Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Recommended Commentaries: Ephesians

The following annotated bibliography below is intended to aid those pastors or serious laymen who wish to purchase volumes on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. While God has blessed me with an expansive exegetical library, I find it impossible to own or otherwise acquire every volume on each subject. As such, there are certainly works omitted from the list below that deserve inclusion, but I only list those items with which I have personally worked.

In each category I underline the volumes I most recommend.


1. Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Baker, 2002).
Highly technical.
Simply put, this is the finest exegetical commentary in English. Hoehner is a master exegete and this volume is ample attestation of his scholarly acumen. The commentary is a mammoth, single volume work. Though originally planned to be part of the Baker Exegetical Commentary series, the work exceeded the length requirement and was published as a stand alone volume. If you can only by one technical commentary, this is the volume every evangelical pastor should own.

2. Charles Hodge, A Commentary on Ephesians (New York: Carter, 1864).
Hodge was a phenomenal theologian and biblical expositor, and this volume provides almost 400 pages of penetrating analysis. Greek is usually translated, making it accessible to the English-only pastor. A fine example of rich theology produced from solid exegesis.

3. Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians - Pillar New Testament Commentary (Eerdmans, 1999).
A wonderful mid-range commentary. It is scholarly and therefore “technical”, but written in a style accessible to the English-only pastor. O’Brien has a fine grasp on the Ephesian letter and his insights are provocative and noteworthy. The preaching pastor will find much here to edify his soud, and perhaps even suggest directions for faithful preaching. An excellent second volume to compliment Hoehner.

4. Marcus Barth, Ephesians – Anchor Bible Commentary (Doubleday, 1974).
Technical. This is a two-volume commentary, covering Volumes 34 and 34A in the Anchor Bible Commentary series. Altogether, there are over 800 pages of exposition and analysis. Barth breaks from many modern scholars and embraces Pauline authorship of the letter. He does take some unexpected turns in interpretation, but does a wonderful job providing information for the readers own reflection. One of the major strengths of the commentary are the numerous “theological comments”, which are lengthy (and rich) discussions of various issues. An important work and necessarily dialogue partner for those wishing to interact with Ephesian scholarship.

5. Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians – Word Biblical Commentary (Nelson, 1990).
Highly Technical. At over 460 pages, Lincoln’s commentary is comprehensive and stands as one of the current standards. For exegetical discussions Lincoln is an essential dialogue partner, but I found little value here in understanding the theology of the letter. Likewise, there was little to offer the preaching pastor. Lincoln rejects Pauline authorship. Important for those wishing to interact with the scholarly community.

6. John Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians (New York: Carter, 1861).
Highly technical. This commentary spans over 485 pages and is thoroughly works with the Greek text. Though dated, it contains many valuable insights. In his day, Eadie was simply one of the very best New Testament expositors. For those wishing to work through the Greek text of this letter you will find Eadie a sure-footed guide. There is a modern reprint by Solid Ground Books.

7. Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians-The NIV Application Commentary (Zondervan, 1996
Moderate to Non-Technical. This volume is one of the most significant contributions on Ephesians from an evangelical author. Snodgrass’ exegetical analysis is superb. His sense of the flow and thought of Ephesians is on target, though at times he misses the grandeur of Paul’s theology. As with most of the other volumes in the series, the application section can many times be weak. Still, there is much here for the evangelical pastor. This work will prove to be a great aid in preaching and teaching Ephesians.

8. A. Skevington Wood, “Ephesians” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 11 – Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor (Zondervan, 1978).
Non-technical. A worthy addition from an evangelical perspective. Wood holds to Pauline authorship and, though non-committal, retains the traditional view that it was written from Rome. Greek is transliterated, and the commentary lacks any technical discussions. Overall, its exposition of the text is solid and deserving of our attention.

9. Margaret Y. MacDonald, Colossians, Ephesians – Sacra Pagina (Liturgical Press, 2000)
Moderately Technical. MacDonald writes from a mainline, non-evangelical approach. Rejecting Pauline authorship (of both Colossians and Ephesians), her commentary nevertheless contains a wealth of scholarship and information. She excels at interacting with other portions of scripture and generally sees the theological thrust of the letter. I would not recommend this for the preaching pastor, though it may hold some interest to those of a scholarly bent.

