’s Flood was not global, or that Genesis 1 allows for evolutionary ages, or that the prophets were referring to pagan myths in passages such as Ezekiel 28:11-14. The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds of the Old Testament is packed with liberal influences. For example, there is frequent attempt to find parallels to Biblical events in pagan sources. Consider this unbelieving comment on the pillar of the cloud of Exodus 14:20: “Records of the military exploits of the Hittite king Murshili report a similar phenomenon. ... It was not uncommon in military reports to speak of advantageous circumstances in terms of divine intervention and aid. If one group found itself on the successful end of a skirmish, it credited its own god or gods and often spoke of the deity as if he had arranged all aspects of the natural order to ensure a triumphant outcome. to what degree, then, the reference to a cloud is to be taken literally is difficult to determine, since the biblical text may be implementing this kind of stylized description of events. That the text intends to affirm the active participation of Yahweh on behalf of the Israelites, though, is certain.”
Evangelical commentaries also tend to quote heretics with no warning. For example, they frequently quote Augustine and C.S. Lewis. The Bible Knowledge Commentary often quotes C.H. Dodd. The BKC cites Dodd, for example, in claiming that the Greek present active tense in 1 John 3:4, 6, 8, 9 does not have the idea of habituality. But Dodd was a terrible heretic who should never be quoted favorably by a Bible believer. In his book The Authority of the Bible, Dodd claimed that God is not the author of the Bible, that it was written in “imperfect human words,” that it errs in “matters of science and history,” that Moses “left us no writings, and we know little of him with certainty,” that Moses was “a magician, a medicine man, whose magic wand wrought wonders of deliverance,” that Ezekiel was “a psychic medium’ with “symptoms of abnormality,” that Jehovah “is cruel, capricious, irritable, unjust, and untruthful,” that those who believe in the infallible inspiration of Scripture are “blinded by superstitious bibliolatry” (p. 127), “the prophets were sometimes mistaken” (p. 128), “there are sayings of Jesus ... which either simply are not true, in their plain meaning, or are unacceptable to the conscience or reason of Christian people” (p. 233), “Jesus was a man of his time” (p. 237), and “the idea of vicarious expiation [Christ’s substitutionary atonement] is not wholly rational” (p. 215). And in his book The Bible Today, Dodd called creation, the fall of man, the Deluge, the building of Babel, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Jonah’s whale “myths” and “legends” (pp. 17, 112, 150), and said “the disciples’ post-resurrection meetings with our Lord may have been visionary” (p. 102). The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary in 2 Timothy 2:3 favorably cites M. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled. Peck is an exceedingly dangerous New Age universalist who believes in the divinity of man, and he should never be quoted favorably to God’s people. For example, Peck writes, “God wants us to become Himself (or Herself or Itself). We are growing toward God. God is the ultimate goal of evolution” (The Road Less Traveled, 1978, p. 270).
The Believer’s Bible Commentary often quotes J.B. Philips and his unsound Bible version. For example, commenting on “from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” in Eph. 3:15, the Believer’s Bible Commentary says, “All fatherhood in the universe derives its name from Him. The Fatherhood of God is the original and the ideal; it is the prototype of every other paternal relationship. Phillips translates the verse, ‘from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name.’” This is not a translation; it is a presumption. It is probably true that all fatherhood ultimately derives its name from God the Father, but that is not what Ephesians 3:15 says. There is no excuse to quote from a heretic like J.B. Phillips. He was theological modernist who taught a form of universalism and the fatherhood of God, denied the verbal inspiration of Scripture, denied hell fire and the existence of Satan and demons, claimed that Jesus conformed His teaching to the ignorance of His day, was a skeptic in regard to supernatural miracles, and believed that Christ’s ascension was a parable. (We have documented this in the book The Modern Version Hall of Shame, www.wayoflife.org.)
Many evangelical commentaries also promote the unscriptural ecumenical movement. For example, The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary has this heretical note on Luke 6:38: “At the beginning of the ecumenical movement between Catholics and Protestants, I led a conference for a group of Catholic nuns. We had a marvelous week together, but at the final communion I was told that the priests had ruled I could not partake of the Eucharist because I was a Protestant. The nuns were incensed and delivered an ultimatum. ‘If our brother Bruce can't come to our Lord's table, we will not come.’ The priests were in a tizzy, but they reconsidered the matter and decided to break the rules for that one occasion. That was a long time ago, and it is unlikely such a situation would arise today. But it pointed out to me that God's law of love goes far beyond ‘keeping the rules.’”
For more about what has happened to evangelical scholarship since the 1940s, see New Evangelicalism: Its History, Character, and Fruit, available as a free eBook from www.wayoflife.org.
MY FAVORITE COMMENTARIES
My favorite whole Bible commentaries are Believer’s Bible Commentary, Bible Knowledge Commentary, Notes on the Old and New Testament by Albert Barnes, Annotated Bible by Arno Gaebelein, Constable’s Expository Notes, Everyman’s Bible Commentary, An Interpretation of the English Bible by B.H. Carroll, Matthew Henry, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, and John Phillips. Descriptions of these are found in the following studies.
ONE- AND TWO-VOLUME BIBLE COMMENTARIES AND SURVEYS
BELIEVER’S BIBLE COMMENTARY by William MacDonald (1917-2007) and Arthur Farstad. The New Testament was published in 1989 and the Old Testament in 1995. This is one of the best one-volume commentaries. MacDonald was a Plymouth Brethren Bible teacher, President of Emmaus Bible Bible. The theological position is conservative and dispensational. The introduction states that the aim of the Believer's Bible Commentary “is to help produce, not merely garden-variety, lowest-common-denominator Christians, but disciples.” This is our favorite one-volume commentary. Believer’s Bible Commentary is available in eSword and OliveTree. There is a free eBook edition available at
We would hasten to warn that the Believer’s Bible Commentary (BBC) often capitulates to modern textual criticism and quotes unsound men. For example, the BBC often quotes J.B. Philips and his heretical Bible version. For example, commenting on “from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” in Eph. 3:15, the BBC says, “All fatherhood in the universe derives its name from Him. The Fatherhood of God is the original and the ideal; it is the prototype of every other paternal relationship. Phillips translates the verse, ‘from whom all fatherhood, earthly or heavenly, derives its name.’” This is not a translation; it is a presumption. It is probably true that all fatherhood ultimately derives its name from God the Father, but that is not what Ephesians 3:15 says. There is no excuse to quote from a heretic like J.B. Phillips. He was theological modernist who taught a form of universalism and the fatherhood of God, denied the verbal inspiration of Scripture, denied hell fire and the existence of Satan and demons, claimed that Jesus conformed His teaching to the ignorance of His day, was a skeptic in regard to supernatural miracles, and believed that Christ’s ascension was a parable. (We have documented this in the book The Modern Version Hall of Shame, www.wayoflife.org.)
The Believer’s Bible Commentary also teaches sovereign election. Consider the following comment on Romans 9: “The potter, of course, is God. The clay is sinful, lost humanity. If the potter left it alone, it would all be sent to hell. He would be absolutely just and fair if He left it alone. But instead He sovereignly selects a handful of sinners, saves them by His grace, and conforms them to the image of His Son. Does He have the right to do that? Remember, He is not arbitrarily dooming others to hell. They are already doomed by their own willfulness and unbelief.” The problem with this comment is that it goes beyond the teaching of Scripture and contradicts Scripture. Romans 9:22-23 says that there are vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy, but it doesn’t say that they are so by God’s sovereign design. Verse 22 says some are “fitted to destruction,” but it doesn’t say why they are so fitted. The Calvinist says they are fitted to be vessels of wrath because they are elected to that by God’s sovereign choice, but Paul doesn’t say that. A few verses previously, in Ro. 8:29, Paul says God’s or election is based His foreknowledge. What did He foreknow? In this same passage, we are plainly told that God offered salvation to all of Israel (Ro. 10:21). Jeremiah describes this in most poignantly. Eleven times God says that He had risen up early and sent the prophets to beseech Israel to turn from her sin. “Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD” (Jer. 29:19; see also Jer. 7:13, 25; 11:7; 25:3, 4; 26:5; 32:33; 35:14, 15; 44:4). God had done this from the time that Israel came out of Egypt (Jer. 7:25). Therefore, lost Israel was fitted to destruction because they did not respond to God’s compassionate call. Words could not plainer. The Romans 9-10 passage says, further, that God offers salvation today to “whosoever believeth” and “whosoever shall call” today (Ro. 10:11-13). Those who do not believe and do not call are fitted to destruction.
BIBLE KNOWLEDGE COMMENTARY. This practical and helpful commentary on the Old and New Testaments was written by professors at Dallas Theological Seminary. It was edited by John Walvoord (1910-2002) and Roy Zuck and published in 1983-1985. We are sorry that this commentary is based on the New International Version and supports the undependable critical Greek text. For example, in Jude 1:1, the BKC follows “loved by God the Father” instead of “sanctified by God the Father,” following the Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, Origen, etc. Another example is the comment on Ephesians 3:14 which says, “The shorter reading, ‘the Father,’ is preferred over the longer one found in the KJV, ‘the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’” But the shorter is not to be preferred unless one is inclined to the faulty methodology of textual criticism that gives credence to corrupt manuscripts such as the Vaticanus and the Sinaiticus and to heretics such as Westcott and Hort, Kurt Aland, Bruce Metzger, etc. We would also warn that the BKC sometimes quotes heretics with no warning, something that is a strange habit of modern evangelicals. For example, the Bible Knowledge Commentary often quotes C.H. Dodd. It cites Dodd, for example, in claiming that the Greek present active tense in 1 John 3:4, 6, 8, 9 does not have the idea of habituality. But Dodd was a terrible heretic who should never be quoted favorably by a Bible believer. In his book The Authority of the Bible, Dodd claimed that God is not the author of the Bible, that it was written in “imperfect human words,” that it errs in “matters of science and history,” that Moses “left us no writings, and we know little of him with certainty,” that Moses was “a magician, a medicine man, whose magic wand wrought wonders of deliverance,” that Ezekiel was “a psychic medium’ with “symptoms of abnormality,” that Jehovah “is cruel, capricious, irritable, unjust, and untruthful,” that those who believe in the infallible inspiration of Scripture are “blinded by superstitious bibliolatry” (p. 127), “the prophets were sometimes mistaken” (p. 128), “there are sayings of Jesus ... which either simply are not true, in their plain meaning, or are unacceptable to the conscience or reason of Christian people” (p. 233), “Jesus was a man of his time” (p. 237), and “the idea of vicarious expiation [Christ’s substitutionary atonement] is not wholly rational” (p. 215). And in his book The Bible Today, Dodd called creation, the fall of man, the Deluge, the building of Babel, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Jonah’s whale “myths” and “legends” (pp. 17, 112, 150), and said “the disciples’ post-resurrection meetings with our Lord may have been visionary” (p. 102). Apart from these problems, which are serious, the comments in the Bible Knowledge Commentary are generally helpful. The Bible Knowledge Commentary is available in eSword, OliveTree, and other Bible software packages.
