Many people think of Bible commentaries similar to the way they think of friends. You have sat and talked with them late into the night. You have worked with them in the trenches to meet important deadlines. You’ve graduated together, and you’ve even shared drinks and travelled together. There are three commentary series I think of with this way: Word Biblical, Hermeneia, and the New International Commentary (NIC).
Word Biblical and Hermeneia were the commentaries I was directed to by college professors about twenty years ago. I was assigned multiple volumes to read cover to cover and discuss in class. Some of the Word Biblical and Hermeneia volumes are memorable because they are substantial and helpful and best in class. Some are memorable because of the copious marginal notes of protest I’ve written in them and the classroom arguments they instigated. NIC stands out in my mind in a different way.
NIC has always been the series I consider to be the overall best. But what does “best commentary” mean? The best individual commentary for you is the one that satisfactorily answers the questions you have at a particular moment. I would say the best overall commentary series, therefore, is the one that answers most people’s questions most of the time.
NIC delivers insight time and time again. If I could have only one commentary set, this would be the one. In this post, I’ll demonstrate why I value it so highly and why the I think the Accordance version is the best platform on which to access it.
R. T. France on Matthew
France is my all-time favorite commentator on scripture. His NIGTC Mark commentary is second to none, but I think his Matthew volume is the NIC series is perhaps even better. It is a little more accessible to most people without skimping on rigor and engagement with the text. France’s work stands out in the way he holds together and clearly explains the text’s literary structure and rich, multifaceted, theological themes.
As an example, France situates Matthew’s version of the Christmas story in the context of “Five Scriptural Proofs” (1:18–2:23). He introduces the sections this way:
In addition to the themes explicit in the five formula-quotations, we shall be invited to consider Jesus as the new Moses, the new Israel, the new Solomon (son of David), the “star out of Jacob” and perhaps other typological and prophetic themes, while the remarkable concentration in these verses of angelic revelations and of guidance through dreams will alert us to the way God is directing events toward the fulfillment of his purpose. (p. 40–41)
France highlights the theological nuances and echoes in the text while at the same time not losing sight of the more immediate thrust of the narrative:
It is Matthew’s task in these verses to explain how that Messiah may be recognized in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a necessary and potentially a difficult task, since on the face of it “Jesus of Nazareth” is a most unlikely candidate for the role of Messiah. (p. 41)
France’s commentary flows from a lifetime of Gospels research. It’s insightful, well written, and his tone is always charitable. He interacts with other scholars respectfully — this is no small point. Finally, his comments are thorough but concise. For example, he proves about thirteen pages of commentary on 1:18–25.
I want to point out one other comment showing how France looks at passages and sees a kalaidescope of perspectives and nuances. This time it’s in regards to the visit of the magi in 2:1–12:
The story of the homage of the magi is thus not only a demonstration of the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy of Mic 5:2 but also a multi-layered study of the fulfillment of scriptural models in the coming of Jesus, with royal, messianic motifs at the heart of those models. It is, of course, also an infancy story (though not, like the rest of 1:18–2:23, one narrrated from the point of view of Joseph), and the magi have appropriately taken their place in traditional nativity scenes alongside Luke’s shepherd and angels, even though neither evangelist betrays any awareness of the other’s narrative elements. (p. 64)
Moo on Romans
Several years ago I taught through Romans in a Sunday school setting. During this six month series, a tradition began that was a catalyst for friendships now approaching their second decade. A few guys from class would come over, and we would stay up well past midnight reading and searching and praying and chasing insight into the passage for that week. Moo’s Romans commentary was right there with us on Friday nights.
This commentary, similar to France’s, is a lifetime work. Moo is among the most prominent Pauline scholars and his commentary is now in its second edition, updated in 2018. When I think of Moo’s Romans, I again think of two words: rigorous and charitable.
