I. THE WORD--GENERAL SCOPE
II. DIFFERENCES IN CHARACTER OF COMMENTARIES
III. RANGE OF COMMENTARIES
1. Early Commentaries
(1) Origen, etc.
(2) Chrysostom, etc.
2. Scholastic Period
Nicolas de Lyra
3. Reformation and Post-Reformation Periods
(1) Luther and Calvin
(2) Beza, Grotius, etc.
(3) Later Writers
4. 18th Century
(1) Calmer, M. Henry, etc.
(2) Patrick, Lowth, Scott
(3) Gill, Doddridge
5. The Modern Period--Its Characteristics
(a) The Liberal School
(b) Believing Tendency
(v) Godet (Swiss)
(2) Britain and America
(a) Alford, Eadie
(b) Ellicott and Lightfoot
(d) Critical Influences--Broad Church
Stanley and Jowett
(e) General Commentaries (Series)
6. Recent Period
(2) Britain and America
I. The Word--General Scope.
Etymologically, a commentary (from Latin commentor) denotes jottings, annotations, memoranda, on a given subject, or perhaps on a series of events; hence, its use in the plural as a designation for a narrative or history, as the Commentaries of Caesar. In its application to Scripture, the word designates a work devoted to the explanation, elucidation, illustration, sometimes the homiletic expansion and edifying utilization, of the text of some book or portion of Scripture. The primary function of a good commentary is to furnish an exact interpretation of the meaning of the passage under consideration; it belongs to it also to show the connection of ideas, the steps of argument, the scope and design of the whole, in the writing in question. This can only be successfully accomplished by the help of a knowledge of the original language of the writing, and of the historical setting of the particular passage; by careful study of the context, and of the author's general usages of thought and speech; and by comparison of parallel or related texts. Aid may also be obtained from external sources, as a knowledge of the history, archaeology, topography, chronology, manners and customs, of the lands, peoples and times referred to; or, as in Deissmann's recent discoveries, from the light thrown on peculiarities of language by papyri or other ancient remains (see his Light from the Ancient East).
II. Differences in Character of Commentaries.
It is obvious that commentaries will vary greatly in character and value according as they are more scholarly, technical, and critical, entering, e.g. into philological discussions, and tabulating and remarking upon the various views held as to the meaning; or again, more popular, aiming only at bringing out the general sense, and conveying it to the mind of the reader in attractive and edifying form. When the practical motive predominates, and the treatment is greatly enlarged by illustration, application, and the enforcement of lessons, the work loses the character of commentary proper, and partakes more of the character of homily or discourse.
III. Range of Commentaries.
No book in the world has been made the subject of so much commenting and exposition as the Bible. Theological libraries are full of commentaries of all descriptions and all grades of worth. Some are commentaries on the original Hebrew or Greek texts; some on the English or other versions Modern commentaries are usually accompanied with some measure of introduction to the books commented upon; the more learned works have commonly also some indication of the data for the determination of the textual readings (see TEXTUAL CRITICISM). Few writers are equal to the task of commenting with profit on the Bible as a whole, and, with the growth of knowledge, this task is now seldom attempted. Frequently, however, one writer contributes many valuable works, and sometimes, by cooperation of like-minded scholars, commentaries on the whole Bible are produced. It is manifestly a very slight survey that can be taken in a brief article of the work of commenting, and of the literature to which it has given rise; the attempt can only be made to follow the lines most helpful to those seeking aid from this class of books. On the use and abuse of commentaries by the preacher, C. H. Spurgeon's racy remarks in his Commenting and Commentaries may be consulted.
1. Early Commentaries:
Rabbinical interpretations and paraphrases of the Old Testament may here be left out of account (see next article; also TARGUM; TALMUD; F. W. Farrar's History of Interpretation, Lect II). Commentaries on the New Testament could not begin till the New Testament books themselves were written, and had acquired some degree of authority as sacred writings (see BIBLE). The earliest commentaries we hear of are from the heretical circles of the Gnostics. Heracleon, a Valentinian (circa 175 AD), wrote a commentary on the Gospel of John (fragments in Origen), and on parts at least of the Gospel of Luke. Tatian, a disciple of Justin Martyr, about the same time, compiled his Diatessaron, or Harmony of the Four Gospels, on which, at a later time, commentaries were written. Ephraem Syrus (4th century) wrote such a commentary, of which an Armenian translation has now been recovered. The Church Father Hippolytus (beginning of 3rd century), wrote several commentaries on the Old Testament (Exodus, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Daniel, Zechariah, etc.), and on Matthew, Luke and Revelation.
