A Christmas Shopping Guide for Books for Your Favorite Pastor or Seminary Student

The following are actually two posts that I wrote for another site, ParkingSpace23.com. But I thought I’d add them here for anyone for may not have seen that site.  Keep in mind they are two posts written a year apart and I haven’t done much to smooth them out. I hope they might be helpful.

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For the last 25 years, a few weeks before Christmas I begin to get questions from friends, relatives, and parishioners asking for my opinion on Christmas gifts for the pastor or seminary student in their lives, especially as it relates to books. Since I’m a professional librarian and have trained pastors, I apparently seem like a good person to ask.

With slight variations they run something like this, “I want to do something special and I’m think about getting them [fill in with this or that large set of books], do you think they’ll like that?”

These good folks are always well intentioned, but most of the time they know next to nothing about either the books or authors or even the subject matter. I recall one acquaintance who received a couple of large sets which he didn’t have the shelf space for, but he needed to “display” them to make the gift giver feel good, so a large number of much more useful material had to be stacked under his desk. I recall another student coming to me once in despair. He had received a large and expensive set of books, which his wife, parents, and sisters pooled their resources to buy. Since the set was largely useless he asked me, “What do I do?” It’s possibly still displayed on a prominent shelf.

Booksellers, who naturally exist to make money, will often have displays of large sets of books with a “Christmas Special” that amounts to something like 75% off of retail. One set that I’m looking at right now on the other computer screen is listed for $89.99 off of a retail price (at least what they list) of $700 or a sale price 87% off. That sounds like a great price (which is a tolerable price as you’ll see below) but it is also exceptionally misleading since no one would pay full retail for that or any other set.

So, as a public service as Christmas nears (and planning ahead for graduation time when these same questions will come up again), let me offer some advice on the purchase of large sets of books. What follows is in no particular order. By the way, if I offend anyone or disparage your favorite author, I apologize now. However, I’m always reminded of Charles Spurgeon in his Commenting and Commentaries, where he often made rather biting remarks about certain works. On a commentary on Daniel by Henry More, he remarked, “If a man had no more than More, he would certainly long for more.” My comments below occasionally will follow that vein, so you have been warned.

Expositions of Holy Scripture (various publishers, most recently Hendrickson) by Alexander Maclaren.

Alexander Maclaren was a contemporary of Charles Spurgeon (although they apparently didn’t care for each others company) and pastored the famous Union Chapel in Manchester, England for 45 years. He represented the well-educated, wealthy, upper middle and upper class wing of the Baptist Union. Early on he rejected biblical inerrancy and opted for an evolutionary scheme of creation, although he rarely mentioned either. His conduct during the Downgrade Controversy, where he was appointed along with some others to meet with Spurgeon in an effort to quell the controversy can only be described as disinterested at best and disingenuous at worst.

His expositions are rather banal and you can almost hear an affected “stained glass voice” as you read. While rejecting inerrancy, Maclaren’s expositions are remainly broadly evangelical and he will generally land within traditional Baptist interpretations of the texts relevant to ecclesiology. However, he will often frustrate the reader by seemingly never dealing with an important text or taking a clear position. Beyond that, the set will take up way too much space, unless you can acquire it for free, take a pass.

Expositor’s Bible Commentary (new edition), Zondervan Publishers.

This new edition has been generally well received. Several of the weakest entries in the original series, such as Kalland on Deuteronomy and Mare on Corinthians, were thankfully replaced. However, the original first volume, which contained a set of introductory essays, most of which were exceptionally helpful, was not included in the new edition. Personally, I thought this was a singular mistake and weakened the overall new edition but it was dropped nonetheless.

For a set of commentaries it is now rather uniformly of high quality, excellent in places and no less than good in others (the spectrum of quality in the original series was much wider in a negative direction). If you can find a set for $250 you won’t be overpaying for it. If you can find the original volume one to add to the present whomever you choose to gift should be appreciative.

Commentary on the Old Testament (recently published by Hendrickson) by Keil and Delitzsch.

