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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
(n.) Plural of Commentary.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia





1. Early Commentaries

(1) Origen, etc.

(2) Chrysostom, etc.

2. Scholastic Period

Nicolas de Lyra

3. Reformation and Post-Reformation Periods

(1) Luther and Calvin

(2) Beza, Grotius, etc.

(3) Later Writers

4. 18th Century

(1) Calmer, M. Henry, etc.

(2) Patrick, Lowth, Scott

(3) Gill, Doddridge

(4) Bengel

5. The Modern Period-Its Characteristics

(1) Germany

(a) The Liberal School

(b) Believing Tendency

(i) Conservative

(ii) Critical

(iii) Mediating

(iv) Confessional

(v) Godet (Swiss)

(2) Britain and America

(a) Alford, Eadie

(b) Ellicott and Lightfoot

(c) Westcott

(d) Critical Influences-Broad Church

Stanley and Jowett

(e) General Commentaries (Series)

6. Recent Period

(1) Germany

(2) Britain and America


I. The Word-General Scope.

Etymologically, a commentary (from Latin commentor) denotes jottings, annotations, memoranda, on a given subject, or perhaps on a series of events; hence, its use in the plural as a designation for a narrative or history, as the Commentaries of Caesar. In its application to Scripture, the word designates a work devoted to the explanation, elucidation, illustration, sometimes the homiletic expansion and edifying utilization, of the text of some book or portion of Scripture. The primary function of a good commentary is to furnish an exact interpretation of the meaning of the passage under consideration; it belongs to it also to show the connection of ideas, the steps of argument, the scope and design of the whole, in the writing in question. This can only be successfully accomplished by the help of a knowledge of the original language of the writing, and of the historical setting of the particular passage; by careful study of the context, and of the author's general usages of thought and speech; and by comparison of parallel or related texts. Aid may also be obtained from external sources, as a knowledge of the history, archaeology, topography, chronology, manners and customs, of the lands, peoples and times referred to; or, as in Deissmann's recent discoveries, from the light thrown on peculiarities of language by papyri or other ancient remains (see his Light from the Ancient East).

II. Differences in Character of Commentaries.

It is obvious that commentaries will vary greatly in character and value according as they are more scholarly, technical, and critical, entering, e.g. into philological discussions, and tabulating and remarking upon the various views held as to the meaning; or again, more popular, aiming only at bringing out the general sense, and conveying it to the mind of the reader in attractive and edifying form. When the practical motive predominates, and the treatment is greatly enlarged by illustration, application, and the enforcement of lessons, the work loses the character of commentary proper, and partakes more of the character of homily or discourse.

III. Range of Commentaries.

No book in the world has been made the subject of so much commenting and exposition as the Bible. Theological libraries are full of commentaries of all descriptions and all grades of worth. Some are commentaries on the original Hebrew or Greek texts; some on the English or other versions Modern commentaries are usually accompanied with some measure of introduction to the books commented upon; the more learned works have commonly also some indication of the data for the determination of the textual readings (see TEXTUAL CRITICISM). Few writers are equal to the task of commenting with profit on the Bible as a whole, and, with the growth of knowledge, this task is now seldom attempted. Frequently, however, one writer contributes many valuable works, and sometimes, by cooperation of like-minded scholars, commentaries on the whole Bible are produced. It is manifestly a very slight survey that can be taken in a brief article of the work of commenting, and of the literature to which it has given rise; the attempt can only be made to follow the lines most helpful to those seeking aid from this class of books. On the use and abuse of commentaries by the preacher, C. H. Spurgeon's racy remarks in his Commenting and Commentaries may be consulted.

1. Early Commentaries:

Rabbinical interpretations and paraphrases of the Old Testament may here be left out of account (see next article; also TARGUM; TALMUD; F. W. Farrar's History of Interpretation, Lect II). Commentaries on the New Testament could not begin till the New Testament books themselves were written, and had acquired some degree of authority as sacred writings (see BIBLE). The earliest commentaries we hear of are from the heretical circles of the Gnostics. Heracleon, a Valentinian (circa 175 A.D.), wrote a commentary on the Gospel of John (fragments in Origen), and on parts at least of the Gospel of Luke. Tatian, a disciple of Justin Martyr, about the same time, compiled his Diatessaron, or Harmony of the Four Gospels, on which, at a later time, commentaries were written. Ephraem Syrus (4th century) wrote such a commentary, of which an Armenian translation has now been recovered. The Church Father Hippolytus (beginning of 3rd century), wrote several commentaries on the Old Testament (Exodus, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Daniel, Zechariah, etc.), and on Matthew, Luke and Revelation.

(1) Origen, etc.

The strongest impulse, however, to the work of commenting and exposition of Holy Scripture undoubtedly proceeded from the school of Alexandria-especially from Origen (203-254 A.D.). Clement, Origen's predecessor, had written a treatise called Hupotuposeis, or "Outlines," a survey of the contents of Holy Scripture. Origen himself wrote commentaries on all the books of the Old Testament, Ruth, Esther and Ecclesiastes alone excepted, and on most of the books of the New Testament (Mark, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, James, Jude, Revelation excepted). He furnished besides, scholia, or notes on difficult passages, and delivered Homilies, or discourses, the records of which fill three folio volumes. "By his Tetrapla and Hexapla," says Farrar, "he became the founder of all textual criticism; by his Homilies he fixed the type of a popular exposition; his scholia were the earliest specimens of marginal explanations; his commentaries furnished the church with her first continuous exegesis" (op. cit., 188). Unfortunately, the Alexandrian school adopted a principle of allegorical interpretation which led it frequently into the most extravagant fancies. Assuming a threefold sense in Scripture-a literal, a moral, and a spiritual-it gave reins to caprice in foisting imaginary meanings on the simplest historical statements (Farrar, op. cit., 189). Some of Origen's commentaries, however, are much freer from allegory than others, and all possess high value (compare Lightfoot, Galatians, 217). The later teachers of the Alexandrian school continued the exegetical works of Origen. Pamphilus of Caesarea, the friend of Eusebius, is said to have written Old Testament commentaries.

(2) Chrysostom, etc.