THE CONCISE BIBLE COMMENTARY by James M. Gray (1851-1935). This is a Bible survey. Gray was a pastor in the Reformed Episcopal Church, a hymn writer, the third president of Moody Bible Institute (1904-34), and editor of Moody Monthly. Gray was raised in the Episcopal Church but had a conversion experience in about 1873 while reading studies on the book of Proverbs by William Arnot. His testimony later appeared in his hymn, “Only a Sinner, Saved by Grace.” That year Gray left the Episcopal Church over theological liberalism and the Romanizing Tractarian movement and joined the new Reformed Episcopal denomination founded by George Cummins. He pastored the Reformed Episcopal Church in Boston for 16 years and joined Adoniram Judson Gordon in founding the Boston Bible and Missionary Training School, which later became Gordon Divinity School. He taught there from 1889 to 1904. Gray was very evangelistic, helping establish three new churches and working with D.L. Moody in campaigns in New York, Boston, and Chicago. Gray identified himself with the fundamentalist movement and was a dispensationalist. He was one of the editors of the first edition of the Scofield Reference Bible. The Torrey-Gray Auditorium at Moody Bible Institute was named in honor of Gray and his predecessor, R.A. Torrey. Gray’s Concise Bible Commentary was first published in 1915, the product of nine years of labor. The Foreword to the 1953 reprint by Fleming Revell stated, “This teacher par excellence had the gift of leading his students into a joyous and voluntary decision to read and study for themselves the Holy Scriptures. Speaking of Dr. Gray's address on ‘How to Master the English Bible,’ a witness records, ‘It invariably resulted in many of his hearers' returning to their Bibles and studying them with a new zeal.’ You will find that this book has the same quality. ... It is practical, it is inspirational, it is filled with instruction, it will help mightily in the study of the Word. Read it with your soul well saturated with the Biblical passage under discussion.”
EXPLORE THE BOOK by J. (James) Sidlow Baxter (1903-1999). This is a Bible survey course. Baxter was born in Sydney, Australia, but grew up in Lancashire, England. His father was unfaithful to his mother, and she left him in Australia and returned to England with her three small children when James was only two. His mother was loving and godly and raised her children in the ways of Christ. She was a police court missionary, working with down-and-out sinners in jails, rescue missions, and slums. She taught the people about Christ and believed the only hope for such individuals is Christ’s life-changing power and not social welfare and reform. She taught her children moral and spiritual lessons from her work, warning them about the danger of liquor and illicit sex, encouraging them to trust Christ as some of her “ruined people” had done. Once she knocked on a door and a rough man answered whose legs had been amputated above the knees from a recent accident. When he took the tract she offered, he glanced at it and with quivering lips asked, “Missis, did you pick this one specially for me?” The title was “Not a Leg to Stand Upon!” and he trusted Christ as his Saviour! When James Baxter was five years old and dying of measles and meningitis, his mother prayed earnestly that he would live and become a preacher. The doctor had said the boy would not survive until morning, but the mother’s prayers were answered, and the doctor declared it a miracle. As a teenager he continued to attend church out of respect for his mother, but he was handsome and athletic and popular and had no real interest in Christ. At age 16 he was converted after reading a sermon on Charles Spurgeon and attending an evangelistic meeting. He became a Baptist and attended Spurgeon’s College in London and pastored in England and Scotland. “He authored twenty-six books and ministered in churches, Bible conferences, and missionary centers throughout the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and around the world.” Baxter shows Christ through the Scriptures. He is dispensational. He defends the infallibility of the Scriptures against modernism (defending Genesis 1-11 as literal, Mosaic authorship of Pentateuch, Jonah swallowed by whale, etc.). His article “Our Bible: The Most Critical Issue” defended the infallibility of the Scriptures: “I have said it many a time, and am surer of it than ever, that the life and death issue of Christianity is the inspiration and authority of the Bible.” He spends considerable time on the typology of the Old Testament. In his notes on Revelation, he hints at the possibility of a mid-tribulation Rapture, but he is not dogmatic on it and passes over it quickly. He treats the first part of the book of Acts as a renewed offer of the kingdom of God to Israel, which we strongly disagree with. He presents a type of gap theory between Genesis 1:1-2, which we also disagree with. He also wrongly treats Ezekiel’s vision of the Millennial Temple as at least semi-allegorical. Originally this was a six-volume work. In 1960, Zondervan published a one-volume condensation.
EXPOSITORY OUTLINES ON THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT by Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019). Though Dr. Wiersbe was sadly committed to the ecumenical, rock & roll, New Evangelical philosophy, he was a gifted Bible commentator. His chapter-by-chapter Expository Outlines was completed when he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky (1961-1971). That was before he became committed to the compromising path he walked later (as pastor of Moody Church, associate editor of Christianity Today, board member of the National Religious Broadcasters, preaching at Willow Creek Community Church and at Billy Graham’s “Cove” center in North Carolina, etc.). The edition of Wiersbe’s notes published by Thomas Nelson is entitled Bible Commentary New Testament and Bible Commentary Old Testament. The Cook Communications edition is titled Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old and New Testaments. Wiersbe’s outlines are available for some Bible software packages, such as Olive Tree and eSword. Wiersbe takes the position that the kingdom was offered again to Israel in the early part of the book of Acts, but we do not agree with this.
HALLEY’S BIBLE HANDBOOK by Henry Hampton Halley (1874-1965). He was a pastor and Bible lecturer who was ordained in 1898. Halley memorized entire books of the Bible and frequently quoted these in churches. He desired to see every Christian read the Bible daily, systematically, and fruitfully, and for these reasons he produced his Bible handbook. The first edition was a 16-page booklet, but it continued to grow until today it is 864 pages. It has gone through 24 editions. It contains a wide variety of helps in addition to the survey on the Old and New Testaments. These include maps and charts; archaeological notes; tables of weights, measures, and money; outline of Bible history; and comments on reading and memorizing the Bible. We recommend the Unger’s Bible Handbook over the Halley’s because of his non-committal position on prophecy, presenting the literal interpretation as well as other interpretations, but learning toward the non-literal. Halley’s also has some capitulation to theological liberalism, such as the following statement about the crossing of the Red Sea: “The sea then would have flowed north into the depressions known today as the Bitter Lakes. If a steady wind pushed the shallow water north into the Bitter Lakes, it would have lowered the level of the water so that a land bridge would appear, which is not an uncommon phenomenon. The waters on the north and the south then were a ‘wall’ or ‘defense.’ There is no need to assume perpendicular heaps of water defying gravity--although there is no question that God could have done exactly that. ... The Egyptians followed through the exposed sea mud and were caught and tangled by the returning tide following the relaxed pressure of the wind.”
MOODY BIBLE COMMENTARY. This was written by 29 teachers at Moody Bible Institute and edited by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham. It is conservative, premillennial, and pre-tribulational, and has many helpful maps, charts, and comments, though not all of them are equally sound or valuable. This commentary is written from a Calvinistic slant. For example, following is the comment on Ephesians 1:4-5, “Election is an astonishing blessing, for it has to do with God’s loving choice of certain individuals to be His own. It is not dependent on human faith or deeds (Rm 9:10-13), since election happens before the foundation of the world (cf. Jn 17:24; 1Pt 1:20; Rv 13:8).” None of the Scriptures cited here teach that God has elected some to salvation independent of faith. Eph. 1:4-5 does not teach election to salvation; it teaches election to blessing, and the context clearly teaches that the basis of the election is to hear the gospel and trust in Christ (Eph. 1:12-13). Romans 9:10-13 does not address election to salvation but election to the inheritance of the Abrahamic Covenant. John 17:24 says nothing about the basis of election. 1 Peter 1:20 says nothing about the election of individuals to salvation; it refers to the foreordination of Christ to die for man’s sins. Revelation 13:8 says nothing about the basis of how names are written in the book of life. Calvinistic theology must be read into these passages.
NEW TESTAMENT SURVEY by Robert G. Gromacki. This is one of the best New Testament surveys, though the author is committed to modern textual criticism. Gromacki’s discussion of the historical backgrounds to the New Testament as a whole and to each book are excellent, for the most part. He gives credence to the so-called “Synoptic Problem” of the Gospels, which is a problem created by liberal thinking. There is no “problem” with the Gospels if we believe Jesus’ promise to lead the disciples into all truth (Joh. 14:26; 16:13-15). The Gospels are products of divine inspiration (2 Ti. 3:16). Period. Nothing in the Scripture is there solely because of man’s will (2 Pe. 1:21). Even Paul, though he was not an eyewitness of the events of Christ’s life, when writing about those things, was taught them directly by the resurrected Christ (1 Co. 11:23). The apostles were not dependent upon their own fallible memories in the recording of the Gospel accounts. They were not dependent upon their own thinking to select which material to present and how to present it. They did not need to copy from one another. They did not need secondary sources. They wrote by direct inspiration of God. The Holy Spirit guided each Gospel writer to portray Christ in a special way via the manner in which the material is presented. If they did use other material, God doesn’t tell us, so it is of zero consequence to the Bible believer.
NEW TESTAMENT A BOOK-BY-BOOK SURVEY by Mark Cambron (1911-2000). This was first published in 1958 by Zondervan. At the time Cambron was teaching at Tennessee Temple in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Lee Roberson wrote the introduction. Roberson wrote, “The author of this volume is a qualified teacher of the Word. He teaches daily. Large classes of eager students sit before him as he enthusiastically presents Bible lessons. Students leave his classes with a knowledge of the Word, but they have more than knowledge--they have the key to continued Bible study. Dr. Cambron is not only a teacher, but a preacher. He is a pastor. He presents Bible messages to congregations a number of times each week. Under his ministry souls are brought to a knowledge of Christ as Saviour, and Christians are edified, strengthened and equipped for daily living.” Cambron’s Survey is out of print and difficult to find, but is a good general survey. He was the Dean of Tennessee Temple from 1948-1959. Before that, he was the assistant of W.B. Riley at First Baptist Church of Minneapolis and Northwestern Bible School and Seminary. In addition to New Testament Survey, he authored Bible Doctrines: Beliefs That Matter, Daniel and Revelation Made Plain, Mastering the Bible: A Text on Biblical Hermeneutics, Progressive Program of Prophecy. In 1962, Cambron and A. Ray Stanford founded Florida Bible College of Orlando, and Cambron was the president and president emeritus until 1986.
SURVEY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT AND NEW TESTAMENT by Irving Jensen (1920-1991). These two volumes are packed with helpful Bible education and are accompanied by a plethora of maps and charts to illustrate the teaching. Jensen majored on teaching the inductive method of Bible study and published several books on study methods, including Independent Bible Study and Enjoy Your Bible. His surveys guide the student in analyzing each book of Scripture. Jensen authored commentaries on Genesis, Psalms, the Wisdom Books, the Four Gospels, Acts, 1 and 2 Corinthians, the Prison Epistles, Pastoral Epistles, Hebrews, General Epistles, and Revelation. He was committed to modern textual criticism, and this flavors his approach to the biblical text.
