06 June 2024

The International Critical Commentary.

My bible software of choice is Accordance. I have a lot of their modules, and of course they wouldn’t mind at all if I bought more. So most days a week, they send me an email informing me of their sales. They have individual books, and of course full sets of bible commentaries.

Yes, I’ve bought a few, and they’re pricey. And sometimes when I tell people I’ve bought ’em, they’re stunned. “You spent that on a bible commentary? You know you can get Matthew Henry’s commentary for $3.”

Pfff, $10? I could get it for free.

I mean, I already have it. Decades ago (yes, it’s been multiple decades now) I bought a CD full of public-domain bibles and Christian literature, and of course Henry’s commentary is in there too. Plus a few other multi-volume bible commentaries.

I don’t look at ’em much, because those commentaries—like Henry’s, and many of the other free commentaries on the internet—are devotional in nature. That is, the commentator read some bible, wrote down his thoughts about ’em, and that’s what you have. Some of them are clever and insightful. Some are most definitely not clever and insightful; they’re the sort of regurgitated pop-culture junk you can find in Facebook posts. They’re not worth any money you might spend on ’em, so hopefully you’ve spent none!

What I actually want in a bible commentary—which is why, over the years, I’ve paid a bunch of money for such commentaries—is ancient history. Study of the ancient languages. Archeological evidence, if you have any. Maybe a thoughtful discussion on the multiple ways Christians have viewed this particular scripture over the years, just so I can see where the points of debate are… and maybe hear a view I’ve not heard before in dozens of sermons.

Free commentaries like that are mighty hard to come by, but here’s one: The International Critical Commentary. “International” in that it was written by Americans, Brits, and Canadians, and “critical” in that the authors compare different ancient manuscripts of the bible in order to get the best reading of the text.

The ICC is still being published by T&T Clark, but the older editions of the commentary are out of copyright, so they’ve been scanned and posted on the internet by the good folks at Google Books and Internet Archive. I’ve listed below what I can find. Internet Archive has multiple scans of these books, so if you don’t like the one I’ve linked to, find another! Google Books, on the other hand, will remove books if a publisher pushes ’em hard enough—even if books are in the public domain. (Just goes to show you the difference between a non-profit which stands up for something, and a for-profit which sometimes really doesn’t.)

Anywho, in some of the books you’ll find a list of all the books of the bible, and wonder why on earth I don’t have that volume (it’s the one you wanted to look at most, right?) and it’s because the guys who were supposed to write that book, ultimately didn’t. Optimistic advertising, I guess.

The only catch with using century-old commentaries is that, of course, archaeology has found us some better, older copies of the bible. Like the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Codex Sinaiticus. Archaeology, and more-recently-found ancient documents, have also given us greater insight about the ways people lived back in bible times. Greater interactivity among Christians round the world—and not just among white men in English-speaking countries—has produced some interesting discussions, forcing commenters to be less narrowly focused in their interpretations, and of course new discoveries come up in that arena as well.

Still, you’ll definitely learn a lot more about the bible through old ICC volumes than you will reading Matthew Henry.

GB stands for Google Books, and IA for Internet Archive. If you find other volumes (or better copies) drop me a note. Thanks.

  • Genesis, by John Skinner, 1910. GB. IA.
  • Numbers, by George Buchanan Gray, 1903. GB. IA.
  • Deuteronomy, by Samuel Rolles Driver, 1902. GB. IA.
  • Judges, by George Foot Moore, 1910. GB. IA.
  • 1–2 Samuel, by Henry Preserved Smith, 1899. GB. IA.
  • 1–2 Kings, by James Alan Montgomery, 1951. IA.
  • 1–2 Chronicles, by Edward Lewis Curtis and Albert Alonzo Madsen, 1910. GB. IA.
  • Ezra, Nehemiah, by Loring W. Batten, 1913. GB. IA.
  • Esther, by Lewis Bayles Paton, 1908. GB. IA.
  • Psalms vol. 1 (chs. 1-50), by Charles Augustus Briggs and Emilie Grace Briggs, 1921. GB. IA.
  • Psalms vol. 2 (chs. 51-150), by Charles Augustus Briggs and Emilie Grace Briggs, 1907. GB. IA.
  • Proverbs, by Crawford Howell Toy, 1899. GB. IA.
  • Ecclesiastes, by George Aaron Barton, 1908. GB. IA.
  • Job vol. 1, by Samuel Rolles Driver and George Buchanan Gray, 1921. GB. IA.
  • Job vol. 2, by Samuel Rolles Driver and George Buchanan Gray, 1921. GB. IA.
  • Ezekiel, by George Albert Cooke, 1936. IA.
  • Daniel, by James Alan Montgomery, 1927. GB. IA.
  • Amos and Hosea, by William Rainey Harper, 1905. GB. IA.
  • Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Obadiah, and Joel, by John Merlin Powis Smith, William Hayes Ward, and Julius A. Bewer, 1911. GB. IA.
  • Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and Jonah, by Hinckley G. Mitchell, John Merlin Powis Smith, and Julius A. Bewer, 1912. GB. IA.
  • St. Matthew, by Willoughby C. Allen, 1907. GB. IA.
  • St. Mark, by Ezra Palmer Gould, 1901. GB. IA.
  • St. Luke, by Alfred Plummer, 1896. GB. IA.
  • St. John vol. 1 (chs. 1–7), by John Henry Bernard, 1928. IA.
  • St. John vol. 2 (chs. 8–21), by John Henry Bernard, 1928. GB. IA.
  • Acts of the Apostles vol. 1 (chs. 1-12), by Paton James Gloag, 1870. GB. IA.
  • Acts of the Apostles vol. 2 (chs. 13-28), by Paton James Gloag, 1870. GB. IA.
  • Romans, by William Sanday and Arthur C. Headlam, 1901. GB. IA.
  • 1 Corinthians, by Archibald Robertson and Alfred Plummer, 1911. IA.
  • 2 Corinthians, by Alfred Plummer, 1915. GB. IA.
  • Galatians, by Ernest De Witt Burton, 1920. GB. IA.
  • Ephesians and Colossians, by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott, 1909. GB. IA.
  • Philippians and Philemon, by Marvin R. Vincent, 1897. GB. IA.
  • 1–2 Thessalonians, by James Everett Frame, 1912. GB. IA.
  • Pastoral Epistles, by Walter Lock, 1924. GB. IA.
  • Hebrews, by James Moffatt, 1924. GB. IA.
  • St. James, by James Hardy Ropes, 1916. GB. IA.
  • St. Peter and St. Jude, by Charles Bigg, 1901. GB. IA.
  • The Johannine Epistles, by Alan England Brooke, 1912. GB. IA.
  • Revelation vol. 1 (chs. 1-13), by Robert Henry Charles, 1920. IA.
  • Revelation vol. 2 (chs. 14-21), by Robert Henry Charles, 1920. GB. IA.