(1) Origen, etc.
The strongest impulse, however, to the work of commenting and exposition of Holy Scripture undoubtedly proceeded from the school of Alexandria--especially from Origen (203-254 AD). Clement, Origen's predecessor, had written a treatise called Hupotuposeis, or "Outlines," a survey of the contents of Holy Scripture. Origen himself wrote commentaries on all the books of the Old Testament, Ruth, Est and Eccl alone excepted, and on most of the books of the New Testament (Mark, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, James, Jude, Revelation excepted). He furnished besides, scholia, or notes on difficult passages, and delivered Homilies, or discourses, the records of which fill three folio volumes. "By his Tetrapla and Hexapla," says Farrar, "he became the founder of all textual criticism; by his Homilies he fixed the type of a popular exposition; his scholia were the earliest specimens of marginal explanations; his commentaries furnished the church with her first continuous exegesis" (op. cit., 188). Unfortunately, the Alexandrian school adopted a principle of allegorical interpretation which led it frequently into the most extravagant fancies. Assuming a threefold sense in Scripture--a literal, a moral, and a spiritual--it gave reins to caprice in foisting imaginary meanings on the simplest historical statements (Farrar, op. cit., 189 ff). Some of Origen's commentaries, however, are much freer from allegory than others, and all possess high value (compare Lightfoot, Galatians, 217). The later teachers of the Alexandrian school continued the exegetical works of Origen. Pamphilus of Caesarea, the friend of Eusebius, is said to have written Old Testament commentaries.
(2) Chrysostom, etc.
At the opposite pole from the allegorizing Alexandrian school of interpretation was the Antiochinn, marked by a sober, literal and grammatical style of exegesis. Its reputed founder was Lucian (martyred 311 AD); but its real heads were Diodorus of Tarsus( 379-94 AD) and Theodore of Mopsuestia (393-428 AD); and its most distinguished representative was John Chrysostom (347-407 AD). Chrysostom wrote continuous commentaries on Isaiah (only Isa 1 through 8:10 remaining) and on Galatians; but his chief contributions were his Homilies, covering almost the whole of the Old Testament and New Testament. Of these over 600 remain, chiefly on the New Testament. They are unequal in character, those on Acts being reputed the feeblest; others, as those on Matthew, Romans and Corinthians, are splendid examples of expository teaching. Schaff speaks of Chrysostom as "the prince of commentators among the Fathers" ( History, Ante-Nicene Per., 816). Thomas Aquinas is reported to have said that he would rather possess Chrysostom's homilies on Matthew than be master of all Paris. In the West, Ambrose of Milan (340-97 AD) wrote expositions of Old Testament histories and of Luke (allegorical and typical), and Jerome (346-420 AD) wrote numerous commentaries on Old Testament and New Testament books, largely, however, compilations from others.
2. Scholastic Period:
The medieval and scholastic period offers little for our purpose. There was diligence in copying manuscripts, and producing catenae of the opinions of the Fathers; in the case of the schoolmen, in building up elaborate systems of theology; but the Scriptures were thrown into the background.
Nicolas de Lyra.
The 14th century, however, produced one commentator of real eminence--Nicolas de Lyra (1270-1340). Nicolas was a Franciscan monk, well versed in Hebrew and rabbinical learning. While recognizing the usual distinctions of the various senses of Scripture, he practically builds on the literal, and exhibits great sobriety and skill in his interpretations. His work, which bears the name Postillae Perpetuae in Universa Biblia, was much esteemed by Luther, who acknowledged his indebtedness to it. Hence, the jest of his opponents, Si Lyra non lyrasset, Lutherus non saltasset (a notice of Lyra may be seen in Farrar, op. cit., 274-78).
3. Reformation and Post-Reformation Periods:
The Reformation brought men's minds back to the Scriptures and opened a new era in Biblical exposition and commentary. It became the custom to expound the Scriptures on Sundays and week-days in all the pulpits of the Protestant churches. "Luther's custom was to expound consecutively in a course of sermons the Old and New Testaments" (Kostlin). The Reformation began at Zurich with a series of discourses by Zwingli on the Gospel of Matthew. The same was true of Calvin, Beza, Knox and all associated with them. The production of commentaries or expository homilies was the necessary result.