THE UNFOLDING DRAMA OF REDEMPTION by W. Graham Scroggie (1877-1958). Scroggie was educated at Spurgeon’s Pastors’ College in London and at the University of Edinburgh (D.D.). To his credit he was forced to leave two pastorates because of his opposition to theological modernism. He had a wide-ranging itinerant ministry throughout the English-speaking world and spent his final years as lecturer in English Bible at the Pastors’ College. His survey of the Bible was first published in three volumes. It has since been made available in a one-volume edition. Scroggie traces the theme of redemption through the Bible, showing how each book and segment of the Bible fits into the whole. The commentary is concise but rich in thought. As with many of the other commentators listed here, Scroggie was off base on Bible prophecy. His approach to Revelation, for example, is half-way between the literal and the allegorical approach. In my opinion, he ends up with little of profit from either system. He says, “If one makes a creed of literalism he may miss the enriching power of larger views.” To the contrary, if one does not interpret Bible prophecy literally he has no firm basis by which to interpret it. William Tyndale was the translator of the first English Bible from the Greek and Hebrew in the early 1500s and was put to death by Rome for his noble work. He said: “Thou shalt understand, therefore, that the Scripture hath but one sense, which is the literal sense. And that literal sense is the root and ground of all, and the anchor that never faileth whereunto if thou cleave, thou canst never err or go out of the way. And if thou leave the literal sense, thou canst not but go out of the way. Neverthelater, the Scripture useth proverbs, similitudes, riddles, or allegories, as all other speeches do; but that which the proverbs, similitude, riddle, or allegory signifieth, is over the literal sense, which thou must seek out diligently…” (William Tyndale, cited by Charles Briggs, General Introduction to the Study of Holy Scripture, pp. 456-57). The Unfolding Drama of Redemption is available in the Treasury of Rare Dispensational Commentaries which is part of the Fundamental Baptist Digital Library available from Way of Life Literature.
UNGER’S COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT by Merrill F. Unger (1909-80). Unger was professor of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary for many years and his commentary on the Old Testament is packed with helpful comments. One reviewer said, “The book will be most appreciated by those searching for a true grace-oriented scholar who glorifies the Lord, not himself, in his writings. Words cannot describe how inspirational this work is. Unger’s pedigree is outstanding, his scholarship supreme and his style easy-going and understandable.” It was published in two volumes by Moody Press in 1981 but was out of print by the 1990s. A one-volume edition was printed by AMG Publishers in 2002. Unger’s Commentary on the O.T. is available for OliveTree.
UNGER’S BIBLE HANDBOOK by Merrill F. Unger (1909-80). We consider this one of the best Bible handbooks. It has a concise survey of the the Bible with an introduction and outline to each book, 25 maps, charts (such as a chronology of the dual kingdom and comparison of the four Gospels), archaeological studies, a defense of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, studies on the intertestamental period, Bible weights and measures, and other things. Unger interprets prophecy by the normal-literal method, but he supported a type of gap theory and modern textual criticism. One reviewer said: “The New Unger’s Bible Handbook is not a random collection of miscellaneous facts. It is carefully organized to form a commentary on God’s Word, with an introduction, outline, and discussion of each book and its relationship to the complete biblical revelation. It gives a comprehensive yet concise introduction to the Bible, including its historical and archaeological background. It provides a history of the formation and preservation of the Bible, an outline of the intertestamental period, pertinent statistics, a synopsis of church history, and a survey of other religions.”
UNGER’S GUIDE TO THE BIBLE by Merrill F. Unger. This contains some of the same material as the Unger’s Bible Handbook, but it also has a Bible dictionary, a small concordance, and color Bible maps. The studies on the individual books are a little more extensive.
WILLMINGTON’S BIBLE HANDBOOK by Harold Willmington (1932-2018). The heart of this handbook is a brief chapter-by-chapter commentary on the Bible, with introductions to each book. The volume also contains many other helpful studies, such as how we got the Bible, archaeology and the Bible, units of money and measurement in the Bible, and ancient nations of Bible times. The brief Harmony of the Gospels and Old Testament Prophecies in Part 2 are excellent. This is one of the best brief book-by-book surveys.
WILLMINGTON’S GUIDE TO THE BIBLE by Harold Willmington (1932-2018). This volume contains the heart of the Bible institute course developed in the early 1970s by Willmington for Jerry Falwell’s correspondence school. Willmington remained affiliated with Liberty University for the rest of his life. We do not recommend this school, and it is sad to see men who should know better aligned with that type of compromise (hosting a Promise Keepers conference, promoting Billy Graham and his ecumenical evangelism, promoting the most radical charismatic ministries such as The Rock Church in Virginia Beach, promoting Christian rock, etc.). In his Guide to the Bible, which was first published in 1981, Willmington warned about “Christ-dishonoring methods used by some” and among these he listed “rock-and-roll sessions” (p. 50). Yet later he countenanced this type of carnal methodology at Liberty and at churches associated with Liberty. Be that as it may, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible is a very helpful volume. It is divided into two major sections: A chapter-by-chapter commentary on or survey of the entire Bible (much more extensive than the Willmington’s Bible Handbook), and a section on Bible doctrine. (I have not gone through them carefully enough to note any disagreements). “This is one of the best Bible Handbooks extant by a conservative Evangelical. It is divided into eight sections: A Chronological overview, A Theological overview, A Biographical overview, A Topical summary, The Parables of Jesus, The Miracles of Jesus, Questions and Answers about Genesis 1-11, and Contrasting the Lives of Bible Heroes. This book is a concise, all-inclusive summary of Bible information in a single volume” (Bill Hardecker).
ZONDERVAN HANDBOOK OF THE BIBLE. We do not recommend this volume. It bears deep influence from theological liberalism. For example, the study on the Pentateuch by John Taylor leaves the reader with the idea that the early chapters of Genesis might be “religious myth” that are not scientifically accurate but that merely “bear witness to religious realities.” There is no confirmation of a six-day creation or a global flood.
ZONDERVAN KING JAMES COMMENTARY. This two-volume commentary is edited by Edward Hinson and Daniel Mitchell. Other contributors include Charles Feinberg, Edward Dobson, Woodrow Kroll, H.L. Wilmington. There are many helpful comments and word studies, and it is based on the King James Bible and its underlying text. It is written from a consistently “high view” of the divine inspiration of Scripture and is largely “baptistic.”
HELPFUL MULTI-VOLUME COMMENTARIES
ANALYTICAL BIBLE EXPOSITOR by John Butler. 27 volumes. Bill Hardecker comments, “Expositional annotations, great outlines, practical applications. This set comes from a Fundamental Baptist perspective, though not friendly towards the KJV.” Another preacher wrote, “Butler is a fundamentalist and graduate of Tennessee Temple and He breaks down each text into alliterated points. Even if I choose not to use any of his points in a given text, the way he breaks down the text is very helpful and thought provoking as I prepare my points on a specific portion of Scripture.”
THE ANNOTATED BIBLE by Arno Clemens Gaebelein (1861-1945). He was a fundamentalist leader who separated from the liberal Methodists and promoted dispensational theology. He was the founder of Our Hope magazine and assisted C.I. Scofield with the Old Scofield Bible. The Annotated Bible was published in nine volumes in 1913 by Van Kempen Press of Wheaton, Illinois. It is dispensational, and we have found many of the comments to be thoughtful and helpful. In key passages it avoids giving credence to modern textual criticism. For example, concerning the so-called “longer ending of Mark,” Arno Gaebelein says, “Higher criticism declares that the proper ending of the Gospel of Mark is verse 8. They disputed the genuineness of verses 9-20. Another hand, they claim, added later these verses. That spurious translation, which goes under the name of ‘The Twentieth Century New Testament’ (wholly unsatisfactory) also gives this portion as ‘a late appendix.’ It is not. Mark wrote it and some of the best scholars have declared that it is genuine. How foolish to assume that the blessed document, which begins with the sublime statement ‘The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ could end with ‘they were afraid!’ The trouble with these critics is that they approach the Word of God with doubt and reject its inspiration” (The Annotated Bible). To this we say, Amen! The Annotated Bible is available in the Treasury of Rare Dispensational Commentaries which is part of the Fundamental Baptist Digital Library available from Way of Life Literature. (Frank Gaebelein, 1899-1983, was the youngest son of Arno and was more mainstream modern evangelical. He was an editor of Christianity Today and prominent in the National Association of Evangelicals. He had an extended liberal arts education that included studying English at Harvard. In the 1940s, as head of Stony Brook Academy, he broke with the fundamentalists and aligned with Harold Ockenga and Billy Graham. He was the editor of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, which was first published in the 1970s and is based on the NIV. It represents a complete capitulation to modern textual criticism. For example in Mark 16, the Expositor’s gives credence to the doctrine that Mark’s Gospel ends at verse 8. It leans on the arguments and reasoning of heretics such as Bruce Metzger, Robert Bratcher, and Eugene Nida. It concludes, “External and especially internal evidence make it difficult to escape the conclusion that vv. 9-20 were originally not a part of the Gospel of Mark. ... Thus the best solution seems to be that Mark did write an ending to his Gospel but that it was lost in the early transmission of the text. The endings we now possess represent attempts by the church to supply what was obviously lacking.” Frank’s father, Arno, had identified the chief problem with modern textual criticism, which is that it does not approach the biblical text on the basis of faith, but rather employs the tools of natural textual criticism for a supernatural book. Frank was corrupted by his rejection of Bible separation and his wrong associations. See 1 Corinthians 15:33.)
THE BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR (1889). This massive commentary series consists of 34,000 pages of text in 54 volumes. It features quotes from a wide variety of preachers, including Charles Spurgeon, Alexander MacLaren, Matthew Henry, J.C. Ryle, and Charles Hodge, plus ‘lesser known authors published in periodicals and smaller publications popular in that era.” The editor, Joseph Exell (1849-1910), co-editor of the Pulpit Commentary, was assisted by a “small army of helpers.” This commentary is not dispensational. Prophecy is misinterpreted allegorically rather than literally. We would also warn that the Biblical Illustrator contains unsound comments like the following from the introduction to Ezekiel: “... the serious difficulties which the book presents are mostly due to the imperfect condition of the text. Of the higher qualities of Ezekiel's genius, the most striking is a powerful and grandiose imagination, which reveals itself in a variety of directions--now revelling in weird mythological conceptions, and at other times clothing itself in artificial realism” (John Skinner, Biblical Illustrator, Ezekiel). This is a direct and foolish assault on the divine inspiration and preservation of Ezekiel. The Biblical Illustrator is available in eSword and Swordsearcher.
COMMENTARY ON THE HOLY BIBLE by Matthew Poole (1624-1679). Poole was a Puritan. “He graduated from Emmanuel College in Cambridge in 1645, and succeeded the great Anthony Tuckney at St. Michael-le-Querne church. This was the only pastorate Poole would hold. A strict Presbyterian, he resigned his living rather than conform to the Act of Uniformity.” His commentary, which was originally called a “Synopsis,” required 10 years of earnest labor. He awoke at 3 or 4 a.m. and studied and wrote until the afternoon. His work was first written in Latin, and its translation into English was finished after his death. Poole’s commentaries are not as extensive as that of Matthew Henry, but the tone and approach is similar. It is a helpful, concise commentary on the entire Bible. Poole’s commentary was originally published in 1685, not long after the completion of the King James Bible. He ransacked the commentary material of his day, incorporating the best of it into his work. A lot of thought is packed into the concise language of this commentary. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “... having read Matthew Henry as I have, I would rather have none other commentary beside that of Matthew Poole.”
