Like the Bible dictionary and the Bible concordance, the Bible commentary is a work of reference. It gathers up the results of Bible Study in all other departments, and arranges the information thus obtained under the particular chapter and verse commented on.
Of Bible commentaries the number is legion. The best detailed description of all the commentaries on Holy Scripture that have been published in the English language is that given in C. H. Spurgeon's lectures entitled " Commenting and Commentaries."
For all practical purposes the present writer regards Ellicott's " Commentary on the Old and New Testaments for English Readers " (published by Cassell & Co., 8 vols.) as the best. Every Bible student and every Christian family should have at least one complete commentary on the whole Bible in the house, so as to be able to look up the meaning of any passage whenever a difficulty arises or a question is asked. The writer has been asked for the explanation of many difficult passages in the course of a lengthened experience of the study and the teaching of the Word, and he has never yet had a case in which the difficulty has not been honestly faced and suitably dealt with by Ellicott, whether the problem has always been solved or not.
The purpose of the Bible commentary is threefold: (1) to set forth the inner life and spiritual content and meaning of Scripture in such a way as to get that spiritual momentum into the heart and soul of the Bible reader ; (2) to give the exact historical situation involved in the passage of Scripture commented on ; (3) to explain dark passages and remove difficulties scientific, historical, and moral.
Ellicott gives an introduction to each book in the Bible, setting down what is known respecting the writer, the readers, the time when it -was written, the place where it was written, and the character, content and canonicity of each book. There is also frequently, and wherever necessary, an excursus on difficult subjects, e.g. the names Elohim and Jehovah, Elam and Chedorlaomer, the angel of the Lord, the chronology of the life of Jacob, etc.
The general trend and spirit of the commentary is strongly evangelical, but some of the contributors are distinctly "broad." The scholarship is ripe and modern, a combination which it is hard to find in these days without some considerable infusion of the noxious ingredients of modern doubt. It does not, like Dummelow's " Commentary on the Whole Bible," adopt the moderate, nor does it, like "The Century Bible," adopt the extreme rationalistic conclusions of the higher critics; but some few of the contributors are not so loyal to the old evangelical conception of Holy Scripture as Bishop Ellicott himself, and nearly all the other members, of his staff.
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