Galatians. WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1990.
Longenecker provides a good commentary for discussion of the issues involved. It's one of the more in-depth commentaries on Galatians, so it provides a good entry to some of the technical issues involved in interpretation. I was frustrated with some of Longenecker's theological conclusions however. He supports Hays' reading of "the faith of Jesus Christ," but doesn't seem to me to carry the implications of that view any farther than in translation. Unfortunately, he still sees Galatians as addressing the dual problems of legalism/nomism, which don't see to me to fit Paul's Jewish view of the purpose/efficacy of the Law. While this commentary is helpful in describing the issues related to Galatians, it doesn't offer many unique insights into those issues.
Galatians. SP. Michael Glazier Books, 2007.
Decent overview of the letter to the Galatians. Matera's commentary is mediocre. It gives a good description of the new perspective on Paul, but then fails to follow through on all the implications of this approach, as do writers like Hays or Dunn. The rest of the commentary is well-written, but doesn't really add much to the general discussion on Galatians. Matera does have a slightly unique standpoint in his fairly thoroughgoing rejection of mirror-reading in the letter, preferring instead to find a rhetorical model to fit Paul's comments into. A good read for someone entering into Galatians, but will not become a groundbreaking commentary regarding Galatians.
The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God: Volume 3). Augsburg Fortress Press, 2003.
This third volume in Wright's series is something of a part 2 to JVG, originally meant to be its last chapter. Wright broadened his scope, however, to talk about the centrality of resurrection-thought in the rest of the NT (not just the Gospels), as well as in the cultural milieu of the time. The book's strong points are its ability to trace the development of resurrection thought in early Christianity from its roots in Judaism and the summaries of how the resurrection shapes Paul and the Gospels. A good argument for a historical, bodily resurrection, though not quite as groundbreaking as the first two books of the series. Still well worth the read.
The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel's Scripture. Eerdmans, 2005.
Somewhat of a follow-up to Echoes of Scripture, this is a collection of essays by Hays that deal with the topic of Paul's attitude toward and use of Scripture. Includes several important essays crucial to a "new understanding of Paul." See especially chapters 1 and 3-5. As a collection of essays, this does not flow as well as a normal book, but each chapter certainly contributes to a larger picture Hays is building.
Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. Yale University Press, 1993.
An absolute must for Pauline studies. Hays shows Paul to be a poetic interpreter of Scripture, often exploding the world of the text through reference to a single part. Hays focuses on Paul's "ecclesiocentric hermeneutic" by which he reads Scripture as a word specifically to his communities. Hays informs all of this discussion through attention to careful exegesis.
The Book of Revelation. NIGTC. Eerdmans, 1998.
Beale's massive tome on Revelation is a wealth of information, especially on intertextual allusions. This commentary is light on social-contextual issues (as other reviewers have noted), but if you want to understand Revelation based on the OT allusions John chose, and the way he used them, this is the place to go.
Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Eerdmans, 2005.
Good, detailed study about early Christian Jesus-devotion. Hurtado builds a strong case that from surprisingly early, Christians engaged in a 'binitarian' worship of Jesus, rooted in Jewish monotheism. To someone already convinced of the centrality of Jesus-worship from early on (as opposed to it being a later paganized invention), parts of the book felt like preaching to the choir; nevertheless, Hurtado's tome offers good data and theories to further the conversation in scholarly circles.
Climax of the Covenant: Christ And The Law In Pauline Theology. T&T Clark, 1993.
N. T. Wright builds a compelling picture of the relationship between Christ, Israel and Torah in Pauline thought. Central to Wright's thought is his narrative analysis of Paul's theology, which he believes accounts for many of the tensions commentators have struggled with in Paul's theology. Key chapters are 2, 4, 7, 9, 10 and 13. Soon this will all be unpacked further in Paul and the Faithfulness of God, which should integrate Paul's theology into the broader discussion of worldview which informs Wright's Christian Origins series. (We see hints of this in the present volume.) All in all, Climax of the Covenant is a wonderful book for Pauline studies, which should get people thinking differently (and, I think, more accurately) about Pauline theology.
Lamentations. OTL. Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.
Adele Berlin's commentary is slight (~125 pgs of text) but excellent. Her introduction highlights several key insights that she unpacks in the commentary. Her primary focus is on the literary dimensions of the text. Highly recommended.
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. WBComp. Westminster John Knox Press, 2000.
This review is for the Ecclesiastes portion of the commentary. At about 70 pages devoted to Qoheleth, the insights gained from Davis' thoughts on this book belie its miniature size. I first interacted with Davis' work in The Art of Reading Scripture, in which she (as a co-editor) sets out helpful practices towards a faithful interpretation of Scripture. Many of these are enacted in her commentary on Qoheleth. She interacts with an impressive array of voices from church history and deftly combines historical-critical knowledge with theological insight. Davis' critiques of the NRSV translation (which is included in the text) left me wishing she had provided her own translation. The only pitfall is the inexplicable absence of several sections of Qoheleth from the interpretation. Without any justification for their removal (that I could find), Davis included no commentary on 4:9-16; 6:1-9; 9:13-10:15. If this 4-star commentary included these sections (and perhaps was longer and with an original translation), it would be a 5-star.
Isaiah. OTL. Westminster John Knox Press, 2000.
Childs tackles the whole of the Isainic material in one volume. However, this comes at the expense of skimming over many of the questions raised in interpreting the text. In fact, Childs spends more time arguing why Isaiah should be understood from a canonical perspective (as opposed to the atomizing form-critical) than in showing how the text would be understood from such a perspective. His thoughts on some of the intertextual play within the book are helpful (especially regarding Deutero- and Trito-Isaiah), but, I confess, I expected more from a giant in the field on one of the key books in the OT, coming from one of the major commentary series.