CONSTABLE’S EXPOSITORY NOTES by Thomas Constable who taught at Dallas Theological Seminary for 45 years. The commentary is dispensational in theology. He spent 25 years on the expository notes and continues to work on them in his retirement. There are many helpful comments. Constable’s notes are available for OliveTree, e-Sword, and other Bible software programs. They are available in print and in free eBook format from
EVERYMAN’S BIBLE COMMENTARY. This 42-volume set is written by various conservative evangelical authors such as John C. Whitcomb, Roy Zuck, Charles Ryrie, and Howard Vos, and is published by Moody Press (1958-2000). It is dispensational, practical, and conservative, though the authors are committed to the faulty principles of modern textual criticism. It is available for Olivetree Bible software and Logos.
EXPOSITION OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS by John Gill (1697-1771). The New Testament was published in 1748 and the Old Testament in 1763. Gill was a renowned British biblical scholar and Baptist pastor. For over 50 years he pastored the Particular Baptist Church of Horselydown, Southwark, London, the church that later moved its location and became known as the Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle of Charles Haddon Spurgeon fame. His knowledge of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew was equal to that of the greatest scholars of his day, and he diligently searched out and studied ancient materials relating to the Bible. The Baptist Encyclopedia observes that “no man in the eighteenth century was as well versed in the literature and customs of the ancient Jews as John Gill.” Spurgeon ranked Gill fifth among all commentators of the whole Bible and stated, “He is always worth consulting. ... for good, sound, massive, sober sense in commenting, who can excel Gill?” Personally, we reject Gill’s capitulation to the most extreme TULIP Calvinism and his too frequent citation of the Jewish Talmud, but we glean from the riches of knowledge he passed on via his commentaries. Gill is available in Swordsearcher, eSword, and some other Bible software packages.
EXPOSITION OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS by Matthew Henry (1662-1714). This set of early 18th-century commentaries (first published in part in 1708-10) remains one of the most helpful in print, in my estimation. In some areas we disagree with Matthew Henry’s doctrinal position (e.g., his allegorical interpretation of prophecy and his Protestant universal church), but rarely do we regret having consulted him. Henry, a nonconformist Presbyterian pastor, was a master of biblical languages and a diligent Bible student who ransacked the old commentary material of his day to pass the meat along to us. He had a lovely gift for organizing and expressing his thoughts. He died before completing the full commentary, having finished his work only through the book of Acts. The New Testament commentary from Romans to Revelation was completed by 14 other preachers of that day, all dissenters from the Church of England. We agree with Baptist pastor Charles Spurgeon’s assessment of Matthew Henry: “You will find him to be glittering with metaphors, rich in analogies, overflowing with illustrations, superabundant in reflections. Every minister ought to read Matthew Henry entirely and carefully through once at least. You will acquire a vast store of sermons if you read with your note-book close at hand; and as for thoughts, they will swarm around you like twittering swallows around an old gable towards the close of autumn.” Spurgeon says that George Whitefield read Matthew Henry through four times during his life. All of this reminds us that men of God used to study the Bible far more diligently than most preachers today, and the evidence is the biblical shallowness that characterizes so many pulpits.
AN INTERPRETATION OF THE ENGLISH BIBLE by Benajah Harvey Carroll (1843-1914). This 13-volume set of commentaries on the entire Bible by the famous Baptist preacher B.H. Carroll was edited and published by J.B. Carnfill between the years 1913-16. Carnfill, who was associated with Carroll for many years and who taught Bible for more than 30 years at the seminary level, said that Carroll was “one of the greatest Bible scholars and exegetes living in the world today.” The Wycliffe Biographical Dictionary says Carroll “was a powerful preacher, keen debater, ready writer, widely-read historian.” Carroll pastored the First Baptist Church of Waco, Texas, from 1871 to 1899. In 1894, he became the Principal of the Bible department at Baylor University and was professor of English Bible there from 1901 to 1910. He was influential in creating the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1910 and was first president of Southwestern until his death in 1914. He published 33 books, including a volume on Baptist Doctrine and many influential pamphlets on such topics as “Communion from a Bible Standpoint” and “The Modern Social Dance.” Calvary Publications in Fort Worth, Texas still carries 200 of Carroll’s sermons in booklet format. An Interpretation of the English Bible is long out of print and is rare. Carroll’s commentary series is filled with helpful thoughts, quotations, and interesting and relevant illustrations. In fact, his gift of illustrating was nearly as fascinating as Spurgeon’s. He was refreshingly bold and outspoken for what he believed. Consider this comment in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 - “The custom in some congregations of having a woman as pastor is in flat contradiction to this apostolic teaching and is open rebellion against Christ our King, and high treason against his sovereignty, and against nature as well as grace. It unsexes both the woman who usurps this authority and the men who submit to it. Under no circumstances conceivable is it justifiable” (An Interpretation of the English Bible). Sadly, Carroll approached Bible prophecy from the allegorical perspective. He was also led astray by modern textual criticism, even trying to correct the Masoretic Hebrew with the Greek Septuagint. Consider, for example, the following statement from Carroll’s introduction to Jeremiah: “There are more difficulties in the study of the text than in the study of almost any other book of the Bible. In the third century B.C. a Greek translation was made in Egypt by many scholars from the original Jewish manuscripts that they might have the Scriptures in Greek. That translation was called the Septuagint. From this it appears that the book of Jeremiah has more corruptions in the text than any other book of the Bible; 2,700 words were left out of the Septuagint Version, or about one-eighth of the book.” The truth is that the Septuagint was an extremely poor translation that has zero authority over the Hebrew. Carroll’s Interpretation of the English Bible is available for SwordSearcher.
IRONSIDE COMMENTARIES by Henry A. Ironside (1878-1951). These commentaries are devotional, practical, and Christ-centered. Ironside worked with the Salvation Army in his early Christian years, and he earnestly sought the “entire sanctification” experience promoted by the Army and the Methodists of that day. It was the turn of the century and a “holiness” fervor was sweeping across North America. The problem was that it was a false view of holiness that promised various degrees of sinless perfection. From this fervor, the Pentecostal movement arose in the early part of the 20th century. Ironside became so discouraged by his failure to achieve an experience of sinlessness that he ended up in a hospital with an emotional and physical breakdown. There God began to teach him the truth of biblical justification and sanctification through some literature that he found, and he was led out of the confusion and doctrinal error of the holiness movement. He joined the Plymouth Brethren and conducted a long and fruitful ministry as a pastor and Bible teacher. His experiences were recorded in the book Holiness: The False and the True. Ironside held a literal pre-millennial, pre-tribulational approach to Bible prophecy in contrast to most of the well-known commentators. The complete set of Ironside commentaries is available electronically in the Treasury of Rare Dispensational Commentaries which is part of the the Fundamental Baptist Digital Library available from Way of Life Literature. Some of them are also available for OliveTree and other Bible software packages.
JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN COMPLETE COMMENTARY by Robert Jamieson (1802-1880), Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910), and David Brown. First published in 1871, this three-volume set is frequently critical to the Greek Received Text and the King James Bible, but it contains many helpful thoughts. Spurgeon said: “We consult it continually, and with growing interest. 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.” Jamieson, Fausset, Brown give credence to some heresies such as baptismal regeneration and Mary’s perpetual virginity. For example, note the following commentary on Jude 1:1, “ancient traditions universally agree that Mary, Jesus' mother, continued perpetually a virgin.” It must also be noted that this commentary is prejudiced against a fundamentalist position on doctrine and biblical separation. For example, in Romans 14 this commentary warns against “setting up narrow standards of Christian fellowship” and claims that we should overlook “lesser differences.” In fact, Romans 14 is only referring to matters on which the Bible is silent and is not talking about doctrine that is based on Scripture. The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary teaches that the believer can lose his salvation in 1 Corinthians 3:17. “As the Aaronic priests were doomed to die if they violated the old temple (Exo 28:43), so any Christian who violates the sanctity of the spiritual temple, shall perish eternally (Heb 12:14; Heb 10:26, Heb 10:31).”
KELLY (WILLIAM) COMMENTARIES (1821-1906) were published on most books of the Bible in the late 1800s and republished in the first half of the 20th century. Kelly was born in Ireland and graduated from Trinity College, Dublin. He was converted at age 20 and joined the Plymouth Brethren, becoming one of their most able preachers. He wrote boldly against a wide variety of errors, including Roman Catholicism. One of his last statements was this: “There are three things real--the Cross, the enmity of the world, and the love of God.” The commentaries are dispensational and fundamentalist, and we have found many of the comments to be fresh and helpful. The Kelly commentaries are available in the Treasury of Rare Dispensational Commentaries which is part of the Fundamental Baptist Digital Library available from Way of Life Literature.
NOTES ON THE HOLY BIBLE by Joseph Benson (1749-1821). Benson was the most influential Methodist leader after the death of John Wesley. He was a scholarly man who was a master in the classics (Latin, Greek). He was a circuit riding preacher and edited The Methodist magazine. He devoted nearly tens years to writing the five-volume commentary. Benson’s commentary reflects his Methodist doctrine and is a-millennial, so that his understanding of prophecy is pitiful, but the commentary as a whole contains many spiritual insights and helpful quotations from other sources.
NOTES ON THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT by Albert Barnes (1798-1870), Frederic C. Cook (1810-1889), and James Murphy. There are 14 volumes in this invaluable set of commentaries. Barnes was a Presbyterian preacher and Bible expositor. He was brought to trial in 1835 for his rejection of the unscriptural doctrine of limited atonement. He advocated total abstinence of alcoholic beverages, was a soul winner, and promoted Sunday Schools. In our opinion, it is one of the most helpful of the old commentaries, though prophecy is interpreted allegorically.
THE NUMERICAL BIBLE by Frederick William Grant (1834-1902) was first published the late 1800s. It is dispensational and fundamentalist, and we have found many of the comments to be thoughtful and helpful. Grant was a Brethren preacher who was born in England but ministered in Canada and the United States beginning at age 21. Like the Brethren in general and John Darby in particular, Grant accepted the critical Greek text and corrected the King James Bible. Not long before his death he pointed to the Bible and exclaimed to a friend: “Oh, the Book, the Book, the BOOK!” The Numerical Bible is available in the Treasury of Rare Dispensational Commentaries which is part of the Fundamental Baptist Digital Library available from Way of Life Literature.
