Part 4: Compare Bible Commentaries
Fourth in a series providing a practical guide for studying scriptures about strengths.
As you study what God says in His Word about differences, you are better able to embrace your individual strengths, the strengths of those around you, and blend to build healthy relationships. You undergo a personal journey of discovery.
A Bible commentary’s authors “comment” on a specific Bible passage, providing information from their own research. A commentary adds insights to what you have already learned on your own.
How Can a Bible Commentary Help Me?
Whereas a Bible dictionary provides definitions for terms found in scripture, Bible commentaries explain passages themselves. Commentaries are organized as a collection of entries or articles, presented in biblical book order (Genesis 1, Genesis 2, and so forth.) Articles address the text’s author, text, and audience, offering historical and cultural background. Some also explain the text’s literary genre and its significance. Information and details in commentary articles help you understand what you’re reading.
Though written by scholars, commentaries are meant for anyone to use – whether you’re a pastor preparing a message for listeners, a Christian professional who is ministering to others, or a Christ-follower studying a scripture in order to apply it to your life. Commentaries vary in approach (academic to study notes to devotional), detail (broad scope in a chapter at a time to meticulous word-for-word meanings), and theology (subject to the author’s views).
How to Use a Bible Commentary
Don’t read commentaries first
It can be tempting to read a passage and immediately look it up in a commentary as a way of having an “expert” explain it to you. Instead, take time to study the passage on your own. Read it in context and in several translations. Search its keywords and other terms. This process allows you to wrestle with meaning and discover new insights for yourself.
Do read several commentaries
When you’re ready to dig deeper, consult several commentaries rather than just one. Do the writers confirm what you thought? Expand on it? Challenge each other? Point out a different position altogether? Different commentators may emphasize different elements of the same text. By asking God for insight and then comparing what different commentaries say about a particular passage, you can arrive at your own conclusions.
Two Ways to Access an Online Bible Commentary
You can access a Bible commentary easily using free online Bible study tools. In Bible Gateway, for example, you have two options when it comes to studying a passage in a Bible commentary.
- Search a specific commentary. Access a list of commentaries through “Additional Resources” in the navigation column. Choose the commentary you wish to read and search its index to find your scripture reference.
- Search commentaries for a specific Bible text. This is the simplest way is to see all relevant entries for a particular passage. Search for the scripture and then click the Show resources link next to the Bible text. Results will open a window alongside the scripture listing available Bible commentary articles referencing that passage. The new column lists all of the Bible commentaries that discuss the passage you’re reading, without taking you away from the current page – so you can read the passage alongside the commentary.
Try It! What a Bible Commentary Study Reveals About Strengths
One key strength scripture passage is 1 Corinthians 12. A quick Resources search of 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (ESV) in Bible Gateway shows several commentaries with entries for this chapter. For instance, Matthew Henry’s Commentary (a well-known, 6-volume work) offers these points in just the first paragraph of his exposition on 1 Corinthians 12.
- The Corinthian church demonstrated spiritual gifts in great quantities.
- Spiritual gifts are from God.
- Spiritual gifts present themselves in considerable variety.
- Spiritual gifts have 2 primary purposes: to grow the Kingdom and to strengthen believers.
- Paul explains spiritual gifts using the metaphor of parts of the human body.
After you study the entries in this commentary, you can compare others to grasp a more meaningful understanding of God’s strengths working in you.
Bible translations, Bible keyword searches, Bible dictionaries, and Bible commentaries are easy to use – especially online – and enhance your reading and studying of strengths scriptures. Combined with your own insights, these Bible study tools can give you a deeper insight of God’s design in equipping His people with strengths.