I see this set currently listed at an 86% discount, which is about 13% too little. This was a valuable set when it was first produced over 120 years ago and it was a staple for many pastors for a long time. Despite the unevenness of work in its day it was a valuable set; however, its day has long since passed. The only real value for this set now has is to look pretty on the shelf.

Actually the “set” was never designed to be a set and the publisher rebinding individual volumes as sets over the years has made it one of the more difficult sets to use in an academic setting (the page numbers were never redone, so any given volume may have the same page number in two or three locations). It has long since been superseded for the student by works current in research and is too dense and cumbersome for the busy pastor. The tidbit here and there that is still edible in this set isn’t worth the space in the pantry. Avoid at any price.

Pillar New Testament Commentary, edited by D. A. Carson (Eerdmans Publishing).

This series didn’t begin life as a series. Eerdmans published Leon Morris on the Gospel of John at the very end of the line of individual commentaries being published. Essentially all commentaries are now part of a series rather than a “stand alone” work. There are exceptions to that rule, but it is now exceptionally rare. What Eerdmans did was repackage Morris’ work into a new series: The Pillar New Testament Commentary series. Edited by D. A. Carson and now at 16 volumes, it is one of the most valuable commentary sets currently in production. The problem with series is that they often take a long time to produce (for example the Word Biblical Commentary still is incomplete after nearly 40 years) and they are of uneven quality. This series is due to be completed very shortly and Carson has kept the quality at a uniformly high level. While it retails for nearly $800, I’ve seen the set available for about half that. If you want to make an investment that will last for many years, this is a good place to put your money.

The Pulpit Commentary and The Biblical Illustrator (various publishers).

I have placed these two venerable sets together to dispose of them at the same time. There was a time when the only books a pastor in a small rural church might have were these. It would be rather impressive as at about 60 volumes total they took up the better part of an entire bookshelf (over the years I’ve seen many sets inscribed to a new pastor). They were designed for the pastor possessing what Spurgeon used to call “slender apparatus,” and I guess they were better than nothing at all. But today they aren’t, the material is dated, the illustrations are trite and even offensive in places. They are valueless when commenting on the original languages and are from an era when everyone still used the King James Bible.

I’ve seen these sets available practically for free at local Goodwill Stores; so don’t buy them new, even at an 83% discount. If you have them and need to create shelf space, they make excellent kindling for a warm winter fire.

The Dictionary of New Testament Theology, edited by Gerhard Kittel (Eerdmans Publishing).

This ten-volume set has been a high-end lexical resource since it first appeared in English in the 1970’s. It is a massive collection of essays on individual words and word groups in the Greek New Testament. It remains valuable for the student or teacher; although I would question its utility for the busy pastor. But I have a couple of warnings about purchasing this set. If you want to buy this I strongly recommend finding an older printing that has real dust jackets and stitched binding. The newer printings (last 10 years or so) are not stitched, they are glued and the bindings simply will not last. I’ve seen them crack and split after a couple of years. You might pay more than the current sale of $90, but you can still find them for about $120 and they will last a lifetime.

There is something you also need to know about the content. This was originally a German language work and the main editor, Gerhard Kittel, was a thoroughgoing Nazi (shortly after the war he died while in allied custody awaiting trial for war crimes). Kittel was not the only contributor of this ilk in this set and the anti-Semitism comes through pretty clearly in places, although more subtly elsewhere. It’s not that they were trying to hide anything, they probably couldn’t conceive any other kind of thinking. As such, in my view, there are places where it is an unreliable guide although crafted in careful scholarly language. It’s still an important set and still useful for the scholar, but the unaware pastor or student can be mislead in places. Handle with caution.

Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson (B&H Books)

Robertson, who taught Greek at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for many years left two main works, his Historical Grammar and his six volume Word Pictures. Designed as less of a commentary and more of an extended word study through key words in a verse-by-verse setting. It can be helpful in places but he often falls into “word study fallacies” by making the etymology of a particular word carry more weight than they can possibly bear. It’s a nice set that is useful in places and doesn’t take up too much space, but they can be found for a much better price than retail, generally as owners who discovered they really didn’t need the set sell them.

