Book Review: John Glynn, Best Bible Books: New Testament Resources

Glynn, John. Best Bible Books: New Testament Resources. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 2018. 318 pp. Pb. $27.99   Link to Kregel

Best Bible Books is an annotated bibliography for the study of the New Testament. There are listings for each New Testament book. The commentary lists are divided into Technical/Semitechnical and Exposition and rated in three categories: good, better and best. The first footnote of each section lists a few forthcoming commentaries. Following the commentary list is a section labeled “special studies.” These are monographs devoted to issues for a particular biblical book (Theology of Luke-Acts, Women in Ministry, etc.) Some titles in these lists are highlighted as better than the rest. At the end of the book Burer offers his “ultimate New Testament commentary collection” by listing the top two commentaries for each book of the New Testament. The volume includes a name index so readers can quickly check their favorite writers.

John Glynn, Best Bible Books for New Testament studiesA short chapter at the beginning of the volume offers some advice for building up a “must have” personal reference library. This chapter is divided into advice for the lay-person, Bible College or seminary student, and the pastor. At the end of the book Burer offers his “ultimate New Testament commentary collection” by listing the top two commentaries for each book of the New Testament. Burer also contributes a short list of one-volume commentaries.

There are a number of specialized bibliographies. Darrell Bock offers lists including New Testament Introductions, Surveys and Theologies, New Testament Introductions cover issues of authorship and destination, material also included in a good New Testament survey. A New Testament Theology may offer a summary of the teaching for each book of the New Testament or for each author. Two lists are devoted to Paul, one on Paul and the Law and another on Pauline Theology. Bock also contributes a nine-page bibliography for Jesus and the Gospels divided into sections on Historical Jesus in three lists, one for evangelical studies and another for the Jesus Seminar and a third for background studies. There are five short lists on the Synoptic Problem divided into the various solutions to the problem and a sixth list for general books on the synoptic problem.

Joseph Fantin provides two lists of books on New Testament Background, Jewish Background and Burer has lists of both popular general references (both chapters cover atlases and Bible dictionaries), New Testament Greek Resources, Exegesis, Interpretation and Hermeneutics. These sections are divided into a number of helpful subcategories although these subcategories do not appear in the table of contents so readers may not be able to find them quickly.

This is the eleventh edition of Glynn’s original Commentary and Reference Survey. When Kregel last published the Survey in 2007 it included Old and New Testament commentaries as well as a section on theological resources. Sadly John Gynnn died in 2007. The current editor and Dallas Theological Seminary professor Michael Burer indicates in his introduction to this new edition that “subsequent volumes will address Old Testament and theological resources.”  Burer has enlisted several additional scholars to create the lists in this new edition of the book, each section has an author. There are new sections on computer based resources (although this was less evident as expected). The new edition also drops Glynn’s assessment of the “theological stance” of the commentator.

The various contributors to these bibliographies come from conservative, evangelical institutions (mostly Dallas Theological Seminary). It will be no surprise their “best” commentaries tend to be published by evangelical publishers. The introduction lists commentary series as evangelical, mixed and liberal. However, the authors do include a broad range commentaries and writers who are “middle to left” on the theological spectrum. The specialized studies lists include titles from dissertation series and journal monographs.

One might question the value of a printed commentary survey like Best Bible Books in a world dominated by the Internet. A website may be a better platform since it can be updated quickly. For example, Best Bible Commentaries aggregates commentary reviews from many sources (including Reading Acts) and is able to place new commentaries on the list as they are published. In fact, any blogger can set up their own “top five commentary” list.

Even though there are advantages to an online format for this kind of book, many readers prefer a printed book to a webpage. This is the kind of book which needs to be used and marked up. It ought to be carried into the book store and worn out with constant reference. When a particular blogger decides they no longer care to maintain their list or take their blog down for some reason, their lists are gone. Ironically, Burer recognizes this shortcoming and cites a website in a footnote which no longer exists (page 17, note 1).

Best Bible Books will serve as a critical resource for students of the Bible for many years to come. I look forward to the Old Testament and Theology volumes of the series.


NB: Thanks to Kregel for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.


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