Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (5): GENESIS

Commentaries on the Book of Genesis are ten-a-penny.  But some of them are too concerned with ANE parallels that they forget to teach the Book itself.  Some are over speculative, while others too critical and unbelieving.  The pastor who wants to get at the meat without spitting out too many bones might do worse than study the following:

1.  Kenneth A. Mathews (NAC) – These two volumes are the best thing I have read on the text of Genesis.  They are up to date, readable, and conservative.  The writer pays attention to the NT uses and deals fairly with the literature.  The book has a refreshing quality about it that makes it interesting to read.

2. Gordon J. Wenham (WBC) – This is the one most commentary lists will put first for Genesis, and with good reason.  It is written by an expert, and it is clear that he is at home in the details.  The style is terse and clear.  Some critical stances bring this two volume work down a notch to second spot.

3. Victor Hamilton (NICOT) – Another two volume work at about the same level as Mathews and Wenham.  I like Mathews better on the first chapters, but this is an excellent commentary.  It provides a lot of background and linguistic material.

4. H. C. Leupold – Leupold’s work is older and more conservative than the above works.  His comments are theologically sound and he is quite entertaining when he fences with the liberals.  He makes a good complement to the three commentaries already mentioned.

5. G. C. Aalders – Quite hard to find, these volumes by a top Dutch OT scholar of the mid-Twentieth century are thought-provoking and theologically rich.

6. John D. Currid – Conservative and easy to read, but with plenty of solid teaching and good insights.  If one is busy, this would be an excellent place to go to.  I prefer it over the similar fine study by Kidner.

7.  Allen P. Ross – Called “Creation & Blessing” this is an excellent contribution to Genesis, especially for the preacher.  An additional plus is that it’s premillennial.

8. Philip Eveson – A really fine commentary by a Welsh evangelical scholar.  Although absorbed a bit with covenant theology, the author’s sensitivity to the text makes it a meaty exposition.

9. W. H. Griffith Thomas – I realize that I should fill up this list with names like Brueggemann (liberal) and Hartley (evangelical), but I think this is a superb book for the busy preacher.  It makes the student ask the right questions, and its character studies are rich.

10. Robert S. Candlish – Amid the howls of disappointment for Waltke’s absence I stand by this choice.  Scholars like Longman don’t think much of it, but these “Studies in Genesis” are a great boon to the thinking pastor.  Aside from the first chapter which promotes the Gap Theory, these lectures are very helpful for worldview thinking for the person who knows how to use them.

Good follow-ups include the great little work by Derek Kidner (TOTC) and the impressive one by John Hartley (NIBC).  Waltke is good of course, but I was a bit disappointed with it.  Henry Morris’s “The Genesis Record” is unique in its way and shouldn’t be ignored.  He relies a lot on Leupold.  John Calvin is certainly worthy of honorable mention, as is Andrew Fuller.  Duane Garrett’s introduction “Reading Genesis” is very helpful.

10 thoughts on “Personal Thoughts about Commentaries (5): GENESIS”

  1. Dan,

    Sorry I am a little late getting to your question. I have been out of town.

    Without going into detail:
    1. I really didn’t like the fact that the first three chapters are covered in only about 40 pages. This is the hub of Genesis as well as much Bible doctrine.
    2. He seems to reflect an Enlightenment view of science as something that the Bible is not concerned with. I’m a presuppositionalist, so naturally I disagree quite strongly.
    His use of Galileo’s “The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, but science tells us how the heavens go” irks me.
    3. He prevaricates on whether the Flood was Global.
    4. He makes the biblical covenants one single cov. of grace but does not argue well for it.
    5. The extent of the land-grant in Gen. 15 is idealized even though Waltke admits the covenant reflects ANE land-grants. Were they idealized or specified?
    6. I believe image and likeness in Gen. 1 are synonymous. Waltke doesn’t, but he doesn’t provide any good alternative.
    7. No Scripture index.
    8. All in all I expected more from the author of the NICOT work on Proverbs.

    These reasons may not offset the merits of the book for some, but for me they push it out of the Top Ten. I also confess to having more affection for Thomas and Fuller than Waltke.

    Thanks for the question. You have uncovered some lack of objectivity in me, but I hope my reply clarifies things a bit.


  2. Thanks, that’s very interesting.

    I gather that these are notes a student or TA put together (away from my copy just now) and Waltke went over; so that may account for it’s relative incompleteness over against NICOT Proverbs.

    Before looking at this, I’d listened through Waltke’s lectures on OT Theology, which were rich and stimulating… and sometimes completely opaque to me. Maybe that’s me. But his “explanation” of how Genesis is history, but not history, about the real world, but not science — lost me.

    Having said that, I’m puzzled at you putting Wenham in the top ten, since that’s a consideration to you. He’s a total weasel on 1-3, unless my memory’s totally wrong. Ditto anything else that would warm an inerrantist, presupp dispensationalist’s heart.

  3. Dan,

    Another good question. In fact it sent me scampering back to Wenham to insure my reply didn’t sound too vague!

    You are right about him folding on Genesis 1-3 (He also “weasels out” on Gen. 15 which I really don’t like). I suppose I expect him to be a bit liberal so I don’t judge him the same way I do Waltke. Perhaps the jingoist in me includes him because he’s English.

    For all that I like him because he usually is really good at making good theological use of Genesis and is quite doxological in his writing. He was one of the first I know of to explore the Edenic symbolism of the Sanctuary (though Kline preceded him). And I like how he retells the individual stories of Isaac and Jacob and God’s abiding with them.

    I have not read him all the way through, so closer inspection might induce relegation to the also-rans.

    I liked his “open” approach to the “bene ha elohim” of Gen. 6 being angelic. I used him for an essay I wrote on 6:1-4 some years back and found him really helpful. Many evangelicals think the fallen angel interpretation is a bit nutty, but I, like e.g. VanGemeren, think otherwise.

    Now I must get going if I’m going to find Noah’s Ark before winter! 🙂

    Thanks again for the question.

  4. Hello dr. Paul, I am curious, what is your oppinion on C. H. Mackintosh ? He has a comentary on Genesis (actually on the entire Pentateuh).
    I understand he was a known dispensationalist, and he is held in high esteem by some evangelical confessions in my country.

    Do you think his works are worth checking out ? (especially his commentaries on pentateuh). Thank you.

    1. I am not a fan of Mackintosh, other than his piety. If memory serves he is much into typology and “first mention”. Griffith Thomas on both Genesis and on the Pentateuch is far better!

  5. Dr. Henebury,

    Thank you for these commentary recommendations. As an aspiring preacher who is building a library, these are invaluable for me.

    What is your opinion of John Davis’s “Paradise to Prison”? Also, Sailhamer’s work in the EBC? I’m surprised he’s not on the list, given he’s such a formidable pentateuchal scholar

    Thank you

    1. I should have included Sailhamer in the also-rans. It is a good commentary, but I think the others are better. Davis is also good. I try to give a blend of commentaries (technical; semi-technical; theological; homiletical). Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch is one of the best books written in the past fifty years in my opinion.

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