Colossians and Ephesians. SP. Liturgical Press, 2008.
This review is for the Ephesians portion of the commentary. My review here is largely in agreement with that of Todd Price, below. As stated below, MacDonald should only be consulted in conjunction with another commentary. I did not find her arguments against Pauline authorship persuading, though I did think her thoughts on Ephesians' attitude toward outsiders and also visionary experiences worth considering.
John (2nd ed.). WBC. Thomas Nelson, 1999.
Good commentary. Especially helpful in describing the significance of Jesus' interaction with Jewish festivals.
I and II Kings. OTL. Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.
Sweeney has several helpful insights into Kings. He is at his best when dealing with the literary aspects of the text. As a caveat, much of his interpretation is based on his historical reconstruction of different redactions of the text; if you don't agree with him here, this will be less useful for you. If nothing else, read the intro. It's excellent.
Ezekiel. OTL. Westminster John Knox Press, 1970.
I found this commentary unhelpful. The interpretation seemed to simply atomize the text into un-useful bits, rather than making sense of any of it. He did have an interesting bit on the possible psychological conflict Ezekiel experienced as both prophet and priest, but this is mainly just a bit of interesting speculation and doesn't really help the interpretation of the text.
Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. SRC. Eerdmans, 1995.
This review is for the 1 Corinthians portion of the commentary. Ben highlights a lot of helpful info to interpret the situation behind 1 Corinthians. Fittingly, his socio-rhetorical info focuses mainly on Greco-Roman cultural specifics. Of course, due to the nature of the commentary, this will be lighter on theological issues, but I would recommend it when used as a supplemental commentary.
History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. NTLM. Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.
Martyn reads John as a two-level drama, in which the story functions both on the historical level (Jesus' lifetime) and on the contemporary level (time of writing). While you may not agree with all of Martyn's conclusions, you should read this short book as you study John. It will broaden the way you think about the issues going on.
The New Testament and the People of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God: Volume 1). Augsburg Fortress Press, 1992.
This, the first volume of Wright's monumental series, should be required reading for people wanting to study the NT. The first part of the book grounds his study in a critical-realist epistemology, which may bore some readers, but is crucial in establishing his approach. The rest of the book, per NTW, grounds the NT in 1st-century Judaism, which is extremely beneficial. All in all, well worth the read.
The First Epistle to the Corinthians. NICNT. Eerdmans, 1987.
Excellently detailed; Fee is not always persuasive. I tend to think in more New Perspective terms than he, but his arguments are impressive, as is his attention to the text in close detail.
Job. AYB. Yale University Press, 1965.
Pope has some interesting things to say about Job, but overall, his focus is not on the message of the text but its historical underpinnings, which, while helpful, are not the focus the text intends to communicate.
The Letters to the Thessalonians. AYB. Yale University Press, 2000.
Thoughtful commentary characterized by Malherbe's attention to Greco-Roman philosophical parallels.
Graded Reader of Biblical Hebrew: A Guide to Reading the Hebrew Bible. Zondervan, 2006.
An excellent tool for those coming out of first-year Hebrew. The graded reader provides 30 passages for translation from the Old Testament (usually about 8-10 verses), along with space to parse verbs and (a highlight) grammatical commentary on each passage.
Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God: Volume 2). Augsburg Fortress Press, 1997.
As someone following the New Perspective, one of N.T. Wright's major strengths is placing texts in their cultural context. JVG is a superb example of this strength. The initial premise of deducing Jesus' aims, intentions, beliefs and such sounds like it's just asking to get mired down in 2000-years-later speculation, but Wright does an admirable job working within a culturally-sensitive approach to access the history behind the texts. Highlights include his extended discussion of Mark 13, Wright's re-understanding of basic Christian buzz-words such as 'faith' and 'repentance' and Jesus' understanding of his work in terms of OT eschatological understanding.
Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. Eerdmans, 2006.
Bauckham shows his mastery of close, careful reading of texts. Not all of his arguments are persuasive, but he builds a good case. He does wonderful things with the significance of names (or lack thereof) in the text. Lots of insights to be gleaned from this work.
Ecclesiastes. OTL. Westminster John Knox Press, 1987.
Crenshaw is a giant in the wisdom lit world, but I don't feel that I understood Ecclesiastes better after reading his commentary. He's heavy on grammar/translation issues, but not on interpretation.
Theology Of The Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy. Fortress Press, 2005.
Brueggemann's voice has become indispensable in my understanding of the witness of the Old Testament. His insights bring the text to life and will open your eyes and challenge your assumptions.
Commentary on the Torah. HarperOne, 2003.
Friedman's commentary is a wonderful companion to the Torah. It includes his own translation as well as thoughts on specific items in the text. The translation and the interpretation are accessible and insightful. Next time you read through the Torah, do it with Richard Friedman as your guide.
The Gospel of Mark. NIGTC. Eerdmans, 2002.
Excellent commentary on Mark. France gives superb insight into the narrative world of the Gospel, and draws out the Jewish feel of the story's historical setting. My only real disagreement was with France's reading that Mark 13 switches topics from the destruction of Jerusalem to the future second coming of Christ at 13:32. His arguments were not enough to persuade me that it's not about the destruction of Jerusalem throughout.
Hebrews. Herm. Fortress Press, 1989.
I didn't find this commentary very helpful. Attridge seems to be overly concerned with constructing a history of ideas behind the text, which while can be informative, in this case got in the way of actual interpretation of the text. Per the series, Attridge often had an excursus on relevant topics, which tended to be of more use than the surrounding exposition.