John Calvin’s Commentary on Romans

John CalvinThis is the 1849 edition of John Calvin’s Commentary on Paul’s letter to the Romans, published by the Calvin Translation Society, translated by the Rev. John Owen. I need to be careful to distinguish it from more recent translations, which may still be in copyright.

My thanks to Book Aid for providing a copy of this book for digitisation. This title is in the public domain.

John Calvin, Translated edited by Rev John Owen, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans. Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1849. Hbk. pp.592. [Click to visit the download page]

Table of Contents

  • Translator’s Preface
  • Commentary
  • Indices

The Argument

With regard to the excellency of this Epistle, I know not whether it would be well for me to dwell long on the subject; for I fear, lest through my recommendations falling far short of what they ought to be, I should do nothing but obscure its merits: besides, the Epistle itself, at its very beginning, explains itself in a much better way than can be done by any words which I can use. It will then be better for me to pass on to the Argument, or the contents of the Epistle; and it will hence appear beyond all controversy, that besides other excellencies, and those remarkable, this can with truth be said of it, and it is what can never be sufficiently appreciated – that when any one gains a knowledge of this Epistle, he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture….

Click here to find more commentaries on the letter to the Romans.

Lightfoot’s Commentary on Galatians

Joseph Barber Lightfoot [1828-1889], Saint Paul's Epistle to the Galatians.

I recently digitised a hard-to-find article by F.F. Bruce:

F.F. Bruce, “Bishop Westcott and the Classical Tradition,” Spectrum 11 (September 1978): 19-21. [Click to download this article in PDF]

Bruce’s thesis in this article is that training in the Classical tradition (typically that of the old Public School in the UK) is essential if one is to become truly competent in New Testament Greek. I have grave reservations about this idea – and I think the recent history of both linguistics and biblical studies in general have proved him wrong. I guess that Bruce is not alone in thinking his our own training was “the best” for his particular field. Nevertheless, I think that this article is helpful for its discussion of three of the greats of Nineteenth Century New Testament scholarship, Westcott, Hort and Lightfoot. I was therefore delighted to find a number of their commentaries at Book Aid recently. The first to be uploaded is J.B. Lightfoot commentary on Galatians.

Joseph Barber Lightfoot [1828-1889], Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. A revised text with introduction, Notes and Dissertations. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1896. Hbk. pp.384. [Click to visit the download page]

I would be interested to hear what others think about Bruce’s thesis. Is a classical education a help or a hindrance to being a proficient student of New Testament Greek?

Commentary Survey for Public Domain Commentaries

New Testament Commentary Survey by D.A. CarsonDon Carson’s excellent New Testament Commentary Survey fulfils a very specific and valuable purpose: it evaluates modern commentaries and allows readers who have access to books to choose the best ones for them.

For Bible teachers in the Majority World, such surveys may be of less value. The commentaries recommended, even if they were available in their country, would cost far more than the average person could afford. Older commentaries, that are now in the public domain, are poorly covered (though understandably so, given the book’s purpose), often being dismissed with phrases like “The key insights have been incorporated into more recent works…”.

Given that the primary purpose of Theology on the Web is to provide good biblically-based resources for the Majority World and those without access to physical books, I want to find a way around this problem – with your help.

How You Can Help

I want to upload (on BiblicalStudies.org.uk) a survey of public domain biblical commentaries. This survey would identify the strengths and weaknesses of each. It would then rank them as suitable for (a) the general reader; (b) for ministers, or (c) for scholars.  Once the survey is completed I would ensure that the best commentaries are all available via BiblicalStudies.org.uk.

I am therefore seeking a number of contributors who would agree to evaluate commentaries on a biblical book, or group of books e.g. the Pastoral Epistles or the Minor Prophets.

Please let me know if you are interested in contributing to this Project by e-mailing me at [email protected] Please feel free to make comments and suggestions below. If you are not sure which commentaries might be in the Public Domain, I can help you to narrow down your list.


This Project was initially proposed on the Theology on the Web Facebook Group. I am grateful for the Group’s feedback, which has enabled me to refine its parameters.