At the opposite pole from the allegorizing Alexandrian school of interpretation was the Antiochinn, marked by a sober, literal and grammatical style of exegesis. Its reputed founder was Lucian (martyred 311 A.D.); but its real heads were Diodorus of Tarsus(379-94 A.D.) and Theodore of Mopsuestia (393-428 A.D.); and its most distinguished representative was John Chrysostom (347-407 A.D.). Chrysostom wrote continuous commentaries on Isaiah (only Isaiah 1-8:10 remaining) and on Galatians; but his chief contributions were his Homilies, covering almost the whole of the Old Testament and New Testament. Of these over 600 remain, chiefly on the New Testament. They are unequal in character, those on Acts being reputed the feeblest; others, as those on Matthew, Romans and Corinthians, are splendid examples of expository teaching. Schaff speaks of Chrysostom as "the prince of commentators among the Fathers" (History, Ante-Nicene Per., 816). Thomas Aquinas is reported to have said that he would rather possess Chrysostom's homilies on Matthew than be master of all Paris. In the West, Ambrose of Milan (340-97 A.D.) wrote expositions of Old Testament histories and of Luke (allegorical and typical), and Jerome (346-420 A.D.) wrote numerous commentaries on Old Testament and New Testament books, largely, however, compilations from others.

2. Scholastic Period:

The medieval and scholastic period offers little for our purpose. There was diligence in copying manuscripts, and producing catenae of the opinions of the Fathers; in the case of the schoolmen, in building up elaborate systems of theology; but the Scriptures were thrown into the background.

Nicolas de Lyra.

The 14th century, however, produced one commentator of real eminence-Nicolas de Lyra (1270-1340). Nicolas was a Franciscan monk, well versed in Hebrew and rabbinical learning. While recognizing the usual distinctions of the various senses of Scripture, he practically builds on the literal, and exhibits great sobriety and skill in his interpretations. His work, which bears the name Postillae Perpetuae in Universa Biblia, was much esteemed by Luther, who acknowledged his indebtedness to it. Hence, the jest of his opponents, Si Lyra non lyrasset, Lutherus non saltasset (a notice of Lyra may be seen in Farrar, op. cit., 274-78).

3. Reformation and Post-Reformation Periods:

The Reformation brought men's minds back to the Scriptures and opened a new era in Biblical exposition and commentary. It became the custom to expound the Scriptures on Sundays and week-days in all the pulpits of the Protestant churches. "Luther's custom was to expound consecutively in a course of sermons the Old and New Testaments" (Kostlin). The Reformation began at Zurich with a series of discourses by Zwingli on the Gospel of Matthew. The same was true of Calvin, Beza, Knox and all associated with them. The production of commentaries or expository homilies was the necessary result.

(1) Luther and Calvin.

As outstanding examples may be mentioned Luther's Commentary on Galatians, and the noble commentaries of Calvin. Not all by any means, but very many of the commentaries of Calvin were the fruit of pulpit prelections (e.g. the expositions of Job, the Minor Prophets, Jeremiah, Daniel). Others, as the commentaries on Romans and the Psalms (reputed his best), were prepared with great care. Calvin's supreme excellence as a commentator is disputed by no one. From every school and shade of opinion in Christendom could be produced a chorus of testimony to the remarkable gifts of mind and heart displayed in his expositions of Scripture-to his breadth, moderation, fairness and modernness of spirit, in exhibiting the sense of inward genius of Holy Writ. The testimony of Arminius is as striking as any: "I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin's commentaries. for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the library of the Fathers."

(2) Beza, Grotius, etc.

Lutheranism had its distinguished exegetes (Brenz, died 1572), who wrote able commentaries on the Old Testament, and in both the Calvinistic and Arminian branches of the Reformed church the production of commentaries held a chief place. Beza, Calvin's successor, is acknowledged to have possessed many of the best exegetical qualities which characterized his master. Grotius, in Holland (died 1645), occupies the foremost place among the expositors in this century on the Arminian side. His exegetical works, if not marked by much spirituality, show sagacity and learning, and are enriched by parallels from classical literature. The school of Cocceius (died 1669) developed the doctrine of the covenants, and reveled in typology. Cocceius wrote commentaries on nearly all the books of Scripture. His pupil Vitringa (died 1716) gained renown by his expositions of Isaiah and the Apocalypse.

(3) Later writers.

Partly fostered by the habit of basing commentary on pulpit exposition, the tendency early set in to undue prolixity in the unfolding of the meaning of Scripture. "In the Lutheran church," says Van Oosterzee, "they began to preach on whole books of the Bible; sometimes in a very prolix manner, as, e.g. in the case of the 220 sermons by one Striegnitz, a preacher at Meissen, on the history of Jonah, of which four are devoted to the consideration of the words `Unto Jonah' " (Practical Theol., 120). The habit spread. The commentaries of Peter Martyr (Swiss Reformer, died 1562) on Judges and Romans occupy a folio each; N. Byfield (Puritan, died 1622) on Colossians fills a folio; Caryl (Independent, died 1673) on Job extends to 2 folios; Durham (died 1658) on Isaiah 53 consists of 72 sermons; Venema (Holland, died 1787) on Jeremiah fills 2 quartos, and on the Psalms no less than 6 quartos. These are only samples of a large class. H. Hammond's A Paraphrase and Annotations on the New Testament, from an Arminian Standpoint belong to this period (1675). Another work which long took high rank is M. Poole's elaborate Synopsis Criticorum Biblicorum (5 volumes, folio, 1669-76)-a summary of the opinions of 150 Biblical critics; with which must be taken his English Annotations on the Holy Bible, only completed up to Isaiah 58 at the time of his death (1679). The work was continued by his friends.

4. 18th Century:

(1) Calmet, M. Henry, etc.