The Renaissance New Testament by Randolph O. Yeager (Pelican Publishing).

I only include this set because someone recently asked me about it, which led me to think that possibly some misguided publisher has brought it back, although I hope not. This set took poor Mr. Yeager nearly his entire adult life to complete, so he gets an “A” for effort and perseverance; however, as Carson points out it is a “monument to misplaced energy.” The set takes up considerable space to no possible benefit to the owner. It’s based entirely on the King James Version, the comments are either entirely self-evident or entirely misguided. He apparently had some facility in New Testament Greek, but I’m always hard pressed to see how it helped him. Don’t even let someone give this set to you.

The Daily Bible Study by William Barclay (Westminster-John Knox Press)

I would have thought that by now most people would understand that William Barclay’s commentaries have been thoroughly discredited. However, I’m often still surprised that people buy and pastors still quote this amazingly bad series. Barclay had a fascinating way of explaining manners and customs and historical information about the New Testament. He was writing purely for the layman and as a result he never used footnotes or referred to sources that could be verified. Not only are most of his explanations about manners, customs, and history wrong, in the process he denies essentially every significant Christian doctrine. Unfortunately, many pastors, especially in the 1960-80 era often quoted Barclay to illustrate their own sermons and in so doing legitimized Barclay in the minds of their listeners in the process.

The set remains immensely popular and Barclay’s son has recently updated it. Nothing in the updates fixes any of the terrible theology and unsubstantiated references that supposedly make the Bible clear to the average layman. This is a set that pastors should be paid not to use.

New International Commentary on the Old Testament and New International Commentary on the New Testament (Eerdmans Publishing).

These series have been ongoing since the late 1950’s and the New Testament series will soon be getting its fourth editor (Ned Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, and Gordon Fee) since Dr. Fee recently had to retire because of his health. If someone really wants to do something nice for a present either of these sets are worthwhile. They have been updating them regularly (some of the earlier parts of the series have been replaced, such as John Murray on Romans was replaced by Douglas Moo). The sets are expensive, it will usually take at least $300 per set on sale, but they have and will stand the test of time. F. F. Bruce’s Acts, while significantly dated, is widely regarded as the model for a modern biblical commentary. The scholarship, research, and writing standards for the both series have remained high. If you have to make a choice, I prefer the New Testament series slightly over the Old Testament, but only by a small margin.

Commentary on Romans (12 Volumes) by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Banner of Truth Publishing)

I’m sure I will get into trouble here with many readers, but $300 for this set is way too much. While it will look nice on the shelf and certainly help with your bona fides for any young restless reformed groupie that visits your office, I found this set to be ponderously unhelpful. I’m rather convinced that anything that could be said in 100 words Lloyd-Jones could say in 1,000. Of course, these began life as sermons, not as an intentional commentary.

As a dispensationalist I naturally think his comments on Romans 9-11 are entirely misguided. He creates useful outlines and makes good pastoral observations, but his utility in Greek is dubious. As Carson states, “Lloyd-Jones is probably not the model most preachers should imitate.” That being said, while he is wordy, he’s readably wordy and there is value in his comments. However, for a commentary you can get John Murray’s two volumes on Romans and have a thorough commentary on the text with the same theology explained much more clearly and without the spatial commitment of an entire shelf.

The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, by John MacArthur (Moody Press).

Now, if you’ve recovered from my comments on Lloyd-Jones, we’ll move on. This set is unquestionably a singular achievement and it’s single-handedly kept Moody Press afloat for many years (it’s the only series they print that remains profitable with strong sales). It can generally be found as a set new for about $400 and it’s worth that investment and the new dust jackets are much more attractive than the plain hardbacks were. That being said, the series is a cross between sermonic material and commentary and that’s not always good. In the editing some of the sermonic quality is lost and they were never supplemented adequately enough to create a solidly pure commentary. Over the years his theology shifted as well and as a result there are internal inconsistencies within the series.

