I am soliciting recommendations for the following: I am on the lookout for a “Study Bible” or a “shorter” Commentary series (e.g. one of the 6 volume sets) that meet my peculiar desires.
- Study oriented. I am not so much interested in an “application” or “devotional” resource. This does not mean I wouldn’t appreciate such gleanings from a grounded Evangelical point of view but my main concern is “exposing” the Biblical text so I can ponder and pray upon those things myself.
- To the point. I don’t want a verbose “companion” guide.
- Avoids unnecessary commentary. I always get frustrated when “big” things in a text are either not noted or given a passing reference but then you see a commentator labor over these long notes restating information present in the immediate context.
- Willing to present various positions. I like being familiar with contrasting viewpoints, even if I am not inclined to agree with them.
- Less “system dogmatic,” more educational and informational. I embrace an conservative Evangelical worldview with a high view of scripture but I have little interest in a volume/series that is married to a peculiar system of thought (Covenant Theology or Dispensational Theology, Pre-/Post-/A-millennial, etc).
Details (from most important to least important):
- Biblical Text. Some commentaries lack the Biblical text. Unless it hits all the above check points and stands out one without a translation has little appeal. But I am willing to be persuaded if it is so outstanding I won’t mind having 2 books open side-by-side. As for the translation I am open to a variety (ESV, NIV, NASB, NKJV, etc).
- NT use of the OT: Quotes, Paraphrases, and Allusions. I want these pointed out every time.
- OT passages or themes developed later in the OT or NT. I want these pointed out every time. I expect at Psalm 110 a note referencing every time the NT quotes, alludes to, etc this text.
- Parallels. I want these pointed out every time. Both OT like Kings/Samuel and Chronicles or Psalms with various text and NT like Synoptic.
- Topical references. E.g. I want the first creation text to have a note referencing all the other texts that deal with creation (and the later texts pointing back to this note). I would like this for all major topics. A “sub-topic” here would be “contrasting texts.” As I was working through 1John 2 recently I had come across an author who pointed out texts that both appear to support both the position that there should be, and should not be, teachers. Most would agree that context and a texts self-imposed parameters help define an issue but I do want to be aware of the full breadth of what scriptures says (obviously a 1 or even 6 volume serious cannot give all details but I want to avoid 1 way references toward a particular reading and I am more interested in a tool that readily provides related Biblical contexts.)
- Historical & Literature contexts and tangents. Historical information that is helpful is much appreciated (bonus if it specifically mentions the source). Related contemporary literature is also important to me. With the OT I always like to know (a) what ANE texts exist on this topic or in this genre and (b) how they compare/contract. For the NT I really want to know where there are tangents in Jewish literature (Josephus, Philo, and especially the Mishnah and Dead Sea Scrolls) and Roman historians. I spent some time going through tractate m.Shabbat last year and, while noting the obvious time span issues, there are a lot of contexts that have overlap with NT texts that are worth being familiar with. I want to know these things exist and where to go read up on them. (I cringe at the passing note “in Jewish literature” followed by some generalization).
- Literary considerations. When an author is using a word (word order, phrase) in a particular way of note (technical, emphasis, etc) I would like to know. Pointing out features (chiasms, parallelism, etc) or other literary features I would like to know.
- Archaeology tangents.
- Others. Maps are great in relevant spots of the text. Charts are great if of the topical reference type (e.g. my old NIV Study Bible has a number of excellent charts in the legal sections of Exodus grouping information on a topic). Outlines and time lines (and Chronologies) are nice.
I have been looking for something like this for a while but this post was motivated by going through 1John and I was pretty appalled at how worthless the notes were in most of my study Bibles. I was going through chapter 2 in some detail and I felt like I was doing virtual eye rolls at some of the worthless notes and frustrated that only one made a passing note about the possible connection of 1John 2:27 with Jeremiah 31:34. That one note gave me more to think about than all the other notes from all the various versions I browsed through combined.
Thanks for any and all recommendations! Even if they don't perfectly align with what I need I will take a look and I am sure they may be helpful to others.