New Testament Commentary Reviews: 1 Peter

Books and tablet on table

Thousands of commentaries have been written about the Bible, and it’s easy to become confused because these resources are written to various audiences. Choosing the “best” will depend upon the kind of analysis you desire. Commentaries are often divided into three categories:

  • Devotional/Introductory–the primary focus is application of the Word and growing in Christ. Lots of “how to” questions are answered.

  • Pastoral/Intermediate–these commentaries also contain application but are more information oriented. Some go deep into the history or cultural background of the text, while others pay more attention to linguistics. Lots of “what does it mean” questions are answered. Useful for any Christ follower and especially helpful to those who teach.

  • Technical/Advanced–primary value is to teachers and advanced students. Some technical commentaries focus on textual criticism (the reliability of the text), while others address linguistics (the text itself). Lots of minutiae. These commentaries contain Greek text (sometimes transliterated, sometimes not) and require familiarity with Koine Greek to extract their full benefit, but even those with no knowledge of Greek will find these commentaries useful.

My recommendations identify which category each book falls into. Some commentaries overlap; when they do, both categories will be noted (e.g., Pastoral/Technical). The recommendations are listed in order of their helpfulness to Bible students, teachers, and pastors.

1 Peter

1 Peter has been the subject of several good commentaries in the past decade. Below are six worthy of your consideration.

  • There are two excellent all-around commentaries on 1 Peter. The first is by Karen Jobes in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker, 2005). Technical/Pastoral. A thorough and balanced analysis. Great introduction that delves deep into the historical setting. Solid exegesis and good theology combined with a lucid writing style. The BECNT series is laid out pericope-by-pericope and examined verse-by-verse. Transliterations and English translations are provided alongside the Hebrew and Greek text. If your budget limits you to one book on 1 Peter, get Jobes.

  • My other pick for best all-around commentary is by Thomas Schreiner in the New American Commentary (Broadman, 2003). Technical/Pastoral. I love the straightforward verse-by-verse format of the NAC series (much easier to move around in than the BECNT structure), and Schreiner consistently answers the questions I have. Perhaps the greatest strength of this commentary is its clarity–Schreiner breaks the text down in a way that even a neophyte can understand. Technical comments are limited to footnotes and the Greek text is transliterated. This volume also includes Schreiner’s commentaries on 2 Peter and Jude. Highly recommended.

  • My favorite introductory commentary on 1 Peter is by I.H. Marshall in the IVP New Testament Commentary (IVP, 1991). Concise (184 pp.) and packed with rich insights and applications. And given its price on the secondary market (the hardcover is less than five dollars), this is a volume you want in your library.

  • The BECNT volume by Jobes answers most of my technical questions, but there are other good resources, including the commentary by Peter Davids in the New International Greek Testament Commentary (Eerdmans, 1990). Technical. Solid exegesis and insightful theological comments. Greek and Hebrew words/phrases are transliterated in the main body, but Greek text is used in the footnotes (Hebrew is always transliterated). Also contains a lengthy excursus on suffering.

  • Another worthwhile technical analysis is by Paul Achtemeier in Hermenia (Fortress Press, 1996). His conclusions are not always orthodox (e.g., he believes the letter is pseudonymous), but advanced students will appreciate Achtemeier’s linguistic insights, and his ability to explain complicated issues succinctly. Greek and Hebrew words are not transliterated, so knowledge of those languages is requisite.

  • A third technical resource worth considering is by J. Ramsey Michaels in the Word Biblical Commentary (Nelson, 1988). Michaels talks at length about authorship but comes to no conclusion, and I don’t agree with his late date hypothesis, but he shines in the language department. Greek words are plentiful and not transliterated or defined (Hebrew is transliterated). The volume is dated and the WBC format is not user-friendly, but many advanced students list this as their favorite technical resource. Because of its age, this commentary can be found on the secondary market for ten bucks or so. A phenomenal value.

Did I miss a commentary you are interested in? Drop me a line. These are not the only resources I am familiar with–these are just my favorites.

Next: Recommended commentaries on 2 Peter and Jude.

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