JOHN PHILLIPS COMMENTARY SERIES. This series covers every book of the New Testament and 17 of the Old (Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi). It was published between 1995 and 2005. Written from a conservative, dispensational, Christ-centered viewpoint, the commentaries are practical and filled with rich nuggets of spiritual truth. It is one of my favorite commentary sets, and I only wish that Phillips could have completed all of the Old Testament books. At times he quotes unsound men such as C.S. Lewis and J.B. Phillips. He seems to make allowance for evolutionary ages in Genesis 1 and Colossians 1:11. He taught the heresy of “non-essential doctrine” in his commentary on 1 Peter 3:8-13. He praised Billy Graham and berated Graham’s detractors in his commentary on 2 Corinthians 6:8-10. But the value of his commentaries outweighs the problems. Born in England, John Phillips (1927-2010) served in the British Army in Palestine until the birth of the state of Israel in 1948. After the war, he moved to Canada and later to America where he obtained a Doctor of Ministry degree from Luther Rice Seminary. He was assistant director of the Moody Correspondence School and also directed the Emmaus Correspondence School. Toward the end of his life he joined an independent Baptist church. He died in July 2010 at age 83. The digital copyright is held by WordSearch, and it can be purchased for OliveTree. On November 15, 2017, I was told by a member of the board of directors for John Phillips Ministries that his commentaries were published by Kregel “because they were the only major publisher that would agree to retain the King James text as the Scripture base.”
PREACHER’S OUTLINE AND SERMON BIBLE by Leadership Ministries Worldwide. This 43 volume work outlines each passage verse-by verse, identifies the key points, and gives commentary and application. “This set does a good job of breaking down a text, and generally there is plenty of thought-provoking commentary, illustrations, and preaching material.”
PREACHING THE WORD edited by R. Kent Hughes (1990-2013). Bill Hardecker says, “Modern-day devotional/Homiletical commentary. Verbose but good. Master wordsmiths, many useful illustrations.”
SPURGEON’S EXPOSITORY ENCYCLOPEDIA by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. This is the only collection of Spurgeon’s sermons classified by topic and alphabetically arranged. The 750 sermons are comprehensively indexed. There are also a number of other sets of Spurgeon’s sermons with indexes. Spurgeon has been called “the prince of preachers.” The main problem is his allegorical interpretation of prophecy, but he is always worth reading.
THRU THE BIBLE by J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988). This five-volume set contains the messages preached by the late J. Vernon McGee on his Thru the Bible radio broadcasts. Though I was saddened by McGee’s New Evangelical compromise in many areas, he always gladdened my heart with his warm, Christ-centered commentary on the Word of God. I particularly recommend his commentaries on the Old Testament prophets, because he maintained a literal pre-millennial, pre-tribulational approach in contrast to most of the well-known Bible commentators.
UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE BY David Sorenson (2004). Dr. Sorenson labored on this project for over ten years. He is a third-generation fundamental Baptist preacher who, in preparation for this work, read the Bible through over 200 times. He is a pastor, church planter, soul winner, church builder, and a widely-read author. Understanding the Bible was not written for academia but for pastors and Christian workers. Dr. Sorenson’s commentaries are conservative, fundamentalist, and dispensational. There is also an electronic edition available. Northstar Ministries 1820 West Morgan Street Duluth, MN 55811, 218-726-0209, firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAY OF LIFE COMMENTARY SERIES. This series is designed in a unique format to be used as verse-by-verse commentaries, as teaching courses, and for expository preaching. The commentaries are thorough, serious, broad, insightful, and practical, with an emphasis on application to the Christian life and ministry. Context is honored; words are defined; figures of speech are explained; difficulties are tackled. The commentaries are backed by 46 years of intense Bible study and are packed with historical backgrounds and archaeological studies based on the author’s personal research, which is reflected in books such as the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity, Things Hard to Be Understood, Bible Times & Ancient Kingdoms, and Jews in Fighter Jets: Israel Past, Present, and Future. The interpretation is from a literal, dispensational perspective. The basis is the King James Bible and its underlying original language texts. The King James Bible is explained and illuminated but not criticized. The church is given priority as the pillar and ground of the truth and the headquarters for world evangelism. There is no hint of modernism or influence from compromised evangelicalism. Presently (January 2021) there are commentaries on Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, the Minor Prophets, Romans, the Corinthian Epistles (due February 2021), Hebrews, Revelation, the Pastoral Epistles, the General Epistles, and Revelation.
WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES COMMENTARY. 28 volumes, published by John Ritchie Ltd. One preacher commented, “I would recommend ‘What the Bible Teaches’ series. It covers every book in the Bible from a dispensational and pre-tribulational rapture standpoint. Especially recommended for the Epistles, Job, Isaiah, Daniel, and Revelation.”
OTHER BIBLE STUDY BOOKS
We are including many study books that we do not personally recommend, and this will be obvious from the descriptions. We are thankful to Missionary Bill Hardecker for permission to use some of his reviews of Bible study books.
ANTIQUITIES OF THE JEWS by Josephus Flavius. see The Jewish War.
THE BAKER ILLUSTRATED BIBLE DICTIONARY. “Edited by Tremper Longman III (1952-present), an O.T. scholar, theologian, and taught for 18 years at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. Mr. Longman and fellow editor Peter Enns (1961-present) both have serious doubts about Biblical creationism, the Scripture’s own Inspiration and Preservation doctrine. This is the state of Evangelicalism today” (Bill Hardecker).
BELIEVER’S BIBLE DICTIONARY by David Cloud, www.wayoflife.org. This volume contains most of the Bible words from the Way of Life Encyclopedia, but it is designed to be more affordable and transportable. The Believer’s Bible Dictionary is unique. In an hour in which the black and white of truth is exchanged for the gray of compromise, waffling, uncertainty, relativism, and ecumenical blending, it is our desire that the reader not find the slightest hint of doubt in this volume. It is founded on a confidence that the Bible is the infallible, plenarily, verbally inspired Word of God, that God is Trinity; that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, the virgin born incarnate God with us, the only Saviour who made the essential atoning sacrifice by His blood and death, who rose from the dead bodily, ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father, and is coming again in power and glory to establish His eternal kingdom. The Way of Life Encyclopedia is based on the King James Bible and its underlying original language texts (the Masoretic Hebrew and the Received Greek). There is no reference to the critical Greek New Testament, the Septuagint, or any such thing. The KJV is explained and illuminated but not criticized. The New Testament church is given priority as the pillar and ground of the truth. Church history is viewed from a Baptist perspective and Christ’s promise that true churches will continue in the midst of apostasy. Prophecy is interpreted by a consistent normal-literal, dispensational method and a belief in the Pre-tribulational Rapture. The Bible’s doctrine of apostasy is understood, believed, and applied; the Roman Catholic Church is no true church; there is no new Pentecost or revival of apostolic signs at the end of the age. In the Way of Life Encyclopedia there is no hint of theological modernism or influence from compromised evangelicalism. The student will find zero acceptance of such things as theistic evolution, the day-age theory, JEDP, deutero-Isaiah, the redaction theory of the Gospels, and questioning of the miraculous in the Old Testament (such as the global flood, the destruction of Sodom, the judgments upon Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea). He will find no Protestant heresies (e.g., infant baptism, Amillennialism, Covenant Theology, Replacement Theology), no dependence on the “church fathers,” no acceptance of modern textual criticism (e.g., “a better reading would be...”), no positive citations of heretics (e.g., Augustine, C.S. Lewis, C.H. Dodd, Bruce Metzger). We encourage every believer, young and old, to have his own Bible dictionary and to have it right beside his Bible as he studies, and we are convinced that this is one of the best Bible dictionaries available today. There are eight ways it can help you: (1) It can help you understand the Bible. The first requirement for understanding the Bible is to understand its words. (2) It can help you understand out-of-use words and phrases from the King James Bible, such as blood guiltiness, die the death, and superfluity of naughtiness. (3) It can help you to do topical studies. The student can study the full range of Bible doctrines by following the thousands of cross references from entry to entry. (4) It can help you to study issues relating to morality and practical Christian living, such as capital punishment, child training, cremation, and divorce. (5) It can help you to study Old Testament types of Christ, such as day of atonement, high priest, Melchizedek, passover, and tabernacle. (6) It can help you to find the meaning of Bible customs and ancient culture, such as agriculture, idolatry, military, money, music, and weights and measures. (7) It can help you to study Bible places and geography, such as Assyria, Babylon, Caesarea, Ephesus, and Jordan River. (8) It can help you in preaching and teaching. The doctrinal material in this dictionary is presented in a practical manner with outlines that can be used for teaching and preaching, in the pulpit, Sunday Schools, Bible Colleges and Institutes, home schools, family devotions, prisons and jails, nursing homes, etc. Missionary author Jack Moorman calls the dictionary “excellent” and says, “The entries show a ‘distilled spirituality.’
BIBLE ATLAS. We recommend the Rose Then and Now Bible Map Atlas, the Satellite Bible Atlas, the Holman Bible Atlas, and the Moody Atlas of the Bible. See the descriptions elsewhere.
BIBLEMAPPER.COM. This is program available for Windows allows the student to create personalized maps. It comes with 37 pre-made maps, which are excellent except for the Exodus from Egypt which has Israel crossing the Bitter Lakes.
BIBLE TIMES AND ANCIENT KINGDOMS: TREASURES FROM ARCHAEOLOGY by David Cloud, www.wayoflife.org. ISBN 978-1-58318-121-8. (Enlarged edition for 2018) Bible Times and Ancient Kingdoms is a training course on Bible geography, Bible culture, Bible history, and Bible archaeology, which has a two-fold objective: to present apologetic evidence for the Bible and to give background material to help the student better understand the setting of Bible history. It is a package consisting of a book and a series of PowerPoint and Keynote (Apple) presentations which are a graphical edition of the book. The PowerPoints are packed with high quality color photos, drawings, historic recreations, and video clips. Bible Times & Ancient Kingdoms covers the fascinating historical world of the Bible from Genesis to the New Testament, dealing with the Table of the Nations in Genesis 10, the Tower of Babel, Ur of the Chaldees, Egypt, Baal worship, the Philistines, the Canaanites, David’s palace, Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Edom, the Nabateans, and the Spice Route, Ahab and Jezebel, the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel, the Assyrian Empire, Hezekiah and his times, Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylon, the Medo-Persian Empire, Herod the Great and his temple, Rome and Her Rule over Israel, Christ’s ministry on the Sea of Galilee, From Jericho to Jerusalem, Christ’s Passion Week, and Rome’s Destruction of Jerusalem. Many of the archaeological discoveries from the past 200 years, which we relate in the course, are so fascinating and improbable that they read like a novel. It is easy to see God’s hand in this field, in spite of its prevailing skepticism. The course also deals with Bible culture, such as weights and measures, plant and animal life, Caesar’s coin, the widow’s mite, ancient scrolls and seals, phylacteries, synagogues, false messiahs, judgment in the gate, ancient shipping and commerce, cosmetics, fine linen, the widow’s mite, the pomegranate, mustard seed, idolatry, divination, tombs, the operation of ancient lamps, ancient war methods, millstones, pottery wheels, and olive presses. The course begins with an overview of Israel’s geography and a timeline of Bible history to give the student a framework for better understanding the material. Each section includes maps to help the student place the events in their proper location. The course is packed with important but little-known facts that illuminate Bible history and culture. The preparation for the book is extensive, the culmination of 45 years of Bible study, teaching, and research trips. In this context the author built a large personal library and collected information from major archaeological museums and locations in North America, England, Europe, Greece, Turkey, Jordan, and Israel. We guarantee that the student who completes the course will read the Bible with new eyes and fresh enthusiasm. “David Cloud’s Bible Times and Ancient Kingdoms is a masterful work and will help the Bible students connect the dots between Bible texts and Biblical culture, geography, and background” (Bill Hardecker, Baptist Bible Study Bulletin, 2019). 572-page book + DVD containing 50 PowerPoint presentations packed with about 4,200 high quality color photos, drawings, historic recreations, and video clips.