The 18th century is marked by greater sobriety in exegesis. It is prolific in commentaries, but only a few attain to high distinction. Calmet (died 1757), a learned Benedictine, on the Roman Catholic side, produced his Commentaire litteral sur tous les livres de l'Ancien et du Nouveau Testament, in 23 quarto volumes-a work of immense erudition, though now necessarily superseded in its information. On the Protestant side, Matthew Henry's celebrated Exposition of the Old and New Testament (1708-10) easily holds the first place among devotional commentaries for its blending of good sense, quaintness, original and felicitous remark, and genuine insight into the meaning of the sacred writers. It is, of course, not a critical work in the modern acceptation, and often is unduly diffuse. M. Henry's work extends only to the end of Acts; the remaining books were done by various writers after his death (1714). Le Clerc (died 1736) may be named as precursor of the critical views now obtaining on the composition and authorship of the Pentateuch His commentaries began with Genesis in 1693 and were not Completed till 1731. Other commentators of note of Arminian views were Daniel Whitby (died 1726; converted to Arianism), and, later, Adam Clarke, Wesleyan (1762-1832), whose work extends into the next century. Clarke's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures (1810-26), still held by many in high esteem, is marred to some extent by eccentricities of opinion.

(2) Patrick, Lowth, Scott.

In the Anglican church the names of chief distinction in this century are Bishop Patrick, Bishop Lowth, and later, Thomas Scott. Bishop Patrick, usually classed with the Cambridge Platonists (died 1707), contributed paraphrases and commentaries on the Old Testament from Genesis to Canticles, while Bishop Lowth (died 1787) acquired lasting fame by his Prelections on Hebrew Poetry, and A New Translation, with Notes on Isaiah. He was among the first to treat the poetical and prophetic writings really as literature. The commentaries of Patrick and Lowth were subsequently combined with those of Whitby and other divines (Arnold, etc.) to form a complete Critical Commentary (1809), which went through many editions. The well-known commentary of Thomas Scott (1747-1821), representing a moderate Calvinism, is a solid and "judicious" piece of work, inspired by an earnest, believing spirit, though not presenting any marked originality or brilliance. Brilliance is not the characteristic of many commentators of this age.

(3) Gill, Doddridge.

Two other English writers deserving notice are Dr. John Gill (died 1771; Calvinistic Baptist), who wrote Expositions on the Old Testament and the New Testament and a separate Exposition of the So of Solomon-learned, but ponderous and controversial; and Dr. Philip Doddridge (died 1751), whose Family Expositor, embracing the entire New Testament, with a harmony of the Gospels, and paraphrases of the meaning, is marked by excellent judgment, and obtainea wide acceptance.

(4) Bengel.

Meanwhile a new period had been preluded in Germany by the appearance in 1742 of the Gnomon Novi Testamenti of J. A. Bengel (died 1751), a work following upon his critical edition of the New Testament issued in 1734. Though belonging to the 18th century, Bengel's critical and expository labors really herald and anticipate the best work in these departments of the 19th century His scholarship was exact, his judgment sound, his critical skill remarkable in a field in which he was a pioneer; his notes on the text, though brief, were pregnant with significance, and were informed by a spirit of warm and living piety.

The modern period, to which Bengel in spirit, if not in date, belongs, is marked by great changes in the style and character of commentaries. The critical temper was now strong; great advances had been made in the textual criticism of both Old Testament and New Testament (see TEXTUAL CRITICISM); the work of the higher criticism had begun in the Old Testament; in Germany, the spirit of humanism, inherited from Lessing, Herder and Goethe, had found its way into literature; knowledge of the sciences, of oriental civilizations, of other peoples and religions, was constantly on the increase; scholarship was more precise and thorough; a higher ideal of what commentary meant had taken possession of the mind.

5. The Modern Period-Its Characteristics:

Learning, too, had enlarged its borders, and books on all subjects poured from the press in such numbers that it was difficult to cope with them. This applies to commentaries as to other departments of theological study. Commentaries in the 19th century, and in our own, are legion. Only the most prominent landmarks can be noted.

(1) Germany

(a) The liberal school.

In Germany, as was to be anticipated, the rise of the critical spirit and the profound influence exercised by it are reflected in most of the commentaries produced in the first half of the century. On the liberal side, the rationalistic temper is shown in the rejection of miracle, the denial of prediction in prophecy, and the lowering of the idea of inspiration generally. The scholarship, however, is frequently of a very high order. This temper is seen in De Wette (died 1849), whose commentaries on the New Testament, written when his views had become more positive, show grace and feeling; in Gesenius (died 1842), who produced an epoch-making commentary on Isaiah; in Knobel (died 1863), pronouncedly rationalistic, but with keen critical sense, as evinced in his commentaries on the Pentateuch and Joshua, Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah; in Hupfeld (died 1866) in his Commentary on the Psalms (4 volumes); in Hitzig (died 1875), acute but arbitrary, who wrote on the Psalms and most of the Prophets; above all, in Ewald (died 1875), a master in the interpretation of the poetical and prophetical books, but who commented also on the first three Gospels, on the writings of John, and on Paul's epistles. Ewald's influence is felt in the History of the Jewish Church by Dean Stanley, in England. The Exegetical Handbook (Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch) embraced compendious annotations by Knobel, Hitzig, Bertbeau (school of Ewald), etc., but also Olshausen (died 1839; wrote likewise on the New Testament), on all the books of the Old Testament.

(b) Believing tendency.

On the believing side, from a variety of standpoints, evangelical, critical, mediating, confessional, a multitude of commentaries on the Old Testament and New Testament were produced.

(i) Conservative:

The extremely conservative position in criticism was defended by Hengstenberg (died, 1869; on Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel, John, Revelation), by Keil (died 1888) in the well-known Keil and Delitzsch series (Genesis to Esther, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Minor Prophets; also New Testament commentaries), and by Havernick (died 1845; Daniel, Ezekiel). Delitzsch (died 1890) wrote valued commentaries on Genesis, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah; also on Hebrews.

(ii) Critical:

After the rise of the Wellhausen school, he considerably modified his views in the newer critical direction. His New Commentary on Genesis (1887) shows this change, but, with his other works, is still written in a strongly believing spirit. On the other hand, the critical position (older, not newer) is frankly represented by A. Dillmann (died 1894) in his commentaries on the books of the Pentateuch and Joshua (English translation of Genesis, 1897; many also of the above works are translated).

