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Pastor’s Bookshelf: Ephesians

Paul.jpgWhen it comes to commentaries on Ephesians, I still turn first to the Ephesians commentary that I first learned from so much… Markus Barth, but I’m getting ahead of myself. This series is intended to help pastors who are preparing sermons and are looking for solid exegetical studies, but I am in need of your help with the recommendations you have. Which commentary on Ephesians do you like most?

As I said, I like Markus Barth and have ever since college when I spent gobs of time working on Ephesians 4. His was one of the early Anchor Bible commentaries and he managed to find one volume inadequate: Ephesians: Introduction, Translation, and Commentary on Chapters 1-3 (Anchor Bible, Vol. 34)
and Ephesians: Translation and Commentary on Chapters 4-6: Anchor Bible 34A (Anchor Bible).


Next I turn to Andrew Lincoln who wrote that commentary at St John’s College in Nottingham when I was doing my doctorate at the University, and I often saw Andrew — I remember standing in the library when he told me he thought Eph 2:8-9 was not Pauline theology — his commentary is thorough and sensitive to the theological contours: Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 42, Ephesians


If you’ve got some funds, buy Ernest Best’s volume in the ICC series: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Ephesians (International Critical Commentary)
. As with many in this series, there is a shorter version: Ephesians: A Shorter Commentary


There’s much to harvest from the above, but there’s always something to glean from Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians: The NIV Application Commentary

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posted June 11, 2009 at 4:47 pm

I enjoyed reading Harold Hoehner’s exegetical commentary, even though I disagreed with much of his theological approach/conclusions. The detailed examination is precise and it is presented well.
Though it is not a commentary per se, because of the all-important first chapter of Paul’s letter, I would also suggest W. Klein’s “The New Chosen People” as a good book to have around when studying Ephesians. It is a very solid perspective.

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Jason Myers

posted June 11, 2009 at 5:04 pm

I still find lots of good information and insights from Peter T. O’Brien’s Ephesians commentary in the Pillar series.
Barth is good, but Hoehner’s is looking like the one stop shop for entry into Ephesians.

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Ed Komoszewski

posted June 11, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Hands down: Hoehner. O’Brien is my second favorite.

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posted June 11, 2009 at 6:11 pm

Hoehner’s commentary, while sometimes effected by his dispensationalism, should be regarded, in my opinion, as the rubric for how to write a commentary. I have never seen another commentary that makes so many helpful and important comments on the grammar and syntax of the Greek while dealing deeply with the theological issues in the text. This and Thiselton on 1 Corinthians are the standards by which all other commentaries should be judged.
By the way, Jason, hows Grand Rapids?

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James Gregory

posted June 11, 2009 at 8:04 pm

I find it interesting that you didn’t mention Witherington’s commentary on Philemon, Colossians, and Ephesians, when your endorsement is on the book, Scot.
I prefer Lincoln, Witherington, and O’Brien when it comes to studying Ephesians, though I also have Barth, MacDonald, Hoehner, and Snodgrass.

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posted June 11, 2009 at 10:42 pm

I’ve gotta agree with the others…despite my love for Barth (especially his Philemon commentary), I go with O’Brien and Hoehner as 1 and 2.

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posted June 11, 2009 at 11:59 pm

WBC has a great Ephesians commentary, also Talbert’s new-ish Paideia commentary on Ephesians & Colossians is wonderful.

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Mike Bird

posted June 12, 2009 at 4:12 am

I’d have to pick Peter O’Brien in the Pillar series first up, followed by Best and Barth (I’m also a big Markus Barth fan. Must be his initial MB).

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Tim Gombis

posted June 12, 2009 at 6:20 am

There’s a little known commentary series by Herald Press called Believers Church Bible Commentary and Thomas Yoder Neufeld writes the Ephesians volume — it’s wonderful. Exegetically based, though not exhaustive, it’s pastoral and theological and among the most helpful I’ve seen.

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John Frye

posted June 12, 2009 at 7:58 am

Snodgrass’ NIV Application Commentary is a surprise and incredibly good. I agree that Hoehner’s is exhaustive, but theologically slanted.

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Greg M

posted June 12, 2009 at 9:04 am

I like different ones for different reasons – O’Brien for theological reflection, Hoehner for grammar and sources, Barth for creative thinking. Best and Lincoln are good too, but the “author of Ephesians” bit (assuming someone other than Paul) gets tiresome and detracts from the exegesis.
Interestingly, Barth and Blanke’s Colossians commentary has the best and most thorough treatment of the relationship between Colossians and Ephesians (over 50 pages on the topic!).

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posted June 12, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Please tell me, what commentary is not “theologically slanted”? Just because Hoehner taught at DTS does not mean his commentary is full of apocalyptic doom and gloom rhetoric as found in the Left Behind series (the common caricature about DTS and dispensationalism from most people). Every single commentary mentioned on this page is just as theologically slanted as the next one. I’ve actually found some of Hoehner’s conclusions quite surprising given the common caricature of “dispensationalism.” It doesn’t pervade every page of the text like others would have us think and is possibly the system of theology I have seen caricatured and blown out of proportion more so than any other.

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Ed Komoszewski

posted June 12, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Luke (#12) makes some excellent points. If Hoehner were slanted in the ways that some might think, then why would the likes of Frederick Danker say that “all other commentaries can be put in storage for retrieval as needed”? Maybe Danker is a closet dispensationalist! 😉

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Doug Wilson

posted June 14, 2009 at 4:01 am

For exegesis, I am surprised no one has yet mentioned Schnackenburg’s commentary.
For rich pastoral insight, it is hard to beat John Stott, and his commentary on Ephesians is one of his best.
I also second Scot and John’s affirmation of Kyle Snodgrass, whose NIVAC commentary has some great insights and applications, as well as some keen observations on exegesis and structure.
I appreciate Witherington’s commentary, with its insightful assessment of and wise corrective to O’Brien’s (and also Hoehner’s) reading of Ephesians 5. Witherington really helps us capture the flow of the chapter in a way that O’Brien misses, IMHO.
I would also commend Michael Gorman’s excursus on “Cruciform Love in Ephesians, with Special Reference to Ephesians 5″ in his wonderful Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross. Gorman grounds the entire discussion about marriage “in the larger context of the letter and what it says about the fundamental responsibility of believers to one another: self-sacrificing, mutually submitting love.”

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