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Best Commentaries on Colossians & Philemon

This page is current as of December 2023.

For recommendations on other books and an introduction to this series, visit
Best Commentaries on Each Book of the Bible.

Before turning to the expert recommendations, here is a recent commentary written by a trusted scholar that may be of interest. Because this volume is newly published, the commentators on the commentaries have not yet had opportunity to evaluate it. It would, though, come with my recommendation.

  • David W. Pao – Colossians and Philemon (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary). The ZECNT has become a favorite series of myself and many others. I have used this volume, though only sparsely, and found it solid. (Amazon, Westminster Books, Logos)

And now, here are the expert recommendations:

Douglas J. Moo – The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Moo’s commentary is quite recent (2008) and, therefore, reviews have not yet caught up to it. However, Keith Mathison penned a short review while making his way through and said, “If anyone is going to give O’Brien a run for his money, it is Moo. Moo has the advantage of having written in the Pillar series–a much more reader-friendly series than the WBC. His commentary is also able to take into consideration studies published since 1987.” He places it as a close second behind O’Brien. I wouldn’t be surprised if before long, as reviews catch up, if I need to bump it up as well. (Amazon, Westminster Books, Logos)

F.F. Bruce – The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (New International Commentary on the New Testament). Bruce’s work is always worth reading and, according to the commentators on the commentaries, this one is no exception. Plus, you get the extra value of three books in one! It brings less depth than the two that precede it, but is nonetheless said to be excellent. (Amazon, Logos)

David E. Garland – Colossians/Philemon (NIV Application Commentary). The NIV Application Commentary set is known for being a little bit uneven, with some volumes being far superior to others. However, Garland’s is regarded as one of the best in the series. Because this series invests heavily in application, the pastor or general reader may find this focus its most helpful addition to the volumes above. (Amazon, Westminster Books, Logos)

R.C. Lucas – The Message of Colossians and Philemon (The Bible Speaks Today). Lucas’ contribution to The Bible Speaks Today series fits my criteria in always wanting to include one commentary geared toward the general or devotional reader. This one may not provide as much fodder for sermon prep, but will be useful to those reading for personal purposes. Jim Rosscup says this work “is not a ‘commentary’ but an accurate, readable exposition keyed to practical life.” (Amazon, Westminster Books, Logos)

There are many more noteworthy commentaries on Colossians and Philemon. Dunn’s contribution to the NIGTC is said to be good, though he denies Paul’s authorship of Colossians. It would be a good one for those with extensive knowledge of Greek. (Amazon, Westminster Books, Logos)

Let me close with a couple of questions: What are your preferred commentaries on Colossians? Are there some you’ve found particularly helpful for preaching or for devotional purposes?

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