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.

Commentary on Philippians by Alfred Plummer

Ancient theatre - Philippi
Ancient theatre – Philippi. Photo Credit: MrPanyGoff

Alfred Plummer’s Commentary on Philippians has been reprinted many times, which I take as a confirmation of its ongoing value to Bible students. The text uses some Greek, but not enough to make it difficult for those with no knowledge of the original language to use. This title is in the public domain.

Alfred Plummer [1841-1926], A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. London: Robert Scott, 1919. Hbk. pp.115. [Click to visit the download page]

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Commentary
  • Index

Introduction

The passage of the Gospel from Eastern to Western civilization is an event of the highest importance and interest in the history of the Christian Church. With the exception of the extension of the offer of salvation from Jews to Gentiles, there is hardly anything of greater importance in the progress of Apostolic Christianity. It was an advance from a world in which the best elements of civilization were to be found in Judaism, to a world in which the best elements were centred in the art and literature of Greece, and in the military and political organization of Rome. Divine religion was seeking friendship with human philosophy and human law.

It did not come uninvited. Macedonia, half Greek and half Roman, took the initiative under special guidance from heaven. The Spirit intimated that St. Paul, Silas and Timothy were not to preach the word in Asia, Mysia, or Bithynia….

Commentaries on Philippians, Colossians and Philemon by Charles J. Ellicott

Charles John Ellicott [1819-1905]
Charles J. Ellicott By Herbert R. Barraud (died 1896), Public Domain. Source: Wikipedia Commons,
Charles J. Ellicott [1819-1905] was Professor of Divinity at King’s College London, Hulsean Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University and Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol [See Wikipedia article]

These are detailed commentaries on the Greek text of Paul’s letters to the Philippians, Colossians and to Philemon. Despite their age Charles Ellicott’s commentaries are still being reprinted. This title is in the public domain.

Charles John Ellicott [1819-1905], A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistles to the Philippians, Colossians and to Philemon with a Revised Translation. London: John W. Parker & Son, 1857. Hbk. pp.268. [Click to visit the download page]

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • The Epistle to the Philippians
  • The Epistle to the Colossians
  • The Epistle to Philemon

Preface

The present volume forms the fourth portion of my Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistles, and contains an exposition of the important Epistles to the Philippians and Colossians, and of the graceful and touching Epistle to Philemon.

The notes will be found to reflect the same critical and grammatical characteristics, and to recognise the same principles of interpretation as those which I endeavoured to follow in the earlier portions of this work, and on which the experiences slowly and laboriously acquired during this undertaking have taught me year by year more confidently to rely. There is, however, a slight amount of additional matter which it is perhaps desirable to briefly specify.

In the first place, I have been enabled to carry out more fully and completely a system of reference to the great Versions of antiquity, and have spared no pains to approach a little more nearly to those fresh and clear, yet somewhat remote, well-heads of Christian interpretation…