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Best Commentaries on 1 & 2 Thessalonians
August 26, 2013
Series Introduction: I live in a small house. I work in a small office in a small church. For those reasons and others I will never have a huge library. When I add a book I almost always remove a book, a practice that allows me to focus on quality over quantity. Over the past couple of years I have focused on building a collection of commentaries that will include only the best volumes on each book of the Bible. I know when I’m in way over my head, so before I began I collected every good resource I could find that rated and reviewed commentaries. I studied them and then began my collection on the basis of what the experts told me. Since I did all of that work, and since I continue to keep up with the project, I thought it might be helpful to share the recommendations.
My focus is on newer commentaries (at least in part because most of the classics are now freely or cheaply available) and I am offering approximately 5 recommendations for each book of the Bible, alternating between the Old Testament and the New. Today I have turned to the experts to find what they say about 1 & 2 Thessalonians.
1 & 2 Thessalonians
Gene L. Green - The Letters to the Thessalonians (Pillar New Testament Commentary). The clear consensus for the best commentary on the two letters to the Thessalonians is Green’s commentary from the PNTC series. Because 2 Thessalonians contains a very difficult and much disputed text (2 Thess. 2:1-12), few people are going to agree with one commentator all the way. Though even Green will not satisfy everyone, the experts all agree that he does justice to the letters and handle them fairly. This commentary is the place to begin. (Amazon, Westminster Books)
Charles A. Wanamaker - The Epistles to the Thessalonians (New International Greek Testament Commentary). As there is consensus on the best commentary, there is also consensus on the second best. Mathison says, “Wanamaker attempts to resolve some of the difficulties related to these letters by arguing that 2 Thessalonians was actually written before 1 Thessalonians. I am not persuaded, but my disagreement on this point does not mean that I do not appreciate this commentary. Like all of the commentaries in the NIGTC series, it is technical and requires some knowledge of Greek. A very useful work for those doing in-depth study.” As always, let me remind you that this commentary assumes significant knowledge of Greek. (Amazon)
F.F. Bruce - 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Word Biblical Commentary). Are there any major New Testament commentary sets that do not have at least one volume by F.F. Bruce? There can’t be too many! And if I have my facts correct, this was actually the very first volume in the WBC. From reading the experts’ reviews, it appears that there is rather a sharp drop-off in quality between Green/Wanamaker and Bruce, so I suppose the others ought to be consulted first. (Amazon, Westminster Books)
Leon Morris - 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries). Like F.F. Bruce, Leon Morris has contributed commentaries for many books of the Bible and to many commentary sets. His volume on 1 & 2 Thessalonians is the TNTC series which means it is relatively short and has been written for a general audience. If you are not preaching or teaching the book, and would simply like to learn more about it, this will be a good choice. (Amazon, Westminster Books)
G.K. Beale - 1-2 Thessalonians (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series). After penning a powerful commentary on Revelation, it probably makes sense that Beale would turn as well to Thessalonians. Keith Mathison says, “Beale has written what many consider to be a definitive commentary on the book of Revelation, and now we have the results of his research into the Thessalonian epistles. Whether one agrees or disagrees with all of his conclusions, Beale always has interesting food for thought.” That is a little cryptic, but I take it as a recommendation! (Amazon, Westminster Books)
I would like to find some good reviews of Gary Shogren’s recent contribution to the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series as it looks quite good. At this point, though, the reviewers have not yet caught up to it. (Amazon, Westminster Books)
Let me close with a couple of questions: Have you ever preached through 1 & 2 Thessalonians? What are your preferred commentaries? Are there some you’ve found particularly helpful for preaching or for devotional purposes?