(iii) Mediating:

The mediating school, largely penetrated by the influence of Schleiermacher, had many distinguished representatives. Among the most conspicuous may be named Lucke (died 1855), who wrote on John; Bleek, the Old Testament and New Testament critical scholar (died 1859), who has a work on the first three Gospels, and lectures on Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Hebrews and Revelation (his Commentary on Hebrews is the best known), and Tholuck (died 1877), whose expositions and commentaries on Psalms, John, Romans and Hebrews with his Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, are fine pieces of exegetical work.

A special place must be given to two names of high distinction in the present connection. One is J. P. Lange (died 1884), the projector and editor of the great Bibelwerk (theological and homiletical) in 22 volumes, to which he himself contributed the commentaries on Genesis to Numbers, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Matthew, Mark, John, Romans, Revelation, with introductions and homiletic hints. The other is H. A. W. Meyer (died 1873), whose Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament from Matthew to Philippians (the remaining books being done by other scholars, Lunemann, Huther, etc.) is an essential part of every New Testament scholar's equipment.

(iv) Confessional:

With the more positive and confessional theologians may be ranked E. R. Stier (died 1862). whose Words of the Lord Jesus (English translation in 8 volumes; Biblical, mystical, tendency to prolixity), with commentaries on 70 selected Psalms, Proverbs, 2nd Isaiah, Ephesians, Hebrews, James and Jude, found much acceptance. A. von Harless (died 1879) wrote a Commentary on Ephesians, praised by Tholuck as one of the finest extant. Philippi (died 1882), of Jewish extraction, best known by his Commentary on Romans, was strictly Lutheran. One of the ablest of the Lutheran Confessionalists was Luthardt (died 1892), whose works include a Commentary on John's Gospel. Ebrard (died 1887), as stoutly confessional on the Reformed side, has an esteemed Commentary on Hebrews.

(v) Godet (Swiss):

An eminent continental theologian who cannot be overlooked is the Swiss F. L. Godet (died 1900), whose admirable Commentary on John's Gospel, and commentaries on Romans and Corinthians are highly appreciated.

(2) Britain and America.

Meanwhile the English speaking countries were pursuing their own paths in the production of commentaries, either in continuing their old traditions, or in striking out on new lines, under the foreign influences which, from the beginning of the century, had begun to play upon them. In England Bishop Blomfield (died 1857) published Lectures on John and Acts. In the United States there appeared from the pen of Dr. J. A. Alexander, of Princeton (died 1860), a noteworthy Commentary on Isaiah, fully abreast of the modern learning, but staunchly censervative; also a Commentary on Psalms. From the same seminary proceeded the massive commentaries of Dr. Charles Hodge (Calvinistic) on Romans, Ephesians and Corinthians. Adapted for popular use and greatly in demand for Sunday-school purposes were the Notes, Critical, Explanatory and Practical of Albert Barnes (died 1871; New School Presbyterian). These Notes, the fruit of the use of the early morning hours in a busy pastoral life, covered the whole of the New Testament, with several books of the Old Testament (Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Daniel). Sensible and informative, rather than original or profound, they proved helpful to many. Over 1,000,000 copies are stated to have been sold. Of similar aim, though less widely known, were the Notes of Professor M. W. Jacobus (died 1876; on the New Testament, Genesis and Exodus).

(i) Alford, Eadie:

A new era was opened in critical commentary in England by the publication of the Greek Testament (1849-61) of Dean Alford (died 1871), followed by his New Testament for English Readers (1868). Here was presented a thoroughly critical treatment of the texts, with a full display of the critical apparatus, and notes philological and exegetical, accompanied by learned and lucid introductions, on all the books of the New Testament. About the same time appeared the solid, if more theological and homiletical, commentaries of the Scottish scholar, J. Eadie (died 1876), on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

(ii) Ellicott and Lighfoot:

Anglican scholarship produced its ripest fruits in this line in the classical Critical and Grammatical Commentary of Bishop Ellicott (died 1905) on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Thessalonians, Pastoral Epistles, and the yet more remarkable series of commentaries of Bishop J. B. Lightfoot (died 1889), massive in learning, and wider in outlook than Ellicott's, on Galatians, Philemon, Colossians and Philemon. A large part of the value of Lightfoot's works consists in the special essays or dissertations on important subjects embodied in them (e.g. "St. Paul and the Three", "The Christian Ministry," "The Colossian Heresy," etc.).

(iii) Westcott:

With these names should be associated that of Bishop Westcott, Dr. Lightfoot's successor in the see of Durham (died 1901), whose commentaries on the Gospel and Epistles of John, and on He, take a place among the foremost. Bishop Moule, who, in turn, succeeded Dr. Westcott; has also written commentaries, simpler in character, on Romans, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, in the Cambridge Bible Series, and on Romans in the Expositor's Bible. In Old Testament exposition mention should be made of Bishop Perowne's valuable work on the Book of Psalms (2nd edition, revised, 1870), with his contributions to the Cambridge Bible (see below).

(iv) Critical Influences-Broad Church

Stanley and Jowett:

The critical and theological liberalism of Germany has made its influence felt in England in the rise of a Broad Church party, the best products of which in commentary were Dean Stanley's (died 1881) graphic and interesting Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (1855) and Dr. B. Jowett's Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians, Galatians, and Romans, with Critical Notes and Dissertations (1855). The new spirit culminated in the appearance of the famous Essays and Reviews (1860), and in the works of Bishop Colenso on the Pentateuch and Joshua (1862-79). Bishop Colenso had already published a translation of Romans, with commentary (1861).

