Building the Christian library: The one-volume commentary


Among the many books that should be part of a basic library, ‘a one volume commentary’ is a necessity. It is almost impossible for most of us to have the best available commentary for every book of the Bible on our shelves. And even if we could, it is still valuable to have the second comment on themes or issues that rise in a given book in order to stimulate our own thoughts.

A one-volume commentary helps in two ways. Firstly, it provides an overview of the book without tedious alternatives being raised. The author of these comments is obliged to be brief and to the point. With such brief comments, the flow and purpose of the book can more easily become apparent. The second benefit is that while one may be doing a study on one book, certain cross-references may be helpful to look up and understand. A commentary on the whole Bible provides a resource for checking the context and meaning briefly.

The value of a one-volume commentary in addition to the NIV Study Bible is in terms of completeness. Obviously, there will be a degree of overlap between the comments. But in a study Bible, the comments are usually on problem areas or difficulties that may arise from the text. A one-volume commentary will certainly cover these, but in addition will seek to explore the overall meaning of the text in its context.

A one-volume commentary also has helpful articles on broader biblical issues. For instance, in A Bible Commentary for Today, F.F. Bruce has written an article on “The Old Testament and the Christian”, D. J. Wiseman has written one called “Archaeology and the Old Testament” and H. L. Ellison has written “The Religious Background of the New Testament”-and there are many other helpful articles. A Bible Commentary for Today has a very large number of introductory articles, 28 in all. While these are reasonably detailed and complicated, for the serious student they provide a broad overview of the topic under discussion. Anyone seeking to give a talk or lead a study on any aspect covered by these articles would do well to read through the appropriate article to get a broad and balanced view of the biblical material.

Another one volume Bible commentary is The New Bible Commentary Revised. This too has a high standard of conservative scholarship in the textual comments and in the introductory articles, although these are significantly fewer in number.


  • A Bible Commentary for Today, G.C.D. Howley, F. F. Bruce, H. L. Ellison (Editors), 1979, Pickering and Inglis
  • The New Bible Commentary Revised, D. Guthrie, J.A. Moyter, A.M. Stibbs, D.J. Wiseman (Editors), 1970, IVP

Comments are closed.