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RELS 118: New Testament (Johnson Hodge): Bible Commentaries

Spring 2024

Locating Commentaries

Commentaries in the Library: 

For commentaries, you'll mostly want to look in the BS sections of the library, located on the Mezzanine level of the Dinand Stacks. BS is the section for study of the Bible. 

Books at Dinand Library are arranged by Library of Congress Call Number. Call Numbers are used to find books in the library. Each book is assigned a call number made  up of letters and numbers, which acts like an address and tells you what shelves to look on.

  • Reference Books are in the Main Reading Room. These books must stay in the library.
  • Numbers beginning with A through G are on the Mezzanine level (1 floor down from the Main Reading Room).
  • Numbers beginning with H through Z are mostly on the Ground (bottom) level.
  • Numbers beginning with are located in the Visual Arts Wing (main level). 
  • Numbers beginning with are in the Music Library in Brooks Hall.
  • Numbers beginning with Q, R, S or are in the Science Library in Swords Hall.

You can also watch our video tutorial 📺 to learn more about how call numbers work. Or, check out the Library of Congress Classification Outline for a detailed breakdown of our call number system. 

The handout below includes a detailed stacks map, and more information about places to look for this specific project: 

Choosing a Commentary

Guidelines for Choosing Commentaries: 

As you select commentaries to use in your assignment, please adhere to the following criteria outlined by your professor:

  • Do not use old commentaries -- the more recent the better.  Stick to those published in the last 50 years.
  • Do not use the "Ancient Commentary" series.  This series shares what ancient authors thought about the Bible.  For this assignment you need to find out what modern scholars think.
  • Do not use online commentaries, unless they are E-Books you have found through the Library's web pages (CrossSearch or the "classic" catalog).
  • Do use commentaries that cover only one book of the Bible (or part of one), as opposed to commentaries which address the entire New Testament or the entire Bible! 

You can see a number of recommended commentaries on the "Suggested Commentaries" tab of this box; but you may also choose other commentaries available in the library as long as they meet the above guidelines.

To find Old Testament Bible commentaries in the library catalog, try searching by Subject in the Library Catalog (not CrossSearch) for

Bible. N.T. [name of book] – Commentaries.

If a book is numbered (for example, 1 Corinthians) you will need to put the number after the name of the book -- so, for example,

Bible. > N.T. > Corinthians, 1st > Commentaries

You can also look at these recommended commentaries and commentary series: 

What's the Difference? 

Every commentary series is different! Here are some of the things that separate them: 

  • Version -- Which Bible version/translation is used? Be aware that different translations of the Bible, even similar ones, may use different English words to convey the original sense of the text, which may in turn affect the language used in the commentary. 
  • Approach-- Does the commentary focus on the linguistics? Theology? Historical context? A combination of the above? etc. 
  • Language-- Some commentaries are easier to use if you have some knowledge of biblical and/or classical languages. 

  • Depth, Detail, Coverage -- Commentaries which devote an entire volume to a given book or portion of a book will provide different kinds of information than commentaries which cover the entire Bible in a handful of volumes. Additionally, consider what you'd like to know, and what kind of commentary would be most appropriate for that. To zero in on a couple of specific verses, a detailed line-by-line commentary will be most helpful. But to get a sense of the chapter or book as a whole, a broader commentary could also provide useful perspective. 

Remember -- you can miss a lot by narrowly focusing on only one commentary. The more commentaries you compare, the more complete picture you will get of the book and passage you are working with, the different interpretations, and the issues and themes involved.