(v) General Commentaries (Series):

Besides works by individual authors, there appeared during this period several general commentaries, to the production of which many writers contributed. The following may be mentioned. The Speaker's Commentary (10 volumes, 1871-82), under the general editorship of Canon F. C. Cook (died 1889), was called forth by the agitation over Bishop Colenso. Dr. Cook himself wrote introductions to Exodus, Psalms and Acts, and contributed the entire commentaries on Job, Habakkuk, Mark, Luke, 1 Peter, with parts of commentaries on Exodus, Psalms and Matthew. The work is of unequal value. A serviceable series is the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (1877), edited by Bishop Perowne, with Smaller Cambridge Bible for Schools, and Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges (still in process). Dr. Perowne (died 1904) himself contributed to the first-named the commentaries on Obadiah, Jonah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and Galatians. Many valuable contributions appear in this series, e.g. A. F. Kirkpatrick on 1 and 2 Samuel and Psalms, A. B. Davidson on Job and Ezekiel, Driver on Daniel, G. G. Findlay on Thessalonians, etc. Next, under the editorship of Bishop Ellicott, were produced (1877-84) A New Testament Commentary for English Readers (3 volumes), and An Old Testament Commentary for English Readers (5 volumes), which contained some valuable work (Genesis by R. Payne Smith, Exodus by Canon G. Rawlinson, etc.). Akin to this in character was the Popular Commentary on the New Testament (4 volumes, 1879-83), edited by Dr. W. Schaff. This embraced, with other excellent matter, commentaries on Thessalonians by Dr. Marcus Dods, and on 1 and 2 Peter by Dr. S. D. F. Salmond. The Pulpit Commentary (49 volumes, 1880), edited by J. S. Exell and Canon H. D. M. Spence, has expositions by good scholars, and an abundance of homiletical material by a great variety of authors. The series of Handbooks for Bible Classes (T. and T. Clark, Edinburgh) has a number of valuable commentaries, e.g. that of Dr. A. B. Davidson on He.

6. Recent Period:

In the most recent period the conspicuous feature has been the production of commentaries in series or by individual writers embodying the results of an advanced Old Testament criticism-in less degree of a radical New Testament criticism.

(1) Germany.

In Germany, in addition to the Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch, of older standing (see above), to which Dillmann contributed, may be mentioned Marti's Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Altes Testament (1897) and Nowack's Handkommentar zum Altes Testament; also Strack-and Zockler's Kurzgefasster Kommentar (Old Testament and New Testament; critical, but moderate). Marti contributes to his Hand-Commentar the volumes on Isaiah, Daniel and the Minor Prophets; Nowack contributes to his Handkommentar the volumes on Judges and Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel and the Minor Prophets (of special importance in Nowack's series are the volumes on Genesis by H. Gunkel, and on Deuteronomy and Joshua by C. Steuernagel); Strack writes in his own work the volumes on Genesis to Numbers (Oettli contributes Deuteronomy, Joshua and Judges). Much more conservative in spirit are the commentaries of H. C. von Orelli (Basel) on Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Minor Prophets. In the New Testament, Meyer's Commentary has been "revised" by later writers, many of them (J. Weiss, W. Bousset, etc.) of much more advanced tendency than the original author.

(2) Britain and America.

In Britain and America like currents are observable. Professor T. K. Cheyne, who wrote a helpful commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah (1880-81), and subsequently commentaries on Micah and Hosea (Cambridge Bible), Jeremiah (Pulpit Commentary), and on The Book of Psalms (1884), has become more and more extreme in his opinions. Of works in series the most important is The International Critical Commentary, edited by Drs. Driver and Plummer in England, and Dr. C. A. Briggs in the United States, of which 16 volumes in the Old Testament and the New Testament have already appeared.

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1. Philo Judaeus

2. Targum

3. Midrash

4. Talmud

5. Karaites

6. Middle Ages

(1) Saadia ben Joseph

(2) Rashi

(3) Joseph Kara

(4) Abraham ibn Ezra

(5) Qimchis

(6) Maimonides

(7) Maimunists

(8) Kabbalists

(9) The "Zohar"

(10) Isaac Arama

7. Modern Times


8. The Bi'urists

(1) Mendelssohn

(2) Zunz, etc.

(3) Malbim, Ehrlich, etc.

(4) Halevy, Hoffmann, Mueller

(5) Geiger, Graetz, Kohler


The following outline alludes to the leading Jewish commentators and their works in chronological order. However widely the principles which guided the various Jewish schools of exegesis, or the individual commentatom, differ from those of the modern school, the latter will find a certain suggestiveness in the former's interpretation which well merits attention.

1. Philo Judaeus:

Philo Judaeus: A Hellenistic Jew of Alexandria, Egypt. Born about 20 B.C.; died after 40 A.D. By his allegorical method of exegesis (a method he learned from the Stoics), Philo exercised a far-reaching influence not only on Jewish thought, but even more so on the Christian church. We have but to mention his influence on Origen and other Alexandrian Christian writers. His purpose in employing his allegorical method was, mainly, to reconcile Greek philosophy with the Old Testament.


Josephus cannot be called a Bible commentator in the proper sense of the term.


2. Targum:

Targum (plural Targumim): The Aramaic translation of the Old Testament. Literally, the word designates a translation in general; its use, however, has been restricted to the Aramaic version of the Old Testament, as contrasted with the Hebrew text which was called miqra'. The Targum includes all the books of the Old Testament except Daniel and Ezra-Nehemiah, which are written in part in Aramaic. Its inception dates back to the time of the Second Temple, and it is considered a first approach to a commentary before the time of Jesus. For the Targum is not a mere translation, but rather a combination of a translation with a commentary, resulting in a paraphrase, or an interpretative translation-having its origin in exegesis. The language of this paraphrase is the vernacular tongue of Syria, which began to reassert itself throughout Palestine as the language of common intercourse and trade, as soon as a familiar knowledge of the Hebrew tongue came to be lost. The Targumim are:


(1) Targum Onkelos or Babylonian Targum (the accepted and official);

(2) Targum yerushalmi or Palestinian Targum ("Pseudo-Jonathan"; aside from this (complete) Targum there are fragments of the Palestinian Targum termed "Fragment Targrim").


(1) Targrim Jonathan ben Uzziel (being the official one; originated in Palestine and was then adapted to the vernacular of Babylonia);

(2) A Palestinian Targrim, called Targum yerushalmi (Palestinian in origin; edition Lagarde, "Prophetae Chaldaice"). Other Targumim (not officially recognized):

(1) To the Psalms and Job;

(2) to Proverbs;

(3) to the Five Rolls;

(4) to Chronicles-all Palestinian.