CHRIST IN ALL THE SCRIPTURES by A.M. Hodgkin. First published 1909, this commentary focuses on Christ in the Pentateuch, the Historical Books, the Poetical Books, the Prophets, the Gospels, and Acts and the Epistles.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT by Floyd Nolen Jones. Jones’ dates are based on the God-honored Hebrew Masoretic Text and align closely with those published by the great biblical scholar and linguist James Ussher in the 17th-century masterpiece The Annals of the World. “The author carefully and thoroughly investigates the chronological and mathematical facts of the Old Testament, proving them to be accurate and reliable. This biblically sound, scholarly, and easy-to-understand book will enlighten and astound its readers with solutions and alternatives to many questions Bible scholars have had over the centuries. Were there 66, 70, or 75 "souls" in Egypt when Jacob arrived? Were the Hebrews in Egypt for 430 years, or a shorter length of time? How long did Jacob have to wait before marrying the first of Laban's daughters, and how long did he wait for the second? What year was Christ born? With reliable explanatory text, charts, and diagrams, this book provides a systematic framework of the chronology of the Bible from Genesis through the life of Christ” (Master Books).
COMPLETE WORD STUDY DICTIONARY. This is based on the research of Spiro Zodhiates (1922-2009). He was a native Greek, born in Cyprus. He published Pulpit Helps magazine, which aimed to assist preachers in preaching. It focused on word studies, sermon construction, and illustrations. He founded AMG Publishers which is headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is available as a two-volume book set and as a module for Olive Tree and Logos Bible Software.
CRUDEN’S COMPLETE CONCORDANCE. “This tool differs from Strong’s in that the Cruden’s concordance does not focus so much on listing all the words of the King James Bible. Rather, it includes most of the important or key words. It is a much smaller work than Strong’s to be sure, but a handier tool to cart along, or to have for a quick reference. Alexander Cruden (1699-1770) was born and educated in Aberdeen, Scotland. He became proficient in Latin and Greek and became a Biblical Scholar. It was reported that having been turned down by a lover, he subsequently lost his mind. This is sad. What a lesson for us to keep our affections on things above. My personal recommendations are Strongs and Youngs” (Bill Hardecker). At the head of each notable word, Cruden gives you its meaning, and very often all its particular shades of meaning, so that he even helps you in sermonizing. When you have read his headings, by following out the concordance, you will observe connections in which the words occurs, which most advantageously and correctly fix its meaning. Thus, the word of God will be its own key. A good textuary is a good theologian; be then well skilled in using Cruden” (Charles Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries).
HOLMAN BIBLE ATLAS. This atlas has a lot of helpful maps and features, but it is based on an evolutionary long-age view. It begins with the so-called “Stone Age” (15,000-8300 BC). It favors the misdating of the Exodus to the 13th century instead of the 15th. It has the Israelites crossing a reed lake instead of the Red Sea. Jehovah is misnamed “Yahweh.” It has excellent studies on Saul’s and David’s kingdoms (superb maps of Saul’s wars, David’s flight from Saul, and David’s wars of conquest). It has excellent studies on the Assyrian Empire era (with maps showing the movement of the Assyrian armies in Mesopotamia and northern Israel, the deportation of the Israelites, and the campaigns of Sennacherib against Judah); the Neo-Babylonian era and Nebuchadnezzar’s campaigns against Judah; the Persian era (conquests of Cyrus the Great, chart of Persian kings, Persian Empire map with major events, return of the Jewish exiles; Judah in the time of Nehemiah); and the Greek inter-testament era (with excellent maps showing the division of Alexander’s empire, Israel under the Ptolemies, the Seleucid Empire under Antiochus III and IV, and the Maccabean campaigns). See also Rose Then and Now Bible Map Atlas, Moody Atlas of the Bible, and Satellite Bible Atlas.
THE JEWISH WAR by Josephus Flavius. Josephus was a Jewish eyewitness to the first Jewish-Roman war and the destruction of the Second Temple. “Adopted” by the Roman general Vespasian, Josephus moved to Rome and took the Vespasian family name of Flavius. There he wrote The Jewish War (AD 78) and Antiquities of the Jews (history of the Jews, 93 AD), among other things. These are among the most important histories outside of Scripture for information on Bible times.
JEWS IN FIGHTER JETS: ISRAEL PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE by David Cloud, www.wayoflife.org. ISBN 978-1-58318-2402-0. Jews in Fighter Jews covers the past 2,500 years of the history of the most important and amazing nation on earth, the only nation directly created by God and called by God “my people,” the nation to whom “were committed the oracles of God” and “of whom, as concerning the flesh Christ came” (Romans 3:2; 9:5). The author has been studying Israel for nearly 45 years and has visited Israel multiple times, traveling from the Red Sea to Mt. Hermon. For starters, I have traveled the entire length of the Jordan River, taken a boat entirely around the Sea of Galilee, observed the Plain of Megiddo from a hot air balloon, and gone to many places where tourists never go. I’ve interviewed Netafim engineers and Biobee representatives, toured banana, mango, and dairy farms, visited many of the kibbutzim and a great number of Israel’s museums. Israel is still in apostasy today, but her conversion is on the horizon. When I visit Israel, I feel as if the whole place is vibrating, as it were, in the anticipation of the fulfillment of prophecy. The stage is set! The book is divided into three major sections: Israel Past: 2,500 Years of Fulfilled Prophecy. This section covers the Assyrian captivity, the Babylonian captivity, the Syrian wars (the Maccabees), the Jewish-Roman wars (AD 70 and 135), the Emperor Hadrian’s role in attempting to eradicate Israel, Roman coins depicting Bible prophecies, the 2000-year Diaspora, including Hitler’s Final Solution (including his little-known plan to destroy the Jews in Palestine), Synagogues, the Talmud, and Kabbalah. Israel Present: The Modern State of Israel. This section covers the amazing Ezekiel 37 prophecy of Israel’s return to the land in a spiritually-dead condition in preparation for the fulfillment of the last seven years of Daniel’s 70 Weeks. We cover the little known prayer movement of the 19th century that focused on the return of Israel to her land, the Zionist movement, the early kibbutzim, the Balfour Declaration, the fall of Palestine to Britain, the British Mandate, the Haganah, the founding of the state of Israel, the War of Independence, the Six-day War, the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, the intifadas, Israel’s modern military, national development, technological prowess. We deal with intriguing and little-known things such as Britain’s Jewish Brigade, the Alayon Institute, Aliyah Bet, the Davidka, the 11 Points, Israel’s “theft” of naval boats from Cherbourg, Talpoit, Yamas, Operation Opera, Operation Mole Cricket 19, Operation Nickel Grass, Israel’s invention of drip irrigation, her massive desalinization plants using homegrown technology, and her missiles and fighter jets. Israel Future: A Prophetic View. This section covers false Messiahs, the Antichrist, the Third Temple, Jerusalem as a burdensome stone, the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, the Two Witnesses, the battle of Armageddon, the conversion of Israel, the New Covenant,, the Millennial Temple, and Christ’s glorious kingdom. Jews in Fighter Jets is a package consisting of a book and a series of PowerPoint presentations to illustrate the material. It is designed to be studied privately or to be used as a training course for Sunday School, Home Schooling, Bible Institute, and any similar setting. It can be used as a stand-alone Bible course or as a supplement to other courses and studies. Basically, the PowerPoint presentations are a graphical edition of the book. The 16 presentations are packed with more than 2,650 high quality color photos, drawings, historic recreations, and video clips. A majority were taken on location in Israel and other countries and in museums. 590 page book plus DVD containing 16 PowerPoint presentations.
KINGDOM OF PRIESTS: A HISTORY OF OLD TESTAMENT ISRAEL by Eugene (b. 1934). This is an extensive Old Testament survey. The author refutes liberal views of the Old Testament and argues for its divine inspiration, historicity, and conservative dating. He uses archaeology and secular history to give the background of Bible times. A student who studied with Merrill in 2013, “He is such a warm, kind-hearted man. At 79 he's still a walking storehouse of Ancient Near East history.”
MOUNCE’S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT WORDS. “Edited by William D. Mounce (1953-present) aka, Bill Mounce (Dr. Mounce also wrote a standard Greek grammar called Basics of Biblical Greek). Mounce’s Dictionary utilizes both the Strong’s numbering system as well as the Goodrick/Kholenberger ‘GK’ numbering system. This Bible word study dictionary reflects the finest work done by a modern Evangelical scholarship of recent times” (Bill Hardecker).
NAVE’S TOPICAL BIBLE by Orville Nave (1841-1917). Nave produced his topical Bible over a period of 14 years while serving as a chaplain in the United States Army. He described the project as “the result of fourteen years of delightful and untiring study of the Word of God.” It was first published in 1905. He said, “The object of this book is to bring together in cyclopedic form and under familiar headings all that the Bible contains on particular subjects. The subjects formulated are of practical value to every profession and to all who desire to consult the Bible.” It has 20,000 topics and subtopics and references more than 100,000 Bible verses.
NEW MOODY ATLAS OF THE BIBLE, edited by Barry Beitzel. This atlas has a lot of excellent features. On the negative side, the atlas grossly misplaces Ur of the Chaldees and has Israel crossing a small lake instead of the Red Sea. The double-page map of Solomon’s international trading networks is excellent.
NEW TOPICAL TEXTBOOK by R.A. Torrey. It has more than 600 topics, 20,000 subtopics, and 30,000 Bible references. Biblehub.com has online editions of Nave’s and Torrey’s, supplemented with its own topical studies.
NEW UNGER’S BIBLE DICTIONARY. Merrill F. Unger (1909-1980) was a prolific Christian writer, professor, and archeologist. He had a doctorate in Semitics from Johns Hopkins University. The Unger’s Bible Dictionary was first published by Moody Bible Institute in 1957. The New Unger’s was edited by Roland Kenneth Harrison (1920-1993), a British Old Testament scholar who served as a professor at Wycliffe College, the University of Toronto, and the Toronto School of Theology. Harrison helped translate portions of the NIV and was a reviewer for the NKJV. The New Unger’s is co-edited by Howard F. Vos (1925–2019), a professor emeritus of history and archeology at The King’s College, and Cyril J. Barber (1934-2015), who served as pastor emeritus at Plymouth Church in Whittier, CA and taught at Talbot Theological Seminary and Trinity Evangelical School. The New Unger’s has many helpful color maps, drawings, and photos, including a great number of images of important archaeological artifacts and items pertaining to ancient Bible culture. Like most products of modern evangelical scholarship, the New Unger’s is tainted somewhat with liberalism. There is capitulation to modern textual criticism as evidenced by the use of the New International Version. There is capitulation to the view that Israel crossed the Bitter Lakes north of the Red Sea (“The Exodus,” The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary). Of the destruction on Sodom and Gomorrah, we read, “The salt and free sulphur of this area, now a burned-out region of oil and asphalt, were apparently mingled by an earthquake, causing a violent explosion. Carried up into the air red-hot, the exploding salt and sulphur literally caused a rain of fire and brimstone over the whole plain” (“Sodom,” The New Unger’s). The Bible corrects this as follows: “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven” (Genesis 19:24).
