How to own every commentary worth owning

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Ever since I was an undergraduate I’ve had on my shelves Don Carson’s survey of New Testament commentaries. It’s his notes on every commentary and series that he’s read (a lot), with best buys marked up. It’s gone through various editions, been joined by Tremper Longman’s OT survey, and later this year will have its seventh outing.

Why do I like these two surveys?

Right from the outset I decided that my preaching library needed both depth and breadth, on a really tight budget.

I did the breadth by highlighting all of Carson’s ‘three star’ rated commentaries, and giving myself ten years to get them. That was ten years of scouring second-hand book shops, with a wish-list always in my diary. These days you can do it quicker online, and cheaper – but the slow rate of addition meant that I read most if these books as I added them to the shelves.

I did the depth by adding the two-stars on any series we worked through.

Money is too tight, and life is too short, to waste it on the off-chance – especially when there are now so many series and commentaries pouring out. I remember one early mistake when, before I owned Carson’s survey, I bought an expensive, thick commentary by a well-known evangelical scholar – and nearly threw it away in frustration whin I eagerly cracked it open and found it as dry as dust. I still have it, as a warning.

So, learn from my mistake, and get the seventh edition of the Survey, due out in November. Of course you’ll have the occasional difference of view – I’ve never found him to recommend a dud, but occasionally you’ll find something worthwhile that he dismisses. But that’s rare – and it’s your own money you’re wasting.

The best way to own every commentary worth owning? Have the Don read it first.

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