[B-Greek] RE: Critical Commentaries

Dr Dale M Wheeler dalemw at multnomah.edu
Mon Feb 24 12:53:33 EST 2003

If I may be permitted to add my $0.02 on this issue.

What I have found using the older commentaries are:

1) the commentaries written before the turn of the century, ie., 1850-1900, 
focused to a great extent on grammar, something not seen in commentaries 
until very recently again (and at that its spotty and mostly copied 
directly from these older commentaries).  Of the group, Ellicott, Alford, 
Eadie, then later Westcott, Lightfoot, Hort (these latter three had 
covenanted to write a set that covered the whole NT, but never finished 
it...too bad), I think Ellicott is the best grammarian.  As others have 
pointed out, one should use these commentators with care when it comes to 
lexicography because they are all pre-papyri.  One other feature, esp., of 
the first three, is that they constantly quote what the Fathers are saying 
about the passages...very interesting!!

2) commentaries written after 1900 until @1950 tended to wrestled with 
lexicography more, since they were beginning to get the information from 
the papyri at this point.  Sets like ICC, Expositors, Robertson, etc., 
don't ignore grammar and argument structure, but they are less concerned 
with it than their predecessors.  As to Robertson...the story goes that his 
Word Pictures was actually seminar papers submitted by his students over 
the years (I don't know that this is true, just what I've heard over the 
years).  I have found things in them from time to time which seem as if 
they couldn't be from Robertson's hand, since they are grammatically 
incorrect, and a check of his grammar on the point would have it correct (I 
use to have a file, but I don't know where it is anymore).

3) After @1950 commentaries started to move into argument development, and 
then split into all kinds of new approaches, theories, etc.

4) Only recently have certain commentary series started to include serious 
discussions of Greek grammar and lexicography...but what you will find is 
that a very large percentage of what they say comes directly from the 
commentaries of Ellicott, Eadie, Alford, Westcott, etc.

5) So, as I instruct my exegesis students, if you use one of the older 
commentaries (eg., Ellicott), later commentaries (eg., ICC), and newer ones 
(eg., Word), you will normally cover all of the problems, get all of the 
alternatives, and lots of good data to help you solve your problems.  And 
since commentators read the previous generations of commentators as well, 
and the early guys were readers of the Fathers, you basically get the 
entire history of interpretation this way.

The bottom line is that there is no such thing as the "one best commentary".

This doesn't mean that you should ignore the grammars, lexicons, biblical 
theologies, histories, etc....but you weren't asking about those...(-:

Dale M. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Research Prof., Biblical Languages    Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street                      Portland, OR  97220
V: 503-251-6416    F:503-251-6478     E: dalemw at multnomah.edu

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