3. Midrash:

Midhrash: Apparently the practice of commenting upon and explaining the meaning of the Scriptures originated in the synagogues (in the time of Ezra), from the necessity of an exposition of the Law to a congregation many of whom did not or might not understand the language in which it was read. Such commentaries, however, were oral and extempore; they were not until much later crystallized into a definite form. When they assumed a definite and, still later, written shape, the name Midhrash (meaning "investigation," "interpretation," from darash, "to investigate" a scriptural passage) was given. The word occurs in 2 Chronicles 13:22 where the Revised Version (British and American) translates "commentary." From this fact some have drawn the inference that such Midhrashim were recognized and extant before the time of the Chronicler. They are: Midhrash Rabba' on the Pentateuch and the Five Rolls (the one on Genesis occupies a first position among the various exegetical Midhrashim, both on account of its age and importance). Next comes the one on Lamentations. (Zunz pointed out that the Midhrash Rabba' consists of ten entirely different Midhrashim.) On the same ten books there is a similar collection, called ha-Midhrash ha-gadhol (the "Great Midrash"), being a collection of quotations from a good many works including the Midhrash Rabba'. Other Midhrashim are: The Midhrash Tanchuma' on the Pentateuch; the Mekhilta' on Exodus (this has been (Leipzig, 1909) translated into German by Winter and Wuensche; the latter also published, under the main title Bibliotheca Rabbinica, a collection of the old Midhrashim in a German translation with introductions and notes). Further, Ciphra' on Leviticus; Ciphre on Numbers and Dr; peciqta', which comments on sections taken from the entire range of Scriptures for various festivals. There are also extant separate Midhrashim on the Psalms, Proverbs, etc.

In this connection we have yet to mention the YalquT Shim`oni, a haggadic compilation attributed to the 11th or, according to Zunz, the 13th century. The YalquT extends over the whole of the Old Testament and is arranged according to the sequence of those portions of the Bible to which reference is made. Further, the YalquT ha-Maqiri, a work similar in contents to the YalquT Shim`oni, edition Greenup.


4 Talmud:

Talmud (Talmudh): This term is used here to designate the entire body of literature exclusive of the Midhrash. Ample exegetical material abounds in the Talmud as it does in the Midhrashim. The critical notes on the Bible by some Talmudists are very characteristic of their intellectual temper. Some of them were extremely radical, and expressed freely their opinions on important problems of Bible criticism, such as on the integrity of the text, on doubtful authorship, etc. An Amora' of the 3rd century A.D. held the opinion that the story of Job is purely fictitious, both as to the name of the hero and as to his fate. The Talmudists also generalized, and set up critical canons. The "Baraitha', of the Thirty-two Rules" is the oldest work on Biblical hermeneutics (Philo's hermeneutical rules being rather fantastic), and contains exegetical notices valid to this very day. Hermeneutics, of course, is not exegesis proper, but theory of exegesis; one results from the other, however. This Baraitha' calls attention, for instance, to the fact that words occur in the Old Testament in an abbreviated form-a thing now generally accepted.


5. Karaites:

Karaites: "Followers of the Bible." They are sometimes referred to as the "Protestants of the Jews," professing to follow the Old Testament to the exclusion of the rabbinical tradition. The founder of this Jewish sect was a Bah Jew in the 8th century, Anan ben David, by name; hence, they were first called Ananites. The principal Karaite commentators of the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries are: Benjamin Al-Nahawendi (he was the first to use the term "Karaites," "Ba`ale Miqra' "), Solomon ben Jeroham, Sahl ibn Mazliah, Yusuf al-Basir, Yafith ibn Ali (considered the greatest of this period), and Abu al-Faraij Harum. Of a later date we will mention Aaron ben Joseph and Aaron ben Elijah (14th century).

The struggle between the Rabbinites and the Karaites undoubtedly gave the impetus to the great exegetical activity among the Jews in Arabic speaking countries during the 10th and 11th centuries. The extant fragments of Saadia's commentary on the Pentateuch (not less than his polemical writings proper) are full of polemics against the Karaite interpretation. And the same circumstance aroused Karaites to like efforts.

6. Middle Ages:

Middle Ages: In the old Midhrashim as well as elsewhere the consciousness of a simple meaning of a text was never entirely lost. The principal tendencies in exegesis were four; these were afterward designated by the acrostic "PARDEC": i.e. PeshaT (or the simple philological explanation of words); Remez (or the allegorical); Derash (or the ethicohomiletical); and Codh (or the mystical). Naturally enough this division could never be strictly carried out; hence, variations and combinations are to be found.

(1) Saadia ben Joseph:

Saadia ben Joseph (892-942), the severest antagonist of the Karaites, translated the Old Testament into Arabic with notes. The parts published are: Pentateuch, Isaiah, Proverbs and Job.

Moses ha-Darshan (the Preacher) of Narbonne, France, and Tobiah ben Eliezer in Castoria, Bulgaria (11th century), are the most prominent representatives of midrashic-symbolic Bible exegesis. The former's work is known only by quotations, and contained Christian theological conceptions; the latter is the author of "Leqach Tobh" or "Peciqta' ZuTarta' " on the Pentateuch and the five Meghilloth.

(2) Rashi:

Rashi (Solomon ben Isaac, of Troyes; born 1040, died 1105) wrote a very popular commentary, which extends over the whole of the Old Testament, with the exception of Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, and the last part of Job. He strives for the PeshaT, i.e. for a sober, natural and rational interpretation of the Bible. His is still a commentary both for the boy and the man among the Jews. Christian exegetes of the Middle Ages as well as of more modern times made Use of his Bible commentary. Nicolas de Lyra (see COMMENTARIES) followed Rashi closely; and it is a known fact that Luther's translation of the Bible is dependent upon Nicolas de Lyra. Rashi's commentary has called forth numerous supercommentaries.

(3) Joseph Kara:

An independent and important exegete was Joseph Kara' (about 1100). He edited and partly completed Rashi's commentary, particularly the part on the Pentateuch

(4) Abraham ibn Ezra:

Abraham ibn Ezra's (1092-1168) commentary on the Pentateuch, like Rashi's commentaries, has produced many supercommentaries. His is very scholarly. He was the first to maintain that Isaiah contains the work of two authors; and his doubts respecting the authenticity of the Pentateuch were noticed by Spinoza.