The focus of the series also shifted very early and Moody allocated more pages to each volume. The set would be greatly strengthened if the first two entries Hebrews and Galatians, were replaced with new editions, but there seems to be no plan for that. For the Sunday school teacher, the Bible study leader, the young pastor, or who Carson calls, “the well-read layperson,” this series has a high value. Buying it as a set is also the best bet, as you’ll save about 50%

New Testament Commentary by William Hendriksen and Simon Kistemaker (Baker Books)

Hendriksen completed eight of the commentaries and after his death Kistemaker finished the New Testament. This set is useful, thoroughly committed to inerrancy, and often has helpful pastoral comments. The tone of the series is staunchly Covenantal-Reformed, often tediously so. Hendriksen’s contributions tend to be much more wordy and dogmatic and he rarely interacts with opposing viewpoints. Kistemaker is a little easier reading, but he also doesn’t give much time to other possible interpretations.

The set is often available for under $200 but honestly there is a reason that its popularity has declined (as a set it was even out of print for a time). A few of Kistemaker’s contributions are still valuable, but personally I’d buy these individually. Hendriksen’s volumes (especially the gospels) are dated and pedantic. The Pillar series is a far better use of your money and shelf space.

The New International Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Eerdmans Publishing).

This is the more technical version of the NICNT series. It is a commentary on the Greek text, not the English and therein lies my warning. The set is not inexpensive (about $350 on sale) but you need to be sure the person receiving this is really a good Greek student. For pastors who got B’s and C’s in Greek during seminary and haven’t kept up on the language this set will may be more of a frustration than a help. The authors do no explain the basics of the language; they rather assume a superior working knowledge of New Testament Greek on the part of the reader. Some of the volumes can be exceptionally technical in places and are probably more suited to the advanced student working on his doctorate than the busy pastor.

That being said, it is a superior set of high quality and thorough scholarship. If the person you have in mind to give this too is good with Greek, they should rejoice to receive this set.

The Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren W. Wiersbe (David C. Cook)

When I have finished preparing a sermon and I’m giving it one last check the place I always go to it Wiersbe. The longtime pastor at Moody Church and then the radio teacher for Back to the Bible, is by far my favorite preacher and author. Checking his comments will almost always reveal a new way of looking at a text, an emphasis for preaching or teaching, as well as useful and timeless illustrations. A compilation of his famous “Be” series of individual commentaries, the five volumes are generally available new for around $50 and will be the best $50 you will ever spend.

Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible, by John Calvin (most recently published by Hendickson)

This classic set reprints the Calvin Translation Society editions in the Victorian era. They will repay the reader in most areas. Calvin did the commentaries toward the end of his life and they often represent his more mature thought. The careful reader will see that the comments are occasionally at odds with The Institutes, but that is to be expected. Here I will repeat a warning that I gave earlier. If you want a set that will last, look for the Baker Books edition from the 1980’s. The volumes are stitched and the binding will last a lifetime. The current Hendrickson set is cheaply bound and glued, not stitched. You might get a new set for $100, but spending $200–250 on the older edition is a wise decision (and they will actually open and lay flat on the desk). There are, of course, some quirks in the way Calvin did some of the books (his chronological presentation of Samuel, Kings & Chronicles) and his synoptic presentation of the gospels. Also, he didn’t do a commentary on Revelation. Calvin can be loquacious at times and his comments make arcane references to the current events of his day; but the Translation Society editor’s are often helpful with footnotes.

Word Biblical Commentary (now published by Thomas Nelson and distributed by Zondevan)

In the publishing world there has been a recent consolidation and News Corp (owned by the Murdoch’s who also own Fox) how have owned Zondervan Publishing for nearly 20 years now owns Word and Thomas Nelson (along with Harper-Row). In their acquisitions and rearrangement of each imprint it appears that Zondervan will ultimately take control of handling the Word Biblical Commentary (Word had been changed to the “W Group” and then sold to Thomas Nelson and now they all belong to the Murdoch empire).

