Best Commentaries on Paul, with Nijay Gupta: Colossians

Title page of the Epistle to the Colossians, Walters Manuscript W.533, fol. 247v

Colossians is an underappreciated jewel in the Pauline corpus, often sidelined from academic conversations because of its debated authorship. It is a beautifully-crafted meditation on the cosmic-and-crucified Christ.

Technical

Markus Barth (AB) [Authentic]. Barth has written several excellent technical commentaries. He has a knack for blending textual and historical analysis with theological reflection. 


James D.G. Dunn (NIGTC) [Other]. Dunn is a seasoned commentary writer, with Romans as his most well-known volume (WBC). He brings the same attention to detail to Colossians, combined with penetrating theological analysis. In this commentary, Dunn proposes that perhaps someone else (like Timothy) wrote Colossians at Paul’s behest.


David Pao (ZECNT) [Authentic]. Pao has written on Luke-Acts, the use of the Old Testament in the New, and the theme of “thanksgiving” in Paul. Pao is a careful and fair-minded scholar who represents well the state of evangelical scholarship.


Robert McL Wilson (ICC) [Pseudonymous]. Wilson was a widely-respected scholar of early Christianity. Like other ICC volumes, this is primarily a scholar’s resource for detailed discussion of textual questions, relationship to comparative literature, and history of interpretation.


Own it: Dunn 

Semi-Technical

Gregory Beale (BECNT) [Authentic]. Beale is most well-known as a scholar of the book of Revelation, but has written thematically on biblical theology, and has published other Pauline commentaries. What he brings to the study of Colossians is his extensive knowledge of early Jewish and Christian eschatology.


Douglas J. Moo (PNTC) [Authentic]. Moo is recognized widely as an expert on Romans, and here he offers his detailed exposition of Colossians. 


Scot McKnight (NICNT) [Authentic]. McKnight has a masterful way of both analyzing the text carefully, as well as drawing out theological ideas that aims to shape the church today. 


Marianne Meye Thompson (THNT) [Authentic]. Thompson’s book was the inaugural volume of the THNT series, which attempts to bridge biblical studies and theology. In the “theological horizons” section of the commentary, Thompson relates Colossians to Paul’s theology more generally, especially his Christology and eschatology.


Own It: McKnight or Thompson

Non-Technical

Michael F. Bird (NCCS) [Authentic]. Bird, a respected New Testament theologian, offers a readable “state-of-the-discipline” exposition of Colossians.


David Garland (NIVAC) [Authentic]. As is to be expected of his work in general, Garland offers a richly rewarding study of Colossians with a view towards personal spiritual formation and application today.


Own it: Garland

Hidden Gems

Andrew Lincoln has distinguished himself as a leading scholar on Ephesians, so—given its literary relationship—it is natural he would have many insights on the study of Colossians (NIB; [pseudonymous]). It is a bit hard to track down Lincoln’s commentary as it is packaged together with other Pauline letters in a multi-contributor volume.


N. T. Wright published a concise commentary on Colossians (TNTC)—it is extraordinarily insightful despite its modest size.


Bookmark the rest of Nijay’s Best Commentaries on Paul series, only on the Academic Blog.

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9 comments
  • Understandably you didn’t mention Nijay Gupta’s volume in Smyth and Helwys – as a semi-technical it easily holds its own with the ones you do mention – I’d pair it with McKnight. I also think Paul Foster’s recent volume in Blacks NTS (Harper’s in the US) was worth a mention.

    • Jim -thanks for the shout out. As for Foster, he is a very good, careful and thoughtful scholar. There are just too many Colossians commentaries, and I wanted a relatively short list to help narrow the options for busy pastors.

      • Understood Nijay. Edinburgh is my doctoral alma mater, so I’m biased about Paul Foster’s commentary – which is as you say careful and also substantial.

  • I really like Christopher Seitz’s Colossians contribution to the Brazos Theological Commentary series.

    • Fernando – good recommendation, I haven’t spent much time with Seitz’s BTC Colossians, but I have enjoyed other works by him.

  • Thank you, Nijay, for this useful list. I would like to add two more commentaries: first of all, F.F. Bruce’s in NICNT and E. Lohse’s in Hermeneia.

  • Thanks Nijay, but you really should have recommended your own commentary too! I think Jerry Sumney’s volume in the NT Library commentary series is very good. I wonder what you think of it?

    • Thanks, Paul. Sumney’s volume is good, he is a reliable scholar. To me, it is more of a “scholar’s commentary,” and there are plenty of those already and I wanted a short-ish list. My one critique is Sumney tends to read Col as a pseudonymous letter (and when that happens the scholar is always “looking for clues” as it were), and I find that distracting. But, again, it is a nice volume overall. I find the NTL format off-putting too, but that is just me!

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