10. Mark J. Edwars (editor), Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians-Ancient Christian Commentary, New Testament VIII (Intervarsity Press, 1999)
This volume contains selected quotes from several Early Church period figures. Helpful and illuminating. Generally should be used a a reference to dig into the original sources, though Edwards provides many citations that have been translated into English for the first time.

11. John Calvin, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians… - Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume XXI (Baker Books, 1993, reprint)
Calvin was the finest expositor of his age, and few have equaled him since. His command of the Greek language and his theological acumen make this volume one of the best treatments on Ephesians in history—though the historical situation in which Calvin wrote is clearly visible. See also his volume of sermons based on Ephesians listed below.

12. Francis Foulkes, Ephesians – Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Eerdmans/IVP, 2002 reprint)
I found this to be a dandy little commentary that interacted well with both the text and theology of the letter. Foulkes interacts well with key Greek terms (always transliterated), which offers the contemporary pastor good material for sermon preparation. Foulkes is open to the possibility that an imitator penned the letter instead of Paul, though he does not firmly hold that conclusion. For the price, you don’t have much to lose in purchasing this volume (though perhaps not much to gain, either).

Sermons, Expositions, & Puritan Writings:

1. Chrysostom, Homilies on Ephesiasns – Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church (Eerdmans, 1998 reprint).
Twenty-four sermons on this important letter. Chrysostom is an example of patristic preaching at its finest. His stays close to the biblical text and the preacher will find much personal value here.

2. John Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians (Banner of Truth, 1973)
This is a distinct volume from his commentary on the same letter (see above). This work has went through various reprints in English from at least the 1600’s forward. The letter to the Ephesians was Calvin’s favorite portion of Scripture, a truth which is testified to in these warm, deeply-moving expositions. This book represents Calvin at his sermonic finest. So impacting are these sermons that on his deathbed, the Reformer John Knox had his wife read them to him aloud.

3. Thomas Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin – 12 Volumes (Reformation Heritage Books, 2008 reprint).
Volume One consists of expositions of Ephesians 1, and Volume Two covers Ephesians 2 as well as various portions of the rest of the letter. Historically, there has been a high demand for Goodwin’s writings, which have been reissued over 47 times since they first began to appear in the mid-1600s. His writings display a pastoral and scholarly zeal.

4. James Fergusson, A Brief Exposition of the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (Printed in London, 1659).
Fergusson was a master Puritan expositor. The contemporary pastor will find much value in his phrasing and expressions. Fergusson is both “meat and bone”, he gives both essential stability in understanding and needed nourishment in application. For Puritan writings, this volume is remarkably succinct.

5. Paul Baine, Commentary on Ephesians (London, 1658)
A meaty Puritan exposition on this important letter. This work has been reprinted by Tentmaker Publications in a fine smyth-sewn hardcover binding. Bayne offers the expositor a goldmine of memorable phrases and I found his main points correlate well even to modern audiences. I relied heavily on Bayne as I preached through this letter.

6. William Gouge, An Exposition of the Whole Fifth Chapter of St. John’s Gospel…also Notes on Other Choices Places of Scripture (London, 1631)
The end of this volume contains expositions on miscellaneous verses of the fifth and sixth chapters of Ephesians. Gouge spends much time discussing the domestical duties of Christians (a favorite theme among Puritans), a subject that needs serious attention in our anchorless age.

7. John Locke, A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul (1832).
As the title suggests, Locke provides a paraphrase of each portion of the letter, followed by some brief notes and comments. The notes are extremely valuable, and the paraphrase is a wonderful tool for understanding the ‘gist’ of what Paul is communicating.

Monographs, Overviews, & Misc. Volumes:

1. Lincoln & Wedderburn, The Theology of the Later Pauline Letters—New Testament Theology (Cambridge, 1993).
In this little volume Lincoln enjoys an expanded discussion on the theology of the Ephesian letter. Slightly more valuable than his commentary, but lacking direct engagement with the text (by design). A worthy voice in the contemporary discussion, but lacking in value for the preaching pastor.


  1. Joe,

    You are certainly right, but the problem is I have not actually used MLJ - so by my own rules I can't include him here. As with EVERYTHING else the man wrote, this should be(without a doubt) considered a premiere resource for pastors preaching on Ephesians.

    Hey, do me a favor and give my wife a guilt trip about needing to let me by MLJ's Ephesians set. ;O)

  2. Oh, great...just're making my wallet thinner, y'know. I'm adding more things to my theological wantlist. :-)

    Time to head to ebay and Amazon's used book lists.