I can make this one really simple; don’t buy this as a set. First of all it takes nearly an entire shelving unit for the whole thing, but beyond that it’s probably the most uneven series that has even been produced. Some of them are excellent and some of them are simply awful. There seemed to be no unifying editorial control and certainly no unifying theological point of view. It’s a mix of just about everything and there are a few of the authors I would be hard pressed to even call evangelical. The good individual commentaries can be bought individually without cluttering up an office with books whose only usefulness is tossing in with the Pulpit Commentary and Biblical Illustrator.

Conclusion

There are any number of other sets I could mention, and perhaps I’ll add some other thoughts around graduation time. I would mention that if you are looking to buy a gift of books for your pastor or student and you don’t know what to get or if something is worthwhile, ask around. Send me an email if you like. You might see the set of commentaries by Matthew Poole, very nicely bound, very pretty, and reasonably well priced, but you would be buying something destined to never be used.

 

 

2016 Update

Last year I posted here some recommendations for commentaries and other book sets people might want to buy for that pastor or seminary student in their life. It was in no particular order and it wasn’t exhaustive.

Two things happened again this year: people started sending me notes asking about this or that book as a gift and I also received my shipment of books from the Evangelical Publishing Association. I’m a judge in the Bible and Reference section for their annual Gold Medallion Awards (and I have been for about 15 years). Questions and these new additions to commentary series stimulated me to create some additions to last years sampling.

My same disclaimers apply as last year. I apologize in advance if I am critical of your favorite author, but when I look at the work of Spurgeon and more recently D. A. Carson, I realize that I’m in good company utilizing some of the sharper facets of humor and critique. Also, these are in no particular order.

I haven’t mentioned a few series because one must be mindful that commentary series often die young (e.g. The Eerdmans Critical Commentary series or the now officially aborted Clarendon Bible series). But here you go:

Preaching the Word Commentary Series. Edited by R. Kent Hughes this series began as Hughes’ sermons put into commentary form (similar to The MacArthur series). It proved to be successful and to fill out the series more quickly Hughes became the editor and other authors were added. They are brief, uniformly helpful, and much more pastoral in tone. bookstoreAnd, they are engagingly written. The key with this set is, despite, the title, they aren’t really commentaries; they are in fact synopses of how to “preach the word” and in this sense Hughes didn’t try to make his sermons something they weren’t. They are more useful to examine against what your completed sermon looks like than to see the technical details of the text. I’m not sure I would rush out and buy the whole set, although Hughes’ contributions are always worthwhile. The newest volume (1 Corinthians by Steven Ulm) covers the key features of the book without bogging down in this or that section of the epistle.

The Kregel Exegetical Commentary Series. The most important contribution to date is clearly Allen Ross’ three volumes on the Psalms, perhaps the best effort in the Psalms in recent decades. The series is solidly evangelical, really exegetical, and premillennial, although not forcing it where the text doesn’t. The only question with this series is whether Kregel can pick up the pace a bit in terms of production. So far only Old Testament volumes have been produced.

Craig Keener’s mammoth four volumes: Book of Acts: An Exegetical Commentary is now thankfully complete. All four are available at about a 50% discount and if Acts interests you and you have hefty book shelves then you might want to invest the $140 they will cost. Personally I wonder if this set is a “commentary” or perhaps better classified as an encyclopedia on the Book of Acts. It is in the tradition of von Harnack and while Keener is an excellent writer; I hesitate to call him concise, but in his own way he is, but I wonder how many pastors will require 5000 pages on Acts. But, the busy pastor may better appreciate F. F. Bruce in the NICNT supplemented by Darrell Bock in the BENTC.

