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Best Commentaries on Genesis
January 22, 2013
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 will be on newer commentaries (at least in part because most of the classics are now freely or cheaply available) and I will offer approximately 5 recommendations for each book of the Bible. I will alternate between the Old and New Testaments, first going to Genesis, then Matthew, then back to Exodus, and so on. Today I’ll share what I learned about Genesis.
There is no shortage of commentaries on Genesis and, thankfully, no shortage of recommendations. The most pressing and divisive issues include the authorship of the book and, of course, the most faithful understanding of creation. Here, according to the experts, are the top commentaries on Genesis:
Gordon J. Wenham - Genesis 1-5 and Genesis 16-50 (Word Biblical Commentary). This series is certainly not known for being user-friendly; the volumes are also uneven with some being far superior to others. However, most experts rate Wenham’s work as one of their top recommendations for Genesis. Tremper Longman rates Wenham as “one of the finest evangelical commentators today” and says that his “commentary on Genesis shows a high level of scholarship and his exegetical sensitivity.” His approach to Genesis is conservative and he stresses the unity of the biblical text. (Amazon: Volume 1, Volume 2. Westminster Books: Volume 1, Volume 2)
Victor P. Hamilton - The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17 and Chapters 18-50 (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament). Most commentators on commentaries commend Hamilton for his thoroughness in examining the interpretive difficulties in Genesis and his generally conservative conclusions (though some are frustrated that he ends up ambiguous regarding Mosaic authorship). After a helpful examination of the various ways of understanding the creation story, he advocates a literary interpretation of Genesis 1. (Amazon: Volume 1, Volume 2. Westminster Books: Volume 1, Volume 2)
Allen Ross - Creation & Blessing. Ross’ text is not a commentary per se but more of an exposition meant to help the preacher. He holds to a six-day creation and to Mosaic authorship. Instead of going verse-by-verse, he proceeds section-by-section in the way he recommends preaching the book. Keith Mathison calls it “an invaluable resource for expositors” and insists “if you are a pastor, you should not be without this book.” I have used this volume several times and have found it a very helpful aid. (Amazon, Westminster Books)
John D. Currid - Genesis Volume 1 and Genesis Volume 2 (Evangelical Press Study Commentary). Derek Thomas provides a very strong recommendation for this two-volume set which he says features “easy to read yet biblically robust expositions that seek to bridge the gap between technical and popular commentaries.” Currid advocates Mosaic authorship and a literal six-day creation. (Amazon: Volume 1, Volume 2. Westminster Books: Volume 1, Volume 2)
Derek Kidner - Genesis (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries). Kidner’s work, like his other volumes in the TOTC series, is far shorter than the other recommendations. This, along with his conversational style, make it eminently readable. The short format necessitates great concision which can be both a help and a disappointment; the preacher will definitely need to supplement with more thorough volumes. Still, this makes an excellent commentary to begin with and an excellent choice for those looking to bypass some of the scholarly works. Nearly every scholar gives it his recommendation. (Amazon, Westminster Books)
Here are a few other common recommendations:
- Bruce Waltke - Genesis
- Kenneth Mathews - Genesis 1-11:26 and Genesis 11:27-50 (New American Commentary)
- John Sailhamer - Genesis (Expositor’s Bible Commentary)
And let me close with a question: What are your preferred commentaries on Genesis? Are there some you’ve found particularly helpful?