Spurgeon’s Recommended Commentaries

[The links below will be forthcoming]

Charles Spurgeon, in his extremely helpful ‘Commenting and Commentaries,’ goes through scores of commentaries and categorizes them as great, good, ok, and bad. I’ve always wanted to hone in on Spurgeon’s list a little deeper than his 4 categories though. I’ve wanted to know which of his great commentaries he prioritized over others of his great commentaries. Ever since first reading his Commenting and Commentaries I’ve had a hunch that Spurgeon left enough in his writings to enable the reader to make an educated prioritization order, or at least a good shot at it. 

This series will go through all of his Spurgeon’s great commentaries for each book of the Bible with his comments on each. I aim to align all of Spurgeon’s great commentaries in what would be Spurgeon’s prioritization order – or at least my best go of it. I’ll also include links to all of them that are available in Logos Bible Software. In order to find how Spurgeon would have prioritized them, I’m using his comments on each commentary in the last section of Lectures: Commenting and Commentaries, and also his extended comments from the first lecture in Lectures to my Students, where he speaks at length about several commentaries. By comparing his comments to each other, a case can be made that he thought much higher of some in his great commentary category than he did of others. Admittedly, his preferences can be a bit vague at times. When in doubt I just went with my gut, so take those more closely prioritized with a grain of salt.

[In addition to his great commentaries, I also wanted to include a very few of his good commentaries. There are some good commentaries which Spurgeon speaks of at length in his first lecture, that seem worthy of mention here. In light of what he says in his initial lectures, it’s almost as if he left them out of his great commentary list on accident. They don’t make the cut in his great commentary list, but they deserve mention nonetheless because he speaks of them at length. I do however, prioritize them underneath his great commentaries of course.]

Another thing I did differently than Spurgeon however, is that I used a commentary categorization method for placing each commentary and prioritized it within that category only. I’ve personally found it helpful to break up my commentaries into the following categories:

  • Study Bibles
  • Contextual Commentaries
  • Historical Commentaries
  • Technical Commentaries
  • Exegetical Commentaries
  • Devotional (applicational) Commentaries
  • Sermonic Commentaries.

I guess I should give a little information on what I mean by these categories, in that I use them for distinct purposes.

Study Bibles: By this I simply mean commentaries that consist of short simple notes for the most part. Typically they are made to provide the average reader with some basic structure of the passage, contextual details, or a clearing up of difficulties in the passage. 

Contextual Commentaries: By this I mean commentaries which primarily address cultural or geographic practices/concerns, or even historical issues relating to that time period. 

Historical Commentaries: Commentaries in this category are mainly concerned with how particular commentators from the past (usually in specific time groups or traditions) have interpreted the passages at hand. A good modern example of this would be the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, or the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.

Technical Commentaries: By technical I mean commentaries that get down to original language issues, and are attempting to show what the original author was communicating to his audience. Often these also dabble in contextual issues. However they rarely get into practical issues of Christian life.

Exegetical Commentaries: Exegetical commentaries, as I’m defining them, are almost a bridge between a technical and devotional commentary. They include much about what the author is communicating, and the structure of the argument, however they don’t typically get into technical issues of the original language. They also don’t share the aversion that technical commentaries have to get practical and to show the reader how the text relates to the Christian life. Often they focus on truth within the passage and a line of reasoning from it. Usually they contain great preaching points.

Devotional Commentaries: Devotional or applicational commentaries are commentaries that have relatively little by way of textual criticism, or of long exegetical focus. They are typically focused majorly on application or have a more devotional adoration for God type of flavor. They are usually not long winded in the reading but leave the reader feeling satisfied in God and deeply moved by his grace. 

Sermonic Commentaries: For this category I’ve just included anything that’s extremely long winded. As a reader, I find that, however much I enjoy them, I don’t have much time for long winded expositions. So I put them in their own category toward the end of the list so that after reading the others I’m able to choose one longer text on the passage I’m looking at. In these you’ll find everything from technical language studies to sermons to full books. Typically these tend more to the applicational side of things.

Hopefully these categorizations will be helpful in selecting and utilizing some of the best classic commentaries for each book of the Bible. See the links above to navigate to the different portions of Scripture.