A few words about Zondervan Publishing (one of the branches of News Corp’s growing influence in religious publishing). After finishing the complete revision of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan currently has several disparate commentary series in process, including taking over the Word Biblical Commentary series when Mr. Murdoch added Thomas Nelson to his empire. At first glance they seem to have something for everyone, closer examination however, make me wonder. Their new The Story of God Commentary series is an interesting new study. Edited by Tremper Longman III (admittedly not one of my favorite editors or commentators) is an examination of the storyline of each book. It deals more with overview and narrative than detail and in that it is a welcome addition. The series will not please more conservative readers (In Genesis Longman rejects a young earth position and waffles around Mosaic authorship) but as a commentary examining larger portions of text, it is a good source to sort of pull your mind out of the lexical and grammatical minutiae. Zondervan is clearly serious as all the authors have been assigned. An old friend and TMS grad, Tim Gombis is scheduled to do The Gospel of Mark. The Story of God series seems to be a good balance to the NIV Application Commentary Series and the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary Series. By the way, while the NIVAC is very good in places, like the Word Biblical Commentary, it’s terribly uneven and not something you want to fill your shelves with. There seems to be a tendency with some publishers to simply add the word “exegetical” to the title and include some Greek and Hebrew fonts, add words like aorist infinitive participle and attempt to make people thing something new (or useful) has actually been created, I’m afraid the ZEC too often falls into this category. This series does continue a trend with Zondervan’s editorial desires it seems, dealing with “preachable lengths” of text. So far the nuggets here and there haven’t inclined me to want to buy any of them individually and certainly not clutter up a shelf with them. There is way too much wasted space in the text. Including the entire Greek text and then the individual author’s translation (along the lines of the Anchor Bible) is just tedious and offers almost no real value to the reader.

One set I would avoid is the Reformed Expository Commentary Series from P&R. It is thoroughly reformed even when the text isn’t and in places reads like an exposition of the proof texts of the Westminster Confession rather than the text of Scripture. The occasional useful morsel will probably be found elsewhere and in a more palatable form. The comments are often too brief or too pedantic to be helpful and naturally from my perspective utterly worthless in the prophetic books unless you agree with Calvin that the prophets must be referring to the church in their utterances. The same can be said of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary. Built on the assumption that Christ is in every passage of the Bible, the comments are too idiosyncratic and often in the process of “finding Christ” in every passage the authors don’t find the actual meaning of the passage. Another set that I would avoid is the Preach the Text Commentary series from Baker. Each publisher seemingly has to have an entry into every commentary sub-genre but so far the offerings in this series haven’t been impressive, it seems to be more of an effort to balance out the uncritically liberal Paideia series.

By the same token I would not simply avoid some of the Sacra Pagina volumes because they are by Catholic scholars; for instance, Collins on First Corinthians is excellent. Another entry from Westminster/John Knox is the New Testament for Everyone series by N. T. Wright (which incorporates his older Paul for Everyone). Before you reject Wright immediately for his New Perspective leanings, remember he is a first rate biblical scholar (in my opinion his work on the resurrection is unsurpassed). He is a clear and engaging writer with both style and has the chops to back that style up. There are things to learn from Wright and as a commentary series it can be had reasonably priced and doesn’t take up a lot of space.

Not long ago I had a panicked call from a young pastor, whose parents, as a surprise but without much knowledge in the field, bought him the entire Yale Anchor Bible series. This series has been around since the 1960’s when it was published by Doubleday and simply known as the Anchor Bible. It is part “new translation” and part commentary. One of the advantages is that it includes the Apocrypha and useful commentaries covering those are few and far between. Yale University Press bought the rights to the series (which also includes a set of reference books) and this set isn’t inexpensive. The whole series takes an entire shelf unit and he was worried that people who came into his office would think he had become a liberal. I advised him that it was more important to honor his parent’s elaborate gift than to worry about what other people thought. It’s a set of uneven quality, but mostly liberal to extremely liberal (Carson politely calls the series “ecumenical”). Some of the more conservative works in the series (Albright and Mann Matthew on for instance) were also the worst written and the least exegetical. However, the Catholic Raymond Brown’s volumes on John are immensely helpful. However, if someone is thinking about spending the $1000 or so it takes to buy the entire set, seriously consider placing your money in a more useful investment.

