Today I just thought I would take some time to highly recommend one of the most helpful resources I have had on my shelf for years, namely A Guide to Biblical Commentaries & Reference Works
by John F. Evans. I think I have been using one edition or another of this book since I first found it in notebook form in the Covenant Theological Seminary bookstore while a student there years ago. In fact, Evans is himself a CTS alum, as his biographical information states:
John Frederick Evans is a lecturer at the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology in Nairobi, Kenya.
A native of North Carolina, Dr. Evans grew up the son and grandson of Presbyterian pastors. He completed his Bachelor of Arts at Calvin College, a Masters degrees in Divinity and Theology at Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate of Theology at the Universiteit can Stellenbosch. He himself served as an ordained Pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) before moving onto the mission field in Zambia in the late 1990s. He served in Zambia until 2007, then for one year in Namibia before moving to Kenya in 2009.
The book is thus written from a Reformed perspective, and it offers excellent recommendations while giving helpful descriptions of the strengths and weaknesses of most of the primary works it lists. Here are the editorial reviews found on the Amazon webpage:
John F. Evans’ A Guide to Biblical Commentaries and Reference Works (9th ed.) is an indispensable handbook for scholars, preachers, and serious students of the Bible. Covering both the Old and New Testaments, book by book, Evans offers an update (9th ed. no less!) of his guide to commentaries and reference works, a daunting task, but one he has accomplished with remarkable currency and theological sensitivity. This work is not a dry bibliographical list, but is distinguished by ample and insightful annotations, providing a “guide” in the real sense of the word. Of particular value also is his introduction which contains “Standards for Evaluating Commentaries,” an excellent list of “Other Bibliographies,” along with the author’s assessments, and a most helpful evaluation of the major commentary series. The broad theological range of the works included is a further positive quality of the Guide, which belongs alongside the reference books in the libraries of scholars and preachers alike. –C. Hassell Bullock, Franklin S. Dyrness Professor of Biblical Studies, Emeritus, Wheaton College
This exhaustive and practical volume is a tool that needs to be in the hands of every minister and Biblical studies teacher. With so many books now in print, we need a guide to lead us through the maze of titles. John Evans is precisely who we need. With a remarkable knowledge of the discipline, Evans has selected the best titles for ongoing study, written annotations for each entry, and the result has been the most thorough bibliography in print. Very highly recommended. –Gary M. Burge, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament, Wheaton College and Graduate School
Evans’ annotations of the NT commentaries are very impressive. He is well versed in both critical/liberal and conservative views. I rarely found an annotation that I could disagree with. My New Testament seminary students need this book. This will be immensely helpful for their research on papers and for deciding which commentaries to buy for their future pastorates. I especially appreciate Evan’s even-handed annotations of critical/liberal New Testament commentaries. He notes many positives, but also offers brief critiques based on a conservative/evangelical/Reformed view point. Evans has a very good grasp of the many scholarly issues that are present in New Testament commentaries. He also is concerned to note which commentaries are useful for evangelical pastors. Although knowledgeable about the liberal/critical world, Evans is clearly evaluating the New Testament commentaries from an evangelical/Reformed perspective. My students and many pastors will appreciate that. — Robert Cara, Ph.D., Hugh and Sallie Reaves Professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary
It is exceptionally well done and far better than anything else I have seen! The introductory material is excellent. It seems to me to be something that will help a lot of students and pastors, and even professors! –Donald Hagner, PhD, George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary
For further help, I have included a scan of the first two pages on the Book of Joel, which I recently consulted because I am currently preparing to teach on the Book of Joel:
To read the scan picture, just click on the image, and it should enlarge enough to read it. If not large enough to read, just zoom in on it (or download it and zoom in if need be). You will notice that Evans employs some symbols to the left of many entries. These symbols help the reader to prioritize to decide which works he might need to buy first, especially if, like most pastors and students, he may be on a very limited budget. The darkened star symbol highlights a work as essential for one’s library, one that should be on the top of the list to buy. The outline star symbol “designates a valuable commentary or reference work that would be worth buying but would … be a second priority.” The check-mark symbol “designates an important scholarly work that could profitably be consulted for seminary papers, but is either difficult/expensive to obtain or of debatable value for a pastor’s library.” The ‘F’ symbol “indicates a forthcoming volume.”