(1) Luther and Calvin.
As outstanding examples may be mentioned Luther's Commentary on Galatians, and the noble commentaries of Calvin. Not all by any means, but very many of the commentaries of Calvin were the fruit of pulpit prelections (e.g. the expositions of Job, the Minor Prophets, Jeremiah, Daniel). Others, as the commentaries on Romans and the Psalms (reputed his best), were prepared with great care. Calvin's supreme excellence as a commentator is disputed by no one. From every school and shade of opinion in Christendom could be produced a chorus of testimony to the remarkable gifts of mind and heart displayed in his expositions of Scripture--to his breadth, moderation, fairness and modernness of spirit, in exhibiting the sense of inward genius of Holy Writ. The testimony of Arminius is as striking as any: "I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin's commentaries .... for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the library of the Fathers."
(2) Beza, Grotius, etc.
Lutheranism had its distinguished exegetes (Brenz, died 1572), who wrote able commentaries on the Old Testament, and in both the Calvinistic and Arminian branches of the Reformed church the production of commentaries held a chief place. Beza, Calvin's successor, is acknowledged to have possessed many of the best exegetical qualities which characterized his master. Grotius, in Holland (died 1645), occupies the foremost place among the expositors in this century on the Arminian side. His exegetical works, if not marked by much spirituality, show sagacity and learning, and are enriched by parallels from classical literature. The school of Cocceius (died 1669) developed the doctrine of the covenants, and reveled in typology. Cocceius wrote commentaries on nearly all the books of Scripture. His pupil Vitringa (died 1716) gained renown by his expositions of Isa and the Apocalypse.
(3) Later writers.
Partly fostered by the habit of basing commentary on pulpit exposition, the tendency early set in to undue prolixity in the unfolding of the meaning of Scripture. "In the Lutheran church," says Van Oosterzee, "they began to preach on whole books of the Bible; sometimes in a very prolix manner, as, e.g. in the case of the 220 sermons by one Striegnitz, a preacher at Meissen, on the history of Jonah, of which four are devoted to the consideration of the words `Unto Jonah' " (Practical Theol., 120). The habit spread. The commentaries of Peter Martyr (Swiss Reformer, died 1562) on Judges and Romans occupy a folio each; N. Byfield (Puritan, died 1622) on Colossians fills a folio; Caryl (Independent, died 1673) on Job extends to 2 folios; Durham (died 1658) on Isa 53 consists of 72 sermons; Venema (Holland, died 1787) on Jeremiah fills 2 quartos, and on the Psalms no less than 6 quartos. These are only samples of a large class. H. Hammond's A Paraphrase and Annotations on the New Testament, from an Arminian Standpoint belong to this period (1675). Another work which long took high rank is M. Poole's elaborate Synopsis Criticorum Biblicorum (5 volumes, folio, 1669-76)--a summary of the opinions of 150 Biblical critics; with which must be taken his English Annotations on the Holy Bible, only completed up to Isa 58 at the time of his death (1679). The work was continued by his friends.
4. 18th Century:
(1) Calmet, M. Henry, etc.
The 18th century is marked by greater sobriety in exegesis. It is prolific in commentaries, but only a few attain to high distinction. Calmet (died 1757), a learned Benedictine, on the Roman Catholic side, produced his Commentaire litteral sur tous les livres de l'Ancien et du Nouveau Testament, in 23 quarto volumes--a work of immense erudition, though now necessarily superseded in its information. On the Protestant side, Matthew Henry's celebrated Exposition of the Old and New Testament (1708-10) easily holds the first place among devotional commentaries for its blending of good sense, quaintness, original and felicitous remark, and genuine insight into the meaning of the sacred writers. It is, of course, not a critical work in the modern acceptation, and often is unduly diffuse. M. Henry's work extends only to the end of Acts; the remaining books were done by various writers after his death (1714). Le Clerc (died 1736) may be named as precursor of the critical views now obtaining on the composition and authorship of the Pentateuch His commentaries began with Gen in 1693 and were not Completed till 1731. Other commentators of note of Arminian views were Daniel Whitby (died 1726; converted to Arianism), and, later, Adam Clarke, Wesleyan (1762-1832), whose work extends into the next century. Clarke's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures (1810-26), still held by many in high esteem, is marred to some extent by eccentricities of opinion.