OLD TESTAMENT HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY by David Cloud, www.wayoflife.org. ISBN 1-58318-081-8. New edition 2014. This course gives an extensive survey of Old Testament history as well as the geography of the Bible. It is accompanied by a CD containing 55 professional Bible maps and illustrations of the tabernacle and Herod’s Temple. The 2014 edition of Old Testament History & Geography is much enlarged and improved. It is keyed with Bible Times & Ancient Kingdoms, which is a separate package consisting of a book and a DVD with 21 PowerPoint presentations featuring more than 3,300 slides. The presentations are packed with high quality color photos, drawings, historic recreations, and video clips gathered from the author’s extensive research and travels. “Bro. Cloud’s work is significant not only because of his diligent study and research but also because he honors the Lord and is a defender and proponent of the KJV” (Bill Hardecker).
OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY. “It provides the origin and etymology of every English word, and is replete with word examples as used in Scripture. I could not afford the actual 20 volume set, but second hand copies of the large 2 volume set, which must be read with magnifying glass are found reasonably priced on the internet” (William Rench).
ROSE THEN AND NOW BIBLE MAP ATLAS. (This is not to be confused with the much smaller Deluxe Then and Now Bible Maps.) This should be obtained as a reference, but it also should be read and studied as a course. It has more than 120 color topographical maps and a wealth of color photos and charts. It has unique clear plastic overlays that allow the student to see where ancient countries and cities are located in a modern setting. Excellent maps showing the exploits of Elijah and Elisha. Good studies of the Assyrian era and maps of the campaigns of Assyrian kings in northern Israel and Judah; the book of Esther and its historical background; and the Herods and the Roman era in Israel. See also Holman Bible Atlas, Moody Atlas of the Bible, and Satellite Bible Atlas.
SATELLITE BIBLE ATLAS. This atlas is unique and irreplaceable. It should be carried on any tour of Israel.(As practically all modern Bible atlases, this one has Israel crossing a the Bitter Lakes instead of the Red Sea.) See also Rose Then and Now Bible Map Atlas, Holman Bible Atlas, and Moody Atlas of the Bible.
STRONG’S EXHAUSTIVE CONCORDANCE. We believe the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is the most important single Bible study tool ever published.
The editor was James Strong (1822-1916). He was a conservative Methodist who was proficient in biblical Greek and Hebrew as well as some other ancient languages. As a professor at two Bible colleges, he defended biblical inspiration against the onslaught of theological modernism. He spent a lifetime studying Bible words and their meaning from the context.
James Strong should not be confused with Augustus H. Strong, 1836-1921, who taught at Rochester Theological Seminary and was tainted with theological liberalism, including “theistic evolution, a low view of the Bible’s inspiration, and pantheistic ideas, and who brought Walter Rauschenbusch, the father of the Social Gospel, to Rochester in 1902.
Beginning in 1855, he spent 35 years compiling his concordance, which was first published in 1890. He had help from more than 100 men. It lists every word in the King James Bible and defines more than 8,000 Hebrew words and 5,000 Greek words.
The Strong’s Concordance was produced in the time of a great revival. It was the Bible conference movement, the fundamentalist movement, the Bible institute movement, the Bible prophecy movement, the evangelistic-revivalist movement, the world missionary movement, the hymn writing movement.
James Strong worked on the English Revised Version translation committee with Westcott and Hort and others, both conservative and liberal. Some King James Bible defenders refuse to use Strong’s because of his association with modern textual criticism. We don’t reject Strong because of this, but we do warn that Strong’s definitions should not be blindly followed. This is true for any dictionary. Bible words must ultimately be interpreted by their own context, not by a pre-designated dictionary meaning. And Strong’s word definitions enables the student to examine the context of the words in the King James Bible. This ability alone is an invaluable resource even without the definitions in Strong’s Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. For example, in John 21:15-17 Jesus commissioned Peter to feed the sheep. By using Strong’s we learn that the word “love” is two different Greek words in this passage. In verses 15 and 16, Jesus used agapao, which is godly love, the highest love, unselfish love, giving love, John 3:16 love. It is the word used for the first and second commandment - love of God and love of neighbor (Mr. 12:30-31). But Peter used phileo, which is love of a friend, fondness, affection, to delight in something, something that is dear. In verse 17, Jesus uses phileo. Both words are used of the Father’s love for the Son (agapao Joh. 3:35; phileo Joh. 5:20).
If nothing else, Strong provided an immeasurable benefit for Bible students by producing a numbering system for every Hebrew and Greek word so that those who cannot use Hebrew and Greek lexicons directly can still study the words. This numbering system became the basis for a wealth of other Bible study tools (Vine’s Dictionary of Bible Words, Englishman’s Hebrew and Greek Lexicons, Theological Dictionary of the Old and New Testament, New Analytical Greek Lexicon, Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon, Complete Word Study Dictionary). Strong’s numbering system became a fundamental part of the electronic Bibles that began to proliferate in the late 1980s.
Strong’s Concordance was an invaluable tool for the Bible Institute movement that began in the late 1800s and spread quickly in the 20th. The Bible Institutes were based on the English Bible and produced countless preachers and Christian workers who were zealous Bible students but were not necessarily well trained in the Biblical languages. (See The History and Heritage of Fundamentalism and the Fundamental Baptists, www.wayoflife.org.)
The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance (2010) includes Vine’s New Testament word studies.
The Micro Strong is a small format edition that does not include the words in the context of the verses. It only has the verse references. For this reason, it is not very helpful.
The New Strong’s Concise Concordance (2005) is highly condensed and not exhaustive.
THINGS HARD TO BE UNDERSTOOD: A HANDBOOK OF BIBLICAL DIFFICULTIES by David Cloud, www.wayoflife.org. ISBN 1-58318-002-8. This volume deals with a variety of biblical difficulties. Find the answer to the seeming contradictions in the Bible. Meet the challenge of false teachers who misuse biblical passages to prove their doctrine. Find out the meaning of difficult passages that are oftentimes overlooked in the Bible commentaries. Be confirmed in your confidence in the inerrancy and perfection of the Scriptures and be able to refute the skeptics. Learn the meaning of difficult expressions such as “the unpardonable sin.” A major objective of this volume is to protect God’s people from the false teachers that abound in these last days. For example, we examine verses misused by Seventh-day Adventists, Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, and others to support their heresies. We deal with things such as the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, cremation, head coverings, did Jesus die on Friday, God’s repentance, healing in the atonement, losing one’s salvation, sinless perfectionism, soul sleep, and the Trinity. Jerry Huffman, editor of Calvary Contender, testified: “You don’t have to agree with everything to greatly benefit from this helpful book.” In researching and writing this book, the author consulted roughly 500 volumes, old and new, that deal with biblical difficulties and the various other subjects addressed in Things Hard to Be Understood. This one volume, therefore, represents the essence of a sizable library. Sixth edition Feb. 2014, enlarged and completely revised, 441 pages.
TOPICAL SCRIPTURE REFERENCE. “Published by Scripture Memory Ministries, 2012 (revised edition). By David R. Barker, an Independent Baptist Evangelist. Bro. Barker and his dear wife, Mary are excellent servants of the Lord. Any material written by Bro. Dave is sure to be a blessing to your soul and will enrich your Bible study. Bro. Barker is all about hiding God’s Word in the heart and presents a robust Scripture memory ministry and itinerant preaching/teaching ministry. (Visit their webpage at scripturememoryministry.com). This book has been 35 years in the making” (Bill Hardecker). Barker says in the introduction, “The main purpose of this book is to give the Bible believer ammunition from God’s Word to have an answer on the tip of their tongue for soulwinning, Bible teaching, resisting temptation, and personal guidance.”
TREASURY OF SCRIPTURE KNOWLEDGE. The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself, and herein lies the value of the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge. It was first published in about 1836. The original Treasury had roughly 4,000 cross references. It was compiled by Thomas Scott (1747-1821), an Anglican minister who converted from Unitarianism. The newer editions have more than 500,000 references. The Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury by Jerome Smith (2016) has 900,000 cross references plus extensive additional topical and word studies. It replaced The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (1992) and Nelson’s Cross Reference Guide to the Bible (2007). It is a vast resource of cross references, but there are heretical notes. For example, the note by 1 Timothy 3:16 claims the word “God” should be omitted, and the note by Acts 8:38 claims that baptism is not by immersion. The Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury is available for eSword and other Bible software packages. Usually I turn first to the original Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, because the Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury has too many cross references to use in a quick fashion. I only turn to the Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury if I am not satisfied with what I find in the original Treasury. For example, in studying 1 Peter 5:5, “God resisteth the proud,” the original Treasury has only Jas. 4:6; Job 22:29. I turned to the Ultimate Treasury and found the following:
God resisteth. Gr. antitassomai (S# G498, Act 18:6). Num 12:2, 1Sa 2:7-8, 2Sa 22:28, *2Ch 25:19; 2Ch 32:25, Neh 9:10, Job 22:29; Job 40:11, Psa 18:26; Psa 31:23; Psa 71:13; Psa 101:5; +*Psa 119:21; Psa 138:6; Psa 147:6, *+Pro 16:5, Jer 13:9, Eze 17:24; Eze 28:2; Eze 28:7-8, Dan 4:37; Dan 11:12, *Zec 9:6, Luk 1:51-53; +*Luk 18:14, Luk 16:15; +*Luk 18:14, See on +Jas 4:6.
the proud. Exo 18:11, Job 40:11, Psa 94:2; Psa 101:5; +*Psa 119:21, Pro 6:17; Pro 8:13; Pro 15:25; *Pro 16:18; Pro 21:4; Pro 29:23, Ecc 7:8, Isa 2:11; Isa 5:15; Isa 9:9; Isa 16:6; +*Isa 65:5 note. Jer 43:2; Jer 50:31, +*Eze 16:49, Dan 4:30; Dan 4:37; Dan 5:22, +*Hab 2:4, Zep 2:10, Mal 3:15, Mat 26:33, *Mar 7:22, Luk 1:51; Luk 14:11, Joh 9:34, Rom 1:30, Gal 5:26, 1Ti 3:6, 2Ti 3:2.
UNWRAPPING THE PHARAOHS: HOW EGYPTIAN ARCHAEOLOGY CONFIRMS THE BIBLICAL TIMELINE by John Ashton and David Down. “By taking great pains in reconstructing the history and chronology of the entire sweep of Egyptian dynastic history John Ashton and David Down restore the timeline to its original place as a support for biblical history. Illustrated throughout with beautiful full-color photographs of artifacts, structures and art (along with a reproduction of the black and white photos from Zakaria Goneim's discoveries of the ‘Lost Pyramid’ in the 1950’s), Unwrapping the Pharaohs presents a wealth of information for anyone interested in these issues” (Master Books).