One of the most debated issues in Pauline scholarship is the nuances of πίστις χριστοῦ. I appreciate how Moo takes a decided position in the debate while recognizing that there are other options besides the typical objective and subjective views. He writes,
It is also important to stress that an objective and subjective genitive are not the only options. We could also understand the relationship in a less defined sense, Paul is simply associating faith with Christ in an unspecified way. (p. 245)
This tip of the hat is refreshing and a good example of Moo’s tone throughout.
DeSilva on Galatians
If France excells with his multiperspectival, literary and theological attentiveness to the text and Moo in his combination of charitable rigor, DeSilva’s work stands out because of its insight into the literary background and cultural thought-world of the NT. I’ve found his publications to be eye-opening and genuinely intruiging, especially The Jewish Teachers of Jesus, James, and Jude: What Earliest Christianity Learned from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha (Oxford, 2012), Introducing the Apocrypha, 2nd Edition (Baker Academic, 2018), and Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture (InterVarsity, 2000).
DeSilva’s attention to contemporary literature is evident in his discussion of Galations 3:10–14. As he discusses the biblical context of the Torah and justification, he cites Deuteronomy, Philippians, Romans, Habbakuk, and others, but he also helpfully brings into the converstaion 2 Maccabees, 4 Ezra, , The Testament of Moses, Philo, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
One perhaps less known feature of DeSilva’s work is the clarity with which he writes. He is truly a clear thinker and writer. His commentary is punctuated with excurses that concisely address key issues in Pauline scholarship.
For example, in the excursus titled “Waht Does Paul Mean by ‘Works of the Law,’” DeSilva writes,
Paul’s polemic against works of the law is not a polemic against good works … Paul does not oppose “works of the law” in the present era because he deems it impossible to live by its prescriptions … The principal problem with the Torah was that its term had expired and that what was its strength prior to Christ was now its greatest flaw—the maintenance of the boundary between Jew and gentile on the pretense that the former retained “favored nation” status before God. (pp. 225–229)
This post highlights three of the NT volumes in NIC, but I could easily write a few thousand more words highlighting Scott McKnight’s James volume, F. F. Bruce on Acts, J. Ramsey Michaels on John, and several others. I hope this gives you a taste of why I think NIC is the best overall commentary series for most people.
Accessing NICOT/NT in Accordance
The screenshots above are from the MacOS and iPadOS versions of Accordance. In this last section, I want to highlight two of my favorite ways to access the NIC commentary in Accordance.
On MacOS, my default Accordance workspace has primary texts on the left and lexicons on the right.
When I want to access a commentary, there are several ways to do it. Sometimes, I want a full view of the commentary so that I can navigate easily and read extensively. Without breaking up my default workflow, I can open NICNT with just a couple clicks by using the workspace shortcut in the menu in the toolbar.
The grey bar toolbar at the top of Accordance is customizable by right clicking (or two finger clicking) and selecting customize. I prefer a minimal toolbar setup with icons only for the features I regularly use: library, instant details, the info pane, and workspaces.
If I am in Galations 3:10, for example, and I want to open NICNT, I simply click the workspaces icon and select NICNT from my saved workspaces. This preserves my default workspace and opens NICNT in a separate window:
Now, I have two Accordance windows open, and when I finish with the commentary I can return to my default workspace or easily switch back and forth between the two, both in full screen view.
I have several workspaces setup this way for quick reference.
Finally, if I want to genuinely read a commentary at length, nothing beats a tablet. Accordance gives you the option of reading on an iPad in a two column view, as you can see here:
Dark mode is also an option on both MacOS and iPadOS:
NIC is the a fantastic resource, and Accordance is a great platform on which to access it. Currently, Accordance has NICNT on sale for $299, and the entire set NICOT/NT (45 vols.), is 73% off at $599. While that is no insignificant purchase, in light of the quality of the NIC commentary this is one of the best deals I have seen on any Bible software product. Accordance is the ideal platform for the NIC commentary because of is speed, ease of use, accessiblity, and realiable customer service. They also offer payment plans to help spread the cost over several months.
In the next posts, I’ll highlight a few Old Testament volumes and discuss other ways you can access NIC in Accordance.