(2) Patrick, Lowth, Scott.
In the Anglican church the names of chief distinction in this century are Bishop Patrick, Bishop Lowth, and later, Thomas Scott. Bishop Patrick, usually classed with the Cambridge Platonists (died 1707), contributed paraphrases and commentaries on the Old Testament from Genesis to Canticles, while Bishop Lowth (died 1787) acquired lasting fame by his Prelections on Hebrew Poetry, and A New Translation, with Notes on Isaiah. He was among the first to treat the poetical and prophetic writings really as literature. The commentaries of Patrick and Lowth were subsequently combined with those of Whitby and other divines (Arnold, etc.) to form a complete Critical Commentary (1809), which went through many editions. The well-known commentary of Thomas Scott (1747-1821), representing a moderate Calvinism, is a solid and "judicious" piece of work, inspired by an earnest, believing spirit, though not presenting any marked originality or brilliance. Brilliance is not the characteristic of many commentators of this age.
(3) Gill, Doddridge.
Two other English writers deserving notice are Dr. John Gill (died 1771; Calvinistic Baptist), who wrote Expositions on the Old Testament and the New Testament and a separate Exposition of the Song of Solomon--learned, but ponderous and controversial; and Dr. Philip Doddridge (died 1751), whose Family Expositor, embracing the entire New Testament, with a harmony of the Gospels, and paraphrases of the meaning, is marked by excellent judgment, and obtainea wide acceptance.
Meanwhile a new period had been preluded in Germany by the appearance in 1742 of the Gnomon Novi Testamenti of J. A. Bengel (died 1751), a work following upon his critical edition of the New Testament issued in 1734. Though belonging to the 18th century, Bengel's critical and expository labors really herald and anticipate the best work in these departments of the 19th century His scholarship was exact, his judgment sound, his critical skill remarkable in a field in which he was a pioneer; his notes on the text, though brief, were pregnant with significance, and were informed by a spirit of warm and living piety.
The modern period, to which Bengel in spirit, if not in date, belongs, is marked by great changes in the style and character of commentaries. The critical temper was now strong; great advances had been made in the textual criticism of both Old Testament and New Testament (see TEXTUAL CRITICISM); the work of the higher criticism had begun in the Old Testament; in Germany, the spirit of humanism, inherited from Lessing, Herder and Goethe, had found its way into literature; knowledge of the sciences, of oriental civilizations, of other peoples and religions, was constantly on the increase; scholarship was more precise and thorough; a higher ideal of what commentary meant had taken possession of the mind.
5. The Modern Period--Its Characteristics:
Learning, too, had enlarged its borders, and books on all subjects poured from the press in such numbers that it was difficult to cope with them. This applies to commentaries as to other departments of theological study. Commentaries in the 19th century, and in our own, are legion. Only the most prominent landmarks can be noted.
(a) The liberal school.
In Germany, as was to be anticipated, the rise of the critical spirit and the profound influence exercised by it are reflected in most of the commentaries produced in the first half of the century. On the liberal side, the rationalistic temper is shown in the rejection of miracle, the denial of prediction in prophecy, and the lowering of the idea of inspiration generally. The scholarship, however, is frequently of a very high order. This temper is seen in De Wette (died 1849), whose commentaries on the New Testament, written when his views had become more positive, show grace and feeling; in Gesenius (died 1842), who produced an epoch-making commentary on Isaiah; in Knobel (died 1863), pronouncedly rationalistic, but with keen critical sense, as evinced in his commentaries on the Pentateuch and Joshua, Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah; in Hupfeld (died 1866) in his Commentary on the Psalms (4 volumes); in Hitzig (died 1875), acute but arbitrary, who wrote on the Psalms and most of the Prophets; above all, in Ewald (died 1875), a master in the interpretation of the poetical and prophetical books, but who commented also on the first three Gospels, on the writings of John, and on Paul's epistles. Ewald's influence is felt in the History of the Jewish Church by Dean Stanley, in England. The Exegetical Handbook (Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch) embraced compendious annotations by Knobel, Hitzig, Bertbeau (school of Ewald), etc., but also Olshausen (died 1839; wrote likewise on the New Testament), on all the books of the Old Testament.
