Commentary & Reference Survey: A Comprehensive Guide to Biblical and Theological Resources

By John Glynn
Grand Rapids : Kregel (2003). 311 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
15.1 (Spring 2004) : 115-117

Glynn, who studied at Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary, has revised this work in updated stages since 1992. To some extent, he bases his ratings of works on his reading plus opinions of leaders in seminaries and Bible colleges. The lists help especially lecturers at critical, academic, advanced levels, and to some extent pastors who do thorough research and lean heavily on liberal works.

Some commend Glynn for his meticulous lists. Endorsements on the back cover come from faculty members of several schools, i.e., Darrell Bock, Daniel Block, John Walton, Haddon Robinson, George Knight III, Eugene Merrill, and Dennis Swanson.

Some strengths are evident. First, sections list studies for building a biblical/theological library or on where to find material. Besides book by book lists of the Bible, Glynn classifies OT and NT introductions, surveys, theologies, background research, ancient Near East history, dictionaries, general references, Hebrew and Greek specialties, hermeneutics, systematic theology, church history, computer resources, and Websites. By covering topical books as well as commentaries, he offers a plethora of help.

An asset before each work is a letter key tabbing the author’s stance, e.g., L/cr means liberal/critical; E/cr equals evangelical/critical, E is evangelical. User friendliness occurs in frequent, often substantial footnote tips about works in process. A fourth contribution is in Glynn’s consensus of specialists’ scholarly ratings in technical and semi-technical works, most worthwhile expository studies, or special studies on Bible books or topics.

Faculty members, students, pastors, and others also need to be aware of what many will call weaknesses. A listing strong for technical detail palatable to specialists in complex studies can offer far less practical help for diligent students and pastors who seek not only accuracy but evangelical, wise practicality to assist cutting-edge ministry.

First, the work seems to image a philosophy of thrusting to the fore mostly recent works that some, believed to be experts, see on the “cutting edge” of current scholarship. Yet, older works, especially evangelical, may have vast, good detail to help lecturers, students, and pastors. Many such works are absent or relegated to lower ratings. A great number in ministry want works, new or old, to help them preach, teach, and otherwise lead those in real-life school or church work.

Second, annotations occur only now and then, and usually are terse, telling little except in generalities. Third, liberal works are often given a heavy place. In many cases, these are the majority of listings. This can pose a roadblock for some, even many seminary-trained students in church positions, who study deeply but value primarily evangelical help. Many liberal works, while helpful on some details, also reason against reliability of biblical details. This can make some works less dependable when one uses his time wisely and gets the best input for ministry of the truth where the rubber meets the road. Far more annotations would help, if they would give concrete, candid comments alerting users about what to expect in a given work. This very real service would provide much more help.

The present listing is often thin on widely-used evangelical commentaries where many vouch that they find help. An example is William Hendriksen on NT books. Many of the competently studious find that such commentaries wrestle with many problems in passages. At the same time, the current guide is noticeably weak (even if no bias was intended) in not listing many premillennial works on OT prophetical books. Amillennial listings are abundant. This recurs in the Book of Revelation (cf. the “exposition” part, 175-76). Some annotations list firmly amillennial works as “premillennial,” such as by Simon Kistemaker. Glynn does, in his “technical” list, have Robert Thomas’s two premillennial volumes on the Revelation. On the same Master’s Seminary faculty where Thomas teaches is Larry Pettegrew, whose work on the Holy Spirit appears on Luke/Acts (139).

As in anyone’s list, rating top sources (as Glynn does with boldface) will be as debatable as picking a national NCAA college football champ for Division I by BCS methods or by coaches’ and writers’ polls. This reviewer agrees in some cases with Glynn’s preferences, but disagrees in many when he weighs which works proved most helpful for his own seminary and church teaching or for commending candidly to students and pastors. In Daniel, for example, some technical works that often lead into a fog and away from a natural premillennial perspective that makes sense (e.g., Dan. 7:14ff.; 9:24-27; 11:36ff.) draw Glynn’s high ratings (cf. John Goldingay, Ernest Lucas). At least the “exposition” section there has a bold-face rating on Stephen Miller’s premillennial effort, while Leon Wood’s detailed work gets no boldface for a more worthy place. Many theological students this reviewer has worked with during more than forty years, even sharp men, would have difficulty knowing what to make of the book’s frequently thin help toward exalting truth and not error. One seminary-trained scholar, a widely-appreciated writer of many books, sent this reviewer his copy of Glynn, not wanting it back because of disgust at what he felt was an overall direction against an evangelical position.

This tool lumps devotional commentaries in with “exposition.” It leaves out numerous works, old and new, that assist students and pastors while helping professors keep their feet in a practical world where laypeople also live.

For Glynn’s listings on many areas and his effort to include both liberal and evangelical writings, some will be grateful. His system of titles is meticulous. The heavy barrage of liberal thinking, and the vast lack of sufficient annotations to guide in weighing works, leaves a mixed state as to value. To readers in quest of current technical literature, or expositions that some in academic roles rate highly, the work will be highly regarded. This reviewer’s fear is that to a vast number of students, pastors, and teachers in Christian schools, the tool falls short of frequent and adequate comments that would foster a firm, discerning, evangelical stance.