VINE’S EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF NEW TESTAMENT WORDS by William Edwy Vine (1873-1949). He was a longtime elder in a Plymouth Brethren assembly in Bath, England. He was devoted to missionary work after the pattern of the Antioch church in Acts 13-14. He published several books on Bible prophecy, interpreted from a literal perspective: The Coming Priest-King, The Four Women of the Apocalypse, The Rapture and the Great Tribulation, The Roman Empire in Light of Prophecy, The Twelve Mysteries of Scripture, and Witnesses to the Second Advent. He wrote commentaries on 15 books of the Bible. His dictionary was first published in 1940 in four volumes. Vine’s gives definitions to the New Testament Greek words, shows various ways they are used, gives Greek synonyms for English words, and otherwise has a wealth of information. Vine’s New Testament dictionary is sometimes published with a dictionary of Old Testament words, though he did not write this dictionary.
WAY OF LIFE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE BIBLE & CHRISTIANITY
First published in 1993. The 7th edition (2020) contains 715 pages of information, 5,700 entries, and 6,200 cross references.
The Way of Life Encyclopedia is unique. In an hour in which the black and white of truth is exchanged for the gray of compromise, waffling, uncertainty, relativism, and ecumenical blending, it is our desire that the reader not find the slightest hint of doubt in this volume. It is founded on a confidence that the Bible is the infallible, plenarily, verbally inspired Word of God, that God is Trinity; that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, the virgin born incarnate God with us, the only Saviour who made the essential atoning sacrifice by His blood and death, who rose from the dead bodily, ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father, and is coming again in power and glory to establish His eternal kingdom. The Way of Life Encyclopedia is based on the King James Bible and its underlying original language texts (the Masoretic Hebrew and the Received Greek). There is no reference to the critical Greek New Testament, the Septuagint, or any such thing. The KJV is explained and illuminated but not criticized. The New Testament church is given priority as the pillar and ground of the truth. Church history is viewed from a Baptist perspective and Christ’s promise that true churches will continue in the midst of apostasy. Prophecy is interpreted by a consistent normal-literal, dispensational method and a belief in the Pre-tribulational Rapture. The Bible’s doctrine of apostasy is understood, believed, and applied; the Roman Catholic Church is no true church; there is no new Pentecost or revival of apostolic signs at the end of the age. In the Way of Life Encyclopedia there is no hint of theological modernism or influence from compromised evangelicalism. The student will find zero acceptance of such things as theistic evolution, the day-age theory, JEDP, deutero-Isaiah, the redaction theory of the Gospels, and questioning of the miraculous in the Old Testament (such as the global flood, the destruction of Sodom, the judgments upon Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea). He will find no Protestant heresies (e.g., infant baptism, Amillennialism, Covenant Theology, Replacement Theology), no dependence on the “church fathers,” no acceptance of modern textual criticism (e.g., “a better reading would be...”), no positive citations of heretics (e.g., Augustine, C.S. Lewis, C.H. Dodd, Bruce Metzger).
1. Use the Way of Life Encyclopedia to find the meaning of practically any word in the Bible. Missionary author Jack Moorman says, “The entries show a ‘distilled spirituality.’” In addition to the editor’s own doctrinal word studies and the consultation of many other resources, we have liberally included definitions from the famous Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.
2. Use the Way of Life Encyclopedia to study antiquated words and phrases from the King James Bible. (Abusers of themselves, Besom, Bewray, Blood guiltiness, Conversation, Itching Ears, Puffed up, Set on, Set them at one, Superfluity of naughtiness, Taken with the manner)
3. Use the Way of Life Encyclopedia to do topical studies, to study doctrine. There is an extensive system of cross references. For example, consider the cross references under Fear of God - see Anger, Day of the Lord, God, Holy, Judgment, Pride, Vengeance.
4. Use the Way of Life Encyclopedia to study extra-biblical Christian terms. (e.g., Apostate, Apocrypha, Catechism, Christmas, Cremation, Denomination, Diocese, Dispensationalism, Easter, Faith Promise, Infallible, Parallelism, Protestant, Rapture)
5. Use the Way of Life Encyclopedia to study issues relating to morality and practical Christian living. (e.g., Adultery, Capital Punishment, Child Training, Cremation, Dancing, Divorce, Employment, Fornication, Guidance, Home, Kill, Labor, Modesty, Pacifism, Polygamy, Sodomy, Wine)
6. Use the Way of Life Encyclopedia to study Old Testament types. (e.g., Ark, Day of Atonement, Boaz, Brass Serpent, Candlestick, Laver, High Priest, Joseph, Passover)
7. Use the Way of Life Encyclopedia to find the meaning of Bible customs. (e.g., Agriculture, Calendar, Military, Money, Music, Olive Press, Weights and Measures, etc.)
8. Use the Way of Life Encyclopedia to study Bible Prophecy.(e.g., Abomination of Desolation, Allegorical, Antichrist, Babylon, Covenant, Daniel, Day of the Lord, Double Fulfillment, Ethiopia, Gog, Great Tribulation, Kingdom of God, Judgment, Millennium, Rapture, Revelation, Second Coming, Seventy Weeks)
9. Use the Way of Life Encyclopedia to study proper names in the Bible.
10. Use the Way of Life Encyclopedia to do research into the Christian denominations, cults, and movements. (e.g., Anglican, Assemblies of God, Brethren, Charismatic Movement, Christian Science, Churches of Christ, Eastern Orthodoxy, Ecumenical Movement, Episcopal Church, Evangelical, Fundamentalism, Infant Baptism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Modernism, Mormonism, Neo-orthodoxy, New Evangelicalism, Modernism, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic Church, Seventh-day Adventism, Unitarian, United Church of Christ, World Council of Churches)
11. Use the Way of Life Encyclopedia to study the church. The Way of Life Encyclopedia is a practical manual for church leaders and missionaries. (e.g., Apostle, Baptism - Immersion, Baptism - Infant, Church Discipline, Deacon, Evangelism, Footwashing, Lord's Supper, Ordain, Pastor)
12. Use the Way of Life Encyclopedia to study the subject of Bible versions. (e.g., Bible Versions, Erasmus, King James Bible, Masoretic Text, Preservation, Pseudepigrapha, Received Text, Westcott-Hort)
13. Use the Way of Life Encyclopedia for preaching and teaching. The doctrinal material in this dictionary is presented in a practical manner with outlines that can be used for teaching and preaching, in the pulpit, Sunday Schools, Bible Colleges and Institutes, home schools, family devotions, prisons and jails, nursing homes, etc. For example, the study on ANGEL is arranged as follows: The origin of angels. The division of angels into good and evil. What are angels like? How many angels are there? What do angels do? What Christians can learn from angels.
WEBSTER’S 1828 DICTIONARY OF THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE. Noah Webster (1758-1843) was a master lexicographer, and he was not strictly secular in his approach to words, as so many have been. Webster brought a wide knowledge of foreign languages to his work. Ultimately he mastered 26 languages, and he spent a full decade in tracing the origin of English words in these languages--but he was always oriented, first and foremost, to the Bible and to absolute truth. The Webster dictionary is a product of spiritual revival. The Second Great Awakening was at its zenith when he was preparing his dictionary. It has been observed that the Webster is “the only [secular] dictionary in the world to ‘draw water out of the wells of salvation’--to utilize God’s written word as a key to the meaning of words.” Webster was born again in April 1808 and became a thorough-going believer in biblical truth. Prior to this, he had been deeply influenced by Enlightenment philosophy, disbelieving the Bible’s account of creation and man’s fall and natural corruption. His conversion happened when he was just beginning work on a definitive American dictionary that would standardize American English and help unify the nation. The American Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1828, when Webster was 70, and it defined about 70,000 words. It is packed with about 6,000 quotations from the Bible, and this is one of the many ways that the American people of that time were steeped in Scripture even if they weren’t born again Christians. Consider Webster’s definition of conversion: “In a theological or moral sense, a change of heart, or dispositions, in which the enmity of the heart to God and his law and the obstinacy of the will are subdued, and are succeeded by supreme love to God and his moral government, and a reformation of life. Conversion is used in Scripture in a way similar to repentance.”
WORD PICTURES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT by Archibald T. Robertson (1863-1934), first published in six volumes from 1930-33. This is a verse by verse study of key Greek words. Robertson was a Southern Baptist scholar and professor of New Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1892 to September 24, 1934, when he dismissed his class early, went home, and died of a stroke. This work has many treasures, but it also has many errors due to Robertson’s misguided commitment to modern textual criticism. For example, following is his comment on Mark 16:8: “At this point Aleph [Sinaiticus] and B [Vaticanus], the two oldest and best Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, stop with this verse. ... So the facts are very complicated, but argue strongly against the genuineness of verses 9-20 of Mark 16.”
WUEST WORD STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT GREEK. Kenneth Wuest 1893-1961) was a long-time professor of Greek at Moody Bible Institute. We have found a lot of jewels in his word studies, but we also must warn about his acceptance of modern textual criticism.
YOUNG’S ANALYTICAL CONCORDANCE TO THE BIBLE. This was first published in 1879 by Robert Young (1822-1888), a member of the Free Church of Scotland. “Young’s Concordance arranges the Bible words in alphabetical order and features the original language words enabling the reader to see the various uses of each respective word-entry (this tool is significant because often the usage/context of a word determines its meaning and not merely a word’s etymology). This work cites over 300,000 Biblical references. Young is also the Bible translator of the Young’s Literal Translation. Though his translation was based upon the Received Texts, he did not view those texts as God’s Word” (Bill Hardecker).
ZONDERVAN ATLAS OF THE BIBLE, edited by Carl Rasmussen. We don’t recommend this atlas. We find that it has no advantage over, or benefit as a supplement to, the Rose Then and Now, the Moody Atlas, the Holman Bible Atlas, and the Satellite Bible Atlas. See the descriptions elsewhere.
ZONDERVAN ILLUSTRATED BIBLE DICTIONARY. Bill Hardecker comments as follows: “Published by Zondervan, 2011, edited by Tenney, Douglas, and revised by Silva. Merrill C. Tenney (1904-1985) served as professor of New Testament and Greek. He also served on the original translation team of the NASB. He also served as dean of graduate studies at Wheaton College in Wheaton Ill. (1947-1971), Dr. Tenney also became the second president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 1951. J.D. Douglas (James Dixon Douglas, 1923-2003) was a Christian journalist and editor-at-large for Christianity Today magazine. Moises Silva (1945–present) is a Cuban-born American Bible scholar and translator. Dr. Silva studied under F.F. Bruce (Frederick Fyvie Bruce, 1910-1990); ‘a conservative liberal’; though he held to an Evangelical view of the Scriptures, he doubted the authenticity of some Bible passages, and James Barr (1924-2006), a liberal Scottish Old Testament scholar; he was against Biblical inerrancy. Barr served as past president of the Evangelical Theological Society, 1997. And has worked closely with many modern Bible translations such as the NASB, NLT, ESV, and the Nueva Version International (a Spanish Bible version favoring the NIV dynamic equivalence translation model). New Archeological discoveries and increased background information is motivation enough to have this classic and now updated work. This work is the condensed version of the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Encyclopedia, 5 vol., Zondervan, 2009.”
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