(b) Believing tendency.
On the believing side, from a variety of standpoints, evangelical, critical, mediating, confessional, a multitude of commentaries on the Old Testament and New Testament were produced.
The extremely conservative position in criticism was defended by Hengstenberg (died, 1869; on Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel, John, Revelation), by Keil (died 1888) in the well-known Keil and Delitzsch series (Genesis to Esther, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Minor Prophets; also New Testament commentaries), and by Havernick (died 1845; Daniel, Ezekiel). Delitzsch (died 1890) wrote valued commentaries on Genesis, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah; also on Hebrews.
After the rise of the Wellhausen school, he considerably modified his views in the newer critical direction. His New Commentary on Genesis (1887) shows this change, but, with his other works, is still written in a strongly believing spirit. On the other hand, the critical position (older, not newer) is frankly represented by A. Dillmann (died 1894) in his commentaries on the books of the Pentateuch and Joshua (English translation of Genesis, 1897; many also of the above works are translated).
The mediating school, largely penetrated by the influence of Schleiermacher, had many distinguished representatives. Among the most conspicuous may be named Lucke (died 1855), who wrote on John; Bleek, the Old Testament and New Testament critical scholar (died 1859), who has a work on the first three Gospels, and lectures on Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Hebrews and Revelation (his Commentary on Hebrews is the best known), and Tholuck (died 1877), whose expositions and commentaries on Psalms, John, Romans and Hebrews with his Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, are fine pieces of exegetical work.
A special place must be given to two names of high distinction in the present connection. One is J. P. Lange (died 1884), the projector and editor of the great Bibelwerk (theological and homiletical) in 22 volumes, to which he himself contributed the commentaries on Genesis to Numbers, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Matthew, Mark, John, Romans, Revelation, with introductions and homiletic hints. The other is H. A. W. Meyer (died 1873), whose Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament from Matthew to Philippians (the remaining books being done by other scholars, Lunemann, Huther, etc.) is an essential part of every New Testament scholar's equipment.
With the more positive and confessional theologians may be ranked E. R. Stier (died 1862). whose Words of the Lord Jesus (English translation in 8 volumes; Biblical, mystical, tendency to prolixity), with commentaries on 70 selected Psalms, Proverbs, 2nd Isaiah, Ephesians, Hebrews, James and Jude, found much acceptance. A. von Harless (died 1879) wrote a Commentary on Ephesians, praised by Tholuck as one of the finest extant. Philippi (died 1882), of Jewish extraction, best known by his Commentary on Romans, was strictly Lutheran. One of the ablest of the Lutheran Confessionalists was Luthardt (died 1892), whose works include a Commentary on John's Gospel. Ebrard (died 1887), as stoutly confessional on the Reformed side, has an esteemed Commentary on Hebrews.
(v) Godet (Swiss):
An eminent continental theologian who cannot be overlooked is the Swiss F. L. Godet (died 1900), whose admirable Commentary on John's Gospel, and commentaries on Romans and Corinthians are highly appreciated.
(2) Britain and America.
Meanwhile the English speaking countries were pursuing their own paths in the production of commentaries, either in continuing their old traditions, or in striking out on new lines, under the foreign influences which, from the beginning of the century, had begun to play upon them. In England Bishop Blomfield (died 1857) published Lectures on John and Acts. In the United States there appeared from the pen of Dr. J. A. Alexander, of Princeton (died 1860), a noteworthy Commentary on Isaiah, fully abreast of the modern learning, but staunchly censervative; also a Commentary on Psalms. From the same seminary proceeded the massive commentaries of Dr. Charles Hodge (Calvinistic) on Romans, Ephesians and Corinthians. Adapted for popular use and greatly in demand for Sunday-school purposes were the Notes, Critical, Explanatory and Practical of Albert Barnes (died 1871; New School Presbyterian). These Notes, the fruit of the use of the early morning hours in a busy pastoral life, covered the whole of the New Testament, with several books of the Old Testament (Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Daniel). Sensible and informative, rather than original or profound, they proved helpful to many. Over 1,000,000 copies are stated to have been sold. Of similar aim, though less widely known, were the Notes of Professor M. W. Jacobus (died 1876; on the New Testament, Genesis and Exodus).