(5) Qimchis:

The grammarians and the lexicographers were not merely exegetical expounders of words, but many of them were likewise authors of actual commentaries. Such were the Qimchis, Joseph (father), Moses and David (his sons); especially the latter. The Qimchis were the most brilliant contributors to Bible exegesis and Hebrew philology (like Ibn Ezra) in medieval times.

(6) Maimonides:

Maimonides (1135-1204): Philo employed his allegorical method for the purpose of bringing about a reconciliation of Plato with the Old Testament. Maimonides had something similar in view. To him Aristotle was the representative of natural knowledge and the Bible of supernatural-and he sought for a reconciliation between the two in his religious philosophy. Exegesis proper was the one field, however, to which this great genius made no contribution of first-class importance.

(7) Maimunist:

The Maimunist, those exegetes of a philosophical turn, are: Joseph ibn Aknin, Samuel ibn Tibbon, his son Moses, and his son-in-law, Jacob ben Abba Mari Anatolio, whose Malmadh ha-Talmidhim is the most important work of philosophical exegesis of the period.

Joseph ibn Kacpi, chiefly known as a philosopher of the Maimunist type, deserves attention. Ibn Kacpi is an exegete of the first quality. His exposition of Isaiah 53 might be the work of the most modern scholar. He refers the prophecy to Israel, not to an individual, and in this his theory is far superior to that of some other famous Jewish expositors who interpret the chapter as referring to Hezekiah.

Through the philosophical homily, which began to be used after the death of Maimonides, Aristotle was popularized from the pulpit. The pulpit changed to a chair of philosophy. Aristotle's concepts-as Matter and Form, the Four Causes, Possibility and Reality-were then something ordinary in the sermon, and were very popular.

(8) Kabbalists:

The principal commentators with a Kabbalistic tendency are: Nachmanides (1194-1270?) whose great work is his commentary on the Pentateuch; Immanuel of Rome (1270?-1330?) who does, however, not disregard the literal meaning of the Scriptures; Bahya ben Asher (died 1340) who formulated the four methods of exegesis of "PaRDeC." referred to above; he took Nachmanides as his model; many supercommentaries were written on his commentary on the Pentateuch; and Gersonides (1288-1334), a maternal grandson of Nachmanides, who sees symbols in many Biblical passages; on account of some of his heretical ideas expressed in his philosophy, some rabbis forbade the study of his commentaries.

(9) The "Zohar":

We must not fail to make mention of the Zohar (the "Bible of the Kabbalists"), the book of all others in the Middle Ages that dominated the thinking and feeling of the Jews for almost 500 years, and which was in favor with many Christian scholars. This work is pseudepigraphic, written partly in Aramaic and partly in Hebrew. It first appeared in Spain in the 131h century, and was made known through Moses de Leon, to whom many historians attribute it.

(10) Isaac Arama:

Mention must also be made of Isaac Arama (1430-94), whose 'Aqedhah, his commentary on the Pentateuch (homiletical in style), was the standard book for the Jewish pulpit for centuries, much esteemed by the Christian world, and is still much read by the Jews, especially in Russia and Poland.

7. Modern Times:


Isaac Abravanel (or Abarbanel; 1437-1508): A statesman and scholar who came nearest to the modern idea of a Bible commentator by considering not only the literary elements of the Bible but the political and social life of the people as well. He wrote a general introduction to each book of the Bible, setting forth its character; and he was the first to make use of Christian commentaries which he quotes without the least prejudice. Moses Alshech (second half of 16th century) wrote commentaries, all of which are of a homiletical character. In the main the Jewish exegesis of the 16th and 17th centuries branched out into homileties.

We will pass over the critical annotations connected with the various editions of the Hebrew Bible, based upon the comparison of manuscripts, on grammatical and Massoretic studies, ete, such as those of Elijah Levita, Jacob ben Hayyim of Tunis (afterward a convert to Christianity), etc.

8. The "Bi'urists":

(1) Mendelssohn:

The "Bi'urists" ("Commentators"): A school of exegetes which had its origin with Mendelssohn's (1729-86) literal German translation of the Bible, at a time when Christian Biblical studies of a modern nature had made some progress, and under whose influence the Bi'urists wrote. They are: Dubno, Wessely, Jaroslav, tt. Homberg, J. Euchel, etc. They laid a foundation for a critieo-historical study of the Bible among modern Jews. It bore its fruit in the 19th century in the writings of Philippson, Munk, Fuerst, etc.

(2) Zunz, etc.:

The same century produced Zunz's (1794-1886) Gottesdienstlichen Vortraege der Juden, the book of "Jewish science."

(3) Malbim, Ehrlich, etc.:

It also produced three Jewish exegetes, Luzzatto in Italy, Malbim and Ehrlich in Russia (the latter since 1878 residing in New York); he published, in Hebrew a commentary on the Old Testament, entitled Miqra' ki-PeshuTah (Berlin, 1899-1901, 3 volumes), and, in German, Randglossen z. hebr. Bibel, two scholarly works written from the conservative standpoint (Leipzig, 1908-). Malbim was highly esteemed by the Christian commentators Franz Delitzsch and Muehlau, who studied under him.

(4) Halevy, Hoffmann, Mueller:

Others are Joseph Halevy, a French Jew, a most original Bible investigator, and D. Hoffmann (the last two named are adversaries of "higher criticism") and D. H. Mueller. M. Heilprin wrote a collection of Bibelkritische Notizen (Baltimore, 1893), containing comparisons of various passages of the Bible, and The Historical Poetry of the Ancient Hebrews (N. Y., 1879-80, 2 volumes), and the American rabbi B, Szold, a Commentary on Job (Baltimore, 1886), written in classic Hebrew, and with accurate scholarship and in which full account is taken of the work of the Massorites. A new Hebrew commentary on the whole of the Old Testament has been since 1903 in progress under the editorship of A. Kahana. This is the first attempt since Mendelssohn's Bi'ur to approach the Bible from the Jewish side with the latest philological and archaeological equipment. Among the authors are Kahana on Genesis and Jonah, Krauss on Isaiah, Chajes on Psalms and Amos, Wynkoop on Hosea and Joel, and Lambert on Daniel. This attempt well deserves attention and commendation.

