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Which Commentary is Right for You?

Categories Biblical Studies Commentaries (NT) Commentaries (OT)
Which commentary is right for you?

Commentaries are a unique resource that help you dig into the Bible like no other tool. At Zondervan we have a long tradition of producing top-notch commentaries from the world’s best scholars for readers of all levels. But there’s a lot of options, so how do you know which one is right for your study?

In this post, I’ll introduce you to Zondervan’s major commentary series, explain what they aim to accomplish, and who will benefit most from the different approaches they take.

1. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC) Contributors to the EBC series walk readers through each biblical book with verse-by-verse exposition. Drawing on the Bible’s language and original historical background, commentators explain the meaning of biblical passages. They also provide a comprehensive outline for each biblical book and brief reflections on the application of the text to everyday Christian life.

The EBC series is ideal for those who are committed to working through entire biblical books in a group or individual study. Both beginning and more experienced Bible study students will find much value here for taking the text beyond personal reading and into a deeper understanding of what motivated the biblical authors and what they had to say.

2. The Story of God Bible Commentary (SGBC) One of the most innovative commentary series ever produced, the SGBC seeks to pull readers into the Bible’s grand story by showing how each biblical book and passage contribute to the larger story of the Bible. Using three key rubrics—LISTEN, EXPLAIN, LIVE—these commentaries recount the Bible’s unfolding story, describe how the text fits into its historical and canonical setting, and encourages readers to think deeply about how application of the Bible makes believers a part of God’s redemptive story.

The Bible does not change, but how we relate it to the culture and world around us is always in flux. The SGBC helps readers navigate living-out the Bible in the ever-changing contemporary world by explaining the grounded and eternal truth of Scripture. This makes SGBC volumes a perfect companion for those excited to tell others about the biblical message and for those who want to live the gospel as part of their own story.

3. Word Biblical Commentary (WBC) Designed for professional scholars and formally trained students, the WBC presents a technical interaction with the biblical text and recent scholarship. Presenting his or her own translation based on textual analysis and their interpretation of the text, each author intricately outlines each biblical book and  provides a complete examination of each distinct pericope. This includes grammar, structure, setting, and historical background as well as a comprehensive interpretation of the text.

The WBC is a must-have resource for advanced students of the Bible, especially those focused on the original languages. As a multi-faceted academic discipline, biblical scholarship requires resources that cover each aspect of biblical interpretation, from textual criticism to expert translation and from historical background to grammatical structure. The authors in the WBC series uniformly achieve this goal with excellence.

4. Zondervan Exegetical Commentary (ZEC) If you’re a pastor or Bible instructor seeking to teach students the Bible from the original languages, the ZEC is the commentary for you. Covering both the Old (ZECOT) and New Testament (ZECNT), this examines the literary context and grammatical structure of each passage whether it is in Greek or Hebrew. Authors explain the literary structure in their commentary and demonstrate it visually, making the structure of each biblical passage easy to discern.

An exegetical outline and consistent focus on the “big idea” of passages compliments this emphasis on literary structure handsomely, helping teachers and pastors develop text-focused teaching derived directly from rigorous biblical study. This series generates an exciting engagement with the biblical text, and students hoping to become scholars or who hope to go into ministry will find it very helpful.

5. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (ZIBBC) Have you ever wished you could read the Bible through the eyes of a first-century reader? The ZIBBC provides lavish full-color photos and graphics that will help you discover the world of the New Testament as it was experienced by those who lived it. Each volume provides informative chapter-level commentary that contextualizes every image and infographic, illuminating the message of the New Testament in a real-world and easy to understand way.

The visual-aids are especially helpful for beginning students who are being introduced to formal study of the biblical text for the first time, especially if they need to retain a large number of basic facts, such as the role of key New Testament people, dates, events, and more.

6. NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC) Understanding that biblical study has two major components—the meaning of the passage and its application to our lives today— NIVAC authors provide a robust exposition of Scripture in its original setting and examine how it should be applied today. But perhaps most importantly the authors don’t just tell readers what the application is, they walk readers through of determining the application which can be a complicated transition.

The NIVAC series if for serious students who want to understand how and why the Bible applies to today but who also desire a deep grounding in exegetical details. It is ideal for any instructor preparing a Bible course, and for formally trained Bible study leaders who wish to push their study group deeper into the Bible.

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