(i) Alford, Eadie:
A new era was opened in critical commentary in England by the publication of the Greek Testament (1849-61) of Dean Alford (died 1871), followed by his New Testament for English Readers (1868). Here was presented a thoroughly critical treatment of the texts, with a full display of the critical apparatus, and notes philological and exegetical, accompanied by learned and lucid introductions, on all the books of the New Testament. About the same time appeared the solid, if more theological and homiletical, commentaries of the Scottish scholar, J. Eadie (died 1876), on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
(ii) Ellicott and Lighfoot:
Anglican scholarship produced its ripest fruits in this line in the classical Critical and Grammatical Commentary of Bishop Ellicott (died 1905) on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Thessalonians, Pastoral Epistles, and the yet more remarkable series of commentaries of Bishop J. B. Lightfoot (died 1889), massive in learning, and wider in outlook than Ellicott's, on Galatians, Philemon, Colossians and Philemon. A large part of the value of Lightfoot's works consists in the special essays or dissertations on important subjects embodied in them (e.g. "St. Paul and the Three", "The Christian Ministry," "The Colossian Heresy," etc.).
With these names should be associated that of Bishop Westcott, Dr. Lightfoot's successor in the see of Durham (died 1901), whose commentaries on the Gospel and Epistles of John, and on He, take a place among the foremost. Bishop Moule, who, in turn, succeeded Dr. Westcott; has also written commentaries, simpler in character, on Romans, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, in the Cambridge Bible Series, and on Romans in the Expositor's Bible. In Old Testament exposition mention should be made of Bishop Perowne's valuable work on the Book of Psalms (2nd edition, revised, 1870), with his contributions to the Cambridge Bible (see below).
(iv) Critical Influences--Broad Church
Stanley and Jowett:
The critical and theological liberalism of Germany has made its influence felt in England in the rise of a Broad Church party, the best products of which in commentary were Dean Stanley's (died 1881) graphic and interesting Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (1855) and Dr. B. Jowett's Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians, Galatians, and Romans, with Critical Notes and Dissertations (1855). The new spirit culminated in the appearance of the famous Essays and Reviews (1860), and in the works of Bishop Colenso on the Pentateuch and Joshua (1862-79). Bishop Colenso had already published a translation of Romans, with commentary (1861).
(v) General Commentaries (Series):
Besides works by individual authors, there appeared during this period several general commentaries, to the production of which many writers contributed. The following may be mentioned. The Speaker's Commentary (10 volumes, 1871-82), under the general editorship of Canon F. C. Cook (died 1889), was called forth by the agitation over Bishop Colenso. Dr. Cook himself wrote introductions to Exodus, Psalms and Acts, and contributed the entire commentaries on Job, Habakkuk, Mark, Luke, 1 Peter, with parts of commentaries on Exodus, Psalms and Matthew. The work is of unequal value. A serviceable series is the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (1877 ff), edited by Bishop Perowne, with Smaller Cambridge Bible for Schools, and Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges (still in process). Dr. Perowne (died 1904) himself contributed to the first-named the commentaries on Obadiah, Jonah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and Galatians. Many valuable contributions appear in this series, e.g. A. F. Kirkpatrick on 1 and 2 Samuel and Psalms, A. B. Davidson on Job and Ezekiel, Driver on Daniel, G. G. Findlay on Thessalonians, etc. Next, under the editorship of Bishop Ellicott, were produced (1877-84) A New Testament Commentary for English Readers (3 volumes), and An Old Testament Commentary for English Readers (5 volumes), which contained some valuable work (Genesis by R. Payne Smith, Exodus by Canon G. Rawlinson, etc.). Akin to this in character was the Popular Commentary on the New Testament (4 volumes, 1879-83), edited by Dr. W. Schaff. This embraced, with other excellent matter, commentaries on Thessalonians by Dr. Marcus Dods, and on 1 and 2 Peter by Dr. S. D. F. Salmond. The Pulpit Commentary (49 volumes, 1880 ff), edited by J. S. Exell and Canon H. D. M. Spence, has expositions by good scholars, and an abundance of homiletical material by a great variety of authors. The series of Handbooks for Bible Classes (T. and T. Clark, Edinburgh) has a number of valuable commentaries, e.g. that of Dr. A. B. Davidson on He.
6. Recent Period:
In the most recent period the conspicuous feature has been the production of commentaries in series or by individual writers embodying the results of an advanced Old Testament criticism--in less degree of a radical New Testament criticism.
