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Commentaries are Bible resources that are meant for expounding the understanding of Scripture by exposing its meaning more clearly to the reader. Scripture takes preeminence over any commentary or theological writings and should remain the primary source of theological focus for the commentator. This essentially implies that we should search Bible commentaries only as study aids where the meaning of a Scripture text is obscure to the reader. Commentaries are also useful in providing clarity on the historical context and cultural background that informed the authorship of a Scripture passage or Book of Scripture. How close a commentary is to Scripture is perhaps determined by the faithfulness of its editors in keeping their focus on sound hermeneutical rules of Bible interpretation. I wish to suggest the following five guidelines which I consider useful in determining if a Bible commentary is reliable and may be recommended to a Bible reader First it is important to understand the theology and statement of faith of the editorial board or religious organization that sponsors the commentary or to which the commentators subscribe. It is instructive that some commentaries are sponsored by organizations whose theological views contradict or distort the text of Scripture. Secondly, for scholarly commentaries, the biblical training, experience and reputation of the editors is important. Commentary works require theological skills and a sound grasp of original Bible languages. This is not to suggest that only theologians can write commentaries but that their input is essential. The third factor to consider is the depth of biblical analysis they contain. Some commentaries are topical and are limited to some books of Scripture while others are purely scholarly. The interest of the reader will be useful In determining the choice of a suitable commentary. The fourth concern touches on the sources from which the editors borrowed in their commentary works. Some commentaries are largely based on a particular Bible translation or manuscript. This tends to limit their expository range. If the reader desires an exegetical commentary, they should seek one that carries a broad comparison of major Bible translations and recognized manuscripts. The fifth and final consideration is the faithfulness of the editors to the fundamental concepts of sound Bible hermeneutics or rules of interpretation recognized by Evangelical Christianity. This is perhaps an overriding consideration in determining the suitability of a commentary. If for instance the religious organization that sponsors the editorial board denies the trinitarian revelation of God or the deity and divinity of Jesus Christ or holds an unbiblical view of the revelation and authority of Scripture, then the commentary works are likely to be compromised by these heretical theological convictions. The rule of inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture must be central to any useful Bible commentary.
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