It was sad to read about the passing of Dr. Thomas Oden in the last couple of weeks. He was the driving force behind the the paleo-Christian movement and especially the IVP Ancient Christian Commentary series (which expanded into other areas). The idea behind the series was unique and in some cases exceptionally well carried out. But while it is a pretty shelf set I’m not convinced having them all is a worthwhile use of space or money. One thing is that since they are little more than snippets of various Fathers on different passages, the actual context of the original writing is lost and sometimes the thrust of the commentary isn’t exactly the same as what the particular church father as trying to say.

If someone wants to spend money on you, if you don’t own the IVP Dictionaries for the Old and New Testament, they should be a first choice. The are subtitled a “Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship” and that is a true statement. While some of the conclusions will make you scratch your head, they are clear, well written, and have good bibliographies. IVP tends to use a rather narrow club of contributors, but they are all highly respected scholars, certainly not always conservative but well written and thorough.

One word of update. Since the recent scandals of plagiarism are still fresh, it’s worth noting that a couple of the series’ I mentioned last year were affected. Peter T. O’Brien’s volumes in the Pillar and NIGTC have been removed and apparently the inventories destroyed (this has had the effect of making them scarce and driving up their prices in the used market, I’ve seen some of his works going for over $200). What we can say about O’Brien and others is that as far as I can tell they weren’t making things up, as in fiction, they were just not properly attributing phrases, sentences, and paragraphs to who actually wrote them. The net effect is not error in the text as much as making the authors appear more clever than they actually are. Personally, I think they are all disqualified from being properly cited in an academic setting, but they are still good compendiums of information. But, buy the same token I would also never quote them in a sermon.

The steam in the creation of new commentary series seems to be running out a bit and theology seems to be taking the lead with publishers again (just as new works in reference have scaled back from a peak several years ago when commentary series began to take over). I expect the recent kerfuffle on the Trinity will lead to some new library1books, although after all the sessions at ETS I remain convinced the whole affair was much ado about nothing. By means of prediction I do think the field of theologies will expand. Millard Erickson and Wayne Grudem have dominated the field some time now and I expect updated full systematics from some other perspectives (an updated work along the lines of Chafer would be welcomed). Beginning the trend is the release of the new edition of The New Dictionary of Theology: Systematic and Historical (IVP, 2016). This new edition is a significant update and expansion of the original. The much-anticipated Biblical Doctrine, edited by Mayhue and MacArthur is currently schedule for release at the end of January, but may not ship until March.

But certainly don’t forget reference works! I will close with this: one of the best reference works you can get for NT backgrounds is either The Cambridge Dictionary of Classical Civilization or The Classical Tradition from Harvard Press. It’s always amazing to me how few pastors learn or know much about the Classical era of which the NT writers are often (especially Paul) and then after the NT era, the church fathers) dependent.

To answer one last question I always get, what about Logos, Accordance, Bible Works, and the like. Here are my thoughts in a nutshell. Computer programs are wonderful in helping you do things faster and more efficiently; like technical exegetical work, concordance searches, and the like. Even the tagging features to connect verses to books and journal articles can be helpful. But, as a reading tool, here’s what you need to remember. Virtually every study done shows that people read up to 40% slower on a computer screen, tablet, or any other electronic device as opposed to paper books. If space and travel is an issue, by all means e-Books are a great idea. But in terms of pure reading, these programs don’t fulfill my “faster and effective” criteria. If I am asked to rank the major programs, as I often am, here it is: Accordance is first, by far and away, it’s not even a close discussion. Second place: Bible Works a solid workmanlike program that will handle all your language and exegetical needs. Third place goes to Logos, which essentially began life as a book reading program, and that remains it best feature. In my opinion its exegetical and lexical capabilities are a distant third (and possibly fourth) behind the other two.

I hope this helps, perhaps next year we’ll do this again.