In Germany, in addition to the Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch, of older standing (see above), to which Dillmann contributed, may be mentioned Marti's Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Altes Testament (1897 ff) and Nowack's Handkommentar zum Altes Testament; also Strack-and Zockler's Kurzgefasster Kommentar (Old Testament and New Testament; critical, but moderate). Marti contributes to his Hand-Commentar the volumes on Isaiah, Daniel and the Minor Prophets; Nowack contributes to his Handkommentar the volumes on Judges and Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel and the Minor Prophets (of special importance in Nowack's series are the volumes on Genesis by H. Gunkel, and on Deuteronomy and Joshua by C. Steuernagel); Strack writes in his own work the volumes on Genesis to Numbers (Oettli contributes Deuteronomy, Joshua and Judges). Much more conservative in spirit are the commentaries of H.C. von Orelli (Basel) on Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Minor Prophets. In the New Testament, Meyer's Commentary has been "revised" by later writers, many of them (J. Weiss, W. Bousset, etc.) of much more advanced tendency than the original author.
(2) Britain and America.
In Britain and America like currents are observable. Professor T.K. Cheyne, who wrote a helpful commentary on the Prophecies of Isa (1880-81), and subsequently commentaries on Micah and Hosea (Cambridge Bible), Jeremiah (Pulpit Commentary), and on The Book of Psalms (1884), has become more and more extreme in his opinions. Of works in series the most important is The International Critical Commentary, edited by Drs. Driver and Plummer in England, and Dr. C. A. Briggs in the United States, of which 16 volumes in the Old Testament and the New Testament have already appeared. It need not be said that the commentaries in this series are always scholarly and able; those on the Old Testament are, however, all built on the Wellhausen foundations (see CRITICISM OF THE BIBLE. III). Dr. Driver himself writes on Deuteronomy; Dr. J. Skinner, on Genesis; Dr. G. F. Moore, on Judges; Dr. H. P. Smith, on 1 and 2 Samuel; Dr. Briggs, on Psalms; Dr. Toy, on Proverbs; Dr. W. R. Harper (died 1906), on Amos and Hosea; while Matthew in the New Testament is covered by W. C. Allen, Luke by Dr. Plummer, Romans by Drs. Sanday and Headlam, etc. A similar series is the Westminister Commentary, recently commenced, to which Dr. Driver contributes the volume on Genesis (1904; 7th edition, 1909). Yet another recent popular series is The Century Bible, to which again leading critical scholars lend their aid (Dr. W. H. Bennett on Genesis; also on "General Epistles"; Dr. A. R. S. Kennedy on 1 and 2 Samuel; Dr. Skinner on 1 and 2 Kings; Dr. A. S. Peake on Job; also on Hebrews; Dr. Driver on a group of the Minor Prophets, etc.). A well-planned one-vol Commentary on the Holy Bible, by various writers, has recently been edited by J. R. Dummelow (Cambridge). It is prefaced by a general Introduction, with a large number of articles on the principal subjects with which a reader of the Bible will desire to be acquainted.
It need only be added that very many of the foreign works mentioned above (not simply those specially noted) are now accessible in English translations.
Works and articles specially devoted to commentaries are not numerous. Dr. S. Davidson has an article "Commentary" in Kitto's Biblical Encyclopedia, Vol I. See also F. W. Farrar's Hist of Interpretation (Bampton Lects for 1885). G. H. Spurgeon's popular talks on Commenting and Commentaries are accompanied by extensive lists of Commentaries on all parts of the Bible (severely exclusive of works deemed dangerous). Lists of commentaries on the Bible as a whole, on the Old Testament and New Testament separately, and on the several books, may be seen in most good works on Introduction, or in prolegomena to commentaries on the different books; e.g. in the general Introduction prefixed to Lange's Commentary on Genesis; also in the lengthy sections on Jewish, Greek, Latin and Protestant commentators, and again in the "Index of the More Important Expository Works on the Books of the Old Testament." In Bleek's Introduction to the Old Testament, very full information is given up to the author's date. Full bibliographies of modern books, including commentaries on the Old Testament, are furnished in Dr. Driver's Introduction. Similar lists are given in other works regarding the New Testament. For the writers of the commentaries on the special books in the above-noted German and English series, lists may generally be seen attached to each volume of the series.