Colossians Commentaries

A while ago, I put together a quick guide to commentaries on Colossians for the benefit of a newsletter that subsequently never went to print. Here, if anybody is interested, are some very brief remarks on recommended commentaries on Colossians from an evangelical perspective. This list is restricted to technical or semi-technical works: excellent devotional commentaries include R. C. Lucas’ The Message of Colossians in the Bible Speaks Today series and Kent Hughes’ Colossians & Philemon in the Preaching the Word series.

The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (Pillar New Testament Commentary) 2008
Douglas Moo
The best option from a fine series edited by D. A. Carson; Moo is one of the finest exegetes on the Epistles of Paul and at 471 pages he has plenty of space for incisive comments and interaction with other scholars. He is not quite as readable as others (e.g. O’Brien) but his clarity in discussing contentious issues is still commendable. He is excellent on the New Perspective on Paul.

Colossians and Philemon (Word Biblical Commentary) 1998
Peter O’Brien
This is still one of the technical commentary but the WBC series with its somewhat irritating format makes for difficult reading: the commentary proper is separated from remarks on form and textual discussion and the absence of footnotes means that the writing is saddled with extra baggage. Nevertheless, O’Brien still manages his explanations well and the exegesis is excellent.

Colossians and Philemon (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) 1991

Murray J Harris
This volume was supposed to be the first in a projected multi-volume series but it has now stood alone for 20 years! This is a pity because this fine book is very helpful for those working closely with the Greek text. A good working knowledge of Greek is required but while highly technical, Harris thoughtfully includes homiletical sections to aid pastors preparing their expositions: a nice reminder that Greek exegesis should have a practical purpose.

The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (The New International Greek Testament Commentary) 1996
James Dunn
This is a very helpful volume in the NIGTC series characterised by a display of consistent good sense in reasoning over disputed passages. Unfortunately, it does seem a little thin at times: Dunn doesn’t always engage thoroughly with other viewpoints.

Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon and to the Ephesians (New International Commentary on the New Testament) 1984
F. F. Bruce
Typically solid exegesis from a first class scholar. This is one of Bruce’s better New Testament commentaries and he is particularly helpful at providing the history of interpretation of various passages that have generated considerable debate.

Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (New American Commentary) 1991
Richard Melick
A fine and very readable offering in this leading evangelical series. Very useful exegetical information is to be found in the copious footnotes. This is probably the best overall commentary for those who have little or no Greek.

The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (Cambridge Greek Testament Commentaries) 1957
C. F. D. Moule
Don’t be put off by either the small size or the date: Moule blends scholarly knowledge with a judicious filtering that enables him to comment only on those matters that matter most: those niggly obscure terms that require explanation. A fine little handbook.

Colossians, Philemon (NIV Application Commentary) 1998
David Garland
This volume, at just over 400 pages, packs a pleasantly large amount of exegetical material in a series that is aimed more at application. Garland’s experience as a pastor is exhibited also in the excellent devotional sections. This volume is much more technical than other commentaries in the NIVAC series.

Andy Cheung teaches New Testament at King’s Evangelical Divinity School, an accredited online theological college.

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