Free (but Great) Bible Commentaries

Photo of Bible and NotebookWhen I purchased Logos Bible Software Scholar’s Edition Silver one of my favorite resources became the series of commentaries written by Dr. Bob Utley. Imagine my surprise when I found out these volumes where available for free in PDF format – legally and from Utley’s office website!

When you visit the site the temptation is to surf away immediately. Its pretty ugly, which Utley has indicated is to keep bandwidth demands down for third world countries and to ensure the site is viewable on the widest variety of devices (I still think its ugly, and will make him a nicer version…if he ever wants one…for free), but this is an instance of where we shouldn’t “judge a website by its template”, errr, “a book by its cover.”

Utley studied at East Texas Baptist College, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Baylor University, and Wycliffe Bible TranslatorsSummer Institute of Linguistics. He has been a professor in biblical studies for many years – but isn’t limited to academia for his experience and does not bring an ivory tower perspective to his commentaries. His experience pastoring a number of churches provides him with insight into the grime of life and the challenges of practical application.

His commentaries are a bit technical for the lay reader – but the lay reader should still be able to “make sense” of around 95% of the content. Unfortunately, he includes a fairly extensive introductory section highlighting some of the Greek and Hebrew concerns – which is quite overwhelming (and I’ve taken a year of Greek). I’d recommend anyone without a strong interest in the original languages to skim / skip this material and wait till later to read through it – when the interest or need is arisen.

Utley brings an excellent combination of textual analysis with practical application. He provides extensive but not overwhelming commentary on the passages, dealing with them in a thorough manner.

Perhaps one of the finest points of his texts are his inserts, which occur with astonishing frequency and depth. When the text deals with a topic that would “derail” the study of the text but deserves consideration (e.g. free will, holiness, etc.) Utley includes an insert which is a detailed discussion of the topic set apart from the actual analysis of the text. Then he refers to this insert throughout the rest of the commentary when necessary – and one can go back to it to “refresh” on a fuller understanding of the topic.

Utley brings an awareness of his theological presuppositions and makes a conscious effort to embrace the text in spite of his convictions, something which I appreciate deeply.

Overall, this is a wonderful set of books – I highly recommend them – and the price is right! IMHO, these should rest right alongside Tom Constable’s Notes (also freely available).

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