My Romans Commentaries

I recently finished preaching through the book of Romans. My usual method of preaching in our church is verse by verse exposition. I usually am working on one or more books of the Bible in our regular preaching sessions. I call my method “the glacial approach to exposition,” which is to say, “I go slow.”

I began my Romans series on September 23, 2007. We finished 318 messages later on November 15, 2015. Of course there were interruptions for special speakers, mini-series, special occasions and Christmas (I usually take a month or more off for Christmas, preaching on a special Christmas theme each year).

My son suggested that I write up an annotative bibliography of the commentaries I used for the series. That is what this post is all about. With all that as an introduction, here is my list. I think I’ve read pretty close to every word in these books:

Custer, Stewart. The Righteousness of God: A Commentary on Romans. Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 2007.

Dr. Custer was one of my favorite professor’s, a brilliant man who read “a book a night” with note-taking. I profited a great deal from his insight and labours. In recent years he has had health difficulties and I understand this affected his writing.

I offer that preface because I was disappointed with this commentary. Occasional flashes of Dr. Custer’s brilliance can be found, but the commentary is very brief and usually not much more than would be obvious to reasonably well-trained student. I used this commentary first in my studies, looking for the little gems that would show up from time to time, but I have to say that if you chose to pass this commentary by without buying it if you would miss little.

I should add that I understand Dr. Custer’s health has not been good and this may have affected his efforts in this and other commentaries.

Denney, James. “St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.” In The Expositor’s Greek Testament, edited by W. Robertson Nicoll, Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967.

I forget where I heard of Denney and the Expositor’s Greek Testament. This is an older commentary on the Greek and my copy is well worn. Denney, however, has tremendous insight. One writer commented that Denney expresses liberal views at points, but I didn’t detect significant problems. Almost always found something useful. Comments are brief but insightful. I think he was somewhat contemporary with Sanday & Headlam. He refers to them frequently, but has his own insight to add.

Harrison, Everett F. “Romans.” In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, Vol. 10. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976.

Everett Harrison was one of the original professors at Fuller Theological Seminary. I believe he was one of the more conservative faculty members. This stance is reflected in his commentary. It is relatively brief (as compared to Moo and Murray) but always has helpful material.

Hodge, Charles. A Commentary on Romans. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975.

Charles Hodge was a godly Presbyterian professor at Princeton before Princeton went bad. He is well-reasoned, careful with the text, generally lets the text speak. He has decided opinions, of course, and is thoroughly Calvinistic, so I found myself arguing with him at points. Nevertheless, he has much helpful material. His commentary is well worth having, you don’t have to wade through a massive analysis of contrasting opinions. He may allude to other views, but spends his time on what he thinks is the correct view. Since he is writing in the 19th century, he offers no help on current research. Very helpful.

Hoyt, Herman A. The First Christian Theology: Studies in Romans. Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1977.

An excellent little gem. I read about Hoyt in a column by Mark Minnick and found a used copy (the only way to get this now, I believe.) It is packed with good material. Hoyt is brief, but he is really insightful. I don’t think anyone would regret purchasing this one if you can find it.

Ironside, H. A. Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1923.

A devotional commentary. Not a lot of exegetical help, but easy to read and occasionally you will find that good bit … a turn of phrase, a keen insight, etc. Worth having, though don’t expect much.

Moo, Douglas. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996.

Moo is massive. His work is probably the definitive commentary on Romans. I liked and loathed his commentary. He is fairly current, he knows the text and the issues, and will do a thorough job of discussing all alternatives known to man. He is quite helpful, but theologically he is Lutheran and ecclesiologically, he is New Evangelical, so I do have issues, sometimes severe ones, with his conclusions. He has the maddening evangelical habit of giving too much credit to unbelieving scholarly views. He is a good scholar though, and worth having.

Murray, John. The Epistle to the Romans. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968.

Murray is a bit older now, but still a fine work. He is not quite as thorough as Moo, though almost, and his conclusions are generally sound. He is less affected by New Evangelicalism than Moo. If I had a limited budget for Romans, I would by Murray over Moo, but I would want both.

Newell, William R. Romans Verse by Verse. Chicago: Moody Press, 1947.

I love William Newell. He is not a scholar; he is a preacher. He preaches through Romans from a decidedly fundamentalist and dispensational point of view. He is a bit dated, I would say, but he is a pleasure for his forthrightness and you will find some strong affirmations of biblical truth in his book.

Sanday, William, and Arthur Headlam. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Epistle to the Romans. The International Critical Commentary. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1992.

I believe S&H are Arminian in theology, though I did not notice anything that even Calvinist readers would find objectionable (though I am not a Calvinist, that is probably partly why!). Their commentary is on the Greek, they are very good with the Greek, pithy and often helpful. I think their commentary is well worth having, though they do not deal with every issue that comes up in interpreting Romans.

Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Right. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1977.

Wiersbe is another devotional commentary. He is a tremendous outliner. You will also find some insight you can use in preaching. I like to have devotional commentaries to balance the technical ones. They are a help to keep you from being a “heady” preacher.

There you have it. I loved preaching through Romans. These books were my friends and my burden. But I think I grew a lot working through the text just as these men did. I think our people did also. On to the Acts of the Apostles, now!

Comments

  1. Don,

    I know you have expressed frustration in the past with Schreiner but I would put him up a step below Moo for thoroughness and helpfulness. Cranfield is often profound but he is very technical and sometimes too succinct. I’ve mentioned Boice to you before and I would say his four-volume work on Romans is a must have. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones can be good but he is very laborious – so laborious that he never finished before he died. Based on my experience I’d rank my commentaries:

    Moo
    Schreiner
    Murray
    Boice
    Cranfield
    Leon Morris
    Lloyd-Jones
    Hodge

    • Thanks for the note. You are probably right about Schreiner, but he made me mad with that footnote and I was already reading too many commentaries as it is.

      I was in a meeting with some fellow-pastors today. One of them suggested that I should have cut out some of my lighter devotional commentaries instead, adding in the extra scholarly ones. The thing is, I value the devotional commentaries and they actually don’t take that much time to read. The devotional commentaries help with the heart of the passage, not losing sight of the forest for the trees.

      I think you are probably right on the ranking, too, but not having read much of Schreiner and none of Boice/Cranfield, I have to say Murray and Moo are very close in value. Moo has all the issues surrounded, he can give you all the technical detail and (usually) a good reason for taking the view he takes. But Murray gives you the technical stuff with better heart, I think. He is a bit wordy at times, though.

      Anyway, thanks again for commenting. Watch my FB page tomorrow, you’ll see what I was up to today.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. Clovis Gentilhomme says:

    Very interesting, to the point, critique, Tim.

  3. I read a limited number of blogs but rarely comment in any of them. The best part about this recent blog post is that you are blogging again! I hope your time and health allows you to continue regular contributions to oxgoad. It is one blog that is worth reading.

    • Hi Carlos,

      Thank you for the kind comments. Well, I guess I should do something more regular here. I am so busy with Proclaim & Defend that this has become a ‘rountuit’ sort of place. Perhaps your note will inspire me to do something more regularly here. It’s not that there is a shortage of things to talk about!

      I do hope you also follow P&D. We are putting out some good stuff over there.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3