There is still to be mentioned the work of M. M. Kalisch (1828-85), whose special object was to write a full and critical commentary on the Old Testament. Of his Historical and Critical Commentary on the Old Testament, with a New Tr, only the following parts were published: Exodus, 1855; Genesis, 1858; Leviticus (pts 1-2), 1867-72. They contain a resume of all that Jewish and Christian learning had accumulated on the subject up to the dates of their publication. In his Leviticus he anticipated Wellhausen to a large extent.

(5) Geiger, Graetz, Kohler:

We conclude with some names of the liberals: Geiger (whose Urschrift is extremely radical), Graetz, the great Jewish historian, and Kohler (president of the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, O.) whose Der Segen Jacobs is one of the earliest essays of "higher criticism" written by a Jew.


Steinschneider, Jewish Literature, London. 1857; Zunz. Gottesdienstlichen Vortraege der Juden, 2nd edition, Frankfurt a. M., 1892; Jew Encyclopedia (articles by Bacher and Ginzberg); Catholic Encyclopedia (article "Commentaries"); Rosenau, Jewish Biblical Commentators, Baltimore, 1906 (popular); Winter-Wuensche, Geschichte der Juedischen Literatur, Leipzig. 1892-95, 3 volumes (the best existing anthology of Jewish literature in a modern language; it contains very valuable introductions); Wogue, Histoire de la Bible et l'exegese biblique jusqu' a nos jours. Paris, 1881.

Adolph S. Oko


Prefaces to the Commentaries on the Minor Prophets.
... Prefaces to the Commentaries on the Minor Prophets. ... contains the passage several
times referred to for the order of these Commentaries, which is as follows: ...
/.../jerome/the principal works of st jerome/prefaces to the commentaries on.htm

Commentaries and Standards on the Birth of Water and Spirit.
... Commentaries and Standards on the Birth of Water and Spirit. Inasmuch as
there is some tendency, in the interest of a modern view ...
/.../the new testament commentary vol iii john/commentaries and standards on the.htm

The Commentaries which Origen Composed in C??sarea in Palestine.
... Book VI. Chapter XXXII."The Commentaries which Origen composed in C??sarea
in Palestine. 1. About this time Origen prepared his ...
/.../pamphilius/church history/chapter xxxii the commentaries which origen.htm

Fragments from Commentaries on Various Books of Scripture.
... Part I."Exegetical. Fragments from Commentaries on Various Books of Scripture.
Fragments from Commentaries on Various Books of Scripture. ...
/.../fragments from commentaries on various.htm

The Commentaries which He Prepared at Alexandria.
... Book VI. Chapter XXIV."The Commentaries which he prepared at Alexandria.
1. It may be well to add that in the sixth book of his ...
/.../pamphilius/church history/chapter xxiv the commentaries which he.htm

Commentaries were Anciently Written Upon the Scriptures; Harmonies ...
... PART I. SECTION VI. Commentaries were anciently written upon the Scriptures;
harmonies formed out of them? Commentaries were anciently ...
/.../paley/evidences of christianity/section vi commentaries were anciently.htm

The Commentaries.
... Treatises. The Commentaries. The extant commentaries by Jerome on the books
of Holy Scripture may be arranged thus, chronological ...
/.../jerome/the principal works of st jerome/the commentaries.htm

Commentaries of Origen. Introduction.
... Epistle to Gregory and Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John. by Allan Menzies,
DD Commentaries of Origen. ... Only fragments of his Commentaries now remain. ...
/.../the passion of the scillitan martyrs/commentaries of origen introduction.htm

But Let us Come to These Two Commentaries which He Alone Excepts ...
... But let us come to these two Commentaries which he alone excepts from the general
condemnation and renunciation which he pronounces upon all the rest of his ...
/.../23 but let us come.htm

How, I Ask, Can You, Seeing that Your Commentaries Contain Such ...
... How, I ask, can you, seeing that your Commentaries contain such doctrines, put them
forward to prove your soundness in the faith, and to confute those ideas ...
/.../24 how i ask can.htm

... Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia. COMMENTARIES. kom'-en-ta-riz: I. THE WORD-GENERAL
/c/commentaries.htm - 57k

Tradition (13 Occurrences)
... against the teachings of the false teachers in Colosse, which are "after the tradition
of men." Olshausen, Lightfoot, Dargan, in their commentaries in the ...
/t/tradition.htm - 17k

Commentary (2 Occurrences)
... 2. (n.) A brief account of transactions or events written hastily, as if for a
memorandum; -- usually in the plural; as, Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War ...
/c/commentary.htm - 8k

Hebrew (37 Occurrences)
...COMMENTARIES, HEBREW. ... Such commentaries, however, were oral and extempore; they
were not until much later crystallized into a definite form. ...
/h/hebrew.htm - 77k

Vessel (118 Occurrences)
... See the commentaries. and especially RS2, 455-56. ... Between these possibilities the
commentaries are almost equally divided. Burton Scott Easton. ...
/v/vessel.htm - 40k

Nakedness (50 Occurrences)
... and so perhaps in Mark 14:51, 52 and Micah 1:8. In Isaiah 20:2-4, however, the meaning
is literally (for the "three years" of Isaiah 20:3 see the commentaries...
/n/nakedness.htm - 26k

Naked (56 Occurrences)
... and so perhaps in Mark 14:51, 52 and Micah 1:8. In Isaiah 20:2-4, however, the meaning
is literally (for the "three years" of Isaiah 20:3 see the commentaries...
/n/naked.htm - 29k

... 1 Corinthians 15:51; compare Baruch 76:5); the time is shortened henceforth (1
Corinthians 7:29; compare Baruch 20:1; 2 Esdras 4:26, and the commentaries on 1 ...
/p/parousia.htm - 36k

Thessalonians (6 Occurrences)
... Bishop Alexander, the Speaker's Commentary (published in America under the title,
The Bible Comm., and bound with most excellent commentaries on all of the ...
/t/thessalonians.htm - 46k

Confusion (71 Occurrences)
... For other analyses see the commentaries. But they are hardly imperative. ... LITERATURE.
Driver in HDB; Cheyne (art. "Babel, Tower of") in EB; the commentaries. ...
/c/confusion.htm - 39k

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