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Here’s how it works: Every time you run the Passage Guide report in Logos Bible Software, the software pulls each commentary you own off the “shelf” and opens each one to the page where your passage is discussed. So right away you have instant (one-click) access to the page and paragraph in each commentary that’s relevant to your Bible study. This means you never have to think about which commentaries to open or where to find the content you need…it’s right there waiting for you to read! (Note: When you add a new commentary to Logos Bible Software, it automatically gets included next time you run Passage Guide.) Logos Bible Software helps you use more of each commentary by creating a virtual Scripture index to every commentary in your digital library. Commentaries include lots of cross-references to other Scriptures—quoting a verse from the Old Testament to shed light on a New Testament text, for example. Some print commentaries have an index in the back listing every one of these Scripture references and where to find it in the commentary. With Logos Bible Software, every book has a Scripture index. A quick search will find every mention of, say, Deuteronomy 6:5 in your whole commentary series, whether or not it appears in the Deuteronomy volume. This kind of search turns up little nuggets of insight buried deep in the pages of a volume you would never have thought to pull down from a bookshelf and open.In a more technical commentary, the author may quote from the Greek or Hebrew text. Logos Bible Software assists you here, too. Because every word of every book inside Logos is essentially a link, you can double-click on that Hebrew word and the software will search your lexicons for a match. This puts within reach of the student or layperson commentaries that might otherwise seem too technical.

Finally, there’s the simple economy of time. By speeding up and adding efficiency to nearly every aspect of your Bible study, Logos Bible Software frees up time that you can use to consult more commentaries. Where you might have consulted only one or two print commentaries, you can now look through half a dozen in the same amount of time or even less.

Are Commentaries a Valid Tool for the Serious Student?

The appropriate use of commentaries is the subject of much discussion, a topic that is beyond the scope of this article (though Logos offers a number of excellent resources on exegesis and hermeneutics). What is widely acknowledged, however, is that commentaries are an acceptable, even vital, tool for Bible study.But don’t take my word for it…here are a few quotations about commentaries from a scholar, translation committee, and famous preacher:

F. W. Danker, Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study, p. 305

    “…expositors who think they can work independently of commentators display not only consummate arrogance but also ignorance of the conditions that obtain in biblical studies. The many areas of specialty require great leisure for properly assessing and evaluating the many discoveries, investigations, and modes of inquiry that may lead to light on a dark portion of the Bible. Such leisure few can lavish. Moreover, Scripture does not always reveal its secrets in the same measure to each generation, much less to every expositor. Interpretive sensitivity is required; people like Chrysostom, Luther, Calvin, Bengel, Westcott, Lightfoot, and others had it. To deprive oneself of an encounter with such princely blood is to impoverish oneself. It is wise, then, after you have made your own thorough interpretations of the text with liberal use of tools mentioned in the preceding chapters, to check your interpretations against those of others, to reevaluate if necessary, and to supplement if possible. In all there must be an impelling passion to hear out the full-throated accents of the sacred text as it sounded in the hour of its birth.”

United Bible Societies Sub-Committee on Translation, A Handbook on the Gospel of Mark, p. vii

“Commentaries are indispensable for any translator who is going to do justice to his work.”

C. H. Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries, quoted in Introduction to Biblical Interpretation

“Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think of ways that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have labored before you in the field of exposition. If you are of that opinion, pray remain so, for you are not worth the trouble of conversion, and like a little coterie who think with you, would resent the attempt as an insult to your infallibility. It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.”

For Further Reading

Varieties of the Biblical Commentary, A Guide to Form and Function by William B. Badke. - This article provides an excellent overview of the various approaches commentaries have taken, what commentary readers expect a commentary to do, and proposes five different “poles” or dimensions that can be used to describe and categorize commentaries. Because it was not intended as a survey of commentaries, only a few commentaries are mentioned by name.

Note: What are higher criticism and text criticism?

The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics offers these helpful definitions: “Criticism as applied to the Bible simply means the exercise of judgment. Both conservative and nonconservative scholars engage in two forms of biblical criticism: lower criticism deals with the text; higher criticism treats the source of the text. Lower criticism attempts to determine what the original text said, and the latter asks who said it and when, where, and why it was written.”

Mark Van Dyke works in marketing at Logos Bible Software. Since its inception in 1992, Logos has been on the cutting edge of biblical studies and technology. Logos’ software platform now offers more than 7,000 Bibles, commentaries and biblical reference titles.

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